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“Be grateful for what you have and you will always have enough.”
~Lailah Gifty Akita
These days as I look around the world today and without trying to sound too much like Debbie Downer, let’s face it folks, it’s a mess. Everywhere you look there’s chaos. Even the good things in life are in shambles… morals, values, religious beliefs…everything that made the world beautiful, now has a negative connotation to it and is being challenged from every angle possible.
Where have all the baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, family gatherings, Sunday afternoon picnics, touchy-feely moments gone??
I want them back!
We hear that out of Washington DC on a daily basis.
We hear this from religious leaders.
We hear this from the teachers who are shaping our children into the citizens of tomorrow.
We hear this from mothers and fathers trying to raise their kids, keep up with the hectic schedules of sports, homework, projects, doctor appointments, social engagements, finances.
Everything is complicated.
But is it? I mean, does it really have to be?
What if… we could stop the chaos train and get off? Would you? Could you?
What if we each decided that to change the world by simplifying our own lives first?What if getting back to basics was the key to reversing all of the chaos we are witnessing today?
Here are 10 steps that would make a difference in not only the family unit as a whole (which is more stressed than ever before) but as a nation as well:
- De-clutter. I think one of the first steps would be to get rid of everything materially that we didn’t need. That means clothing, jewelry, furniture, papers, junk, boxes and bags. De-cluttering would mean simplifying your world, not just physically but visually as well. Clean out closets, drawers, cabinets. It’s very difficult to operate to our full potential when there is clutter everywhere we turn. It becomes visual noise and hinders the spirit to move on in a positive direction because just by looking around us, we already feel defeated. A painter cannot create beautiful works of art with a canvas that has splattered paint on it. He needs a clean palate to start fresh each time. Your surroundings should be your palate. Make your home clean and uncomplicated and soon you’ll find your mind will match your surroundings allowing you to live more, do more, express yourself more, create more.
- Live beneath your means. Is your job killing you? Do you hate going to work everyday? Wish you could be home with the kids? If your work-style is not working for you, it may be time for a change. Is it possible to live in a smaller house so that you could go to one job in the family? Do you need the expensive car? Boat? Toys? One of the sweetest realizations I have learned as I’ve gotten older is that bigger is not always better. A smaller, more manageable home is actually a good thing! So if you aren’t getting all the bang-from-your-paycheck that you thought you’d get, it may be time to re-think the “more, more, more” mentality and try something new. If you could make it with one income, it could be a benefit to everyone to simplify in this area.
- Stop competing with the Jones! Designer clothes, 14K gold bangles, expensive toys… and for what? So that your neighbor is envious? Your friends think you’re special? Define special. It’s very easy to get caught up in this game. (I get it believe me-guilty as charged!) But remember, we are setting the examples for the next generation. So instead of defining “special” as Marc Jacobs, how about we choose to define “special” as things like, faithful, helpful, kind. How about being defined as special for your work with “Habitat for Humanity” and “Meals on Wheels” instead? You get my point…:)
- Simplify the family schedule. By this I mean, getting the daily schedule back down to manageable. This is a tough one because it may mean nixing organized sports, after school functions and social functions. It would require some serious commitments to explore exactly what the family could manage to do reasonably within a given week. For example, an outside activity two nights a week is doable… something that requires five or six nights a week? Might have to go. This type of commitment requires real backbone to get off the “societal peer-pressure grid” but the sheer calmness it lends itself to provide, I believe would be more than worth it for the health of the family in the long run.
- Commit to Family Dinner every night. Studies have been done on the effects that family time together has on children. One in particular study found that 85% of children who dined with their families to discuss their day, went on to higher education opportunities. They were more, well-adjusted and happier overall as well. I believe there is something to be said about the simplicity of gathering around the table the way generations before us came together. It signaled to everyone that “family time” was a priority. The day officially came to a halt and loved ones gathered around the table to talk. I believe this pure, uncomplicated act within the family unit is one of the most important changes we can implement to restore the balance and harmony we are all searching for. And it’s so easy to do…
- Turn off the machines and talk to one another. I fully understand the “machine-movement” in our worlds. I am just as guilty as everyone else of picking up my phone to check messages, social media etc, when I shouldn’t be. How on earth did we exist before text messages and FaceBook? I get it. But we have literally stopped talking to one another. We have college graduates who do not know how to write a thank-you note, a letter, a business correspondence. They don’t have the social graces to eat at a fancy restaurant which would be helpful in a business lunch setting. They can’t carry on a conversation without injecting the word, like, every other sentence. They have not been taught how to shake someones hand firmly and look them in the eye. Many of them have been left to grow up with a screen in front of them as their example of how to behave in life and the examples are not always the best. Instead of showing them life, two sides to every story, how to debate issues respectfully, we indoctrinate them to one side only, instill intolerance and assign names to them if they think outside of the box. Technology has done amazing wonders for our society but it’s also hurt us, retarded us actually, in so many other ways as well. So a big factor in simplifying the life of your family must include the limitation of technology on a daily basis and replace it with good, old-fashioned communication.
- Free time/Free play. These are activities where nothing is organized, they just happen organically. There’s no pressure to win. There are no prizes. The act itself of having fun together is the prize. Nothing is timed. Just let ’em go play. Let ’em get dirty. Play in the mud. Take a walk in the rain. Play Barbies. Play house. Run in the sprinklers. Eat Popsicle’s. Let them get their friends together for a game of kick ball. Lay on the porch swing and read a book. Cook dinner together. Grow a garden together. Teach them to sew. Teach them to use a hammer. Dance. Sing. Play monopoly. Give them the time to fully engage their imaginations, figure things out, solve problems and get along with their peers. Free play is missing in our kids lives today because we’ve replaced it with the harried pace of organized activities. It has created a generation of children who don’t know how to make their own fun, work through uncomfortable situations. It has also made a lot of them incredibly anxious and unsure of themselves. We all could use a little more free play in our lives. But this can only come to fruition if we sacrifice something else to make room for it. Worth it.
- The family that prays together, stays together. This is an incredibly important step to simplifying our lives. We need to get back to the basics of practicing our faith together as a family. To making going to church a priority. To not only teach faith, kindness and a Higher Power bigger than ourselves. To show them by example, faith, kindness and the act of giving. Spirituality is simplicity in and of itself. It makes us feel good to do for others. His love brings peace, calmness and the knowledge that we are never alone. He brings us together. Praying together as a family and teaching the words of God, His love for us… gives us the moral compass with which to follow in our everyday lives. God reminds us to be kind, supportive, to sacrifice for one another and tolerance. All of these teachings are desperately needed in today’s world…Somewhere along the way, we have gotten off track. The generation that we have allowed to grow up in front of a TV screen have not be taught the same core values that we grew up on and I believe its one of the main reasons our society is breaking down.
- Patriotism. How, you ask, is patriotism a part of simplifying my life? Patriotism isn’t a solution to un-complicating your life but it should be an important part of our everyday lives because of it’s sheer symbolism. Patriotism for our country is what teaches us pride for what our forefathers believed in, fought for, died for. We should always fight for the freedom of our country to maintain the amazing lives we lead because we were blessed to be Americans. Too many have made the pureness of being proud of our country, complicated. It’s not. We are blessed. We are rich. We are free. Nothing is more simple than that. So don’t allow the outside noise to affect your love of country. Patriotism and all it encompasses, is very much a part of simplifying ones life. It’s not just a belief, it’s a way of life. Embrace it, hold it dear, teach it to your children and don’t ever let it go.
- Dream a little dream. Remember those pesky little dreams that you had a long, long, long time ago? The ones before all of life’s complications, where you were a writer, a painter, a gardener with growing your own vegetables? By getting rid of all of the unnecessary “noise” in your life and de-cluttering your mind, you just may have time to bring them to fruition. And how wonderful it would be for all of us… if you did. This my friends, starting with our own simple lives… change the world. 🙂
So in a nutshell…. yes, it’s complicated. We have lost sight of what has made us the greatest people in the world. We all want instant gratification… but unfortunately, the price we have paid for our lack of involvement with teaching our youth by our good example, our “throw money at the problem” ideology has truly cost us as a society.
Want confirmation? Just turn on the evening news. It will show you everything you need to know about who we have become.
Jill Jackson and Sy Miller wrote a song in 1955 which was ahead of their time.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Together, one personal choice at a time, we can get back to what truly matters.
And I choose apple pie and picnics.
Blessings, Love, health and hugs to you and yours,
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