“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau
Do you ever feel that your daily life has become too full? That you are packing too much into your life, both in terms of things you do and stuff you have? That there isn’t enough time and space just to be?
In the book Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross argue that our society – with its pressures of “too much” – is waging a war on childhood and on all of us. The first simplification the authors suggest is to dramatically reduce the amount of stuff in our homes, particularly in our children’s rooms. They say that an avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm, while a smaller, more manageable quantity invites deeper play and engagement. The type of toy is also important. Conceptually “fixed” toys, such as characters from movies or TV shows, come in for a hammering because they do not give children the freedom to forge their own imaginations, as well as often locking the family in to ‘sequels of stuff’ from well-meaning aunts and uncles.
But marketing forces don’t help us, do they? According to the author Mary Pipher, advertisements tell us, and particularly our children, four things:
- To be unhappy with what we have
- “I am the centre of the universe and I want what I want now”
- Products can solve complex human problems, and meet all our needs
- Buying products is important
We need to counteract these messages by telling our children, as well as reminding ourselves, that happiness does not lie in the accumulation of possessions.
We are now in the Christmas season, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus who, as far as we know, never had his own home or any possessions to speak of. There were around 200 million people on earth at that time. With 7 billion now, the earth is struggling to cope with all our demands for more and more. We all, in the developed world, need to simplify.
Christmas is a good time to try to limit the amount of new stuff entering our homes. To adults why not give charity gifts such as www.wellsforindia.org and www.coolearth.org, or gifts that are needed anyway – wine, biscuits, chutneys, soap, etc? And for children, ask a parent what they need and try to give a joint present with someone else or just give a small amount of money. Maybe the most generous gift of all would be to give nothing but your time.