Our quest for simple living started out early while looking at Internet sites about homeschooling and blossomed from there. I started reading other blogs and Internet sites about living simply and get a lot of inspiration from other mamas who want a simple, less chaotic life.
For us, the first thing that had to go was cable television. We don't have rabbit ears either, so we get no tv channels at all. At first, it was very difficult giving up our shows. The tv was on pretty much every waking moment..between the 3 of us, someone was watching something. But once we turned off the tv, more time was spent doing things that we either wanted to do or needed to do. Of course, we still watch our favorites (about 3 or 4) on the Internet when time allows and we've been known to visit my parent's house to watch specials. We still rent movies and watch the DVDs we own...and the Wii is still used. Ideally, I'd love to cut back on these as well..but with 3 boys in the house, I think it's a losing battle. LOL Anyway, with no tv, I find we are less distracted and more focused. Also, the kids (and my husband and I) aren't bombarded with things we "need" to have or "need" to buy.
I've taken a big interest in all things homemade or handmade. Etsy.com is my new favorite Internet site, as well as those devoted to knitting, sewing and cooking. We've cut back significantly on eating outside of the home and pretty much cook every single day, 2 or 3 meals a day. No more quick runs for takeout. I'd say we eat out only a handful of times a month (just a year ago we were probably eating out 10-20 times a month), and that's pretty much for french fries for the kiddo or pizza. Not eating out required some fast learning skills in cooking, and I think I've come a long way!
As far as homemade and handmade materials, I'm working on that as well. Knitting, crocheting and sewing have become my new hobbies. I'm not talking about making my own clothes necessarily, but practical items and things for the kids. (napkins, place mats, hats, bags, etc). I'm careful about what I do buy these days, hoping to cut back on our consumption in this world. Giving out more than we are taking in. We have a long way to go, but we've bought so much less these days. Some would say it's out of necessity (economy, grr..) but it's more than that. Living simply means not living in excess...and I'm so happy we're heading in that direction.
Another idea I love about living simply is connecting more with the Earth and our surroundings. More time is spent outdoors, relishing what Mother Nature has given us. I have found that this is one area that is difficult for my family to achieve. Between husband's work, hot days in Florida, living in the suberbs and pathetic excuses, we haven't spent as much time outside as I had hoped in 2009. We did spend a lot more time at the beach this year than any other, so I'm proud of that. Simple, happy, FREE fun for the entire family! I vow to spend more time outdoors with the kids and hope that it becomes more routine in 2010.
My husband and I are very conscience about providing our children with the materials necessary to live simple, yet enjoyable lives. Books, books and more books are at their fingertips. We're slowly building a pretty healthy library. Some are meant just for fun (hello, Spongebob) but most are carefully selected. Field guides to the outdoors, how-to books and classic literature are waiting for them at every turn. Educational games, interactive learning materials and experiments are waiting to be perused and played with. I've found that when these resources are made available, easily and simply, Punky tends to reach for them all the time. Also, children follow by example; so my husband and I are making more of an effort to read in front of our kids to show them we too constantly strive to better ourselves via educational materials and books. Carving out special nooks and crannies in our home is our next goal for the children. We're hoping to create special spaces for their enjoyment that are cozy and welcoming.
Now, all this is not to say that Punky doesn't play, and play hard, with his plastic Transformers or Bakugan. But when the other choices are there, right at his fingertips, he often chooses a field guide to read or educational game to play. We're working more wooden and organic toys to our stash, and the kids are now reaching for those as well. You'd be surprised how often your children choose the "learnin' stuff" too!
Two helpful books to create a more simple life for us has been "The Creative Family" by Amanda Soule and "Handmade Home" by Soule. Many internet sites such as Soulemama and A Journey To a Simple Happy Life have provided many interesting, helpful ideas and suggestions. Magazines like Country Living, Southern Living and Real Simple offer inspiration as well.
We have such a long way to go with our quest. I think if you were an outsider looking in, you might say that we appear average with some frugal tendancies. Our kids have large plastic toys and play like every other kid out there in the world. But we are making great advances, and I hope to continue on this path of being content and joyful. One day I'd love to live on a small plot of land in the country, plant our own small garden and raise a few chickens. (Then again, I'd love a condo in NYC too...so I obviously have a loooong way to go).