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Has the economic downturn put a damper on your summer plans?

May 21, 2011
By KIMBERLY SHORT WOLFE , The Inter-Mountain

Overwhelmed by consumerism and sobered by the economy, as well as the rising price of gasoline, more Americans are embracing the less-is-more philosophy. They are trading possession obsession for personal fulfillment.

Many have hopped onto the proverbial bandwagon and it is up to you whether to embrace the idea of simplifying your life. Many are finding simple activities at home or close to home to be more fulfilling and much less expensive than traveling to a distant place to stand in line to have fun.

When my babies were little, I decided to simplify and determine what was important and what was not. I didn't want to work outside the home for awhile, so I began freelance writing and decided to only shop for what was needed. Second hand shops were great for growing kids as they grow out of most clothes before they ever wear them out. Cutting corners became a hobby. There seemed to be something to the "less is more" philosophy.

Getting back to the basics of life, we planted a garden and canned, froze and ate its bounty. And when I say canned, I do not mean a dozen quarts or so. I mean over a thousand quarts a year was commonplace.

However, before I knew it, my simplifying was totally complicating my life in ways I had not expected. For instance, one goal for me was to simplify in order to have more time with my children. Hello - canning is work and lots and lots of it. Only those who have done so will understand.

We also made our own maple syrup, (it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup), filled the freezer with venison (sounds so much better than deer meat) picked berries, had bees for honey, and on and on I could go.

That was a precious time and I'm glad we learned to do those things and were able to teach it to the children, and I do not regret that. But what I do regret is my over-the-top vigilance to do it all and to do it all at the same time. The very goal to simplify was so I could enjoy my family more. The work I did was rewarding, but a bit excessive in producing the result I craved.

Moderation is the key to everything, the Bible states, and that would apply to simplifying your life, too. Many of us struggle with balance in our lives, but if the goal is to simplify, then prioritizing people is paramount to things or the "doing" of things.

Going back to the basics of life is determining what it is you want from life and uncluttering your life from the things you do not want. Clutter itself has proven, say psychologists, to be an extreme stress factor in a person's life. Uncluttering a life can begin with uncluttering your environment: your homes, garages and attics.

This movement of simplicity has grown in interest to the point that there is even a Simple Living Institute in Florida. It is an organization devoted to helping people attain happiness through a lifestyle called voluntary simplicity or simple living whose most devout followers whittle down their possessions to only what they need to get by. The movement is gaining momentum and recently advanced not only by the faltering economy but by a a persistent fear that many Americans are feeling. Hounded by the nagging suspicion that no matter how many cars, coffee presses, or perfect clothing they own, personal fulfillment remains elusive.

Though the theme of simplicity is mostly thought to be an Amish/Quaker mentality, it has been around for years. But, a few years ago, a great revival of this movement fired up and was sparked by the mortgage crisis, the banking meltdown and the spike of gas prices. There is even a PBS show now called, "Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska" the de facto Martha Stewart of the voluntary simplicity movement.

At least 10 percent of the population, by some estimates, have embraced the tenets of living simply. Simply put, simple Living is now fashionable. People are starting to feel there must be so much more to life. Every single thing you bring into your house becomes a responsibility. You have to care for it, clean it and ultimately dispose of it. Also, something to give great thought to is how I am modeling the idea of acquiring things. Like it or not, our greed or lack thereof is being absorbed by the young ones around us. What is truly important in my life?

I strive to teach my own kiddos to use things, but enjoy people. Many are inadvertently taught , "use people and enjoy things." There is a big difference.

Cutting to the chase here: how do you and I want to live our lives? Is stuff, money, status quo, recreation and cars so much a part of our lives that people do not take precedence? I knew of a dying man many years ago who was facing much regret. He sat dying with cancer looking at photos of his four children. He shook his head and said, "I just wish I'd stayed home more." Did he wish for more money? No. Did he wish for more prestige? A boat? Plane? Fancy vehicle? More recreation? Of course not. He just wished he'd spent more time with his family.

A quote I strive to remind myself of from time to time is: "The only things in life that really matter are God and people." Consider simplifying your life in order to zero in on "who" really matters in your life, so that when you come to the end of your life, you will have few regrets, great satisfaction and the peace of knowing you invested your life in the people you love.

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and a licensed chaplain and counselor with Cornerstone Christian Counseling. Contact: or call: 304-637-7018 or 304-940-9362.)



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