"If you admire the simple life, cut back." (Advice from the Amish Expanded)
The "Small House Movement" amazes me. People are living in not small, but tiny houses, some only 300 square feet. They claim they've never been happier and I believe them. The MacMansions of the 1980's are not in vogue anymore, since people are realizing they were working quite hard for a status symbol, but were slaves to their work. Books like "Not So Big House" and "Not so big Remodeling" by Sarah Susanka really free up my husband and me when we remodeled our 1897 farmhouse. We could have put on a giant sized addition, but we decided on a modest one. We didn't realize just how "keeping up with the Jones" was ingrained in our thinking.
One of my favorite Amish men, Noah Colbletz from Smicksburg, helped build our addition. One day when I went to pick him up for work, I was quite surprised that he had switched houses with another relative. He said they needed a bigger house, so they switched. Talk about holding all things lightly! So here my husband and I sit with a three bedroom house of medium size, and my daughter and her husband are looking for a house to raise a family. Should we give them our house and build a small in the back of our two acres, like the Amish do? I am always challenged by these people.
My favorite author is Richard J Foster. Here's his thoughts on cutting back in a materialistic society:
"We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. 'We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.' ...It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick." (Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth)
Cutting back can also mean getting rid of things that clutter our time. I think television is a big time stealer along with video games. In this area, we're almost Amish. We like relational activities like playing cards, visiting, board games etc. When I first got to know the Amish, I asked them bluntly, "How do you live without television? I'd die!" Susan Hershberger's face lit up. "Raising white pigeons, bird watching, astronomy, reading, quilting, visiting, sledding...." Her list went on, and I felt sad. She was really living, and I was wasting my life through television. I decided then to cut back. Ten years later, we only use Netflix for movies, and I watch shows online. You can watch most anything live streamed these days, and watch it when you like.
I'm always on a quest to cut back on "trifles" as William Penn called them...things that just take our time and have no meaning. If you have any ideas or stories of how you've cut back, let me know. God bless! Karen Anna Vogel