Saturday, October 04, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays: Forced Simplicity

We've been hit hard this month as less income collided with having to pay for a house repair and a car repair (the car is still in the shop). When I stopped by Target yesterday for milk, eggs, butter, and coffee (trying out a really inexpensive coffee), I looked at the boxes of tea on the aisle and could not believe my eyes! My favorite tea was 25% higher than it was just last month. Yikes! This is getting serious.

I was thinking of the economic situation as I dropped both my husband and son off at the bookstore this morning (both work on Saturdays when there is a football game). When I was growing up, there were still many people around who had lived through The Great Depression. Both my parents and my in-laws went through the Depression... all were old enough to know the reality of the experience. I was always fascinated by the stories they told and one thing they often had in common, so often they viewed that time as both extreme hardship and blessing.

My thoughts were distracted for awhile by the beauty around me. I smiled as I passed vehicles of all sizes and shapes in the oncoming lanes with the team's colors and the university's emblem displayed in all their glory. Thousands of people descending on one destination... the football stadium. With the temperatures in the 40s and rising, a blue sky, a cool breeze, and Canadian geese flying in formation over head... this was October at its' best... and as I neared home, the sun was resting on thousands of stalks of corn that was itself golden and ready for harvest.

I thought about how easy it would be to spend time mulling over the things we do not have the money to do. What a difference our attitude would be if we were bitter because we could not afford a decked out van, tailgating in the pricey parking lot, and tickets to see the game in person. We would be drawing within our own little world, darkened by bitterness and worry, not seeing what is available for free... our surroundings on a gorgeous autumn day.

Perhaps the story I heard over and over from those who lived through economic hardship early in the past century was the realization (as they grew older) that keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table were much harder than they remembered. For their parents, for the most part, celebrated what they did have as opposed to what they did not. Those were the people who held on to fond memories of family and friendships, communities coming together, people with little sharing with families who had nothing... answered prayers.

I was still pondering it when I arrived home to set the breakfast dishes soaking and prepare a new lentil recipe in the Crock Pot. I was thinking of how the economy is affecting our family today and the realization came that Recessions (and Depressions) force simplicity on people, whether they like it or not. How much better to embrace a simpler life rather than yearn for the days when purchasing required little thought or creativity.

Recessions and inflation cause our options to shrink. We can't afford everything at the grocery store so we stick with the simple, basic foods... choosing the most nutrition for the least amount of money. We keep the exotic or expensive ingredients for a special celebration, perhaps purchased on sale and tucked in the freezer to surprise the family on a special day.

Gift giving is whittled down to one or two toys and needed clothing for the children. We stop giving expensive gifts to adult family and friends, instead we package homemade items created in our kitchen, knitted while watching TV, sewn after the kids go to bed, or thought up while taking a walk. Or give coupons for babysitting, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, a meal when needed... that which cost us nothing or little.

We think about what we can sacrifice further to make ends meet. The mall becomes a place we visit only when we can't find the perfect size at Goodwill or the second hand shop. We learn to shop in these places first before heading out to the dozens of look alike stores under one roof.

We talk about about wanting to live a simpler life but then complain when many of our options in this day and age are removed. It isn't easy, changing isn't much fun, but perhaps a recession can have the same affect as the stories I grew up on... simplifying our lives in the long run... and bringing people together. Maybe... hopefully.

Living Simply Saturdays are hosted by the Keeper of the Home blog, where you can find a list of participating blogs (or join in on the fun!).


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Hmmm, the one thing that bothers me most is the gift-giving. I never used to give it much thought as far as cost. But grandmothers do want to shower blessings on their grands, don't we? So I am grateful that their maternal grandmother is still able to do that, but I have had to be more prudent.

Enjoy a wonderful Saturday. It's back to the garage for me.

Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home said...

Thanks for the perspective. I think that many good things can come out of tighter financial times, including greater simplicity, and hopefully an ever deepening gratefulness for what we do have. There is so much to be grateful for, isn't there? I've appreciate your posts on this topic lately. Thanks!

Clif said...

A plea for simpler living! What an inspiring post for a better way of life. It's a little overcast and cooler here in the desert this Saturday morning. You may want to look at my post on Spiritual Sundays sometime after 2:00 PM. I posted a video of Alison Krauss singing A Living Prayer.

lynda said...

see my pouting face--- you were in my neck of the woods and didn't give me a jingle?? I've missed you. I think we all need to make ourselves lists of thing that don't cost a lot of money go give. I love you notes don't. I think people appreciate simple- I know there are things people do for me that they might thing that was simple but it's made my day - notes my dh leaves me on the white board. etc.

Anonymous said...

As you have shown us living simply sure does not mean living dull. I think a bit harder about garnishing the side dish with a sprig of parsley or using different plates or cups out on the table or just picked garden flowers. Save up special books to share instead of going out...celebrating life instead of thinking of the down side. We have always been on the poor side and so actually the few times when my husband has had more income it feels all most odd. We are always thinking cheap but fun. Friends, family and church and community are so comforting always but they especially feel good around you when you feel vulnerable. Even if you don't have many of them {and we don't} God is Always around and with you. We have always kept our larder stocked as best we could and bought used yet new things for gifts later. We find so many special things that people givbe new at the used stores that are perfect for girfts for shut ins we know or family. They might only cost $2 but are the Perfect gift for that person. Yes these times may be an awakening to some and they may come to realize that being more layed back and not rushing around and staying home and depending on each other is something they have needed all along. They just never took the time to realized it till they had to. Thank you Brenda for another thoug provoking post. Jody

Linda said...

I enjoyed your post too.

Brenna said...

Brenda, your posts never let me down. They always encourage me. And your perspective is always so very much appreciated. By the way, what is your favorite tea? You didn't mention it.

Anonymous said...

Hi ,I enjoy reading your blog. It makes me feel good. I am praying for God to touch you and make you completely well.Dottie

picketfencemom said...

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. We've been really cutting back...hanging out laundry, not running the AC, combining trips to town to save gas, eating less expensive foods, saying a painful 'no' to things we can't do or places we can't go, etc. But you know what? Our family still has plenty to eat and my children are still happy!

We've always encouraged our children to find joy in the little things and enjoy the simple pleasures of life...and home is where it's happening! LOL When families draw closer and work together and find contentment in just being and doing things together, it makes for a more peaceful home...and an easier transition when money is tight. Money is important, yes...but it's not what makes a happy home! Plus the lack of it brings out the creativity in everyone!
Thanks for your wonderful and wise perspective. I'm going to link to this post!
Amy O.

Sharon said...

Great post Brenda!There are many ways to cut costs if we look for them.I cannot afford new books as we live on husband's disability checks.I use our public library a lot!And look at garage sales.It was not a huge adjustment as we've never made a lot of money but it was an adjustment for sure!Thank you Brenda for posting such an inspiring and wonderful blog on the web!I read you regularly.Blessings~Sharon