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Voluntary Simplicity - a lifestyle shift and older kids

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I'm not sure if this is in the right forum, but I'm looking for advice and wisdom from others who have btdt.

I've become increasingly dissatisfied with our families lifestyle and I'm wanting to head more in the direction of voluntary simplicity. My dh says he's on board, but I'm not sure if he's willing to simplify to the extent that I am. But mostly, it's my kids I'm concerned about. They are 6, 10 and 11 y/o and have only known excess. Think semi annual trips to Disney World with tons of spending money, think video games out the wazoo and other media bombardment, think little exercise and even less time outside in nature and diets of fast food and packaged, processed garbage. think 3200 square feet or plastic junk!

I don't even know where or how to begin and while I want to take the bull by the horns, the idea of getting us where I want us to be is completely overwhelming. And I'm worried that my kids are too old to accept being unplugged and that they just won't ever be able to entertain themselves in nature and they'll just be angry with me and chronically bored. Is it even reasonable to expect such worldy kids to be able to adjust or is it too much to expect? The little one will do fine and the middle child hasn't really ever been into stuff anyway, but the oldest has been saturated in this lifestyle since birth and seems to be almost addicted to it all.

Is it really possible to make such drastic changes and to expect an 11 year old to adjust? And where the heck do I even begin?
post #2 of 25

My son was younger when I started on the voluntary simplicity path. I think with older children to a degree you have to start with yourself and then move on to the children. I think it will also help to explain to them why you are going down that road. there are some excellent books and websites out there explaining the advantages.

Having said that it has been one of the best decisions ever in my life. Defintely reccommend it to anyone.

Start slow, it took me a lot longer to sort things than I expected, but the happiness i felt every time i took a step forward was amazing

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply. What books and websites would you recommend?
post #4 of 25

I agree with starting with yourself first, and let your kids see the joy of it. Point out the benefits you're seeing. I think an 11 year old can grasp those concepts. If you decide to start downsizing their things and media time start slow and small. Reward them when they agree to let go of things or make use of screen-free leisure time.

I recommend the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.

post #5 of 25
Maybe you could start with an unplugged day one weekend and explain it to them and get them excited about it.
post #6 of 25

I disagree a little.  I think you're heading towards the time when they might start to rebel, but really, I think if they sense fear or hesitation from you they might not jump on board.  I would ask the older kids to help me downsize their things - but don't take no for an answer, either.  You ARE the mother, after all, and you need to lead them, not the other way around.  (I didn't say boss them around or bully them... just lead them!)

 

I agree with starting small, but perhaps make it a routine that every Saturday morning you will take a trip to the thrift store where you will ALL get rid of some things.  In 3200 square feet I'm sure even they will find things they no longer need or want.  Have some of your stuff and some of their stuff.  And get rid of all trash, simplify your routine (fall is a good time to do this...).  Even down to something like what's in the kitchen and pantry, what you buy at the store, what laundry products you have.  Give stuff away.  Instead of having whatever processed food at home, look through your food stores and see what you can freecycle, or just eat what you have and don't buy any more.  Make a meal plan so they know what to expect, and then have one or two healthy snack choices available.  That's it.  You are the mother.  You are still in control.  They're not even teens yet.  Take control of the home and little by little pare away not only YOUR stuff... but yes, you can have them pare down their stuff.  Not all at once, but make a goal of, say, the next school year.

 

Incidentally, it's great you're starting BEFORE the holiday season.  Get your family on board NOW, so they're not disappointed when December rolls around and they have fewer presents than in years past, maybe.  Focus on doing stuff together.  Even if they're supercool tweens, I'm sure on some level they will appreciate the parental involvement, and it will make up for the stuff.  Which... I promise, if you take it little at a time, they won't even notice before long.  They'll discover cool things they forgot they had. 

 

Or heck, if you need to, bribe them - for every box they fill up to donate (to those lesser fortunate or whatever - get them to want to give the stuff away!  tween is a great time for compassion stuff) or throw out in the garbage, give them a small monetary amount to use to, say, redecorate their rooms in "big kid" style.  (If you usually spend a lot of money anyway on them, it probably won't be more than you're used to spending.)  If you feel like it and they will buy it, for things that they're not absolutely in love with but want to hang on to, convince them (nicely) that that's for younger kids and they're ready for xyz now.  I mean, dont' shame them or anything... but think of what would motivate a tween, and go with that.

 

BTW we lead a pretty simple lifestyle but LOVE Disney World.  We just got back from our trip as well... thankfully we tamed the souvenir monster and didn't have too much to bring back home with us.  Don't feel bad and feel like you need to cut it all out.  Disney week is our yearly time to go all out.  Junk food, TV, the whole lot - but then we leave the chaos and excess there!!  And we come home to our more simple lives.  It works for us.  :)

post #7 of 25

Small steps, treat yourself and your family with kindness and patience.

 

* Start clearing out your own stuff (and maybe your partner can clear out some of his stuff?)

 

* Start clearing out things you don't need

 

* Start to separate your trash (your whole family) & recycle

 

* Try to begin to use up  what you already have (in terms of food and toiletries and cleaning stuff)

 

* Reduce or try to end "recreational shopping"

 

* Reduce media consumption - keep television, radio, and internet off in the morning (if possible). Let the default for all media be "off". If someone says "Let's turn on the TV" - ask if there is something in particular they want to watch. Consider scheduling media, or as a PP suggested, one "unplugged" evening a week.

 

* Learn about composting and gardening

 

PP mentioned that the holiday season is coming. This may be a good way to suggest that the kids look at what they got in the past year and what they no longer play with or enjoy. But be careful, kids react to things very differently. My eldest loves to clear things out and has almost no sentimental attachments to physical objects; my younger one - sometimes even a paper box that looks like rubbish to me has emotional resonance.

 

 

For books - go to you local public library and look for books on "simplicity" "simple living" and "voluntary simplicity".  Let your desire for change follow the change you want (avoid buying). :)

 

I sincerely recommend the book "Living More with Less", with the caveat that it's written from a strong Mennonite/Christian perspective - so if that might put you off, never mind.

 

The wikipedia article has some good book references and links you might want to look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_living

 

These sites might also help you:

 

http://simplicitycollective.com/

 

http://simplerway.org/

 

Good luck.


Edited by skreader - 10/14/12 at 1:59am
post #8 of 25

I think I would be more concerned about the processed/fast food diet than anything else, as that's an actual health issue.  I would work on that first.

 

Second, I'm sure your kids have things they could purge.  We used to live in a tiny space and got used to purging every six months.  My kids and I would go through all our things and decide what we could donate/toss.  We usually had a good-sized pile even from our 500 sq ft home.

 

Third, I would consider weekly family game nights and/or expedition days, if you think your kids are spending too much time on their media.  I would not begin with imposing limits if you haven't done so before.  It will just confuse the kids and make them resentful that you are taking something away.  

 

Lastly, Disney World is not incompatible with living a simpler lifestyle at home.  We go every 1-2 years, yet we do not play with modern video game systems, don't own smartphones, cook almost all meals from scratch, etc.  I suppose you could consider it our "mainstream excess activity."  We're not souvenir people, so we go mostly for the intangibles and Disney magic.

post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldcrunchymom View Post

I think I would be more concerned about the processed/fast food diet than anything else, as that's an actual health issue.  I would work on that first.

Second, I'm sure your kids have things they could purge.  We used to live in a tiny space and got used to purging every six months.  My kids and I would go through all our things and decide what we could donate/toss.  We usually had a good-sized pile even from our 500 sq ft home.

Third, I would consider weekly family game nights and/or expedition days, if you think your kids are spending too much time on their media.  I would not begin with imposing limits if you haven't done so before.  It will just confuse the kids and make them resentful that you are taking something away.  

Lastly, Disney World is not incompatible with living a simpler lifestyle at home.  We go every 1-2 years, yet we do not play with modern video game systems, don't own smartphones, cook almost all meals from scratch, etc.  I suppose you could consider it our "mainstream excess activity."  We're not souvenir people, so we go mostly for the intangibles and Disney magic.

I agree with this, especially the Disney part. A trip every 1-3 years for us, no souvenirs, great family fun, I can't wait to go back. You could start with being carefully about what comes in the house. or a one in and one out rule, maybe. The whole big change-over can only happen so fast, but I think meals are a great place to start. As well as your belongings. Then maybe share how much lighter it makes you feel and gradually keep making more and more changes.
post #10 of 25

Here's a kind of radical idea to give your family a jumpstart on living much more simply:  Go spend time in a developing country.  

 

If you have the financial resources that allow semi-annual trips to Disney and 3000+ sq feet of living space I think you can probably afford a few weeks abroad.  The most important thing will be escaping from the touristy places and spending time getting to know how people really live.

 

We lived in India 2008-09 and it changed my kids' lives.  DD turned 11  and DS turned 5 while we were there.  They came back MUCH more compassionate and better able to see the gross excesses of American culture.  They eat better, waste less food, entertain themselves better, spend more time outdoors and best of all, are more aware of the ridiculously easy, blessed lives they lead simply by having had the luck to be born in the US.  Both of my kids have voluntarily undertaken fundraising projects to meet needs they witness first-hand in India as well as choosing to make donations to non-profits working in India instead of giving or receiving holiday or birthday gifts.  And DS, who brought a LARGE bin of Legos with him when we moved to India willing left them all behind for his friends, the novice monks, at a Buddhist monastery who had next to nothing to play with in their free tim.  

 

In addition to jolting your kids out of their over-abundant American reality, I'd be willing to bet the experience will be incredibly bonding for the whole family, and the memories will last a lifetime...

 

Good luck!!!  

post #11 of 25

Intriguing.

 

Can I ask how your family managed to live abroad for a year?  Did you or your partner work at all?  Have family there already?  Or was it just a... "hey, let's take a sabbatical and move to India!"  Whatever way you did it, that's pretty cool.  :)

 

However, I am not the OP, but I will say that despite our family being able to afford a relatively big house - not as big as the OP's, but large enough - and going to Disney pretty frequently, I know there is no way we would be able to afford a few weeks abroad for our family.  We pay less on our house than most people do on rent, and Disney can be done really cheaply.  Granted, it doesn't sound that the OP's family is hurting for money, but I don't think it's the same thing at all.  The plane tickets alone to India (for example) would cost more than the entire week we spend at Disney.  By quite a bit!

post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
O.P here with update of sorts.

I've been reading your replies and have spent some time thinking about this. Thank you all for the helpful ideas. I've put some of the books suggested in my online shopping cart, I don't do libraries because I'm forever paying late fees when I do. Plus, I don't mind having lots of books, that isn't inconsistent with my vision of simplicity. Others, I've just got to pull from my own shelves - I had forgotten about a couple that I already owned. Haha - typical.

Its interesting the poster here that recommended a 'missions trip' of sorts, is the third person in just a few months to recommend this to our family and it is something that we are considering. Plus my dh said the same thing. I'm not sure where I'm comfortable visiting with my kids yet. I worry about our safety in some places, we are not world travelers, so I feel a bit intimidated at the thought of overcrowded cities and roadways when i get nervous in Toronto! lol! I would love to give my kids a glimpse of the real world and have them do some real work that helps. That would have a huge impact on them, I'm sure.

The food thing. I find this so incredibly hard for various reasons. Today, for lunch, I made a homemade carrot soup with organic chicken stock and carrots from my own garden and organic cornbread on the side. It was good. It was also a bit more work than I'm used to and time consuming. The kids loved it, which is good, but I'm often times discouraged by their crappy attitudes towards healthy foods. I do make a lot of effort here, but being addicted to garbage is real. Waking with headaches and nausea every morning and having to pop advil makes a drive thru breakfast so much more appealing than preparing four things for four different people. it's a vicious cycle that I've been trying to break for twenty years. This isn't an excuse, just trying to figure out how to get us all out of it.

The media thing. I hate what the media has done to our family. I hate seeing my kids imitate their ridiculous 'heroes'. I hate the agendas they've been learning from and how it feels like its tearing us apart and how I'm the only one who sees it. And the kids fight so hard to keep it. I'm seriously afraid for my kids, that they are too worldy and easily influenced by everyone but me. I told the kids that we would not be using screens, except for educational purposes, during daylight hours. We've done similar things in the past, but after a few weeks or months, we always somehow get back into unlimited screen time somehow. I think I get tired of their arguments or of having to entertain them.

And in consumption news, we've just bought a second home. A little place in the woods to get away from it all. And I do mean little. I feel like this is an opportunity to try on the simplicity lifestyle. Now the debate is whether or not to have Internet access there. Lol! I'd love to pack up our homeschool books and health foods and head there for the winter, but I'm not ready for that. Dh couldn't anyway. We will try it out on the weekends though and see how things go. I'm terrified that we will all just be bored to tears. In the summer, it'll be fine because there's a beach. In the winter, I don't know, maybe we'll take up xcountry skiing.

Anyway, thanks again for the thoughtful replies.
post #13 of 25

We were in India for my husband's PhD research.  He had a fellowship that covered his expenses and part of the rest of ours.  Airfare was by far the biggest expense.  We rented apartments in normal, middle class sorts of places and ate at home most of the time.  We had a little bit of hired help, but we lived far more cheaply there than we ever have in the US.

 

And we've been pretty poor in the US.  The year before we went to India we lived in a 3br apartment that was under 1000sq ft.  Household income was under the poverty line, but by living cheaply, saving, and planning, we were able to do the India year w/o going into debt.  Financially things are rosier these days (hooray for employment and a PhD!), but we still live relatively cheaply and prioritize travel funding.  

 

This is just all to say that it CAN be done!  Reallocation of resources may be necessary, and in a radical way, but you can do it!  

 

And don't be too scared of developing nations...  yes, they're crowded (in places) and dirty (from a Western perspective, sometimes) but unless you go looking for trouble, or go to a place with active political unrest, you should be fine.  

 

And one last thought - "mission trip" is probably not the best way to think about such an adventure.  You're not going there to help anyone but your selves!  Folks in whatever country you may visit have a lot to teach and have probably already hear of Jesus.  :)  

post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Lol! Who said anything about Jesus? Where did that come from? I just meant go with an organization that helps to build schools and such.
post #15 of 25

Ooops!  I think that's my paranoia showing through!  You said "missions trip of sorts" and I just assumed mission = Jesus.  innocent.gif  My bad!  

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
Paranoid about Jesus? Lol. Are you be any chance American? I get it, all the divide and conquer stuff going on there.
post #17 of 25

Or go smaller scale and do community service (on a routine basis) in your own community.  There are plenty of people in any town in this country who are in need or trying to get by on the bare minimums, but rarely do we have to "deal with it", and to connect a face with that scenario can make it very real for an older child.  Even a weekly trip to a soup kitchen can open a child's eyes and bring appreciation for what really matters.  It may also spark generosity to donate physical possessions that you'd like to rid your family of as well, when your children actually see first-hand where it goes and how others appreciate it.

post #18 of 25

yep, American and Jewish!  And living in a small town in the Bible Belt on top of that.  I've had it up to HERE with Jesus!  wink1.gif

post #19 of 25

Coming to this late, but I'd like to recommend a few resources I've found helpful:

 

* Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez - Book that literally changed my whole outlook on work & resulted in me pursuing a freelance career to ensure some degree of freedom and extra free time, and DH being a SAHD and then teacher.

* http://www.simplelivingforum.net/forum.php - The Simple Living forums. Great resource. The people there have black belts in frugality/simplicity!

* Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs

 

Hope your cabin experiment goes well!

post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by wagz View Post

Here's a kind of radical idea to give your family a jumpstart on living much more simply:  Go spend time in a developing country.  

 

If you have the financial resources that allow semi-annual trips to Disney and 3000+ sq feet of living space I think you can probably afford a few weeks abroad.  The most important thing will be escaping from the touristy places and spending time getting to know how people really live.

 

We lived in India 2008-09 and it changed my kids' lives.  DD turned 11  and DS turned 5 while we were there.  They came back MUCH more compassionate and better able to see the gross excesses of American culture.  They eat better, waste less food, entertain themselves better, spend more time outdoors and best of all, are more aware of the ridiculously easy, blessed lives they lead simply by having had the luck to be born in the US.  Both of my kids have voluntarily undertaken fundraising projects to meet needs they witness first-hand in India as well as choosing to make donations to non-profits working in India instead of giving or receiving holiday or birthday gifts.  And DS, who brought a LARGE bin of Legos with him when we moved to India willing left them all behind for his friends, the novice monks, at a Buddhist monastery who had next to nothing to play with in their free tim.  

 

In addition to jolting your kids out of their over-abundant American reality, I'd be willing to bet the experience will be incredibly bonding for the whole family, and the memories will last a lifetime...

 

Good luck!!!  

 

 

I agree with this!  I spent 6 weeks in India as a teen and it completely changed the way I saw my world.  I don't imagine I will pick up and move my child to a foreign country, but I am very excited for the time he will be old enough to join me on a short-term trip with Compassion International to visit the children we sponsor there.  Also I heard from a man I work with that it's fairly common in our immigrant East African cutlure here that if a child (born here, I assume) gets very caught up in our culture (i'm thinking legal trouble, drugs, major excess and entitlement, etc), they will send them to live with relatives back home for a summer, and the kids come back changed.  If it's possible to hook up with even a short-term trip, like a service-type trip, it would do amazing things for the kids... and I think their ages are completely perfect for something of that sort!

 

Or perhaps a start could be to start doing volunteer work at a local charity where the kids can see either foreign or local lack and see the good they can do.  My son just turned 5 so he is now old enough to come help me pack meals for Feed My Starving Children.  I'm very excited to teach him compassion and giving in this way :)

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