Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simplicity

I remember once, we spent Shabbat with my husband's relatives, and after we had some delicious cake, I asked our lovely hostess if the recipe is simple enough to make (thinking this is definitely something I want to try). She smiled at me and said, "my dear, I only use simple recipes!"

Don't get me wrong, I love a fancy cake that takes hours to prepare, or elaborate, color-coordinated decorations. There's a time and place for fancy. But sometimes, you must switch to simplicity mode in order to maintain your sanity.

When you cook for a large number of people, and/or are at a busy season of your life (with a new baby, for example), elaborate recipes often have to be set aside. It doesn't mean, however, that you have to give up on having a table laden with good, wholesome, home-made, delicious food. You just have to hunt for those recipes that are simple and suiting your family's taste. I especially love dishes that can be made by throwing the ingredients together in a pot or pan, and letting it all just cook on the stove or bake in the oven.

I love to iron. I love the wonderful smell of freshly ironed clothes and sheets. I love how homey it feels to stand there with an iron in my hand, humming merrily as I work. But these days, time is precious and not so easily obtained - and so I hardly iron anything but my husband's buttoned shirts.

I always attempt to have as little unnecessary possessions as possible. Having too much stuff makes me feel suffocated; stuff leads to clutter, and living amidst clutter makes my mind disorganized. In a small home, it's better to seek beauty in functional things. You don't need to have many ornaments. A mixing bowl, a collection of wooden spoons, an apron, can be inspiring in their simple beauty.
Simplicity and letting go of non-essentials has been a blessing in all areas of my life, including relationships. I gave up trying to keep up with many people's lives (such as through Facebook), and eased the strain by focusing on those relationships which are dearest and most precious to me.

For those who are struggling financially: living a simpler life doesn't necessarily mean you will spend less money in every given area, and in fact, some times you will aim for higher quality, and thus often more expensive products (such as fresh, truly wholesome food); but saving money is a very logical outcome of wanting less, finding out you need less things that money can buy, and spending the bulk of your time at home.

It's sweeter than I could have imagined, to simply let go, reduce the amount of noise and distractions, of clutter and junk, of shopping trips and phone talks, of disturbing news that penetrate my home from the outside, of disturbing thoughts. It's so important, so essential if I truly want to delight in the beautiful and simple life of a wife and mother - a life I was so richly and abundantly blessed with.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anna. That inspires me!
Have a blessed day.
Mrs. L.

TheRetroHousewife said...

I was about to write a post on my blog about simplicity lol, great minds think alike : P

Sasha said...

Wow,such a great post!!! I agree with u 100%. There's no place for unused junk in a normal home.

Tereza said...

I highly enjoyed this post and this subject is so close to my heart!!! Your post is inspiring!

Hali said...

Such a lovely read. The only kind of clutter I like is the clutter of books and plush toys, but reserved for personal space, rather than say, in the kitchen or bedroom, they're an aspect of me that brings me peace as opposed to disorder.

I agree, simplicity is a virtue, especially in the home. I'd have every little thing organised in a certain way, I don't know what it is about clearing up a messy kitchen counter or bedroom shelf that is so soothing and relaxing, but it's a simple joy :)

Morag said...

Dear Anna,
Ironing my husband's all cotton shirts would be the one housekeeping privilege I would never give up because I pray for him while I'm pressing the parts of the shirt and pray blessing for his sunburned neck (he's a surveyor so he spends lots of time outdoors, especially in the summer), his shoulders for the responsibility they carry, his arms that give such wonderful love and comfort, his chest and heart for his health and integrity of heart and his hands to bless his work when I press the cuffs. It's such a privileged ministry to pray for a good man in such a concrete way. I am descended of the Gaelic people of the Scottish highland and for them all of life was a prayer. They had a prayer for everything they did, from milking the cow to sowing grain and picking the herbs from the mountainside. Ironing prayers are to me a continuation of this way of life and seeking the Holy in all things.

Geniève said...

How true :)

L.H. said...

mmm...I like how you think. When I first quit my job and decided to stay home we cut our income in half.

Hubby and I had to make alot of lifestyle changes at that time, but once I began to trust God and see how he provided, I realized I didn't need all that I thought I needed to be happy.

In fact, I often look back on those times as "simpler" and peaceful b/c of our humbled life.

Great insight and btw: Clutter totally hinders my mental ability and productivity...I just got rid of a bag of toys that had no home here!

Sue said...

These are very wise words. Thanks you for saying it so well, once again, dear Anna!

Rose said...

Anna, I am so in agreement. I really find that the clutter of mobile phones, Facebook, iPods etc clutters my mind and therefore my thinking, and the constant barrage stresses me. I'm no Luddite, I taught Computing for many years, but to me these things should be useful tools not befuddlers.

You will never regret the money you spend on quality food and ingredients -- it will repay itself over and over in good health and vitality.

Best wishes, Rose

mary bailey said...

For the most part we live a simple life but I have a lot of trouble containing the clutter. Thanks for the inspiring post.

By the way, my 9yo saw your picture on the computer screen and asked about you. He thinks it is fascinating that you live in Israel.

Buffy said...

Wise words indeed.

Persuaded said...

anna, i felt gradually calmer just from reading through your post. you are a wonderful writer my dear♥

one thing i thought of is the criticism that is aimed at those of us who do choose to live a simpler sort of life... i choose not to have a television, or to watch regular news programming. some others feel that i am depriving my children of their culture and possibly causing them to be misfits. some feel that i am not keeping myself up to date on important current events. i choose not to go to malls, or dress myself in the latest fashion. we homeschool and i like to spend as much of my time as possible at home. others feel that my life must be boring, but it's plenty exciting for me;)

jAne said...

Oh my goodness, AnnaT. What a simply inspiring, uplifting, meaningful and lovely post. You're so right and I pray your words would touch the hearts of those who long for simplicity as well as those of us already living a simple life who need a refresher.

Bless you,
jAne
http://tickleberryfarm.blogspot.com

Katrina said...

I absolutely agree! I'm preparing to move later this summer, so lately I've been going through all my clothes, all my accumulated papers, etc, and have been eliminating and organizing what I have. It's very refreshing to come home and to have an organized apartment. :)
~Katrina

Jennifer said...

I quoted you today! This was a great post for me to read today. I wouldn't say I'm "struggling financially" - because I feel very blessed. I'm able to stay home, and my husband has a good job that he enjoys.

We did, however, have a job change this year that came with a pretty large budget cut for us. I was happy to do that because I knew that this job is tailor made for my husband and I want him to be happy in his work. I also want to be a good manager of my home so that he does not have to shoulder that stress as well as his own.

This is what I'm not so good at, though! I can coast along for quite some time, feeling creative and inspired by budgetary constrictions. And then I just get weary of it one day, tired of "simple dinners!" Even while I'm complaining to myself, I'm laughing at myself for my ridiculous nature and lack of perspective.

This week I hit that wall one night. The next day I read a Christian magazine that had pictures of Haitian villagers, living 7 to a 12ft tent in an area that had been flooded by MUD. I read your blog post. I read an article in World magazine titled "Joy in Poverty." :) I am seriously getting the message!

I have so much beauty around me, and more than enough besides. Thank you for your gentle reminder - that kind of inspiration gives me the umph I need to keep being cheerful as I strive to live within my boundaries. Even when I fail, there's no excuse to give up completely. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll finally be able to "let go" completely! That is truly my prayer.

Jen

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, nice post! I liked how you wrote about ironing... It's one of my least favourite chores, but I'll try to think about the nice smell etc now. Often when I wash dishes (or begin to, as it's usually the getting started that's the hardest part) I think of how you once wrote about enjoying the warm soapy water on your hands. So thanks for brighntening my work!

Anna A

PS. My last comments (some time ago) didn't come through, I hope I didn't offend you in some way? I apologise if I did!

Candylei said...

I love the photograph of your wooden spoons and utensils. They have been used and are being lovingly used and have an artsy quality to them.

We were just in Williamsburg, VA and they have lots of wooden kitchen items and also wooden garden tools that I was envious of.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anna A,

I suppose your comments were lost in cyberspace, because this is the first one I get from you!

Marcia said...

Love, love, love. Simplicity is my favorite word and I found your page while searching for some ideas I want to use it with on my blog.
Could not agree more with what you've written here. I love what Morag commented about praying while ironing. I dread ironing but this gives it new purpose.
Have you read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh? It's my favorite book and I read it at least once a year. I think you'd love it.
Looking forward to visiting.