Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Art of Simplicity

It has been quite some time now, hasn't it?  It has been a season of swirling and bending, of mellowing and tempering.  As blizzards raged and temperatures dropped, as sickness swelled and hearts broke, we have found ourselves doing our best to sail the choppy waters, armed with grace and peace.  And as it is with all of life, there have been the sweet and simple moments, revealed in some of the darkest hours. 
In a word,  I am thankful.

But now...
If you have spent any time at all reading my ramblings around here you have found that I struggle quite a bit with exactly how we should do our daily routines, how we approach learning... it goes on and on (as I'm sure you have noticed!).
Well, as anyone who has ever ridden one of those god forsaken carnival rides that doesn't try to hide its true intentions in its name--the ones known as The Twister or The Scrambler--you are very aware of the phenomenon of "excited joy" morphing into "painful day of reckoning."  What seemed like a good idea at the beginning becomes, sooner rather than later, less and less attractive.  You want to get off the ride.  Now.

I feel as if I have spent an inordinate amount of time buying the same ticket for the same carnival ride, again and again.  It's exhausting.  And dizzying.  Sickening, even.
And so unnecessary.

But in a quieter moment recently, a truth that I had once rallied behind with an almost cult-like fervor, began to resurface.  Strange, since I wasn't consciously aware that it had become hidden.  Like the water that clears after the jar has been shaken and the dirt begins to settle, this way of seeing emerged.

I need to keep it simple.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction. ~E.F. Schumacher

Well of course I do.  But I don't.  I think about it quite a bit.  I even shape a whole blog around the idea.  But I've become quite adept at not living it out.  I've become distracted, disengaged, distant.  And the consequence is quite evident...
Of psyche.  Of soul.  Of spirit.

What I'm realizing is that I complicate matters, immensely. 

Homeschooling my kids means I am home, a lot.  You would think that it would give me a little more time than the average working mom to squeeze in a little toilet scrubbing or floor sweeping.  It does not.  Being open and available to my children, journeying with them through the world of words and numbers and ideas occupies a lot of time.  Time that I am not going to interrupt just to shine a sink or two, even though I LOVE shiny sinks!  I have found over the last few years, that when I allow myself to be distracted by that stuff, the whole learning environment tilts off its axis and goes spinning into a parallel universe.  I have also found that the life forms found in that parallel universe are not fun or interesting.  They are actually kind of scary.

But herein lies the rub.  I can't ignore the toilets and the sinks and the dust and the mess.  That kind of environment is, in its self, a parallel universe and it makes me want to kick and scream if I have to live in it

I am finding that the only way to live in the tension is to radically simplify.  Everything.

So I am beginning the journey of making this happen:

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris

This goes for the physical space we live in, as well as the intellectual houses we are building.
The less stuff I have gathered around me, the less I have to dust or straighten or organize. 
The less I look around at what everyone else is doing in their schooling pursuits, the less comparing that goes on and the more time I have for getting to the business at hand--being with my kids, learning.

Hopefully I won't be lured into the midway, with all of its flashing lights and carnival music, only to find myself on that ride that always disappoints.

Will you join me?

What practices help you stay focused on the simple things?


  1. Good thoughts, Holly. So often we (I) become easily distracted by any number of things and fail to treat those most important things as if they are most important.

  2. i'm a huge fan of de-cluttering...each year we go through the entire house and i try to donate almost everything in storage (and my wife resists half of it), and then we take a long hard look at the things we have that are more often in the way (or cleaned) than used, and donate some of those as well. we have even done the same for family members (who asked for it), and it was almost as cathartic.

  3. Dear Holly, I still marvel at the way our lives mirror each other.
    I think this journey to keep it simple will be a continuing balancing act. One that we must constantly check and tweak. Our culture is not one that nurtures those who seek simplicity - it lures us into its chaos almost which, as you mentioned, certainly means death.
    Recently, I began to smell the death among us and realized that I had let the scales tip, as well.
    I laughed reading your post about ridding yourself of things that steal our peace because this is exactly what I did to rebalance our home. I donated the TV, several DVD's and VHS tapes, thinned out our closets (fewer things to wash on laundry day) and put a couch on the curb.
    Well that's my brief story and answer to how we manage when mommy is not managing!

  4. Thanks Holly for sharing. We're finding ourselves needing for me to go back to work. A decision we've been mulling over for weeks now. While it's not exactly what I wanted I realize I do better with structures and boundaries and in a weird way work provides that for us. All that said my goal before I'm occupied 8 hours out of the house is to purge, purge, purge! I've been feeling the need to simplify as well bc when the complex craziness sinks in I can't focus on my family and self. Thanks for sharing. Love y'all and have fun simplifying!