Well, hello there! I’m feeling pretty dandy. Today, Ryan and I had a nice, long conversation that really left me feeling united with him, yet again. I love that feeling.
Before I get going with that, a sidenote: don’t you hate it when you have this great conversation about something you’re going to do or change, and you feel really good about it, and it sort of gives you an adrenaline rush….and then the conversation ends, and you’re left with all this adrenaline in your system and there’s nothing to do with it but think? Yeah…I hate that feeling! But it was a productive conversation, so onto that. 🙂
It all started with this catalogue I received. I am in love with a company called Nova Natural Toys and Crafts. I bought a Mothering magazine once and there was a little mini catalogue in there from Nova Natural. I really enjoyed the few things displayed in it, and later visited their website where I confirmed how much I love them. However, who has time to browse an ENTIRE company website when there’s a 9 month old to tend to? Well, I don’t. So, I decided to request a full size catalogue. It arrived yesterday, to my surprised-it-came-so-fast excitement, and I’ve been slowly browsing through it, savoring each moment and poring over each page.
On our way to church today, Ryan and I were talking about something completely unrelated, but as we talked, I was browsing through the catalogue again. After church, while we were doing laundry at my parents’ house, I pulled it out again because I wanted to share it with Ryan. I can’t contain my excitement about these guys!
And then it started. Ryan said he had noticed some of the pages during our drive that morning, and he wanted to see more of it. We sat down and I explained who Nova Natural is. You can visit the link above and read the bio, but basically the company is owned by a family – a husband, a wife, and two kids. They live in Vermont, and their goal is essentially to provide natural, simple, quality toys and crafts (which includes amazing wool products such as baby clothes and woolens for children and adults). They believe that simple toys should “further the child’s inner development” and ultimately, their creativity. Almost everything is made of wood or organic cotton, or silk, or wool. The products are fair trade, mostly coming from the US and Europe, where work standards are high, or, for example, they have dollmakers in Peru who are paid fair wages and treated very well. Another neat thing about the catalogue – all the photos of children with the toys, clothes, and crafts are children they know, and you can tell these photos are definitely taken in Vermont. The beautiful scenery and amazing trinkets are what caught Ryan’s eye.
He started to talk about how he loves places like Vermont (or basically anywhere with beautiful, open land and old, rustic houses…places with farms…places with four distinct seasons…etc… :). He said he really hopes that one day, our children will live in a place where they can run around and experience nature in all its entirety. Then he proceeded to tell me that he loved how, for example, the products from Nova Natural aren’t necessarily cheap, but they are beautifully made and durable, and they will last. And then he began to explain how he felt so unfit to be living in a culture like we do (oh, Orange County!) because our priorities seem so different from those around us. Everyone is so convenience-based!
And as we talked, I just felt right. It was so good to talk about this and to fully agree on the kind of life we want to live. Simplistic. That’s it. We want to live simply. We don’t want to buy a bunch of flip-flops for $2.50 a pair just because we can. We don’t want to get a loan for a super-expensive car so that we can pay $350 a month for 6 years. We don’t want to buy clothes from a store that sells shirts for $7 when we know they don’t practice fair trade and safe working conditions – we especially don’t want to support child labor!
Ryan was a bit concerned, though. He kept coming back to this: how can we live the way we want to while we’re here in California? How can we achieve this when most people don’t even care?
But then I thought, well, why can’t we? Why can’t we make a difference by living this way despite what’s around us? So….we decided to make the change!
We talked a little bit about our goals and how we can begin to transition out of convenience-based living. Of course, we won’t go and throw all of our previously purchased items that may not go along with this philosophy, but we can start to phase it out.
We came up with these basic rules (for lack of a better term)…
1. Quality over quantity. A good example would be shoes. We could buy, like I said, flip-flops for $2.50 a pair, or even a semi-good quality pair of sandals for say, $20 that might last us through the summer. But, we could also buy a pair of $90 sandals that we know will last us several years. We love Birkenstocks. We’ve always said that we haven’t been able to afford them for a while, but the truth is, we’ve just been spending our money on cheaper, lower-quality things which has, in turn, caused us to buy more of the cheap things because they don’t last. This principle will apply to most everything we buy (clothing, items for Jack, household items, etc.)
2. Stay away from debt. Like I mentioned above, we could technically take out a loan for a nice car. Or, we could save some money this year and pay for a car in cash. We could pay for a new couch with a credit card, or we could wait and pay for it in cash with our tax return (wahoo!). We could buy new things all the time (even if we don’t need them), or we could live with a tight budget for a little while and pay off our existing debt faster. This is something we really want to focus on.
3. Truly know the companies we’re purchasing from. Investigate where their products are made, who makes them, and if it’s being done in an ethical way. And then quit buying from places that are exploiting their employees or providers! This is kind of an obvious one, but I think we (myself included) tend to sort of look the other way in the name of convenience and so-called necessity. I don’t want to do this anymore.
4. Don’t have a lot of “stuff.” Stuff doesn’t contribute to the peace of a household. For a long time we’ve talked about how we don’t want Jack to have a lot of “stuff.” Unfortunately, people with very kind intentions like to shower first borns (and surely second, third, fourth [and so on!] borns!) with lots of things. We’ve had a hard time filtering through the things Jack has received, but we’ve committed to this change and hopefully we can communicate it kindly and gently to those with the aforementioned good intentions.
5. Make things! If you’ve kept up on my blog, you’ll know that I just got an amazing Brother sewing machine. I’m not great at sewing yet, but I love it and am hoping to hone my talent so that I can go so far as to make most of our child(ren)’s clothing, my clothing, some of Ryan’s clothing ;), gifts, and decorative items like curtains, etc. I’ve also recently learned the art of embroidery and knitting, and I’m pretty good at crocheting. I’ve started my first little garden (which I think goes with the “make things” category because it allows me to make things!). I want to learn to bake bread, grind wheat, and make any other thing that I’d normally buy at a store.
Surely we have a lot to learn. I don’t think this will be easy…but there was a lot of peace in my heart as we discussed it. It left me feeling clearer. I know what I need to do, and I have this passion to make it happen. I love the simple changes we’ve made in our life thus far – a true, natural birth and plans for homebirthing the rest of our children, extended (at least, according to the US 😉 breastfeeding, cloth diapering, healthy, organic (when possible) eating, and just doing what we can to conserve resources and prolong the use of items. I’m praying that God will keep opening our eyes to ways we can change for the better. I feel like simple living leaves more room for what really matters – focusing on what God has planned for us each day. I’m still working on that but I’m feeling him closer each day – affirming me and guiding me and just covering me in peace. I love it!
So, what do you think? What are some ways you and your family like to “live simply?” I’d love to read about it. I’m excited…if you couldn’t tell. 😉
In other news, I’m thinking about writing a post regarding my interest in unschooling…dun-dun-dun! I know, controversy, at its best! Does anyone know any unschooling mamas? I know a few, one of whose brain I’m going to pick on the phone sometime soon here.
Anyway, Allie and Jacob and bebe Harper have just popped down from upstairs. I’m going to go have a little friendly time before we head off to bed! Goodnight!