This time of year we are bombarded with messages that we need more in order to be happy. More electronics, more toys, more food, more decorations, more friends, more parties, more clothes. Whatever you possess could be better, and what you don’t have is out there for the buying. Perhaps you are wishful for a simpler time, like, say, 1916. Back then, people in the countryside still got around with horses. The post office connected you with family, newspapers were the main source of information, and most foods were locally raised and produced.
But perhaps society was not so different back then. I’m reading, “Shelter and Clothing: A Textbook Of the Household Arts,” written by Helen Kine, copyright 1916. This is what she has to say.
A home based on the right principles will be simple. There will be simplicity of living, honesty in the expression of what is offered in the home. No ostentation or living beyond one’s means: simplicty in entertainment in offering freely of what one has to friends, without apology or explanation: simple furnishings, simple, healthful food, simple, artistic clothing, all help to simplify life and give the home makers more time for the family joys and intercourse. It sometimes requires much courage and independence of thought and action to achieve this ideal when one’s neighbors give elaborate dinners which are paid for with difficulty, seek the excitement of moving-picture and vaudeville shows when the can scarcely be afforded, and neglect the allurements of woods and fields and streams, which offer more healthful and simpler pleasures.
That doesn’t sound much different from today, does it? A “simpler” era is never the one you are living in. You don’t have to go back in time to live by the “right principles”, and in fact, there’s no year to go back to. But you can have, as Helen Kine says, the courage to make this here and now the right time for yourself. Simplicity is a state of mind which you can weave it into your own modern life. Every morning, I go out early, these days in freezing temperatures, and am greeted by busy, cheerful, greedy, hungry animals. They get underfoot, they squawk, they chortle, they are grateful for the food. Taking care of their basic needs takes care of mine. Quiet moments, outside, caring for animals, is my touchstone for the life that I strive to create. To make your own simple life, start your day in a coop. If you can’t keep your own hens, I’m happy to share mine at HenCam. I don’t rail against this modern world. Having read about housekeeping in the early 1900s, I am ever so grateful for my washing machine, central heat and electric lights. I’m especially grateful for modern medicine and the miracle of my cochlear implants. But I don’t want to be so immersed in the modern world that I miss out on Mrs. Kine’s fields and streams. The barns in my backyard act as a counter-balance to the technology in my home. My hens provide perspective (and much cause for laughter.) That I can share this simple world through the complexity of a computer is an irony of twenty-first century life. Isn’t it wonderful?