Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living With Less. Is This Possible With Kids? Thine/Mine Homework

“In a study published last year titled ‘Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,’ researchers at U.C.L.A. observed 32 middle-class Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings.” –Graham Hill, “Living With Less. A Lot Less,” NYTimes.com

A recent, hot, viral article is sweeping through Mommy-Land. The NYTimes’ “Living With Less. A Lot Less.” Written by Graham Hill, a single guy, no kids. At least none that I could detect, because his writing seemed so calm. And fluid. And like he has solid time to do great research and be actually thoughtful since he doesn’t have twin 3 year olds tantruming on his leg because the dog ate their Cherrios. Again.

His point is real: living with more doesn’t necessarily make you happier. We can live with a lot less.

Though, I’d be curious to see what happens if and when he settles down and gets his house with the white picket fence and a lawn and garage/crap-storage-holder and has 3.5 children with a lovely lady.  Will he once again join the stressed many – us! – who manage and angst on a daily basis about the loads of cruddola we are constantly picking up, sorting, organizing, and putting back in it’s proper place?

The problem is, lots of the stuff that we have when we are raising kids is NECESSARY stuff. We don’t necessarily want it all, but to lead a fun, active life hiking and biking, playing sports, and getting outside with your kids, there is a plethora of things that are necessary to own to both stay safe and to share time with them.

Take the: “ways to cart your kids around” items that an active family needs: sling, Baby Bijorn, backpack, sidewalk stroller, uber-stroller for off-piste hiking, special kid’s seat for dad’s bike, big yellow cart thing that gets attached to the back of dad’s bike, don’t forget carseats, bikes for the whole family, scooters…. etc, etc. My head starts spinning writing this list – because it does seem so…. so…. ridiculous. But, let’s be real, we use all of this stuff!

The key is to unload the things you outgrow as soon as possible. This is where my family made THE BIG MISTAKE and where our garage/basement did become the nightmare that Hill cites. Seventy-five percent of the families involved in the  study that Hill cites couldn’t park their cars in their garages because they were too jammed with things. Like, for example, the Preemie diapers I just found in a box in the basement from 8 years ago when my twins were born….Why do we still own these??? Alert! Alert! Purge!!!

8 Years Later, Why Do We Still Own These??
And, absolutely no doubt in my mind, some of my personal, biggest daily stress does come from managing all of the things we own. Especially when I can’t find my son’s glove for the Little League baseball game that starts in 20 minutes. Arrrrrrgh! That is when my stress hormones peak, through the roof of the house, out of the atmosphere, and into infinity and beyond. Just like all of those other poor mothers. (Which is also why there is also a possible correlation in all of this between Chardonnay drinking and too much stuff…)

The solution is to pare down. Make ourselves lean consumers. But the reality is that when you have kids, our “lean” is very different than real lean. We can strive for that goal, but we parents need to know that our lifestyle is just plain nuts and it’s somewhat normal to own a lot of stuff. The key is *are you using it? And *have you outgrown it?

I see a time when the minimalist lifestyle will be my own and my empty nest a clear path forward. But until then, my space is full. My life is big, too.

Namaste & Three Cheers! –OM

Find the NYTimes.com article here: See what you think! (subscription only - Sunday 3/10/2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/opinion/sunday/living-with-less-a-lot-less.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0&pagewanted=print


  1. I am 100% in this boat. I have no problem de-cluttering and giving my things away, but it's not long before I'm feeling claustrophobic again and wondering how on earth we accumulated so many things. Especially toys, I wish I could let go of the toys and simplify my boys' lives about 1000%.

    1. yes, i agree, it's the toys that crush the mommy soul mostly over here as well.... i don't feel like i give my kiddos too much, but boy does it somehow accumulate into stuff-bedlam so quickly.... my least favorite that i SWEAR breed at night creating little baby ones: plastic toys. they're on some sort of evil mission........

    2. Great post! The walls are growing in again! Nooooo!! Why is it so hard to say no to that flawed logic telling us we might use something again MAYBE once in the next ten years?! Get rid of it!!

    3. Great prescription for the tensions of modern living - eliminate the accumulations of busy lives and the many things "we just can't do without" and recycle them. Like the 'take back' program in some bookstores, for those still liking the feel and freedom (from gadgets) of the printed page. Now about those old skiis in the garage - so many great runs, such fond memories - perhaps I'll recycle them next year. Its a disease!

  2. Well said. In a career of five house moves, carting that stuff from place to place I have never parked in one of many family garages (not to mention moving bills) - relying instead on knuckle-skinning ice removal skills honed in northern, mountain climes. Why??? Perhaps dutifully considering that someone in the family MIGHT need this stuff and the practical desire not to consume new just for new's sake combined with a personal tendency to enjoy developing Rube-Goldberg solutions to practical challenges. Add the healthy narcissism of memorializing great ski runs of the distant past with great friends and family. Get serious with deeper drives include, from a post-war childhood in the nuclear age, unconscious preparation for post-apocalypse survival where everything just might be handy - or just simply the seasonal accumulation and storage tendencies of higher vertebrates in temperate climates - we share an oak forest with squirrels and bluejays. Next move - car in garage, healthy knuckles and off to the slopes with a warm cup of coffee.