“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