“More, more, more!” is the mantra of our American materialistic culture. It’s quite too easy to get sucked into this vortex of spending, consuming, acquiring, building, adding. This message of “more is better” spills into the crevices of my attitudes about time, too. So I find myself over-scheduling our summer days out of fear of boredom; and I find myself researching the next best activities in which to enroll my preschool-age daughters; and then while I’m at it, I might as well think about community classes I want to participate in as well. Plus I should actually be using my gym membership on a regular basis, and the memberships we have to a few local attractions. And before I know it, we are all spinning, spinning, spinning like the hamster in her crystal clear ball who thinks she may be running her way to freedom. Nothing has changed though – she is just as trapped as 15 minutes earlier when her owners placed her there for “exercise.”
For a while now, I’ve been challenged to consider “less is more.” Hatmaker’s book Seven is the best cultural expose [don’t know how to add an accent there] I’ve read so far – it will jolt you out of comfortable materialism in the best of ways. Slowly I’ve sought to purge our home of the unnecessary “stuff” and certainly to think twice before buying more. My friends Katherine, Mary, and Maria have inspired me to think about what this could mean for our kids, and I’ve done a few toy purges as a result. It turns out when my kids have fewer options to play with, they really are more focused and contented in their play. (Not to mention that there is less mess to clean up!) Simplicity Parenting is on my summer/fall reading shelf because I want to consider this further.
And then there’s time. Yesterday I trimmed a couple activities in favor of a more leisurely start to our day, and we were all happier. We need fallow hours in a day. I need them, and my three-year-old daughters certainly do. Less schedule means more quality time spent together in the ordinary, and less rushing. When I say quality time, this doesn’t usually mean that we are all blissfully enjoying one another’s company. It often means I am refereeing the screaming girls as they fight over the most-popular-toy-of-the-minute – but I am doing so without trying to also rush them out the door, to get dressed, to put on those darn ever-wandering shoes, to eat their breakfast NOW. Quality time with preschoolers looks like floor time doing a puzzle or playing a game. Or sipping my coffee while I enjoy their “show” (usually dancing to Frozen’s ever-popular “Let It Go”). And then some more coaching in how to get along with one another, and how not to have a mean face when you’re not getting what you want, and how to listen respectfully to me, and how to enjoy the slow unscheduled time.
Less is quite certainly more. It’s a trade I hope to continue to learn and practice and discover – that when I trade the “more is better” for “less is more” mantra, we all end up with what I wanted more of in the first place. More joy, more quality of life, more tuning in to the important and tuning out the apparently urgent, more of stepping out of the ever-exhausting cycle of acquiring stress and stuff in favor of learning contentment with what I have and appreciating what I’ve been given.