Most weeks, I have a conversation with one of my daughters that goes something like this:‘Mum, I want an iPad [substitute consumer item of choice here], can I have one?’
‘What do you want one of those for?’
‘Everyone else in my class has one.’
‘Are you sure … ? And in any case, that doesn’t mean that you need one.’
‘That’s so unfair!’
‘Life is unfair, sweetie. But do you know the best way to be happy?’
[Roll of eyes.] ‘No, what is it?’
I don’t know if it’s working, but it’s a message I try to slip in whenever I can. I really believe that much of the stress and strain we experience is to do with striving, competition, and the sheer drive to consume. It’s everywhere, and it is hugely difficult to resist.
That’s why I’ve co-written a book called The Simple Things with Antonia Kidman. The sub-title is ‘Creating an organised home, a happy family and a life worth living’, because we both feel that those three things are intertwined. Organisation is about being conscious of what you buy, keep, and own, and stripping back where needed. Families thrive when their days are focused on experiences rather than stuff. Life has more value when relationships rather than ownership are at the core.
I’m no domestic goddess, so some of the things Antonia and I write about in our book are not second nature to me. Batch cooking, for example: I know it’s a great way to save time and cooking, but I often forget to buy big enough quantities of the ingredients I need. Some weeks it all comes together, though, and those weeks feel better, less flustered, more in the flow.
One of the tips in The Simple Things that I really love is ‘the minimalist home’: paring everything down so that your home is streamlined and clutter-free. My family is just about to move house, so I’ve just done a major minimalisation in our house, and I love it. I get a kick out of seeing benches without bits and pieces all over them, beds freshly made – I’ve even developed a taste for rolling towels, though I think I’ll get over that pretty soon! It’s been a major effort to get the house that way, but two things that helped were tackling one room at a time and getting the kids involved. We turned it into a competition to see who could fill a garbage bag first, which is a great motivator!
Strangely enough, simplicity isn’t always the easy option. It can take courage to say no, to fly in the face of what everyone around us seems to be doing.
The results are worth it, though. A happier, healthier, more peaceful life for you and your family is really worth the effort.
Sally Collings is the author of bestselling Sophie’s Journey as well as Positive, The World According to Kids and Parenting with Soul. A writer, editor and publisher, her special areas of interest are life stories, parenting and everyday spirituality. She lives in the subtropical paradise of Brisbane with her husband, two daughters and one goldfish