On a Budget? Simplicity Fits the Bill

With all the gloomy economic news these days, it’s hard not to get depressed. More foreclosures…people losing their jobs…credit card debt out of control. Could there be an upside to all this? Perhaps it is an opportunity for all of us to simplify our lives and reflect on what is really important. Hans Hofmann writes, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Our boiler broke in early December. Instead of replacing it, we decided to redesign the entire system. This was going to take time, and time was not on our side. So my husband cleaned out the woodstove, and along with some help from a kerosene heater, we were warm this winter. As I reflect on this experience, I realize how much it brought us together as a family.

My husband, our three girls, and I moved and stacked cords of wood, gathered sticks for kindling, and kept that fire going for days at a time. The kids loved it! We all worked toward a common goal and had a sense of accomplishment at the end. In the years ahead, I am sure we will look back on this time fondly.

I’m not suggesting a return to a “Laura Ingalls” lifestyle, but if we slow down and live more simply, perhaps our true treasure can emerge. A recent edition of Time magazine reports that in this economic downturn, “a third of people polled say they are spending more time with family and friends, and nearly four times as many people say their relations with their kids have gotten better during this crisis than say they have gotten worse.”

I was touched recently when working with a couple who is experiencing a job layoff. The husband said that with their financial security ripped from beneath them, they can now work to build their relationship on a pure foundation. What a gift it is to be able to look at the situation from that perspective.

Our materialistic culture has been bombarding us with messages, “More is good! Got to have more! Got to be on the go, go, go.” As materialism withers, perhaps we can slow down and focus on being grateful for what we have. Money and things bring us temporary pleasure, but being loved and connected with our families and our God brings true joy. Despite its hardships, this economic meltdown can be a time of reflection, simplicity and discovery of our most valuable riches.