Thursday, December 13, 2007

WIDE MARGINSMy friend, Charlotte, and I were talking this morning about why it is that we are enjoying the process of simplifying our lives so much...discarding "progress" to do things the old-fashioned way. Why is it that kneading bread instead of using a bread maker, hanging laundry out to dry instead of throwing them into the dryer, canning food at home instead of buying it in a store, washing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher (and a myriad of other things), are so much more enjoyable, than their faster, more efficient counterparts?
In truth, I think we sacrifice a lot for the sake of convenience and saving time. While dishwashers, dryers, bread makers, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, and the like, all have their place and are wonderful inventions...we lose something valuable when we use them. We lose built in margins in our day. Kneading bread and waiting for it to rise does take time...but it is also theraputic. The slowing down, the tactile feeling of warm, yeasty dough under my hands, the pleasure of a simple task accomplished adds concrete value to my life.

It is so easy to be busy...running around trying to accomplish a multitude of tasks...but without any real satisfaction. Changing the way I think about my household tasks, and the way I perform them, has added simple pleasure to my day, as well as little moments to reflect, breathe, pray. The few moments taken to hang out laundry in the sunshine, to wash dishes by hand, to sweep the floor, offer up a much needed opportunity to re-center.

My last post eluded to to the struggle of the past week. It was really challenging. My house was a disaster, my children were out of sorts, and so was I. One of those days, Charlotte came over with her children and immediately began sweeping and straightening. I began working on the laundry. At one point, with my chin quivering, and tears barely contained, I told her that I was going to hang out the laundry. She later said "When you told me you were going to hang out the laundry, I knew it wasn't about trying to get housework done. You needed those moments alone, to recharge." She was absolutely right. Those ten minutes of quiet, out in the sun, praying and thinking, turned my day around. I wouldn't have gotten that if I had just thrown them in the dryer.

These changes I am making in my life are about much more than being eco-aware, or eccentric, or being counter-cultural. It is about maintaining the wide margins in my life that keep me calm, make my life more meaningful, and make me a better mother, wife, and friend. Doing things more simply teaches me to practice the presence of God...even during the most quotidian of tasks.


  1. What an AWESOME post, Laurel! I need to slow down. I'm so busy being busy I don't have any time to recharge. I can just almost taste the simple life. It's a jump for me. I can completely "see" what you are talking about and truly believe your words, but for whatever reason it is just so hard to take that jump for me.

    However, with all that said, my mind keeps bringing me back to, "You need to slow down. You are happier when things are slower." I've got to make some intentional decisions about how to spend my minutes.

    Sorry for the ramble. Thanks for the post. I needed it! :)

  2. what an epiphany we had today! it is so amazing. I always felt I was being stubborn about fighting the vacuum cleaner. Its the racket. I just love to sweep. seeing the outcome and having that margin in my day. setting a good example of what is truly satisfying work. something else we talked about that also bears mentioning... It makes sense that so many mothers are going back to work outside of their homes. its like we don't really have to "work" inside our home. We are just so processed and packaged that the work that would create "margins" as you say.. becomes just busy hopping from one less satisfying thing to the other. Its the boredom of being a housewife in the 21st century! I feel God's pleasure like the sunshine on a beautiful fall day when I am using my brain and skills he has given me to create a home with WORK! what a joy to be able to DO things to the glory of God. what an amazing post! praise the Lord for your friendship. you are truly the kindred spirit I have longed for since I first read anne of green gables and emily of new moon! I love you!

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  4. You are right. I, too, think that the simpler things are the more opportunity I have to center. The committment to slow down has definitely contributed to my spiritual evolution. I hope to slow down more as you offer lots of inspiration. I like to dance outside the margins as I am grateful when they are wide. Awesome post!

  5. Couldn't have said it is more about margin than even being environmentally sensitive...I need SPACE and SLOWNESS in my day which gives me time to hear the Lord, be more in tuned to needs around me (including my own!), and to think about life, etc. Some of my sweetest times with the Lord are by the clothesline :) My default setting can be "driven" and simplifying moves me from being driven to peaceful. Here's to slower living :)