Our stuff has a front door but does our stuff have a back door? When was the last time you purchased something? Food, clothes, toys, books? Bringing things into our home is as natural as breathing. We consume without thinking. It is easy and simple to buy the things we need and want. The problem comes in when we don’t let go of the things we no longer use. When was the last time you purposefully donated, recycled or trashed your older items? In order to keep our homes from becoming cluttered, disorganized and crowded, we need to let go. Today, I am going to set aside something to donate. I have set up a regular pattern of moving old things out the back door whenever I bring something new home. There should be a continual movement of bringing in and letting go to keep our homes fresh, clean and organized. What are you going to let go of today?
It would be nice to go real simple. Simple as in organic gardening or joining the revival for backyard chickens and cloth diapers. I would love to have lettuce growing and fresh eggs to collect each day, but that may never happen. I can see myself being perfectly happy in that environment but here is reality: I live in a nice new neighborhood, enclosed behind a fancy metal gate, allowing in only the pre-approved. It is in the desired part of town where the affluent young families live. We never thought we would live here, but a foreclosure brought us in. Most people have pools in their backyards and if not pools, then patios, palm trees and water fountains. There is a small park with swings, grass and quiet streets shaded by rows of Palo Brea trees. It’s beautiful. To my right and left the neighbors drive their Jaguars and Mercedes, (I won’t tell you what is in my own garage) and every other house has the soccer mom SUV. I pay as much in HOA fees as I paid in rent when I was in college. So chickens? Never! It won’t happen here, and we won’t be moving to an older neighborhood with hand-painted fenced yards and permissible livestock, either.
We have to be reasonable simple, and it will look different for everyone. So right here, in north Scottsdale, I can find a way to live simply. This is my own journey of discovering what simple and intentional living will look like in the society and era I have found myself in.
Two miles down Horse Creek Road, turn left on a dirt road. It curves and you will see a blue-grey house on your left. Go down the long gravel drive and pull up before a large front porch with a white painted rail. In the corner, is a swing, and I am sitting on it. It is summer and I am looking out across the prairie grass. It is green turning tan and wispy like the thinning hairs atop an aging man’s head. The soil is poor and the grass never grows thick or high here, but it is tenacious and runs free over the rolling landscape. I am watching my one year old son climb up and down the one-step porch. Up is easy but turning around to go down backward has him occupied. A clump of yellow snapdragons grows by the step and we pause to listen to the bumblebees. He holds still, and we watch and listen. We spend a peaceful morning just listening to the wind through the grass, bees and my son’s delighted explorations.
That was one year and a vacation ago and I will confess that daily life does not unfold like that beautiful summer day. I recently took a pause in my schedule and realized it is time for me to change. I want to embrace a porch swing mentality. The porch swing way of beginning my days, of drinking in the pleasure of my children and the beauty all around me. The porch swing way of allowing peace to fill my heart and set my pace for the day. The porch swing way of being purposeful, which includes intentionally resting and enjoying what is around me. I am choosing a new way of living and I am inviting other moms and parents to join me. A life of parenting and living with intentional simplicity. In a driven, fast-paced society where it is commonplace and even applauded to be busy, involved and over-committed, I am stepping back. I am going backward, away from busyness, away from commitments, away from fear that we will miss out if we dare slow down. I am going to breath deeply and from here, proceed with calculated steps. I am going to build a life of peace and purpose one step at a time. It’s porch-swing parenting, a new way to live in a modern society.