Thursday, July 13, 2017

On the need to simplify

My sister Anna recently sent us all this letter that I am sharing here with her permission:

Dear Family,

I realize that holidays and birthdays are far away, but since I just finished purging the house I feel passionate about expressing this now. I recently realized that our kids were drowning in toys. To the point that they couldn't even find anything they wanted to play with and just felt overwhelmed by all the choices; flitting from one thing to another and leaving a trail of things behind them every time. Every day we would go through and put back the items as neatly as possible. It would take us as long to put them away as it did for them to play with them. 

I know that everyone wants to express their love and feel like they are making them happy with things, but we really want a simpler life for each of our kiddos. We want it to be filled with more imagination, more experiences, and more memories. I donated about 80% of our toys so far, and already I see their imaginations blooming. The craft box is always out, books are being read, and cards are being played. We got rid of our TV and all video games, and the amount of time they spend talking, playing and arguing (lol) has skyrocketed. They actually have moments to be bored. I love it so much.

For birthdays and holidays and every moment in between, please no more toys. If you still want to give gifts I have put together a list of things I know they can really use and will appreciate. I don't want to waste your hard-earned money that you are all so generous with.

Gift ideas:

Movie theater tickets/gift cards. (They love to go but it is not in the budget.)

Art supplies/Play Doh (doh only)

Sneakers/clothing (these kids grow like weeds!)

A trip to see you/you come to see them (family is always welcome in our home).

Aquarium passes

Coney Island passes

Money towards a new computer that we will really need for the kids' school

Gift cards for ice cream outings

Swim lessons

Baseball games

Trips to the park

These are just suggestions. I hope you don't think we are being ungrateful; we are NOT. We so appreciate everything each of you does for us. I know that some of you don't get to see them often, and it can be tempting to want to show love through stuff, but we are really striving for a different lifestyle. We are hoping to raise our kids in an organized, purposeful, minimalist environment. We are striving every day to minimalize materialism for ourselves and our kids.

Love Always,
Anna and Robert

The issue of how to maintain simplicity in our life and to control how much stuff we and the kids have, is something we've been grappling with for awhile. As I sit here awaiting the arrival of a moving truck, I've already combed through every single toy (and not just toys, but everyTHING), and pared it all down dramatically. It feels like a fresh start, as it does every few years when we do this. My intent is that every box we open on the other side of this contains things that are either useful to us or make us smile (or both); and also that once everything has been unpacked in our presumably smaller house in Japan, we have a little bit of space left over: space to move, for the kids have their little dance parties and wrestle with their dad, and for us all to just be. I love the directness of Anna's appeal to all of us, the creative ideas she gives us for gifting occasions, and most of all the love and gratitude she conveys throughout her message. I ditto everything she said (except for getting rid of the TV -- that would be a really big step and we really like our Netflix!).

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