Make it a mission to simplify your family life
Create a family purpose statement (adapted) by Tsh Oxenreider theartofsimple.net
Plan an evening this week to sit down as a family, and answer a few questions that are significant to your family. These questions are meant to serve as a springboard to get your thoughts flowing.
1. What are a few strengths of each member of our family?
2. Collectively, we are at our best when we are…
3. Collectively, we are at our worst when we are…
4. If we had a completely free day together as a family, how would we spend it?
5. What are practical ways we can serve each other?
6. What are practical ways we can serve others outside our family?
7. Name three things you think you could do better as a family.
8. If our home could be filled with one emotion, what would it be?
9. Name three adjectives we would use to describe our home environment.
10. If we could name one principle from which we want our family to operate, what would it be?
11. What are the top four priorities we want our family to value?
12. What is the main purpose of our home?
13. What is the secondary purpose of our home?
14. Where are we as a family in 10 years? What does our home look like?
Applying the answers
When, as a family, we are convinced that our home is a tool by which we practice hospitality to others, it makes more sense to keep our home more “ready” to welcome friends. It’s a bit more motivating to keep it straightened.
If one of our main goals is to live simply and free from the burden of others, it makes sense that we live debt-free and not accumulate needless clutter. This greatly helps us make financial decisions — do we go in to debt to buy a plasma TV? Do we charge a luxury cruise vacation on our credit card, or do we save money and forego eating out for a few months, so that we can rent a lake house a few hours away and spend a quiet week together?
When we’ve made deliberate decisions about what we’re about as a family, certain choices become a no-brainer. Even fun. You’re at peace with the choices you make, because they align with your priorities, and they just make sense. You can sleep at night.
So here’s what to do with your answers:
1. Look at your responses and see if there’s a theme.
2. See if anyone differs on any answers.
3. Highlight a few of the repeated themes, and find a few descriptive words to encompass them. For example, if your answers repeatedly deal with being frugal, with not living among clutter, and having plenty of free time as a family, perhaps one of your descriptive words is simplicity.
4. Tweak some of your answers to be more timeless.
5. Start crafting a draft of your family mission statement by way of your answers to these questions. There’s no right or wrong way to write this, but it is recommended keeping it short, timeless, and applicable. If it’s too vague, it won’t really help in your day-to-day decision making. If it’s too specific, it may needlessly paint you into a corner you never intended. And if it’s too long, it’ll be difficult to remember.
Try a basic statement like this:
We, the [family name], believe that our purpose as a family is to [general mission statement]. We will accomplish this by:
• valuing [principal] and [principal] as our main guiding principals
• making our home a place of [adjective], [adjective], and [adjective]
• prioritizing [value or action] above lesser values
• interacting with each other in a spirit of [adjective]
Let your statement be one that guides you as you make future decisions — let it serve you as a family. It’s a tool, not an altar where you worship.
As you create your mission statement, you can create sub-points that can be a bit more immediate. For example, if one of your main points is that you will “value simplicity as a family,” you can jot down some ideas of what this looks like for you in the next year. For example, this could mean:
• We will only allow outside commitments three nights per week, so that we have enough time at home as a family.
• We will eat out once every other week, so that we have enough funds to take a small vacation each year.
• We will de-clutter our home over the next 6 months
As you think through the implications of your family mission statement for the next year, you’ll be able to see how certain home management tasks will be a priority, while others won’t be as important. It’ll wipe away some needless guilt about “doing it all” (which is not possible, by the way), and will free you from a burden you were never meant to carry.
Books and Stories
It Could Be Worse Adapted from a Jewish folktale from Poland
A long time ago, there was a family that lived happily in a small, quiet house in Poland. One day they learned that the grandparents were coming to live with them. The child was very excited about this, and so were the parents. But the parents worried because their house was very small. They knew that when the grandparents arrived, the house would become crowded and much noisier.
The farmer went to ask the rabbi what to do. The rabbi says, “Let them come.”
So the grandparents move in. They have a lot of furniture, which goes in the living room, where they sleep, and in some other rooms, too. It is crowded and noisy in the house so the farmer goes back to the rabbi: “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now my in-laws are here. And it is really crowded in the house.”
The rabbi thinks for moment. Then he asks, “Do you have chickens?”
“Of course I have chickens,” says the farmer.
“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.
The farmer is confused, but he knows the rabbi is very wise. So he goes home, and brings all the chickens to live inside the house with the family. But, it is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is worse, with the clucking, and pecking, and flapping of wings.
The farmer goes back to the rabbi. “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now with my in-laws and the chickens, too, it is really crowded in the house.”
The rabbi thinks for moment. Then he asks, “Do you have any goats?”
“Of course I have goats,” says the farmer.
“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.
The farmer is confused, but he knows the rabbi is very wise. He brings all the goats from the barn to live inside the house. It is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is much worse, with the chickens clucking and flapping their wings, and the goats baa-ing and butting their heads against the walls and one another.
The next day, the farmer goes back to the rabbi. “I did what you said, Rabbi. Now my in-laws have no place to sleep because the chickens have taken their bed. The goats are sticking their heads into everything and making a lot of noise.””
The rabbi thinks. He looks very puzzled. Then he says, “Aha! You must have some sheep.”
“Of course I have sheep,” says the farmer.
“Bring them into the house,” says the rabbi.
The farmer knows the rabbi is very wise. So he brings the sheep inside. It is no less crowded and noisy. In fact, it is much, much worse. The chickens are clucking and flapping their wings, the goats are baa-ing and butting their heads. The sheep are baa-ing, too, and one sat on the farmer’s eyeglasses and broke them. The house is loud and crazy and it is starting to smell like a barn.
Completely exasperated, the farmer goes back to the rabbi. “Rabbi,” he says, “I have followed your advice. I have done everything you said. Now my in-laws have no place to sleep because the chickens are laying eggs in their bed. The goats are baa-ing and butting their heads, and the sheep are breaking things. The house smells like a barn.”
The rabbi frowned. He closed his eyes and thought for a long time. Finally he said, “This is what you do. Take the sheep back to the barn. Take the goats back to the barn. Take the chickens back to their coop.”
The farmer ran home and did exactly as the rabbi had told him. As he took the animals out of the house, his child and wife and in-laws began to tidy up the rooms. By the time the last chicken was settled in her coop, the house looked quite nice. And, it was quiet. All the family agreed their home was the most spacious, peaceful, and comfortable home anywhere.
A charitable seamstress makes beautiful quilts that she gives to the needy and poor. When a greedy king hears of the marvelous creations, he demands that she sell him one. She refuses, but says that she will give him one if he gives away all of his possessions. The angry monarch tries to force her to bend to his will. Unsuccessful, he begins to travel the world giving away his amassed treasures. When he returns to the village, a happier man in ragged clothing, she presents him with a beautiful quilt.
A young snail dreams of having the biggest house—or shell—in the world. Then one day, his wise father tells him the story of another snail with the same dream. He grew and grew, adding bright colors and beautiful designs, until he found that his house came at a terrible cost. The young snail decides that a small, easy-to-carry shell might be best for a life of adventure and exploration.