What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life
By Georgia Varozza
Harvest House Publishers
In order to show us what we can learn from the Amish, Georgia Varozza first shows us how a typical Amish family functions. Just the absolute basic statistics are enough to give me pause:
A typical Amish family will have seven children and two adults. This means that 27 meals have to be prepared every single day. Bereft of modern electrically powered appliances, the Amish wife will be hand-washing at least 27 plates, 27 glasses, 81 pieces of cutlery plus all the pots, pans, serving dishes and utensils. Bread and cookies will be part of the daily fare, and all will be home-made. Most of the canned vegetables and fruit will have been prepared by her too, and she will have grown most herself in her home garden. And that’s before we start on the house cleaning, garden work and laundry work as well as child care. If some of her children are growing daughters, she will have extra help with the chores; if she has sons, they will be learning to help their father tend the fields, look after the livestock or manufacture hand crafted items.
Despite this awe-inspiring amount of work, every Amish family manages to spend a large amount of quality time together as a family by having a strong work ethic from a very young age indeed and by having good daily routines in which a great deal can be accomplished, and this is an area many of us could benefit from emulating. Children from toddler age upwards can learn to help their parents with simple but necessary chores in the home and garden. She gives book titles which may be of interest or help, as well as practical suggestions for cleaning routines and recipes for cheap and easy home-made cleaning products, laundry soap and even dish-washer soap and personal care products!
The garden receives similarly detailed treatment, from lawn maintenance to growing your own fruit and vegetables from scratch. Raising back yard livestock such as chickens, rabbits, pygmy goats or bees - even in a small urban garden - is perfectly possible in many places, and again, we are given clear, good basic information about getting started with caring for these creatures.
Chapter 6 is my favourite. Keeping technology where we want it is easier said than done in our modern technological age. The Amish are slow to accept any modern technologies and very careful to utilise only what is truly essential and has major benefits for the maintenance and well-being of their simple living lifestyle and communities. When is enough truly enough? At what point do we realise that having more and more complex and expensive “things” is not actually making us happier or enhancing our family relationships? Thoughtful and considered use of technology is good, but allowing it to rule our lives and homes is not necessarily a good thing.
It may seem that all these ideas are just common sense but the bottom line is that all too many of us – myself included - have fallen into the trap of an ever-deepening and increasingly more expensive consumer lifestyle which is no longer financially sustainable in the current financial climate. Learning to be more frugal, more careful, more sensible in what we do and choose to spend our money on is indeed simple common sense, but also a wake-up call to be better stewards of what has been entrusted to us – a lesson which the Amish already know.