The Common Good

Tips for Achieving an 'Almost Amish' Lifestyle

Editor's Note: This post is a follow-up to yesterday's Ten Ways to Live "Almost Amish.' Author Nancy Sleeth offers tips for achieving each of her principles for "almost Amish" living. 

Organization illustration, marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com
Organization illustration, marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com

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1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.

Almost Amish Decluttering Tips:

  • Start small:  Clean one shelf of a closet, once corner of the basement, or one drawer of your desk each Saturday; by the end of the year, your house (and heart) will be much lighter.
  • For each item you bring into the home, give (at least) one away one.
  • Limit temptation by reducing catalogs and junk mail:  visit www.dmachoice.org and www.catalogchoice.org to remove your name from mailing list.

2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.

Almost Amish Technology Tips: 

  • If there is a form of technology that is ruling you like a master rather than serving you like a tool, consider taking a 48 hour break and note how it changes your relationships
  • Tell your family and friends that you are observing screenless Sundays for a month — no TV, no Internet, no computer games, no email, no texting — and ask them to hold you accountable.
  • Be fully present in real time and space.  Turn off cell phones while you are eating meals. Close your laptop when you converse with others. Don’t keep the TV on when no one is watching.
  • Do one thing at a time. Research at MIT and elsewhere provides clear evidence that we are not as good at multi-tasking as we think.  In fact, when we do many things at once, we do nothing well.

3. Saving more and spending less brings financial peace.

Almost Amish Money Tips:

  • Before making any major purchase, wait a month to see if you still “need” it.
  • Avoid recreational shopping; never go to the mall without a specific purchase in mind. 
  • Follow the three-present rule for birthdays and Christmas: one for fun, one for learning, and one to bring you closer to God. Discuss with family and children well in advance, and then stick to the plan.
  • At the start of the year, set up a separate giving account. Remember: tithing should only be the beginning of generous giving.  

4. Time spent in God’s creation reveals the face of God.

Almost Amish Nature Tips

  • The average school-aged child spends 6 hours and 40 minutes per day in front of a screen, and less than 30 minutes per week outdoors in unstructured play. Take a young friend outdoors and get to know God through his creation.
  • Grow some of your own food, even if it’s just a few tomato plants on the patio.
  • Grab two bags — one for trash and one for recyclable items — and clean up one corner of your neighborhood  
  • Plant a tree: trees clean the air, reduce storm water run-off, provide shade, and beautify the community.
  • Pack a picnic and turn an everyday meal into a memorable oasis. 

5. Small and local leads to saner lives.

Almost Amish Small and Local Tips:

  • Visit the farmer’s market and eat local produce in season.
  • Purchase a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Go one step further:  arrange for your church to be the weekly drop-off spot for CSA members.
  • Make it your goal to visit one local business each month, and take time to talk with the owner.
  • Get involved with your neighborhood school. Volunteer in the classroom, offer homework help, or tutor a struggling student.

6. Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.

Almost Amish Service Tips

  • Join a small faith group, not for what you can get, but for what you can give.
  • Adopt an elderly neighbor, single mom, or jobless friend, and look for ways you can help fill the gaps.
  • Gladly lend tools, sports equipment, and other little-used items.  If it comes back in less than ideal shape — or not at all — consider it a donation to a good home.

7. The only true security comes from God.

Almost Amish Security Tips

  • Encourage routine. Too many decisions (at any age) can undermine security and become overwhelming. As countercultural as it may sound, boring is sometimes better.
  • Stay put. If you have a choice, don’t move. The security that comes from knowing neighbors, geography, and place can be worth far more than a pay raise.
  • Take responsibility. Sometimes when we’re tempted to think of ourselves as victims, we actually need to blame less — and thank more.
  • Set boundaries. Margins of safety will increase your family’s confidence and sense of belonging.
  • Model stability. In marriage, parenting, and friendship, be the person that others can count on. The faster the world changes, the more the world needs you to be still and know/show that God is God.

8. Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses build community.

Almost Amish Community Building Tips:

  • Play together. If you have young children, find a few neighbors who might want to get together on a regular basis to share child care and have some adult time while the kids play.
  • Turn your yard or an open space into a center of fun. Horseshoes, badminton, a tire or rope swing, and other old-fashioned games can be a magnet for pulling neighborhoods together.
  • Begin a book group. One great way to expand your mind and get to know your neighbors is through a monthly reading group. If you can’t find one, start one!
  • Invite neighbors for a meal. Breaking bread together is one of the best ways to break down barriers. To maximize enjoyment, let go of any expectations of a return invitation, and don’t be shy about allowing others to bring salad or dessert.
  • Walk the talk. It could be just two or three friends that meet at a regular time to get some fresh air while catching up on each other’s lives. I’ve found walks to be one of the best ways to have uninterrupted conversations with friends and neighbors.

9. Family ties are lifelong; they change but never cease. 

Almost Amish Family Tips:

  • Sit down for family meals on a regular basis.  
  • Pick one night a week and make it Family Night. Build in simple traditions — such as pancakes for dinner, family walks around the neighborhood, or special, family-night-only board games.
  • Expect children to be citizens of the family. Giving chores builds unity and a sense of belonging.
  • Keep a weekly day of rest — together!  It will change your family dynamics the other six days of the week.

Nancy Sleeth is co-founder of the faith-based environmental nonprofit, Blessed Earth.  This article includes adaptations from her latest book, Almost Amish:  One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life.  You can find more Almost Amish tips at www.blessedearth.org.

Organization illustration, marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com

 

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