Lately, I have been focusing on the concept of simplicity. It's not the first time I've gone down this road. It usually happens when I'm deep in the thickets of a semester, the house is out of control, and I'm feeling frazzled. During these times, simplicity is more of a fantasy than a philosophy.
But my recent attention has been more serious. Although I'll never be a true minimalist, I've have become more aggressive as I pare down the possessions in my house. Beyond the clutter, I'm trying to simplify in other ways, too.
But I've noticed something interesting as a I read more about/from this movement. Specifically, I've noticed that there are gender differences. With the men, it's often about having very few possessions, being physically healthy, and living with low expenses so they can follow their dreams. With the women, it's all about spending more quality time with their children and making organic food from scratch.
Granted, some of the male writers from the minimalist movement have children (Leo Babauta has six!), but, with the exception of Joshua Becker, not many well-known men in the simplicity movement seem to talk much about their kids. Even though Baubata has six kids, his blog posts don't focus on them very often.
The dichotomy struck me most when I was reading one of Joshua Field Milbourne's books. I read about "a day in the life of a minimalist"--an example of a "typical day" for Milbourne. One part of his day involved going out to a local cafe for a burrito. In fact, several parts of his day involved meals at restaurants. The rest of his day was spent writing, exercising, or hanging out with friends.
Yet, when I read about the simplicity movement for women, it doesn't always sound so simple, especially when it comes to food. In fact, some times it sounds like the same old backlash again moms. Now, perhaps this isn't really a male/female difference, but a kids/kidless difference. Still, I feel as if I need to be very careful that I'm not being snookered into feeling guilty about being a working mom who doesn't grow her own vegetables, raise her own chickens, and make pizza from scratch. I can't help but raise an eyebrow when simplicity writings for women seem to make dinner time so much more complicated.
All of this said, I've found two voices from this movement that I really like a lot. The first is Kim John Payne (with Lisa M. Ross) in Simplicity Parenting. I thought this book was wise, fairly well researched, and even well written (the latter, perhaps, thanks to Ross?). And Payne even suggests having repetitive, simple meal plans, so I didn't feel as if I was being attacked for imperfect nourishment or some other failing. In fact, from this book, I felt compelled to make changes not from a place of guilt or insufficiency, but merely for a greater chance to embrace the joy of parenting over the worry and guilt of parenting. Also, I truly believe that the actions he recommends will make better, happier lives for my children and for me.
I also really liked Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider. Although she does want me to prepare local, organic food from scratch, she, for the most part, seems to be encouraging true simplicity and joy--not motherly perfection or guilt. Oxenreider's book is more memoir than instruction, and I was inspired by her stories to make further changes within our home and family.
What about you? Have you noticed gender differences in the voluntary simplicity movement? Do you have any books that have inspired you to simplify your life or increase the space for joy in your family?
(Sidenote: I enjoyed the audiobooks for both books.)