Life can feel so overwhelming. So busy. Some days – most days – there is a never-ending to-do list and no light at the end of the tunnel. We crave an easier existence, but don’t know how exactly to simplify life.
In comes Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you haven’t read the book recently, I suggest picking it up as a case study on how to simplify life. Then use the Little House as a litmus test for your own life.
No time to go read a novel?
I hear ya. That’s why you’re here!
So, I’ll give you the “Everything You Need to Know about Using the Little House Litmus Test to Simplify Life” article here. Here are 7 ways to be more “Little House” in life:
1. Time to Relax in the Evenings
One thing that stands out almost immediately in this book – and is so engaging and endearing – is the time that the family spends together after Pa gets home from “work.” Each night, Pa spends time with his girls by the fire, telling stories, or singing songs. Ma is there in the mix, enjoying the evening. Granted, she is usually rocking the baby or mending something it seems, but the atmosphere is just so relaxed and pleasant. Before Christmas, they spend evenings making each other gifts. Even though there is some productivity going on, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of obligation. It is a pleasant time. They have no place to be, and nothing they have to do. Can you say the same about your life?
2. Simplified Obligations
This part amazes me. The Ingalls family does what they need to survive each day, and that’s pretty much it. Seriously, their days are filled with growing, catching, killing or preparing food, and keeping a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. That’s it. The girls learn to read and do arithmetic with their Ma at the kitchen table for a little time each day, and otherwise, the children play or help with the chores.
We don’t catch, kill, care for, or grow our own food. Sure, we have to cook it, but not by hauling in firewood, or water from the stream. We don’t churn our own butter, or prepare our own maple sugar. We don’t sew our own clothes. I mean, seriously, what on earth are we doing all day that is soooooo important? Most of us probably won’t be able to get back purely to our core obligations of food, shelter and clothing, but if we got a little closer to our pure necessities, would that simplify life? Yup.
Throughout the book, you realize that the family adheres to a basic daily routine. There’s breakfast, tending the cow, school lessons, chores and dinner that happen with a certain rhythmic order and frequency. In addition, there is a great part in the book where Laura lists what big chore happens on each day. There is a day for laundry and a day for churning butter. One single big chore happens alongside the daily routine on the same day each week. One. Single. Big. Chore. Which Brings me my next point…
4. Busy is the Exception, not the Norm
There are definitely busy times in their life: when the hog is slaughtered, or when the maple is running, or when they head into town. Sometimes there are great family parties. But, these events are rare, and because they are rare, there is an excitement and determination that comes with them. The norm is a routine day. Ma is never trying to churn butter, and make maple sugar, and sew a new dress, and go to the party that night, and, and…
Let’s compare that to our days. Do we go into town to shop once a week? Twice? Three times? Do we expect to do the laundry, AND clean our house (that is at least 5 times bigger than theirs), AND make it to that appointment, AND work on whatever? Every single day? When every day is a busy day, the sense of satisfaction is lost, and is replaced with a sense of tedium and overwhelm.
Needless to say that in the book, Ma is never running around screaming like a crazy woman hopped up on coffee about getting the chores done or being late, either. If busy is the norm instead of the exception, you have failed the Little House litmus test.
5. Take a Day Off
Much to Laura’s disdain, the family does not work on Sundays. Their faith dictates that they not even cook on Sunday. If you don’t currently take a “day off” each week, then that is a Little House way to simplify life that you’re missing.
6. Get Ready the Night Before
Every night, Pa and Ma get the house reset and everything in its place for the next day. Pa cleans his gun and puts it away. Ma cleans up the kitchen and dishes. While we’re at it, they tidy up the house in the morning, too. Beds are made, and the trundle is pushed away. If you have a stress-free tidying routine at night and in the morning; if you prepare for the next day the night before, then you simplify life the Little House way.
7. They Don’t Own A Lot
Throughout the book, we get the impression that everyone probably has about 2-3 pairs of everyday clothes, and one or two nice outfits for parties or church. The girls play with their meager dolls, but those seem to be the only true toys they own. Otherwise, they play with produce in the attic. I’m not kidding. In the next book in the series, Little House on the Prairie, we learn that everything they own that they need or love fits in their covered wagon along with two young girls. The furniture is all left behind because Pa can make more. I’m not sure if we could ever limit our belongings quite that much, but that sure would simplify life!
So there you have it. If you need some inspiration to eliminate the overwhelm, look no further than the “Little House in the Big Woods.” It sounds so idyllic to live such a simple life. I really do want to try to be more Little House. How about you?
What do you do to simplify life in the Little House way? What have I missed? Join the conversation below…
If you’re looking to simplify your homeschool and get it back to the basics, check out the book, Minimalist Homeschooling. It’s a step-by-step guide to do just that.
Looking to get articles like this in your inbox? Sign up for the newsletter, and get some fun freebies, too!