Simple Living tips from the Amish and other Plain People

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is lots that we who wish to live a simpler life and to treat easier on the Planet can learn from the Amish and other Plain People even though we may not (wish) to subscribe to their religious beliefs and views.

In fact one can seriously agree to disagree about the Amish and their religious beliefs and especially practices but as to how to live a simpler life with fewer wants one certainly can learn a great deal from them.

While many of us may be far too partial to modern conveniences, and to some degree I am – I do like my computers (I could not do my work without them), and the Internet and Skype, and such – to adapt the Amish way of life (even without the religious connotations) there is lots that we all can learn from them about living well from this simple, community-oriented culture.

In fact, personally, some of the religious aspects of the Amish life are, to me at least, not something I would wish to follow, as many of them are not Scripture based but are but man-made laws, much like rabbinical teachings and the Amish are not one complete cohesive group but a variety of sects. In a way the same is true for many of the (other) Mennonite groups.

However, there are obviously many more tips that can be taken from the lives of the Amish and other Plain People but here are just a few:

One: Turn off the TV and sit quietly or go outside and enjoy the sounds of nature. Better still, as I have done, divorce your TV, make use of the PC for streaming those things that you “must” see.

It is true that the Amish do – in the main – have neither television sets nor computers though some orders may have computers. The fact is, though, that without the TV your live is not, as much, affected by the commercials, the adverts, and the push for you to spend, spend, spend, and buy this or that. And more often than not those things advertised are things that you really do not need at all. Not having a TV will especially benefit any children in the home though, if they are not homeschooled they may moan that there is no TV as they cannot hold with their peers who have TV and talk about the programs all the time.

I divorced the proper TV many years ago now mainly because of the fact that the programs on offer, in my view, were absolute garbage for much of the time and thus I could not see why I would be paying a, at that time, $150 (equivalent) license fee to be entitled to watch programs.

Now that in the UK the analog TV signals are going to be switched off, something which already happened in the USA for the entire country a year or so ago, is a good time to ditch the box in the corner, the television, for good.

Two: Hang laundry outside to dry for not only is it better for you and for the environment; it also saves you a packet.

Unfortunately I am also well aware that some codes and ordinances in many cities, towns and even rural areas in the US forbid the hanging of washing outside to dry. I have never heard anything more stupid, I think but there you have it. Oh, wait a minute, there is another stupid ordinance like that and that is the one that forbids the harvesting of rainwater via rain barrels even only.

Three: Eat out less and fix more home-cooked meals. While this seems to be common sense advice – the problem is common sense is not very common these days – many people today do no longer know how to cook from scratch. So, if you don't learn it. There are enough books about and be adventurous; play with recipes. I do all the time and in the process often create something great tasting.

When I say here home-cooked meals I do not mean “ping meals”, that is to say those ready meal things that you just pop into the microwave. That is not home-cooking.

Also, sit down for your meal(s) at table and that even if you are living alone. As a family it should be the norm – though I know very well that it no longer is – to sit together as a family at the table and not plonked in front of the goggle box. But then again, we ditched that in point one.

Four: Make handmade gift items for friends and family members instead of going out to buy. DIY is an old skill and one that is good when it comes to so many things including and especially gifts for friends and family. More often than not a handmade gift is also cherished much more than any not so expensive bought item.

Five: Grow a garden. Growing your own food in the form of vegetables is not difficult and can be done almost anywhere. You don't have to have much land for a garden especially if you employ the square foot method or the deep root one. While the former can be done in rained beds the latter requires large planters and both can be done, theoretically, on a patio even. In addition to that you could employ what I call “Clandestine Gardening (& Farming)”.

Six: Buy fewer clothes and unnecessary material things and make do with what you have and make your own things, from scrap even.

Reuse and upcycle what you want and need from what others would regards as waste, such as making your own notebooks, visiting cards, pencil bins, storage jars, etc., from packaging material, one side printed paper, and so on.

If you put your mind to it there is very little that you may actually have to buy and that you can make or upcycle. Today's folks often seem to believe that they invented DIY but the fact is that before mass-production everything, where possible, was made on the farmstead, with a little help from some craftsmen in the villages and towns such as the shoemaker, the smith, the cooper and the wagoner.

Much can also be done through repairing things such as older PCs, etc., and upgrading them. An older PC is not, necessarily, obsolete just because it cannot run the latest version of Microsoft Windows; MS Windows (and Apple) are not the only operating systems on the market. Linux is a great option to rescue older PCs and with a little help from forums and such like to learn some of the aspects that are different to Windows you soon have a PC that is better than any Windows PC.

This is just a very small selection of how we can simplify our lives a little more. Let's do it. We all will benefit, as will the Planet.

© 2012