5 Benefits of Living More With Less

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.  -- Helen Keller

Tad Sae Waterfalls

Unless you live on a private island, you are bound to have noticed our sagging economy. At a time when I thought things were getting better, I just had a fourth wave of friends go through layoffs. IKEA — known for being a a frugal girl’s dream and a college kid’s staple — is advertising, “New Lower Prices.” And, the eHow of the weekend was “How to Stock Your Pantry For Hard Times.” It’s almost August, and many of us continue to tighten our belts, make adjustments to the way we live, and cheer-up friends who have recently lost their jobs.

So, I wanted to take a minute to touch-base on the up-side of a down economy. Some of the good in all the bad. A few musings of a girl on a budget who is never without a reason to smile…

  1. Play costs nothing. A simple romp in the backyard or a trip to the park to hit the tire swing. Camping under the stars as an alternative to a night in a hotel. Fun and joy needn’t cost a thing, and I am seeing more and more people reconnect with play and spending time outside in nature.
  2. People are gardening in record numbers — taking charge of growing food for their tables and reconnecting to the land. Learning new things and teaching their children a new skill and hobby.
  3. Going out less means more nights playing board games, cards, or Hide & Seek in the backyard. Cooking together and sharing laughter and conversation across the dinner table. Really taking the time to connect with family and friends.
  4. As we buy less, we notice that we really don’t need as much stuff as we thought. We just are in the habit of spending and buying. It’s a great time to teach children about the value of money and how the important things in life don’t come from a store, but are in the moments we share with each other, or on our own — watching the sunset or walking in the woods.
  5. Somehow, as if by magic, when times get tough, people are more kind to each other. I have seen amazing displays of generosity of spirit, of charity and giving, and of true kindness in the past several months. People seem more willing to connect and pitch-in — more open to real human connection when times get tough.

Now, I know some of you might think I am a bit of a Pollyanna, which really could not be further from the truth. At the same time, I do believe that the glass is half full, and that somehow we always get what we need. Perhaps our society just needed a reminder to live more simply. To play, and connect with each other, and to blaze new trails — not based on money or acquiring wealth — but on ingenuity and creativity that is necessitated in tough times.

I have written often about resiliency and how it it one of the hallmarks of a successful, happy adult. Tough times are a great reminder to us all to cherish that trait in ourselves, and I hope an inspiration to parents to foster that in their children. Without a doubt, it will serve them well one day.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a sunny-side of the street I need to go walk down. Join me?

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: Greg Hayter

The Gift of a Sense of Community

What cannot be achieved in one lifetime will happen when one lifetime is joined to another.

– Harold Kushner

Of Things To Come
Creative Commons License photo credit: hamner.jonathan

As I see more neighborhoods devoid of life — so few kids playing outdoors, teens gathering on corners to hangout,  or adults stopping  for a chat by the mailbox –  I can’t help but wonder what sense of community this generation is going to grow up with. Will community only be a term that they associate with online — be it Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else is coming our way? Don’t get me wrong, I love my online community, but I thrive on face-to-face contact and the collection of souls I share my world with.

I worry that kids today are not getting enough of a that sense of community — of belonging to a place and space. To knowing every nook and cranny of their neighborhoods and how to navigate the landscape that should be the center of their childhoods.

When I lived in the suburbs, I saw kids get in the car in the morning to be shuttled to school and I would see them return in those same cars around dinner time. Often, they were dressed in soccer uniforms or whatnot, obviously having been shuttled a place or two after school. They would then go in the house and I would see them come out the next day to do it all over again.Yards were merely ornamental, bits of green to give the place curb appeal. Sometimes I would see tiny tots playing outside — the pre-school set. But, almost like clock work, the moment the kids started school, I stopped seeing them outside, as if they were no longer citizens of the neighborhood.

When a child is young, their neighborhood is their world. Do we want these worlds to be uniform and lifeless, or rich with love, laughter, and a sense of community? Shouldn’t we want kids to explore the neighborhood with their friends? I want to see children running from yard to yard. Pick up games of basketball in driveways and street hockey in cul-de-sacs. Lemonade stands and garage sales. Block parties and sleepovers. Thriving, delightful human connection right there in their own backyards.

What does a community or neighborhood look like from a car? What does it feel like? Life is not to be driven past, but to be jumped into with both feet.

Why not park the car and let the kids roam — and do some roaming yourself? Save yourself some time and money, not to mention giving the planet a brake, and stay put. Instead of driving to activity after activity, why not park the car and put some of that energy into making your neighborhood a great place to be? Sit on those front porches. Get to know the new family down the block. Help the elderly lady across the street with her lawn or invite some folks over for a BBQ. There are a hundred things you can do to help bring back a sense of community to your neighborhood and show your kids how to connect with others and give them a sense of place and belonging.

I know we are all busy, but I can’t help but notice that a great deal of that is by our own design. We over-commit ourselves and our children and create schedules that are doomed to breed misery and exhaustion. We drive ourselves crazy for no good reason and it’s time to stop it. Take a look around you. What’s an easy first step you can take to make a change? For most of us, it’s time for a change.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go sit in the courtyard and chat up some neighbors. We’re planting some flowers to spruce the place up a bit.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Sign o’ the Times: Playborhood


Welcome to the Playborhood!

Many of us recall growing up in neighborhoods thick with play and laughter. Games like Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Sardines played with friends on summer nights. A game of catch or frisbee always seemed to be going on in someone’s front yard. Nights spent sleeping out in tree houses or make-shift tents, and days spent riding bikes and roller skating up and down the block. Sandboxes and mud pies. Club houses and lemonade stands. Childhood — the real deal.

Neighborhoods were once vibrant and busy with people — especially children. Lawns may have been a bit less manicured and homes a bit smaller, but the neighborhoods were full of life and character. In my book, they were far richer then. A world unto themselves for kids — the real canvas of childhood.

Today, many neighborhoods are quiet. Children stay inside and play video games and watch TV, or are driven by car to scheduled after-school activities. I look at this version of childhood and it takes my breath away. How sad to not know the joy of running form yard to yard, visiting and playing with friends — not because someone arranged a play date, but because that’s what kids do. What is childhood like without “your gang” — that group of kids that you skinned your knees with, learned to skate with, climbed trees with — and yes, even sometimes got in trouble with? I can’t even imagine.

I am so proud to be a part of the play movement in America that is working hard to reverse this trend — to take childhood off the Endangered Species List and restore play to its rightful place. Another play advocate, Mike Lanza, has formed a group called Playborhood, which I have spoken about here at TGSG before. Playborhood has created the fantastic sign that you see above and is selling them online. What a great way to show your support for play and to start a trend in your neighborhood.

Personally, I would LOVE to see these posted in front yards EVERYWHERE — or on balconies or wherever else we can put them. Let’s make each neighborhood a Playborhood and give kids back the right to play. Click here to order your Playborhood sign today! I would love for you to take a picture of one posted in your yard and share it here at TGSG!

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go see if any of my “gang” is around. I haven’t played Sardines in ages! If you recall, I am a BIG FAN of Adult Recess!

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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