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Compulsory Simplicity

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The past months of compulsory social minimalism have given our family another nudge towards appreciating the abundant beauty that is simple living.

Gone are the days where I would rush to catch a tube or bus to some far-flung London corner and introduce mothers to the value of less and how it brings us more. No more aimless wandering in and out of shops to admire and lust for more than I will ever need. And that drink and table at the cool coffee shop with a friend? For now they have been replaced by a thermos flask and a park bench – at least two metres wide.

Lockdown 1.0 was a shock to our family dynamics. There’s no denying that. We were all trying to get our mind around this invisible threat while suddenly schooling from home, working from home, socialising from home and, well, being at home. A massive habit shift for a family that touts the value of routine.

Fast forward eight months and witness how we, as a family, have now embraced what the pandemic has forced us to realise. (Before I continue to wax lyrical about the pros of lockdown life, I should point out that our kids’ school bubble has not burst to date. If that had happened, this post may not have been written. At all…) In our family’s current reality, however, we are thoroughly enjoying a wealth of very simple routines that no longer require a degree in calendar management. Here is a taster of what we’ve been up to:

  • Reading a book out loud together. We are focusing on reading in my mother tongue (Dutch) to become a little more fluent in it.
  • Playing games together. Although at one stage I found my husband on the floor simultaneously playing chess with our boy and a word game with our girl. Not quite sure if that counts as simplifying?
  • Listening to music together. We have been introducing our kids to the classics of our time. Admittedly, not all ‘hits’ have been received with equal enthusiasm.
  • Walking or cycling to a London park together.
  • Watching movies together. We have nearly exhausted the splendid array of Studio Ghibli animation films.
  • Baking together. Irrespective of the weather, we have been spending time in our back garden with (hot) drinks and freshly baked goods. And since we share the garden with our neighbours it would be rude not to share the cake.
  • And last but definitely not least, we have become experts at being alone together, each doing our own thing.

None of the above activities require much advance planning, apart from the baking perhaps. Nor would any have been considered worth mentioning when someone asked you what you’d been up to during a pre-lockdown weekend. And that is exactly the point. All of these activities are sparkling gems of simple living that we – and hopefully other families too – have fully embraced as worthy of mentioning and even writing about.

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