One of the books I’ve been reading is The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James, chock full of applicable simplicity goodness. (It is actually three books in one volume.)
One specific way this book has affected my life is in the area of activities and hobbies. Elaine talks about the human tendency to pick up new activities and hobbies — and all the associated gear — just because we have the opportunity. But each new activity and hobby we add means that we 1) have more stuff and 2) have less time to fully enjoy the other things we have going on. This definitely hit home for Steve and I! Between the two of us, we have 20 separate activities/hobbies that we have “gear” for and spend time on or have talked about wanting to do at some point in the future. Here is the full list in order of “expensiveness,” and I’ve starred the ones that we’ve actually done in the past year.
- Rollerblading* – up-front gear cost already paid.
- Swimming laps – up-front gear cost already paid.
- Cycling – up-front gear cost already paid; low maintenance costs.
- Hiking – paying for gas, mostly, and shoes once in a while.
- Triathlons – with free triathlons (where we volunteer in order to participate in future events), mostly paying for gas.
- Backpacking/camping* – paying for gas and food, up-front gear costs already paid.
- Exercising at the gym* – yearly or monthly fee
- Stained glass (someday) – have some gear but would have to purchase more, then ongoing glass costs
- Traveling* – paying for food, entertainment, and transportation
- Just Steve:
- Basketball* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
- Fishing* – fishing license ($60), gear is currently borrowed, occasional purchase of hooks, etc., paying for gas
- Baseball* – pay annual fee for league (about $300?), already paid for up-front gear costs, possibly some maintenance costs
- Guitar* – paying regularly for lessons ($120/month)
- Just me:
- Reading* – library is free!
- Drawing – very occasional purchase of gear
- Cooking* – occasional purchase of gear, but food is in grocery costs anyway
- Running* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
- Crafts (making cards, shadow boxes)* – purchase of materials
- Photography (taking a class, etc., someday) – cost of class plus additional equipment
- Harp* – expensive harp purchase ($5000-$10,000), lessons ($100/month)
This list does not include the activities that we currently do for paid work — computer/design stuff for me, carpentry stuff for Steve, both of which have their own significant expenses as well for gear.
Anyway, I brought up the idea of simplifying our activities with Steve, we made the above list, then we started crossing things off. (Italics indicate things we would like to do in a few years.)
- Rollerblading – can do this post-baby.
Swimming– we are knocking this out along with triathlons. Cycling– ditto. Steve no longer has a “buddy” to cycle with, and I enjoy running more.
- Hiking – can do this post-baby.
Triathlons– very unlikely that we could continue this. It was fun while we did it, but it would be difficult with kids to find the time to train together and participate in triathlons. (We could do it separately, but we’d rather spend that time together.)
- Backpacking/camping – would like to do this as a family, but probably not backpacking until the kids are older.
- Exercising at the gym – not sure about this one. We have a membership for several more months and will decide later if we want to continue or not.
- Stained glass – would like to do this someday, but most likely not until we have our own home.
Traveling– not affordable for now.
- Just Steve:
Fishing– Won’t continue after this season is over; Steve is borrowing people’s gear for now, and it’s quite a time commitment — every Saturday morning during salmon season.
- Baseball – Steve would like to continue this next year as he feels his “youth” is limited and he won’t be able to play competitive baseball for much longer. We have to talk about the cost and the feasibility of him playing while having a new baby!
- Guitar – would like to take lessons again, but we have to work out the money/timing.
- Just me:
Drawing– I’ll probably still “draw” occasionally, but I’m releasing myself from the expectation of wanting to do it regularly.
- Running – will pick this back up post-baby.
Crafts– similar to drawing — I can’t help but keep doing stuff, but I’m going to only buy what I need for an actual project (instead of buying stuff because “I might use it”) and release myself from the expectation of doing things regularly. Photography– OK, I don’t need to be an expert in everything. There are other things I’d rather do besides becoming a professional-level photographer!
- Harp – Someday! We’re slowly saving up money, and I figure I won’t have time for regular practice/lessons with a baby. When I actually have the money for a harp, I’ll figure out how to get lessons for myself.
I’m hoping that releasing ourselves from the expectation of “doing everything well” will allow us to really enjoy the things that we limit ourselves to. Making this list will also, I hope, keep us from jumping into new hobbies and activities as readily as we have in the past!
My next task is to post our bikes, bike gear, and my camera on Craigslist and see what takers we find…