Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Kislev 5764 - December 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Simple Life
by Y. Aharoni

Part II

A Tidy Home

There's a limit to everything, including the race after a variety of modern technology's gimmicks that has made life pressured and burdened instead of easier.

"Every item that you take home requires attention," explains the author of The Last Defense Against Junk. "Every chair, every dress, toy, lamp -- all need cleaning, protection from young children or thieves, storage and maintenance. Free yourself from superfluous things and win free time!"

Sounds good but how can you throw something out when the question pops into your head, "What? Throw it away? After investing in buying and taking care of it? And what if I'll need it someday?" R.P., a psychologist, suggests a technique for coping with the pain of separating from superfluous things. "Tell yourself, `Yes, maybe I'll need the leftover material from this rug one day but do I really intend to keep all these things that m-a-y-b-e I'll need sometime in the future?' "

You'd be surprised how many people would be willing to answer `yes' to this question. For them, he recommends the bottom line, "If that's what I plan to do, to keep everything that might be useful someday, then I have to buy a warehouse."

G.K. defines himself as a "cleaning expert" and gives advice on how to get rid of unnecessary items at home and at the office. He's also written a book, Controlling Chaos. For those people who find it difficult to give up even a bolt, his solution is: Start with one small step and continue slowly but inexorably.

Time after time, day after day, go through a drawer, a shelf, a room. Something's broken? Fix it but NOW, or throw it away. It's superfluous? A shame to throw away? Have it repaired, but NOW -- or give it away to someone [who will]. Don't try to sell what others just like you don't need.

In order to fight the mess that threatens our homes, he makes another suggestion. Don't leave anything even for "just a minute" not in its proper place. "Don't leave suits on chairs and don't leave a glass in the sink." The calculation is simple: If you don't expend the energy for a moment to return everything to its place, you'll have to work twice as hard to clean up the house after a while.

Isn't that the advice that every mother gives her children? Of course. "Don't put it aside; put it away." What can you do? The younger generations are forced to relearn the house rules from experts instead of parents.

Know to Say `No'

L.P. was a full time mother of two daughters but to add to the family income, she tutored, worked as a saleslady in a small store and for personal fulifllment, she volunteered to organize all the community committees in her area. She thought she could handle it. One day they offered her her original job back as an interior decorator. She accepted -- and then came the big crisis.

She started to suffer from anxiety attacks because of her tight schedule. Only after she understood what was happening to her and she began to lessen the pressure did her health begin to improve. Today she's at home every evening to have dinner with her family. She finds time to help her daughters with their homework. "I'm happy to get to know my family again," she says with a smile.

The advice which saved her health was a two letter word: "No." This word will free up hours of time for you each week.

It isn't always easy to refuse requests or job offers. Refuse politely, gently, with a short explanation such as "I just don't have time." Be careful not to provide too detailed explanations. Otherwise, whoever is trying to recruit you is apt to argue and even prove that you could find time for them. In any case, there is no need to reveal your private matters to others.

Time is More Important Than Money

For decades we've heard the expression, "Time is money." It is the principle of modern economic thought. The idea behind the adage isn't bad. It's worthwhile to save time, not waste it and be efficient.

The book, The Guide to a Simpler Life has an important reminder. "Most of us guard our money but don't give any importance to time," says the author. "It doesn't occur to us how much time we waste in order to save pennies."

There is no dearth of examples. Why travel to the supermarket that sells at a discount when all you need are picture hangers that are sold at an insignificant difference at the neighborhood hardware store?

Similarly, sometimes we're determined to do some home repair that is beyond our abilities and for which we certainly don't have time. How often do we push off home repairs until vacation? Sometimes it's cheaper and more worthwhile to call in a professional who will do all the work at a reasonable price and in even more reasonable time.

Children Who Know How to Pitch In

S.K. emphasizes in her book, Find Time for Yourself Every Day, an oft forgotten rule: Children can also help out at home. In fact, she expounds, each and every one, with the exception of babies in their crib, has to lend a hand at home.

In chareidi circles this is well known. Children can help in every area and with every task. Even a three- or four- year-old toddler can bring Mommy a diaper or hand clothespins. Children of seven, even five, can set the table, make the beds, take laundry off the line, perhaps fold some of it, and even sweep the house (even if not at the highest standard, to begin with). Children aged 8-12 are capable of doing almost everything from shopping to taking out the garbage -- which is definitely not their favorite job (and you have to make sure the bags are closed, not dripping, and thrown IN, not NEAR, the garbage).

You only have to explain to children ahead of time what to expect. You can make a list of jobs and rotation duty for all the members of the family, to prevent arguments to the tune of, "He should do it. Not me."

Of course, the work of a child doesn't compare to the work that a mother can do. A bed made with small hands won't look like a bed made with the exactness of Mom. When there is no time (and is there, ever?) it is better to delegate to the child the task of making his bed in the morning and putting his dirty clothes away at night than leaving a mess all day. Besides, how is he going to learn to do it if he doesn't start sometime? The sooner the better.

And sometimes, the bed will be terribly made because the child wants to prove to his parents that it doesn't pay to give him household tasks. For cases like this, there is an educational rule, "Don't give up!" That's the most important one. If you give up, the child learns that it's worth fighting with his parents, and the phenomenon will repeat itself in many areas. On the other hand, positive reinforcement such as simple praise will go a long way.

To be sure, there's no need to wage war. It's better to sit and talk, to explain how important it is and how much it contributes to the home and to ask the child, if he stubbornly refuses, what exactly bothers him and how it can be overcome. As the wisest of all men said: A soft voice will turn back wrath -- and also overcome stubbornness.

Is it really worth all the effort? ABSOLUTELY! Learn to save time, to live simple -- and you'll all enjoy a more pleasant life.

For Part I, click here.


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