Amanda and I are Kansas girls: it’s no surprise that Little House on the Prairie is such an influence on us in our journey to simplification. I think one reason why the books are still so popular is because that we long for the simpler times of the 1870s frontier.
What positive lessons have I learned from the Little House books?
1. Make do with what you have. I frequently remember Ma when I want to push myself to make do with what I have instead of buying more. (That can come handy since this is my Buy Little Month!)
In most of the books, the Ingalls family lived no where near a store, so making do was the only option. They didn’t have much money or items to barter even if there had been a store nearby.
2. Simple meals are okay. Meals late fall through late spring had little variety in the 1800s. Everything came from a jar or from dry good staples such as salt pork, flour and beans. Remember when Laura and Mary argue whether to season the stuffing with sage or onion for a special meal (fresh meat!) in By the Shores of Silver Lake? I can hardly imagine preteen girls arguing about seasoning today, but that’s where the variety in cuisine was then.
This is a hard lesson for me because I make food an idol, wanting to eat only what I crave. Since I live alone, I can often indulge and don’t have to cater to others.
I really want to work on this, and this month is as good as any to do so. Food is a pleasure, but it is first sustenance.
3. Grow your own food. I’ve mentioned it before, but I love gardening. I love the images of drying onions and peppers hanging in the attic. While we have better preserving techniques (much of my summer produce is waiting in jars in my freezer), I love the idea of stretching out your garden bounty year-round.
4. Personal space isn’t required. Laura and her family had many homes throughout the series, but they were all small. Very small by today’s standards: my 580 square feet apartment is larger than any of their homes until they finally settle down in De Smet in Laura’s teen years.
How could they live in such a small space? They had left stuff, sure, but they also did not recognize the “need” for personal space. While I think we all need solitude sometimes, it’s possible to do that without a space designated for our own personal use. I think we’re designed to live in community, tighter than most Americans today desire.
5. Have a positive attitude in the midst of hardship. Ma and Pa do a good job teaching positivity to their girls as well as demonstrating it. I love Pa’s “trouble song” he sings when he has in The Long Winter.
Have you read the Little House books? What lessons have you learned from them?
Next week, I’ll be talking about some negative lessons I’ve learned from the books.