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Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life

­­Have you ever stopped to think, Maybe the Amish are on to something? Look around. We tweet while we drive, we talk while we text, and we surf the Internet until we fall asleep. We are essentially plugged in and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rather than mastering technology, we have allowed technology to master us. We are an exhausted nation. No one has enough time, everyone feels stressed out, and our kids spend more hours staring at a screen each week than they do playing outside. It’s time to simplify our lives, make faith and family the focal point, and recapture the lost art of simple living. Building on the basic principles of Amish life, Nancy Sleeth shows readers how making conscious choices to limit (and in some cases eliminate) technology’s hold on our lives and getting back to basics can help us lead calmer, more focused, less harried lives that result in stronger, deeper relationships with our families, friends, and God.

In the Introduction, Sleeth describes how she and her husband Mathew, along with their two children, began their journey to living a simpler life. It all started with two simple questions:

  • What is the biggest problem facing the world today?

  • What are we going to do about it?

Their response to these questions, living in service, sustainability, and simply, led them to the Amish Principles, developed to provide guidelines for living a simpler, slower, and more sustainable life. They include:

  1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.

  2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.

  3. Saving more and spending less bring financial peace.

  4. Time spent in God’s creation reveals the face of God.

  5. Small and local leads to saner lives.

  6. Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.

  7. The only true security comes from God.

  8. Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses builds community.

  9. Family ties are lifelong; they change but never cease.

  10. Faith life and way of life are inseparable.

Sleeth dedicates a chapter in the book for each principle, and each chapter is filled with her personal experience and stories, as well as the experiences of others in her community, helpful and practical tips, and encouragement. Her goal, which rings true in her words, is best summed up in the words of Gandi:

We must be the change we wish to see.

Live simply so others may simply live.

This was an inspiring, thought provoking and motivating read. But I didn’t stop there.

In her book, Sleeth references a book written by Doris Janzen Longacre entitled Living More With Less. The book promised new stories and suggestions for a sustainable life. Who could resist? I was on a roll, so I requested it from the library.

This book was originally written as a project for the Mennonite Central Committee. As described in the Preface:

The path to a sustainable, compassionate life is lovely but rugged, and a cloud of witness can buoy you up and cheer you on.

And it delivered. Much like the Sleeth book, the first half of the Living More With Less is divided into five chapters, each reflecting one of the Five Life Standards that Longacre developed. They included:

  1. Do justice.

  2. Learn From the World Community.

  3. Nurture People.

  4. Cherish the Natural Order.

  5. Nonconform Freely.

Longacre used these standards to describe a way of life charactered by timeless values and commitments. Just like the Sleeth book, each chapter is filled with personal stories, the experiences of others in the world community, facts and figures to provide perspective, helpful and practical tips, and encouragement.

The second half of the book is dedicated to Living Testimonies. Chapters on topics include money and stewardship, homes, housekeeping, gardens, cooking and eating, clothes and bodies, transportation and travel, recreation and schedules, celebrations and life passages, technology and media, meetinghouses and churches, and finally strengthening each other and organizing communities.

Reading these two books, back-to-back, reminded me of the C.S. Lewis quote:

Going back can sometimes be the quickest way forward.

Both of these books were educational, inspirational, and provided clear calls to action in these troubled times.



PS. And just in case you want a reading trifecta, I would suggest that you check out Carla Emory’s quintessential work:

I promise you will be totally inspirited to learn about and try something new!

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