It was a Sunday and no one had to work. Our four children were running wild as usual, and my husband was playing a video game. As I sat there putting off picking up the house and making dinner, I couldn’t help but wish for a magic wand.
This particular Sunday I was dreading the usual household duties, and so my mind kept wandering to the stories I’ve been reading about the Amish. I am a fan of Amish love stories—mostly because of the simple way of life they depict. Compared to them, my life often feels chaotic, and I wish for their simplicity in all aspects of life in my daily routines, in my family life, and in my marriage.
When my husband and I were dating, we didn’t really talk about chores or how we would manage the housework when we got married. We were so in love that we just figured the practical things like that would take care of themselves. But we were wrong. Chores became a common argument, and even though these arguments didn’t make me question our relationship—I love my husband to the moon and beyond—there were times we got upset with each other and had different ideas of how things should be done.
At first we tried to establish different routines like cleaning things together or splitting up duties. But eventually our routine fell to pieces. We had more kids, more stuff, we moved, and our work schedules changed. And today we are at the point where our chores are no longer routine. Cleaning up toys or doing dishes should be easy, but when you wait two to three days to do these chores, they become a big ordeal.
So as I picked up one more toy that Sunday afternoon, dreaming about the Amish life, I had a realization that my husband and I needed to change something. And the Amish life gave me some ideas:
1. More Routine.
The Amish don’t live easy lives—they work from sun up to sun down and have a lot more chores than I have. But the difference is that their lifestyle is more organized—there is a pattern of family life for them to follow that sets a routine and expectations for them that automatically makes life simpler.
Having an agreed upon routine would help my husband and me to avoid miscommunications and procrastination. For example, we could agree that Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays are the days we pick up the living and dining rooms, and that Tuesday and Thursday are the days we pick up the kitchen and bathroom. If we make time in advance for chores, then we might be less likely to argue about who is doing what and when. And we might not get as overwhelmed because we’d each be doing chores more consistently.
2. Working Together As a Family.
Chores are less intimidating if all hands are on deck. Doing chores together could teach our kids good work ethic while spending time together. For the Amish this is second nature. They have a large community and family network and no one does things by themselves. The women get together to do the cooking, cleaning, and sewing. The men do the manual work like plowing fields, building barns, and raising the livestock. And the children pitch in, too! They all work together to get the job done.
3. Less Screen Time.
It can be hard to work together as a family when everyone is addicted to their screens. I know I live on my iPhone. I use it for everything from games to email, and I am the first to admit that I feel naked without it. But if I put my phone away or my husband left his video games off for a few hours each evening, I think we would have a little easier time communicating and also getting chores done.
I also have a habit of binge-watching Netflix—and then going through withdrawal when I’ve finished the latest season of my favorite show. So, in addition to trying to limit the hours that I watch TV, maybe next time I want to watch a show I’ll try washing dishes or folding laundry while I’m doing it.
4. Forgiveness When We Mess Up.
The Amish are known for being peaceful and forgiving. They believe in forgiving quickly and not holding onto grudges or scores. As my husband and I work to reestablish routines for our family, I know that we will mess up and have to try over and over until we reach consistency. When we mess up, it’s important that we forgive ourselves and each other and just keep trying.
These four lessons might not be the magic wand I was wishing for—but maybe with time and effort they will produce the same simple life of love I was dreaming of.