living more with less

a few of us scattered around the country are reading Doris Janzen Longacre’s book called Living More with Less. i thought maybe the easiest way to join the conversation would be to post my thoughts here. i’ll link to Mrs. Pivec’s posts as well. so let’s get started!

the subtitle of the book is “a pattern for living with less.” already, i feel like this is so rich with meaning and instruction. i love the word pattern. when i lived in the jungle, i thought Pattern would be a great name for a zine and blog. (but it was already taken, so the zine became fieldwork instead…another good name!) i once heard Barry Lopez describe his stories as patterns, ways of living profitably in this world. that’s not a very popular way of thinking about stories, but it rings true to me. and there’s a line from a Wendell Berry poem that mentions “a pattern made in the light for the light to return to.” he’s writing about the ways that we structure our lives–in marriage, in our faith, in families–so that when the way gets dark, we won’t get lost. i love the idea of picking up this thread of simplicity and weaving it into my life today.

the book begins with an author’s preface, really selections from Doris’ journal. she suffered for almost 4 years with cancer. it was during that time that she was working on this book. there is an urgency and breathlessness to her writing. time is fleeting. lay up your treasures in heaven. this book is a testimony to a life well lived.

in the introduction she talks about living by standards. another way of talking about patterns. one of the standards offered is “nurture people.” that put me in mind of something we read when M was small. the author was talking about avoiding the use of pacifiers, and said that we want our children to find comfort in people not things. that sort of became a standard in the way we took care of Mabel. it led to more breastfeeding, more holding, more walking with her in the sling, more bouncing on the ball. all really good things. all very small choices that could have gone another way. but because we had the little jingle “people not things” rattling in our heads, we could choose in the direction of more connection. i’m interested to hear more about the other standards, the other patterns.


  1. Oh, I agree completely with you about “patterns.” I like how you said, “I love the idea of picking up this thread of simplicity and weaving it into my life today.” Yes! And that is how it develops too: one thread at a time woven into a new design in our lives. It’s a lovely analogy, because I think we often believe – as I mentioned in my post – that we should somehow be all or nothing. We should get it ALL right and right now! 🙂 But a true fabric is not made that way, nor will be be strong. One piece at a time. So true… and simple.

    Your daughter is just beautiful, by the way. Such lovely pictures you have taken of her.

  2. I have just found your blog via the comments on Uncommongrace. I had to leave a comment as I don’t often see anyone with Janzen Longacre’s books. I have both this one and the cookbook which we use often. I often go back to this book when I feel weighed down by commercialism, advertising and feeling I need to get back to the basics.
    Have a great weekend

  3. thimbleina–

    do check out mrs. pivec’s posts about LMwL. she’s got a great review. and i’ll try to have a new post about the next chapter soon…i’d love to hear your thoughts too!

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