6 things I learned from the Amish

Ordinary people have clear priorities that translate into rich, meaningful, intentional lives

My first novel about the Amish was published in 2010. Since then I have published 28 additional books about the common people. I have also visited communities in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wisconsin.

I started my own journey with minimalism two years ago when I took a Joshua Becker course. I have noticed many similarities between the Amish and those of us among the “English” who want to live a more conscious life.

In case you are not familiar with the Amish, they are a group of people whose roots go back to the Anabaptists. They are known for living simply, dressing simply and burping the old-fashioned way.

In general, Amish have no electricity at home, have no car, do not go to school and have large families. However, any resemblance to the Puritans of 17th-century America ends there.

The Amish are lifelong learners who regularly use computers in their local libraries. Many communities are embracing solar energy for their businesses and they don’t mind hiring a driver to visit neighboring towns.

So, what can we learn about the Amish that can help in our quest to embrace minimalism?

Here are six things I learned about conscious living from the Amish:

1. Be mindful of what you let into your life. Contrary to popular belief and their presentation in modern media, the Amish do not shy away from all technology. They are just very intentional about what they allow into their lives.

I’ve talked to many Amish families about this and they don’t want an endless influx of tech toys in their homes. They believe that having a phone, computer or television in their home will distract their family’s attention.

I’m not ready to leave my phone in the mailbox so it won’t interrupt dinner, but I’m more into turning off the ringtone and notifications, especially during meal times and family time. I have chosen not to have a television in every room of my house. I use my desktop computer for work and when the workday is over, I turn it off.

Hoping that we will have more time to spend with our children or significant others is not good enough. We must make the decision to put them first and take steps that reflect their importance in our lives.

2. Choose to stay at home instead of going to another social event. The Amish have a very close-knit social community. Their gatherings are large – weddings regularly include more than 500 guests and everyone is involved in the local school.

However, they generally don’t go out in the evenings – they are at home with their families, doing schoolwork, playing games and doing farm chores in the evenings. They choose to embrace a slowed-down version of life.

At first, I felt a little antisocial saying “no” to coffee dates, weekday concert tickets, and committee positions. But once I allowed myself to spend most of my evenings at home, I quickly understood the benefits.

I am less exhausted. My family’s stress level has dropped. Home has again become a haven, a place to gather, recharge and prepare for the next day.

3. Simplify celebrations. The Amish love to party, but their celebrations look a little different from ours. The whole extended family often shows up. Gifts are usually homemade or utilitarian. Since they don’t eat out very often, a trip to the local ice cream parlor with the whole family is a big deal. They love to play games together, be it board games, baseball or volleyball.

The emphasis is more on being together and less on wrapped presents – they don’t even wrap presents at all. Even wedding gifts are displayed unwrapped on a long table.

When I was a single mom, it was hard for me to find extra money for gifts. It was a big deal when I saved up enough to buy my son a new Lego set. Now that my children and my husband’s children are adults and our income has stabilized, we understand that they don’t need ‘things’ from us. In most cases, they don’t even want things.

But they love to be celebrated – we go out for a special dinner, watch a movie together or play a game of cards. The celebration is just as special without renting a bouncy castle (which would be odd for 30-year-olds) or buying expensive gifts.

4. Avoid debt. It is very rare to find an Amish person in debt. Sometimes they take out a loan for their house, but more often they just live with their parents until they have saved enough to buy a plot of their own.

That house will often be small, which means they will add something to it if they have children. The property may also have less acreage than they want, so they’ll be on the lookout for an adjacent neighbor who wants to sell a few acres.

I, on the other hand, have always anticipated what I might need and bought too much. Big or small, I always bought more than I needed. Looking for a house? Buy a large one just in case. Who knows? I may have five children. (I could only have one.)

If I could go back and talk to myself, if I could follow the Amish example, I would be content with what I need now and let it take care of itself tomorrow.

5. Be content with less. When I first visited the Amish, I struggled to understand that they were really happy with less. One of the first ranches we visited in Indiana was a very beautiful 98-acre site. After visiting the owner (a friendly, nice old man with braces and a long beard), we learned that he had been paid $6 million for his farm. Someone wanted to build a golf course there. He turned them down. That literally occurred to me.

After all, this family made less than $20,000 a year. They could certainly use that money! The person who took us to the farm explained it like this. What would he do with $6 million that he isn’t doing now? He is content with his life and his children are independent adults who are content with their lives.”

I could think of many things to do with $6 million, but over the years, as my own life has gotten into a less stressful rhythm, I’ve come to understand that money isn’t always the answer.

Would I be more happy with $6 million? Probably not (although I might be tempted to give it a try if someone offered it to me). I do understand that more money doesn’t solve all problems, that the job that pays more may not be the best choice for me, and that owning a bigger house or a newer car won’t make me happier.

6. Put the first things first. The Amish do not lead a carefree life in idyllic surroundings with perfect people. However, when we look at their lives, the one thing that stands out most – more than the horse and buggy, the large families and the lack of technology – is that they seem to have found a way to put first things first. to make.

Family, neighbors, friends, faith – these are the things that are the pivotal points of their lives. They are not interested in a newer car, the latest phone, or any other promotion.

I have spent countless hours with the Amish while writing many books about them, and it has helped me understand what the pivotal points in my life should be.

Family, neighbors, friends, faith – these are the things that really matter to me. These are the things I look back on and wish I had prioritized.

So I try to do that every day. When my adult son calls, I put aside what I’m doing and talk to him. When my mother comes over for an unannounced visit, I give her my time. I try to live consciously in a way that puts the first things first.

So what’s the point?

If you have an Amish community around you I highly recommend you visit. While you may not want to trade in your car for a buggy, you will undoubtedly take away at least one thing that you can incorporate into your life.

If you don’t have regular people around, keep an eye out for some of the other families in your neighborhood, at school or at church. Who is not stressed? Who doesn’t have an eternal rage on their face? Maybe start a conversation with them. It may be that something they do will translate well into your life and your pursuit of intentional living.

Vannetta Chapman is the USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 39 novels, many about the Amish. You can find more about her books on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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