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  • Writer's pictureLori Nature

The Laura Ingalls, Little House Life

Updated: May 31, 2018

My admiration for Laura Ingalls Wilder is well known in my family. Although my children feign annoyance at my frequent quotations of her wisdom, we all feel like she is a family friend.

I've read the entire little House series many times over.  Her books have almost a hypnotic effect when my mind feels cluttered with modern life.  Yes, they are childrens books, but LIW wrote classics, and the only way a childrens book comes to be a classic is if it also speaks to adults. She has a multi-layered, inter-generational "deepness" to her literature that, although written about life in the 1800's, still speaks with poignancy today. In many ways, I've tried to model my life after the ideal in her books. Silly in this era? Well, perhaps. But if you understand her stories and the foundation for living that they present, you understand that we could learn so much from really studying that time period. So how does one live a "Little House" life in this century? Although I do, literally, live in a log home in the country and I do live more primitively than about 90% of Americans, I have a LONG way to go to reach my minds idealized version of the Little House life. There are a few basics that are unchangeable in the pursuit of simplifying life though. You can read about them in about a million other places on the net, but here is my pared down version. Stop Whining America, one of the worlds richest countries, has lost touch with things that are important and replaced them with the desire for STUFF, STUFF and more STUFF.  Yeah, we've all heard that before...blah, blah, blah.  But what does this statement really mean?  How can we know what a demanding-type attitude really is if we've never had, or seen anything else? In 2000 we sold our home in mid-west and moved back to a rural area of the East coast, Amish country.  But we hadn't found our little dream farm yet and had nowhere to live.  Some kind friends let us stay on a adorable little cabin on their land.

Although my kids thought of it as a long, glorious vacation, it wasn't long before the strain of not having running water began to wear on me.. I realized that I nearly idolized the modern god of plumbing when I had to live without it for 3 months in the dead of winter.   In fact, I think I came close to a mental breakdown over lack of toilet facilities when my three kids and myself got the stomach bug that season.

Living in a one room cabin with a woodstove, carrying water in a bucket to do the dishes, walking to the neighbors house to use the toilet and take a shower - what a hardship! Or was I simply a wimp compared to those hearty souls of yesteryear (only about 60 years ago)? I came face-to-face with the fact that I was spoiled by this modern convenience. 

 All my Little House fantasies went out the door that year as I learned to handle a chamber pot, go without the daily shower and tried to manage a cantankerous woodstove that either blasted or froze us.

A deep respect and awe for Ma's resilience grew inside me that winter. Caroline Ingalls took on a super-hero status in my mind as I slogged, complaining through my much longed for "Little House" experience.  "Be careful what you pray for" took on new meaning for me that season.   And in truth, what we had was a palace compared to the Ingall's cabins.

When we finally rented a dilapidated, musty apartment. that spring - it was paradise! I had a BATHROOM!  I could flush again!!!  Showers never felt so good. I had indeed learned the lesson of gratefulness for a modern convenience. Never again did I take the beautiful porcelain throne for granted. 

Of course this experience made me soberly realize, with new clarity, that many in the world are still without decent sanitary facilities, let alone a roof over their heads. I felt ashamed of my "woe is me" attitude.

So if you want to live the "Little House" way, don't get all bent out of shape over a clogged toilet or a traffic jam. We have SO much!  More than any society at any time in history. No, rejoice in the fact of what you do have, not what you don't have.  This is the key to living a happy Little House life.

I am convinced that one of the reasons the Ingalls family is so deeply loved for so many generations is because they always made the most out of tough situations, generally without complaint.  Deep down, even though we complain and whine about things, we know we shouldn't. And we admire those that don't. 

Laura Ingalls Home, DeSmet, SD
I took this picture at the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, SD

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