After a day or two of adjustments, Kay Jean says everyone in the family learned to appreciate the simple life. "I think the first day or two, it's a shock," Kay Jean says. "But we really have adjusted, and I think as long as you don't treat this as a punishment ... it really is a better life."
Now, Kay Jean says her children look forward to their walk to and from school. "They love it," she says. "It's just a great way for a natural flow of conversation and to connect with the neighbors."
They also enjoy evening activities that don't revolve around electronics. One night, Kay Jean says her children passed time by painting pictures and reading stories. "They had a wonderful time, and there was no bickering," she says. "It was just a lot of dialogue—all four of us talking. It was great."
Jon says he also sees a big difference. "It seems like the kids are less worried about things and spending time on the computer," he says. "At nighttime, we'll eat dinner together, and the kids, you know, they'll tell you about their day. ... You can actually start a conversation and help them with their homework. You have a better understanding of what's going on in their life."
By following the rules, Kay Jean also discovered something about herself. As part of her assignment, she reached out to the World Relief Agency to offer donations to families in need. "They need a vacuum cleaner, and she said it would probably be shared by all 10 families in that complex," she says. "I have, like, four vacuums."
In the basement, Kay Jean adds shampoo, rice, baby food, crackers, chips, pasta and a hair dryer to the donation pile. "This is making a dent in my pantry," she says. "I still have plenty. Right now, I'm not worried about my food storage supply. I'm feeling good. I feel like I have a purpose."
Oprah says the inspiration for this show came from a mother featured in the January 2009 issue
of O, The Oprah Magazine
Before going "back to basics," Kristen lived with her husband and two children in a five-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot home. "I had memberships at three different country clubs and everything that you're supposed to want when you grow up," she says. "I started to feel like something was wrong. ... I wanted to make a change, but I didn't know how you could go from this grand life in this big house and all this stuff to something simpler."Read Kristen's story in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Unhappy and looking for more, Kristen and her husband filed for divorce. Then, in 2008, she moved her two children from their spacious home to a tiny, 800-square-foot cottage in the woods. "This life is back to basics," she says. "It's the simple things."
To cut back on wasteful spending and unnecessary stuff, Mary says you should start by asking yourself a few key questions. First, are you buying the same items over and over again, finding that you already have them at home? "That's a sign," she says. "It usually happens in the closet. Sometimes your work begins in the closet and works your way out to the rest of the house."
Next, do all your social activities revolve around shopping? If you're always going to the store to return, buy and return again, Mary says there may be an imbalance in your life. "Maybe it's time to take stock," she says.
Mary also suggests taking a long, hard look at your credit card statement. "It can tell you not only where you're spending your money but also where you're spending your time," she says.
Oprah says people should strive to have less stuff with more meaning. "That's the goal this year," she says. "I want to ask everybody, no matter where you are in the world, to make your own pledge."Watch audience members reveal their money-saving secrets Simplify your life with Oprah's challenge
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