Humble simplicity: Inside the Amish home

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Have you caught that new show on TLC called Breaking Amish? I have been watching it with great fascination and equal amounts of discomfort. Witnessing young Amish and Mennonite adults getting drunk for the first time and dropping spit from penthouses in New York City is truly cringe-worthy.

image from: tvrage.com

Apart from feeling really badly for the young people who are, um, being slightly exploited for television ratings, I also find the glimpses into the daily lives of Amish people very compelling. There’s a lot of talk that the show is staged – which wouldn’t surprise me – but it does give us a fleeting look inside the elusive Amish household where cameras have rarely, if ever, been allowed.

Old Order Amish farm house (1941), Lancaster Pennsylvania, image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lancaster_County,_Pennsylvania

In the small town where I live in Colorado, there is a sizable Mennonite community. Mennonites, however, are not nearly as conservative and insular as most Amish communities back east (for example, the Mennonite people here text away on cell phones, drive cars, and hang out at Village Inn).

So a peek inside the homes of Amish people is completely tantalizing for a house-loving (culturally curious) person like me.

I admire the quiet, uncomplicated lifestyle of the Amish and so (at the risk of being voyeuristic and exploitative) I would like to take a closer look inside the Amish home…

Although modest and simple, the typical Amish house reflects the importance of the family, daily work, and humility.

– from: http://www.yodersamishhome.com/

When we think of an Amish home, we often think of an old 19th century structure without electricity such as the home below…

That’s a photo of The Amish Farm and House tourist attraction in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Even though there are some Amish families who live in newer construction homes, most Amish homes are typically large old farmhouses with 2 stories to accommodate large, extended families. (The average Amish family has 6-7 children).

Exterior house colors are usually white, or natural – anything but flashy.

Porches are a common feature on Amish homes – but they are favored for their functionality, not their curb appeal affect.

image from: amishamerica.com

Inside, Amish homes are also basic and purposely structured around faith and family.

Their homes are large with several rooms opening into one large room where they hold church. The houses are furnished very simply with benches on which the families sit to eat their meals. The floors are bare and the windows are covered with plain colored cloth.

– from: http://www.illinoisamish.net/amish/amishmain.htm

Bedrooms are plain with little adornment. The Amish do not own a lot of worldly possessions (like the rest of us hoarders) so they can get by with little to no closet space…

image from: http://www.yodersamishhome.com/guided_tours.htm

Conservatism and simplicity are the rule and modern technologies are rarely found in Amish homes due to religious beliefs. However, even old order Amish households have allowed and adapted to some forms of post-19th century technologies.

image from: http://community.coastalcourier.com/gallery/detail/211/

Pictured above is a washing machine with gasoline motor. Don’t laugh. I’m sure it does a better job than my high-tech, energy efficient Euro-tech piece of crap washer!

Also permitted in most Amish communities are: natural gas or propane fridges and stoves, kerosene lamps, telephones in shops, diesel-powered machinery; generators for welders; gasoline-engines on farm machinery (source: http://www.uwec.edu/Geography/Ivogeler/w188/utopian/amish1.htm).

But you won’t find anything like televisions, computers, stereos or hand-held devices in traditional Amish homes.

Everything within the house is functional.  To preserve the religious value prohibiting pride and vanity, pictures and photographs are not hung on the walls for decoration.

– from: http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/amish-house.html

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amish_Farmhouse.jpg (author: Chris York)

Amish-made furniture is legendary and you can scarcely visit a state in the Union that doesn’t feature an Amish furniture store. As agrarian lifestyles become harder to sustain in our techno-driven world, Amish people have had to turn away from strictly farming for their livelihood and instead turned to trades such as carpentry, building, and crafting household goods.

Amish furniture is well-made and sturdy but modest in design.  Curtains, shades, and quilts may feature colorful designs but are also modest and simple. When designs are used, typical motifs tend to involve depictions of nature such as doves, roses and trees.

– from: http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/amish-house.html

The heart of an Amish home is undoubtedly the kitchen…

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lancaster_County,_Pennsylvania. (author: Irving Rusinow)

The kitchen plays a prominent role in the household. An Amish kitchen is built large and designed to accommodate many people in the tasks involved in preservation and bottling. The kitchen is so important that many families have summer kitchens used solely for these practices.

– from: http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/amish-house.html

You won’t find granite/stainless/slate in an Amish kitchen.

image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wirawan0/ (author: wirawan0 Wirawan Purwanto)

image from: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ The Amish Village-Strasburg Lancaster County Pennsylvania

There’s something really intriguing about a kitchen from the 19th century that is still in use to this day – in close to its original condition.

image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/casadeyork/ (author: csyork65)

And hey, if you have 6 or 7 children, then you don’t really need an automatic dishwasher! (Amish children probably don’t complain about chores the way most contemporary kids do.)

Many Amish households still use old woodstoves to cook since electricity is not permitted.

It is a way of life that many of our ancestors experienced, but is now lost to modern generations. Luckily, we have the Amish to remind us of what was gained – and what was lost.

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This post was compiled to quench my own curiosity and to share what I have learned about *typical Amish homes. (*not all Amish live as conservatively as the households portrayed above).

I cringe at the thought that I might be invading someone’s private and most scared spaces. To that end, most (if not all) of the interior house photos on this post are homes which are now used as cultural museums that are open to public viewing.

The idea of leering into someone else’s home (and by extension, religion and private life) makes me uneasy – even though I essentially do at all the time.

Unfortunately my pure, addictive love of houses outweighs my inhibitions and better judgement. But go easy on me… I post these pictures with the greatest respect for the Amish lifestyle, and perhaps even a twinge of longing for a lifestyle I will never know – since I am entirely too dependent on ‘the beast’ (my computer).

image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ (author: Jesper Rautell Balle)

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Sources:

http://www.illinoisamish.net/amish/amishmain.htm

http://www.uwec.edu/Geography/Ivogeler/w188/utopian/amish1.htm

http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/amish-house.html

http://www.amishfarmandhouse.com/The_Amish_Farmhouse.html

http://www.yodersamishhome.com/

http://community.coastalcourier.com/gallery/detail/211/

http://amishamerica.com

http://amishamerica.com/amish-state-guide/