Family Estrangement: Why Adults are Cutting Off Their Parents

Polarized politics and a growing awareness of how difficult relationships can impact our mental health are fueling family estrangement, say psychologists. It was a heated Skype conversation about race relations that led Scott to cut off all contact with his parents in 2019. His mother was angry he’d supported a civil rights activist on social media, he says; she said “a lot of really awful racist things”, while his seven-year-old son was in earshot.

“There was very much a parental feeling like ‘you can’t say that in front of my child, that’s not the way we’re going to raise our kids’,” explains the father-of-two, who lives in Northern Europe. Scott says the final straw came when his father tried to defend his mother’s viewpoint in an email, which included a link to a white supremacist video. He was baffled his parents could not comprehend the reality of people being victimized because of their background, especially given his own family history. “‘This is insane – you’re Jewish’, I said. ‘Many people in our family were killed in Auschwitz’.”

It wasn’t the first time Scott had experienced a clash in values with his parents. But it was the last time he chose to see or speak to them. Despite a lack of hard data, there is a growing perception among therapists, psychologists and sociologists that this kind of intentional parent-child ‘break-up’ is on the rise in western countries.

Formally known as ‘estrangement’, experts’ definitions of the concept differ slightly, but the term is broadly used for situations in which someone cuts off all communication with one or more relatives, a situation that continues for the long-term, even if those they’ve sought to split from try to re-establish a connection.

“The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon,” explains Karl Andrew Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University, US. “It is different from family feuds, from high-conflict situations and from relationships that are emotionally distant but still include contact.”

The declaration of ‘I am done’ with a family member is a powerful and distinct phenomenon – Karl Andrew Pillemer

After realizing there were few major studies of family estrangement, he carried out a nationwide survey for his 2020 book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. The survey showed more than one in four Americans reported being estranged from another relative. Similar research for British estrangement charity Stand Alone suggests the phenomenon affects one in five families in the UK, while academic researchers and therapists in Australia and Canada also say they’re witnessing a “silent epidemic” of family break-ups.

On social media, there’s been a boom in online support groups for adult children who’ve chosen to be estranged, including one Scott is involved in, which has thousands of members. “Our numbers in the group have been rising steadily,” he says. “I think it’s becoming more and more common.”

The fact that estrangement between parents and their adult children seems to be on the rise – or at least is increasingly discussed – seems to be down to a complex web of cultural and psychological factors. And the trend raises plenty of questions about its impact on both individuals and society.

Past experiences and present values

Although research is limited, most break-ups between a parent and a grown-up child tend to be initiated by the child, says Joshua Coleman, psychologist and author of The Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict.

One of the most common reasons for this is past or present abuse by the parent, whether emotional, verbal, physical or sexual. Divorce is another frequent influence, with consequences ranging from the adult child “taking sides”, to new people coming into the family such as step siblings or stepparents, which can fuel divisions over both “financial and emotional resources”.

Clashes in values – as experienced by Scott and his parents – are also increasingly thought to play a role. A study published in October by Coleman and the University of Wisconsin, US, showed value-based disagreements were mentioned by more than one in three mothers of estranged children. Pillemer’s recent research has also highlighted value differences as a “major factor” in estrangements, with conflicts resulting from “issues such as same sex-preference, religious differences or adopting alternative lifestyles”.

Both experts believe at least part of the context for this is increased political and cultural polarization in recent years. In the US, an Ipsos poll reported a rise in family rifts after the 2016 election, while research by academics at Stanford University in 2012 suggested a larger proportion of parents could be unhappy if their children married someone who supported a rival political party, which was far less true a decade earlier. A recent UK study found that one in 10 people had fallen out with a relative over Brexit. “These studies highlight the way that identity has become a far greater determinant of whom we choose to keep close or to let go,” says Coleman.

Family Tree

This story is part of BBC’s Family Tree series, which examines the issues and opportunities parents, children and families face today – and how they’ll shape the world tomorrow. Coverage continues on BBC Future.

Scott says he’s never discussed his voting preferences with his parents. But his decision to cut them off was partly influenced by his and his wife’s heightened awareness of social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and MeToo. He says other adult children in his online support group have fallen out due to value-based disagreements connected to the pandemic, from older parents refusing to get vaccinated to rows over conspiracy theories about the source of the virus.

The mental health factor

Experts believe our growing awareness of mental health, and how toxic or abusive family relationships can affect our wellbeing, is also impacting on estrangement.

“While there’s nothing especially modern about family conflict or a desire to feel insulated from it, conceptualizing the estrangement of a family member as an expression of personal growth, as it is commonly done today, is almost certainly new,” says Coleman. “Deciding which people to keep in or out of one’s life has become an important strategy.”

Sam, who’s in her twenties and lives in the UK, says she grew up in a volatile household where both parents were heavy drinkers. She largely stopped speaking to her parents straight after leaving home for university, and says she cut ties for good after witnessing her father verbally abusing her six-year-old cousin at a funeral.

Having therapy helped her recognize her own experiences as “more than just bad parenting” and process their psychological impact. “I came to understand that ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ were words that described my childhood. Just because I wasn’t hit didn’t mean I wasn’t harmed.”

She agrees with Coleman it’s “becoming more socially acceptable” to cut ties with family members. “Mental health is more talked about now so it’s easier to say, ‘These people are bad for my mental health’. I think, as well, people are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people.”

The rise of individualism

Coleman argues our increased focus on personal well being has happened in parallel with other wider trends, such as a shift towards a more “individualistic culture”. Many of us are much less reliant on relatives than previous generations.

“Not needing a family member for support or because you plan to inherit the family farm means that who we choose to spend time with is based more on our identities and aspirations for growth than survival or necessity,” he explains. “Today, nothing ties an adult child to a parent beyond that adult child’s desire to have that relationship.”

People are getting more confident at drawing their own boundaries and saying ‘no’ to people – Sam

Increased opportunities to live and work in different cities or even countries from our adult families can also help facilitate a parental break-up, simply by adding physical distance.

“It’s been much easier for me to move around than it would have been probably 20 years ago,” agrees Faizah, who is British with a South Asian background, and has avoided living in the same area as her family since 2014.

She says she cut ties with her parents because of “controlling” behaviours like preventing her from going to job interviews, wanting an influence on her friendships and putting pressure on her to get married straight after her studies. “They didn’t respect my boundaries,” she says. “I just want to have ownership over my own life and make my own choices.”

The impact of estrangement

There are strong positives for many estranged adult children who’ve detached themselves from what they believe are damaging parental relationships. “The research shows that the majority of adult children say it was for the best,” says Coleman.

But while improved mental health and perceived increased freedom are common outcomes of estrangement, Pillemer argues the decision can also create feelings of instability, humiliation and stress.

“The intentional, active severing of personal ties differs from other kinds of loss,” he explains. “In addition, people lose the practical benefits of being part of a family: material support, for example, and the sense of belonging to a stable group of people who know one another well.”

Feelings of loneliness and stigma seem to have been exacerbated for many estranged people during the pandemic. While the ‘Zoom boom’ enabled some families to feel closer and stay in touch more regularly, recent UK research suggests that adults with severed ties felt even more aware of missing out on family life during lockdown. Other studies point to Christmas and religious festivals being especially challenging periods for estranged relatives.

“I have my own family and my partner and my close friends, but nothing replaces those traditions you have with your parents,” agrees Faizah. Now in her thirties, she still finds the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr particularly tricky, even though she’s distanced herself from her parents’ religion. “It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking.”

Estrangement, though difficult to navigate, may not be permanent as people can successfully reconcile (Credit: Getty Images)

Choosing not to stay in touch with parents can have a knock-on effect on future family bonds and traditions, too. “For me, the biggest regret is my kids growing up without grandparents,” says Scott . “It’s preferable to [my parents] saying – gosh, I don’t know what – to them [but] I feel like my kids are missing out.”

Of course, all of this also has an impact on the parents who have, often unwillingly, been cut out of their children’s – and potentially grandchildren’s – lives. “Most parents are made miserable by it,” says Coleman. As well as losing their own footing in the traditional family unit, they typically “describe profound feelings of loss, shame and regret”.

Scott says his mother recently tried calling him. But he texted her saying he’d only consider re-establishing contact with his children if she recognised her comments had been “horribly racist” and apologised. So far, he says she hasn’t done that. “Even if all those things happened, I would always limit what I tell them about my life and certainly supervise any visits with the kids. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that happening.”

Attempting to bridge rifts?

With political divisions centre-stage in many nations, as well as increasing individualism in cultures around the world, many experts believe the parent-child ‘break-up’ trend will stick around.

“My prediction is that it’s either going to get worse or stay the same,” says Coleman. “Family relationships are going to be based much more on pursuing happiness and personal growth, and less on emphasising duty, obligation or responsibility.”

Pillemer argues that we shouldn’t rule out attempting to bridge rifts, however, particularly those stemming from opposing politics or values (as opposed to abusive or damaging behaviours).

“If the prior relationship was relatively close (or at least not conflictual), I think there is evidence that many family members can restore the relationship. It does involve, however, agreeing on a ‘demilitarised zone’ in which politics cannot be discussed,” he says.

It’s so tough. It’s so lonely… and I do miss my mum’s cooking – Faizah

For his book, he interviewed over 100 estranged people who had successfully reconciled, and found the process was actually framed by many as “an engine for personal growth”. “It is of course not for everyone, but for a number of people, bridging a rift, even if the relationship was imperfect, was a source of self-esteem and personal pride.”

He argues that both more detailed longitudinal studies and clinical attention are needed to get the topic of estrangement further “out of the shadows and into the clear light of open discussion”. “We need researchers to find better solutions – both for people who want to reconcile, and for help in coping with people in permanent estrangements.”

Scott welcomes the growing interest in adult break-ups. “I think it will help lots of people,” he says. “There is still a big stigma around estrangement. We see these questions in the group a lot: ‘What do you tell people?’ or ‘How do you bring it up when dating?”.

But he’s unlikely to reconcile with his own parents, unless they recognize they’ve been racist. “The whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ – I mean, that’s great if you have a cool family, but if you’re saddled with toxic people, it’s just not doable.”

Scott, Sam and Faizah are all using one name to protect their and their families’ privacy

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By: Maddy Savage

Source: Family estrangement: Why adults are cutting off their parents – BBC Worklife

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More Contents:

The Gendered Experience of Family Estrangement in Later Life”Coleman, Joshua (2021-01-10).

“A Shift in American Family Values Is Fueling EstrangementAgllias, Kylie (August 2013).

“The Gendered Experience of Family Estrangement in Later Life”Span, Paula (2020-09-10).

“The Causes of Estrangement, and How Families Heal”

Young Adult Development Project

The Bowen Center

Stand Alone Charity

Together Estranged 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

Toward a Child-Centered Approach to Evaluating Claims of Alienation in High-Conflict Custody DisputesAujla, Karendeep (May 2014).

“Labelling & Intervening in Parental Alienation Cases: A Review of Canadian Court Decisions 2010-2012”Rowen, Jenna (2015).

Talking Badly About Your Co-Parent Backfires:Young Adults & Siblings Feel Less Close to Parents Who Denigrate the Other Parent”R. (September 2016).

“Recommendations for best practice in response to parental alienation: findings from a systematic review: Best practice responses to parental alienation”

They were taken from their mom to rebond with their dad. It didn’t go well”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

Collective Memo of Concern to: World Health Organization about “Parental AlienationParker, Kathleen (12 May 2006).

Parental alienation gets a day

How The Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives in 2020

To say that 2020 was a year unlike any other would be putting it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic left few parts of daily life unscathed. From forcing legions of children to attend school via Zoom to revising how we work, travel, and shop for food, here’s a look at some of the most notable ways life changed in 2020.

Related: Americans’ Top 10 Biggest Fears About the Coronavirus Pandemic

With urban hubs like New York City making headlines for being COVID-19 hotspots, the suburbs have never been quite so appealing. A variety of studies have found that Americans of all demographics began adopting suburban life during 2020. In particular, the moving resources and information company MyMove conducted a study of change of address data from the U.S. Postal Service and found that more than 15.9 million people moved during coronavirus. The MyMove report notes that “people are leaving big, densely populated areas like Manhattan, Brooklyn and Chicago and spreading out to suburbs or smaller communities across the country.”

Related: Pandemic Phrases That Have Infected Our Vocabulary

COVID-19 also triggered a massive shift in how we work. At the onset of the pandemic, countless Americans created home offices overnight in order to adapt to the new normal. And while it seemed initially that the shift would be temporary, more than a few of America’s most well-known employers have since announced long-term work from home plans and policies. In fact, Flexjobs has said working remotely may very well be the way of the future, pandemic or not, with some companies even deciding to let employees work from home permanently, including Coinbase, Infosys, Lambda School, Nationwide Insurance, and Nielsen.

Related: 18 Big Companies Letting People Work From Home Long-Term

Students of all ages have seen their worlds altered dramatically. Remote learning has become the norm for all ages, from elementary school through college. As 2020 draws to a close, the remote learning continues for many, with many school districts around the country — from San Diego to Chicago and Boston — pushing back any plans to return to in-person education as the pandemic rages. Zoom classes, it seems, are here to stay for a while longer.

Related: 25 Top-Rated Products on Amazon for Working From Home and Remote Learning

School and work aren’t the only parts of life that have moved almost entirely online. More Americans than ever are grocery shopping online, we’re holding virtual happy hours, and even taking part in Zoom doctors’ appointments more routinely. Computers have likely never played a more central role in our lives. An article from MyMove calls it the “telepresence boom” noting that entire families are now performing basic functions from their homes via a computer and an internet connection. And many of those changes are not likely to ease any time soon.

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Ah, the good old days when we attended big concerts without a second thought, as well as weddings, festivals or sporting events. The year 2020 significantly altered this part of life with social distancing and lockdowns being the rule. As an article in Physician Sense notes, all of these things will be back at some point, but even after the pandemic has subsided, large gatherings are likely to be forever altered in some ways.

Related: 12 Things You Likely Won’t See at the Next Wedding You Attend

The pandemic of course, changed our eating habits, a topic worthy of an entire article of its own. But let’s start with the renewed or increased focus on beans. This humble, protein-filled staple has taken on new importance amid COVID-19. The New York Times reported in March a huge boom in bean sales, which makes sense, right? Beans are filling, nutritious, and inexpensive.

Related: Best Beans and Rice Recipes From Around the World

The past year has been stressful, unnerving, boredom-filled, and more. So, it’s no surprise that we’re reaching for comfort food more regularly. A poll released in September found that two out of three people are eating more comfort food. This includes an increase in the consumption of pizza (55 percent), hamburgers (48 percent), ice cream (46 percent), and more.

Related: 20 Comfort Food Recipes That Freeze Well

While we’re seeking out the comfort food, we’re ditching the healthy stuff. Forbes found Google Trends data suggesting that searches for terms like “salads” and “veggies” were lower in 2020 than at the same time in 2019.

Related: Top Google Searches Before & After Covid-19

With restrictions on dining inside restaurants in 2020 thanks to social-distancing guidelines, drive-thru became the next best thing for many people. Restaurants far and wide responded by redesigning their customer experience to include many adding drive-thru lanes or creating spaces for curbside pickup — even if they already had drive-thru lanes. What’s more, a recent article from Forbes says that curbside pickup is here to stay, even after the pandemic ends. The publication reported that Starbucks CFO Pat Grismer says curbside service is part of the chain’s plans for longer-term recovery.

Related: How Drive-In Restaurants Are Catering to Customers Amid the Pandemic

Before COVID-19 altered our world, about 20 percent of Americans shopped for food more than three times each week. A study by consulting firm McKinsey, however, found that number was down to 10 percent by June 2020. Meanwhile, Supermarket News reported that online grocery sales skyrocketed, rising from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020.

Related: Online Grocery Delivery Comparison: Is One of These Services Right for You?

Remember when it seemed almost rude not to greet the individual who delivered food to your home? The days when we would meet him or her at the door and perhaps provide a cash tip. That’s a distant world, isn’t it? Now we practically cower inside our homes fearing human contact, requesting the delivery driver drop our food on the doorstep and be gone. Close contact with strangers became a health hazard in 2020 and we have adapted accordingly. Doordash, Seamless, and many smaller delivery services offer a contact-free option.

Outdoor dining used to be far more prevalent in Europe than the U.S., but with social distancing being the new normal and the fact that the hazards of COVID-19 are reduced in fresh-air environments, restaurants that never before considered al fresco offerings have scurried to set up tents and tables in parking lots, on sidewalks and in roadways. Some 67 miles of streets were closed to vehicular traffic in New York City, with more 2.6 miles dedicated to the city’s Open Restaurants program, which has been made permanent. Some restaurants are also making structural alterations, building patios and decks. As Architectural Digest reported: “Masked waiters, tables spaced six feet apart, plexiglass barriers, and even stuffed animals occupying seats — these are some of the changes you might encounter the next time you dine out.”

Related: Beloved Restaurants and Bars That Closed Permanently This Year

A Statista survey conducted during the earliest days of the pandemic revealed our personal hygiene habits had also begun to change significantly in 2020. Back in April, 79 percent of the Statista survey participants said they wash their hands more regularly. Not surprising under the circumstances. And the reality is that stepped-up hand washing is still a necessity as the pandemic rages on.

Related: How to Disinfect Without Harming Your Stuff (or Yourself)

Headline-grabbing protesters aside, it seems the need for making face masks a part of our lives has begun to sink in as the year draws to a close. A HealthDay/Harris Poll found that “more than nine in 10 U.S. adults (93%) said they sometimes, often or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance, including more than seven in 10 (72%) who said they always do so.” And until vaccines become more widely distributed, masks will continue to be an important part of life.

Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable

To say the travel experience changed in 2020 would be an understatement. This is a topic that has received immense coverage. Some of the most immediate impacts to our lives include the lack of travel altogether and the bans on Americans visiting many countries around the world because of the COVID-19 rates in this country. But travel has changed in more subtle ways as well, with some airlines blocking middle seats from being used to keep passengers from sitting too close together, and cruise lines practically ceasing operations, while hotels are redoubling efforts to provide clean, sanitized rooms when you check-in.

Meanwhile, more Americans are taking road trips and rediscovering America again. A survey conducted by Cooper Tires and reported by the New York Post earlier this year found that 43 percent of those surveyed had replaced canceled travel plans with a road trip of some sort.

Related: I Drove Cross-Country During the Pandemic — Here’s What I Learned

Another sign of the times, public transportation has become a highly undesirable way to get from place to place. A Statista survey conducted in April found 38 percent of respondents said they had begun avoiding crowded modes of public transport. It’s a shift that’s not likely to reverse course any time soon.

The gym industry has also taken a beating this year as have the exercise habits of Americans in general, with many hesitant to spend extended periods of time in confined spaces with fellow exercisers who are sweating and breathing heavily.

As Time reported, sweeping and repeated lockdowns have made Americans more sedentary than ever before and the effects are likely long-lasting. One survey reported by Time revealed a 32 percent reduction in physical activity among U.S. adults who had previously been meeting recommended exercise guidelines. Meanwhile, many gyms and personal trainers began offering virtual exercise sessions in 2020 in order to stay afloat, bringing their services to our living rooms for a change. No more rushing to get to your gym in time for an exercise class.

Related: 18 Fitness Challenges to Keep Pace (and Your Distance) During the Pandemic

While carrying cash was largely becoming a thing of the past prior to 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has hastened this trend. It’s not unusual to walk into a store these days and see a sign that says “Credit cards preferred.” That April Statista survey found that cash is being used far less day-to-day by 36 percent of survey respondents. For those still not clear on the why behind this shift in daily life — a scientific study explains that “paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact.” And as we all know so well now — human contact is the big no-no of 2020.

Related: Cash-Based Businesses That Must Change to Survive in the COVID-19 Era

By: Mia Taylor

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This Marie Kondo E-Course Might Finally Help You Get Organized

Marie Kondo super-fans have already devoured her wildly popular books, such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And they’ve likely binged her Emmy-nominated Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. But even those who haven’t consumed her content likely know who she  is thanks to her status as a bona fide cultural lifestyle and business icon

Whether you’re already an adherent of the KonMari Method and eager for more instruction or just considering seeing what all the hype is about, Kondo has you covered. Today, she launches a 10-part digital tidying course, KonMari Method: Fundamentals of Tidying. The video series, which costs $39.99, uses lessons taught by Kondo and visual guides to help anyone who signs up get — and stay — organized.

Related: Marie Kondo Visited My Quarantine Workspace and Gave Me a Lesson on Letting Go

In a recent email interview, Kondo gave us the scoop on how Fundamentals of Tidying differs from her books and Netflix series, and why she thought now was the perfect time to release it. Read on for our interview. 

What was your motivation for putting together this course?

People are spending more time than ever at home, so this course is an opportunity to help people tidy up and rediscover their joy. Rather than a dreaded task, I see tidying as a celebration. It’s an act of gratitude for the items that support you every day – and the first step to living the life you’ve always wanted. It is my hope that the magic of tidying will help people to create a bright and joyful future, especially during these uncertain times.

How is it different from what your books and Netflix series offer?

I’ve discovered over the years that people master the KonMari Method in different ways. For many, my books were all the tidying instruction they needed. For others, my Netflix show – featuring real life stories of people tidying with me – helped them through the process. This course is a great fit for people who enjoy learning through visual demonstration. I break the KonMari Method into lessons and am with you every step of the way.

What does a typical lesson entail? 

The course breaks down the method into 10 lessons and takes you through a tidying festival from start to finish. The first three lessons lay the foundation for tidying successfully – in one shot – and expand on the philosophy behind my method. In the KonMari Method, you tidy by category, not by location – the five categories are clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and sentimental items, and there is an episode dedicated to each one.

I teach you how to tidy one category at a time and how to organize and store the belongings you choose to keep. The course is designed so you can tidy at your own pace and review my folding techniques and storage guides as you go.

Related: Organization Guru Marie Kondo’s Netflix Show Transforms People’s Homes and Their Lives. Learn Her Simple Method to Increase Joy and Decrease Clutter.

Are there any ways to personalize the course?

The pacing is up to you. It’s also compatible with multiple devices, so you can watch it easily from wherever you are. The course comes with a downloadable workbook with exercises and checklists to hold you accountable and keep you on track.

How long does the course take to complete?

The course itself is about 75 minutes long, but it will take you longer than that to tidy up. Some people may decide to watch the whole course straight through and then turn to tidying; others might watch one episode at a time and tidy along with me.

As long as you tidy by category and follow the right order – and the other “rules” that I outline in the course – you’ll be on the road to success.

Who will benefit most?

This course is perfect for people who want to defeat clutter once and for all. It’s also helpful for anyone seeking to reevaluate their relationship with their possessions and rediscover their joy.

Related: Exclusive: Marie Kondo’s Advice for People, Like Steve Jobs, Who Swear by Messy Desks

By: Jessica Thomas / Digital Content Director

Find out more about Marie Kondo’s KonMari method here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCL48… 10 Best Tips We Learned from Tidying Up with Marie Kondo // Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/c/MsMojo?sub_c… If you want to get your life in order, you definitely have to start watching this show. For this list, we’re looking at the most useful tips from this Netflix show. Our list includes Organize Items By Size, Pile Things Up, Thank Your Home, Give Every Item A Home, Use Clear Boxes, and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Organization Tips We Learned on Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Check out these other great videos: Top 10 Current Home And Design Shows: https://youtu.be/T7hwF206wrE Top 10 Surprisingly Healthy Fast Food Items: https://youtu.be/ssE2kPVXnWM Top 10 Craziest Hoarding: Buried Alive Episodes: https://youtu.be/4mFYOtor3tM List Rank and Entries: 10. The KonMari Method Essentials 9. Organize Items By Size 8. Store Items Based on Frequency of Use 7. It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better 6. Pile Things Up 5. Thank Your Home 4. Give Every Item A Home 3, 2 & 1??? Suggest a video here: https://www.watchmojo.com/msmojo/sugg… MsMojo’s Social Media: Facebook►►http://www.Facebook.com/MsWatchMojo Twitter►►http://www.Twitter.com/MsWatchMojo Instagram►►http://instagram.com/MsWatchMojo Snapchat ►►https://snapchat.com/add/mswatchmojo Get MsMojo Merchandise at http://www.watchmojo.com/store Shop: https://shop.watchmojo.com/collection… WatchMojo is a leading producer of reference online video content of Top 10 Lists, Origins, Biographies, Commentary and more on Pop Culture, Celebrity, Movies, Music, TV, Film, Video Games, Politics, News, Comics, Superheroes. Your trusted authority on ranking Pop Culture. #MarieKondo#TidyingUp#TUWMK

6 Easy Hacks For a Waste Free Picnic

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This Family Business Has Thrived for 64 Years by Selling Old-School Products Popular With Nostalgia Lovers–and the Amish

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Editor’s note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

Galen Lehman will take on anyone with his scythe. “I can cut grass fast or faster than a weed eater,” he says. Furthermore, after that grass is shorn, his electric-tool wielding opponent will be left with ears ringing and the stench of burnt oil clinging to his skin. Not Lehman. “I won’t smell like petrochemicals,” he says. “And my ears will have been filled with birdsong and the gentle swish, swish, swish of my scythe.”

Lehman’s, a family business in the small farming community of Kidron, Ohio, harks back to the days when a product’s bells and whistles were actual bells and whistles. In 1955, while the rest of the country swooned over newfangled inventions like wireless TV remotes and  microwave ovens, Jay Lehman started selling all things non-electrical to the local Amish population. Over the next six decades, others discovered the business, says Galen, who is Jay’s son and the CEO. (Jay’s daughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin, is vice president of marketing.) Today, gardeners, environmentalists, preppers, homesteaders, and the chronically nostalgic flock to this 120-employee business for their cook stoves and canning jars, candle-making supplies, and composting toilets.

Galen Lehman, CEO of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

What those populations share is the desire for a simpler life. Simple doesn’t mean easy, Galen explains: “It is not simpler to light an oil lamp than it is to flip on a light switch.” At Lehman’s, simpler means closer to nature. It means labor performed with your hands. It means understanding how products work just by looking at them. Often it means working alongside neighbors: easing one another’s loads.

Those values are cherished by the Amish, who still account for 20 percent of retail sales. The company also wholesales some products, like gas refrigerators, into Amish communities. In addition, about 250 of Lehman’s roughly 1,600 vendors are Amish. “Now we are buying more from Amish manufacturers than we are selling to the Amish,” says Jay Lehman, 90, who remained active in the business until a few months ago.

As more tourists and other outsiders (known as “English” in the Amish community) have descended on the store, most of Lehman’s Amish customers have retreated to the company’s second, smaller location in nearby Mount Hope. “The outsiders are sometimes a little invasive with their cameras and their questions and even just staring,” says Galen.

The Lehmans, who are Mennonite, embrace technology for their company: using high-tech to sell low-tech, as they like to say. E-commerce comprises half of sales, and the business is active on social media. But walk in the store on a given day and you might see a wood carver fashioning country scenes for display in the buggy barn or wander into a yoga class that incorporates goats.

Hank Rossiter, a retired nurse who lives nearby, has been buying sprinkling cans, kerosene lamps, axes, wood splitters, kitchen gear, and many other goods at Lehman’s for decades. Trying to give up plastics, he and his wife Marilyn recently went there to pick up some stainless steel drinking straws, and the tiny brushes to clean them. “I may think, how can I simplify this? How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” Rossiter says. “I’m pretty sure Lehman’s will have the answer.”

What would the Amish do?

Jay Lehman was born and raised in Kidron, a farm kid who plowed and planted, then worked as a mechanic in the local garage. In 1955, the owner of the local hardware store was retiring, and he got loans to take it over. For the first few years he had to pay rent on the building, so he drove a school bus while his father looked after the store.

Jay Lehman, founder of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

The previous owner had carried a large stock of goods for the Amish, and Jay decided to stick with that strategy. In the evenings, he roamed around the countryside in a pickup truck delivering purchases too large to fit in his customers’ buggies. “I would do it until the houses had no more lights in them,” says Jay. “Then I knew it was time to go home.”

The business grew slowly. Then, in 1961, Jay moved to Africa, where he arranged travel for missionaries. A period in New York doing similar work followed. His brother, David, ran the store until Jay’s return in the mid-’70s. The oil crisis was in full swing, “and everyone was panicking,” says Jay. “They said, what do we do? Well, what do the Amish do? They get along without these things. If the Amish can do this, we can do it too.” Sales soared.

Then a magazine called Organic Gardening published a laudatory article about the Victoria Strainer, a product sold by Lehman’s for separating out seeds from applesauce and tomatoes. Orders poured in from around the country; and the new customers wanted to know what else Lehman’s sold. The company mailed out product brochures and a catalog that by century’s end would reach more than a million customers and eventually earn Lehman’s a place in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

During the 1980s and ’90s, nostalgia largely drove new sales “People in their 60s and 70s wanted to do things the way they remembered when they were younger,” Galen says. Eventually, the rosy glow of a cherished past gave way to the dark clouds of an uncertain future. Lehman’s next big surge occurred in the late 1990s. Y2K fears stoked the Prepper movement, and even non-survivalists stocked up on lanterns, water filters, and kerosene cookers. Subsequent end-time panics–the end of the Mayan calendar, the blood moon prophecies–sparked mini-booms.

Angelo Merendino

But recently the Preppers have grown less important to Lehman’s. Galen is OK with that. “We don’t think being prepared means hunkering down and arming yourself against the zombie apocalypse or whatever is out to get you,” he says. “Being prepared is being ready with supplies that can help you and your neighbors and your family.”

Looking for the last big thing

For a business that regards “new and improved” as an oxymoron, sourcing can be a challenge. The non-electric market has been shrinking since the store’s earliest days, causing manufacturers to shut down or switch product lines. As a result, the Lehmans have sometimes scrambled for new suppliers, sourcing kerosene cook stoves from South America and gas refrigerators from Sweden, for example. The large majority of products, however, remain American-made.

The company has occasionally acquired expiring product lines, like apple peelers from the once-mighty Reading Hardware Company. In 2015, Lehman’s took over the struggling 108-year-old Aladdin Lamp Company, whose kerosene models incorporate a mantel over the wick to produce an unusually bright, hot light.

Occasionally, Galen designs products himself. Working in Lehman’s R&D facility–a corner of the store with some plywood benches and hammers–he recreated the Daisy butter churn, which had been out of production since midcentury. “It’s a pretty good replication of the original with some improvements,” he says. “It churns faster because of changes I made to the paddle.” He has also produced a hand-cranked grain mill out of cast aluminum rather than cast iron, which allowed him to cut the price in half.

Angelo Merendino

The store’s Amish-made products are extensive, ranging from rocking chairs and cherry baskets to whisk brooms and croquet sets. Amish manufacturers suit Lehman’s because they operate on a small scale and so don’t require huge minimum orders. The flip side is they typically can’t or won’t ramp up volume when demand for something unexpectedly surges. “A lot of times they will say, ‘I can’t make your product because it is time to make hay or I need to plant the fields,'” Galen says.

Wherever they’re sourced, many products arrive without instruction manuals or other documentation. As a staff resource, the company maintains a library of old books on subjects like canning and butchering. Galen has bolstered that knowledge by interviewing people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s about the finer points of operating old-style tools and devices. Working with an employee he created training programs for the company’s main product lines. Employees certified in the operation of oil lamps, water pumps, and other devices receive a bump in pay.

While the company’s nostalgia-driven demand is, by law of nature, declining, Lehman’s is enjoying both more and new business from other sources. The Amish population is growing both in the United States and around the world. And those notoriously screen-addicted Millennials have been surprisingly receptive to the company’s message of living simply and well.

“You talk to people who work in technology,” Galen says. “They go home, and more than anything else, they want to get some dirt under their fingernails.”

Leigh BuchananEditor-at-large, Inc. magazine

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Peter instills in us that doing things a different way can be the right way. Your own way. He walks the line of family business and business being his family flipping traditional business models upside down. While some would caution never to mix the two, he has by putting “place first” creating an environment that is welcoming to all those who are lucky enough to find this hidden gem of a restaurant – 2017 Restaurant of the year in Portland, OR – HAN OAK. With special thanks to core the TEDxPortland organizing team, 70+ volunteers and cherished partners – without you this experience would not be possible. Our event history can be found TEDxPortland.com In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. Peter’s restaurant, the Korean-inspired Han Oak, was Portland Monthly’s 2017 restaurant of the year. Inside its walls unfurls a world rooted in both tradition and fresh interpretations on authentic cuisines. Peter cut his teeth in New York for 13 years in the kitchen of Michelin star chef April Bloomfield before his desire to be closer to his family called him to the Rose City. In 2017, he was recognized by Food & Wine as best new chef and is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
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