"We have two PlayStations," she says. "They're an evil thing in ourbasement."
A guide for parents who want to adopt a less materialistic, morefulfilling approach toward family life, "Living Simply With Children" (ThreeRivers Press) reflects the way Sherlock and her husband, Marty Griffy, ofPortland, Ore., have been raising their own children over the past 10 years.
Both parents, for example, work part time in order to spend more qualitytime with their kids, Ben, 13, and Scott, 11. Their big-picture approach tochild rearing focuses on environmental and social justice as well ascritical discussions of consumer culture.
And their everyday life, from the board games to the long walks theytake together, is about recapturing family values of closeness, fun andrelaxation.
There's a misconception that living simply means living frugally,Sherlock says.
"But living simply is about living your values," she says. "Thecommercial stuff, the acquisitions, are a distraction from that. What simpleliving does is give us more time for our kids."
Sherlock, a former lawyer turned freelance writer, and Griffy, aresearch analyst, say they had always been interested in the social andenvironmental benefits associated with buying less stuff.
But when they had children, Sherlock says, she and Griffy wereunprepared for the marketing blitz aimed at children.
The lack of information about raising families in a consumer society,she says, is what prompted her to write the book, which is organized aroundtopics such as peer pressure, dealing with television and marketing directedtoward kids.
"Some families take a sheltering/protection approach," she says. "Theydon't have TVs and they home-school."
She and her husband have other strategies. They limit household consumeritems, don't overschedule their children with activities and lessons, andhave a lot of family discussions.
In addition to "deconstructing" television and print advertising withtheir kids, Sherlock and Griffy talk a lot about things that make peoplehappy -- health, friends and family -- and how to live according to yourconvictions.
The entire family, for example, tries to buy things used, not new.Television is off-limits during the week. There are family meetings once aweek, and weekly and holiday rituals, such as pizza night on Fridays andwhite-elephant Christmas parties.
To tread lightly on the Earth, the family walks as much as possible --to the library and friends' houses. Every Sunday is car-free. Everyonevolunteers once a month at the Oregon Food Bank and the St. Francis soupkitchen.
About those Sony PlayStations: The boys and their father bought the gameconsoles used, at a garage sale. Still, Sherlock says, "Marty thought, `I'mgoing to get killed when I get home.'"
Consumerism is all around us, she says. "It's tough. We're not by anymeans perfect."
For Sherlock and Griffy, simple living also means spending more quantitytime with their kids. Although she acknowledges that not all parents canafford to work part time as she and Griffy do, living simply isn't just forthe middle class, Sherlock says.
"There are benefits for any economic level," she says, noting thatlower-income families are working long hours to keep up with the pressure tobuy stuff for their kids. "A lot of people don't want to send their kids themessage to buy, buy, buy," she adds.
"By living simply, we're not draining our personal resources or theEarth's resources. There's also a spiritual element ... that acquisitionsdon't buy happiness."