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AMY KIRK: It's hard not to be humble

  Ranch and country living keep us well-grounded and humble, making it difficult to get an uppity attitude. We repurpose things, live within our means, are practical, conservative and we use an outhouse.

Modest living is not exactly considered popular in today's American society, but it keeps us from having a reputation as being a snooty family. What's kept us unpretentious as of late has been reviving the use of the old-fashioned outhouse on our place.

Be appalled if you must, but in this modern world of conveniences, easy living, constant upgrades and new stuff, the best change to happen to our household has been going back to the basics and making use of the outhouse. Our kids love it and use it because it's gotten them over their plugged-toilet paranoia. Since our family started using the outhouse, it has brought peace, contentment and, strange as it may sound, happiness to our family.

Our one-seater red outhouse is known as "The Office." I wanted it to be white so we could call it the White House (the toilet seat being the Oval Office), but it was sided with leftover red pole barn materials. To be civilized about this whole outhouse thing, The Office has been insulated, equipped with a light, heater, calendar and toilet paper -- on a TP holder.

Before incorporating The Office, whenever our house's sole toilet was plugged, it caused major discord in our family. Our kids used to practically hide out like barn cats at the sound of any abnormal toilet-flushing sounds. As grade-schoolers, they developed toilet-plugging paranoia due to their parents' immaturity in dealing with plugged toilets. But our little red loo has eliminated all child anxieties and adult fits. With the availability of The Office, there are no issues of being completely without a toilet or having to deal with the nasty job of clearing toilet obstructions. You can rest easy knowing my husband and I haven't had any more parent outrages and tantrums over having to unplug the toilet. In fact, plugged-toilet paranoia has dropped by a whopping 98 percent.

Since implementing the outhouse, my husband and I have been much happier, calmer, less stressed and pestered less. The Office has made our flushing-toilet bathroom more available for personal hygiene tasks. There's no more disruption when removing unsightly chin hair (mine), trimming toenails, periodic monitoring of age, flossing, brushing, assessing grey hair progression, mustache grooming/trimming, sliver picking, ear hair trimming, shaving and, of course showering, which is a teenage obsession in our home right now. Our kids haven't complained, gotten frustrated over or bickered about needing the bathroom to take care of hygiene chores or get an item from the bathroom in order to get ready for school. Grownups are able to enjoy their privacy without outside interference or being rushed. These things could not be taken care of as efficiently and effectively if The Office weren't available to free up the bathroom.

Having an outhouse is humbling. Whenever somebody in my family announces, "I'm goin' to The Office!" it's our modest way of saying, "I've got some business to take care of."