I didn’t always plan on living a simple life. In fact, if you had known me five years ago, the thought of me moving on out to the country to have chickens and raise goats would have been comical. I collected designer shoes, not eggs. But, there’s no heart that’s too focused on the wrong things for God to transform, and our simplified life is proof of that!
Living a simple life means removing all of the extras that don’t serve you, your family, or your vision for how you want to live your life. It means embracing mediocrity, in many ways. It’s valuing peace, a slower pace, a quiet lifestyle which leads to a calmer mind and more enriched spirit. Simple living is exercising your desire for more less and grabbing hold of that promise of more life.
Living a simple life does not mean becoming a minimalist, although by default you may end up with fewer material items. Where minimalists pride themselves on how much they don’t own, a person who just wants to live more simply will focus on not allowing the things that they own, to own them. It’s not necessarily about purging your kid’s toy bin as much as it is about purging the noise and the extras from your every day. Cultivating a simple lifestyle isn’t the easiest decision to carry out, and it’s not without it’s challenges.
You can live a simple life wherever you are, be it city, country, or cave. The process of living a quieter lifestyle can be started in your mind, carried over into your every day life, and felt within your soul.
1. Top priorities only. Instead of starting each day with your to-do list a mile long and the weight of all that needs doing dragging you down to a place where not even the most robust coffee can lift you back up, set the tone of the day with your top threes. Anything extra is extra.
2. Limit menu options. I can’t tell you how much of my life has been wasted at an open fridge or pantry door, waiting for my three children to decide what they wanted for lunch. And waiting until dinner to find dinner is a frustrating experience. Instead, I plan out our meals each week and tell my kids what they’ll be having for lunch instead of the other way around. Done and done.
3. Be honest about your wardrobe. I write this with a stuffed-too-full-to-open dresser at my back, so I know the struggle. But the truth is, I am a t-shirt and jeans on the regular kind of girl. Even with a million t-shirts in my possession, I cycle through the same handful each week. Time for a massive clean out. Again.
4. Limit extra curriculars. This isn’t just for the kiddos, although that’s important (leave space in the schedule for kids to be kids!), but for the entire family. If you have something to do every evening after work, there’s no time for family devotions, slow dinners of conversation, even just snuggling on a big comfy couch watching Little House on the Prairie reruns. Decide on one or two commitments and then commit to your simple living.
5. Move to the country. Okay, I know I said you could have a simple life wherever you live, and I maintain that stance. However, if you can move to the country, there is no place more slow and simple than that!
6. Be self-aware. This step is of ultimate importance in carrying out the other tips for simple living. You have to know what triggers your stress, anxiety, or general irritability. Spend time being curious about yourself.
7. Don’t be afraid to say no. People will ask you to do things for them, unconcerned, or just unaware, about what else is on your docket. It is your responsibility, and only yours, to know how much “other stuff” you have going on and how much other stuff you can handle. Then, respond according to your value of living simply.
8. Know your values. You can’t live out your values if you don’t know what they are. You can’t make good decisions for your mind, soul, and life if you don’t know what the bad decisions might be. Take some time to carve out your values and post them where you can see them, and revisit them, often!
9. Limit phone usage and social media participation. I don’t care who you are, if you are consistently and quantitatively bombarded by a barrage of bad news headlines, toxic person spews, and general information overload, your brain will suffer and your mood will follow suit. The world won’t stop revolving if you don’t know what’s going on in Aunt Sally’s cousin’s friend’s husband’s life. I promise.
10. Schedule in alone time. Even if you’re not an introvert. Even if you like people. Even if being alone makes you squirm. Especially if being alone makes you squirm. Peaceful living means quiet living and what is quieter than being alone?
11. Be disciplined. If you’re willing to take in any and every piece of trash that a commercial, television show, movie, book, or song throws at you, you’ll be too busy sifting through garbage to focus on your simplicity.
12. Read the bible. Honestly, the reason God gave us His written word is because he loves us. He knows what’s best for us and he wants us to live a certain way. And when we live within the guidelines of His commands, out of love and appreciation for his grace and mercy, it sets up boundaries that simplify.
13. Re-evaluate your relationships. Just because someone goes to your church, is your neighbor, or has been your friend for years doesn’t mean that they get space in your life. Just because someone has offended you or upset you doesnt mean that they get the boot, either. This isn’t a call to cut out everyone who doesn’t share your home or your opinions, it’s a nod to knowing where the unrest in your soul might be coming from and how you can get back to simple, peaceful living.
14. Journal. I know that not everyone is a writer. But when your mind is following a million little rabbit trails and you don’t know where one ends and the other begins, journaling helps to minimize the crazy by allowing you to see each thought laid out in front of you.
15. Pray. Nothing brings peace like prayer and Jesus. And more peace is what living a simple life is all about.
I always say that my husband and I chose to simplify our lives by complicating all of the things that we do each day. Two years ago, we sold our house on the perfect little cul de sac for some elbow room in the country. We added one baby, six chickens, and five acres to the family of four that headed out for the hills, and we haven’t looked back since! There is always something to do, and that’s the way that we like it. Every day we go to bed knowing that we exerted our efforts and energy to honor God by serving one another well. We stopped trying to keep up with the Joneses, we bowed out of the rat race, and we handle each day in an unhurried, unimpressive sort of way.
I believe that the road to happiness is a back road, lined with fully matured Oaks and Maples, no black top, no painted lines, no street lights. A road that needn’t remind you to slow down because you’re already cruising for the view, not the destination. Living a simple life helps minimize distractions leaving more time to focus on the things that you love, that which brings you joy.