Living a simple life
I feel like the word simple is a bit trendy these days. At least in some circles.
I remember in high school, my best friend kept trying to set me up with her boyfriend’s friend, and the way she would try to persuade me was by telling me, “He’s a simpleton just like you.” I really didn’t understand what she meant at the time. What was a simpleton? Did it mean he had simple thoughts? Not a very exciting guy? Am I a simpleton too? I had no idea.
Fast forward several years, and now that simpleton and I are coming up on our 10th wedding anniversary. And now I get it. At least what it means for me, and for us.
I should interject here to say that I do believe ‘simple living’ can mean a variety of things, depending on the person, or family, and their circumstances. There is no one way to define simple and how we apply it to our lives.
We recently watched an episode of some TV show where a handful of different people from various walks of life opted ‘out’ of the norm and went off to live in the boonies. One guy built himself a tree house in the middle of the forest, another took his family to live on a deserted island in the middle of one of the great lakes. One guy even took to living in caves underground to ‘get away from it all’. This really got me thinking. I asked my husband, “Is this really the only way they could think of to simplify their lives, by abandoning society and becoming a recluse?” Don’t get me wrong. The thought has crossed my mind a time or two. I’m a classic introvert, so living in a tree house in the middle of the forest with my family and my dogs sounds pretty good some days. But is this really the best way to live out the ‘simple life’? Is it fulfilling?
Well I think we have to define what simple means for each of us. Maybe for these men in particular, that is the best way to simplify. Luckily for me, and my family, I don’t feel the need to take such drastic measures.
I think the best way to define and then actually implement simple living is to identify your priorities, and then bend and tweak your lifestyle and commitments to cater to those priorities. For me, living simply means saying no more. We don’t gain a lot of enjoyment from being tied to a busy social calendar. Yes, we like to see friends and spend some quality time with them, but our weekends don’t revolve around it. We don’t say yes to every invitation, and I have no problem backing out of an event if I feel like it puts a strain on our home life. I also really try- try being the operative word here- to limit what comes into my home. Once I started thinking of myself as the manager of all the stuff under my roof, I started looking at material possessions differently. Extra toys, extra clothes, extra blankets, extra stuff all requires a certain level of management. It all needs a place, needs to be washed, needs to be folded, stored, etc. I don’t want to spend my time picking up toys or folding piles of laundry. I’m not saying we don’t have clothes or toys, but I have found that in the last few years I am much more choosy about what we keep. If a pile of toys gets left out and strewn across the floor more than it actually gets played with, it is no longer fulfilling its purpose in our home, so it has to go. Same with clothes. How many of a certain item do we realistically need? We can only wear one sweatshirt at a time, so do we really need 6? Sure I keep more than one on hand, but there’s no need for me to keep more than I can reasonably wear within a few days. I happily donate items like this so that someone else less fortunate can benefit from our abundance. I’m not saying I’m a minimalist (not even close), but I’m constantly trying to find that sweet spot of where the stuff serves us rather than overwhelms us. We live in a culture of consumerism as well as abundance. I have found this to be both a blessing and a curse. Constantly consuming does not lead to fulfillment, at least not for me.
For me, being a simpleton means paring back. Less is more. Less go go go so that we can have more quality time as family. Less stuff so that we can enjoy our home. Having the time and mental clarity to express creativity. Preserving our precious resources, time and energy, so that I can nurture my family, serve my neighbors, and be available to help someone when the need arises. The world moves so fast, so it takes quite a bit of intention to slow down and savor it. But it’s worth it. I have found this shift to be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.
What is what living a simple life means to me. I’m curious, what does it mean to you, and how do you express it?