As my interest in simplifying our life grew, I read many blogs and articles about simple living. The thing that stuck out to me is that there is no single definition of what simple living means. It means different things to different people. Each person defining it differently based on their intentions and values. None of these definitions are right or wrong, it’s just one of those terms that can mean a lot of different things to different people.
As I became more serious about simplifying our home and life, I realized I needed to clearly define what simple living means to me so I could be clear about what kind of life I am striving for. I couldn’t strive for someone else’s version of simple living. I needed to create a clear vision of what I wanted for our home, our family and our lives. And I needed to be clear about what practices to firmly establish to live more simply.
To me, so much of simple living hinges on less – both owning less and doing less. Intentionally choosing to live an uncluttered, minimalist and slower life. I want to make time and space for the people and experiences that are most important for our family. My version of simple living is composed of two broad concepts:
- Owning less
- Slowing down and doing less
To explain further, this is my vision for what a simpler life will look like for our family:
1. Owning Less
Declutter and Embrace a Minimalist Life
I love Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism as:
“the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
Simplifying life requires removing the excess so only the things we really need or love remain in our homes. It means looking at your home with a critical eye to decide what does or does not add value to your life. Then only keeping the things that add value. Only the things you use and love.
The point of minimalism and simple living is not about deprivation. You don’t have to live without things that you love or live with so little that it makes life difficult. The opposite is true, you live without all the excess and extra things that make life more difficult. You remove the excess and live with just enough.
Everyone will have a different idea of what is enough, but that’s the beauty of it. There is no right or wrong answer to how much is enough. Everyone will have their own answer. Enough for you is when the things you own are what you use and love, nothing more. Enough is when you intentionally get rid of anything that isn’t adding value to your life.
“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”
– William Morris
Embracing simple living means choosing to stop mindless consumption that only ends up in the garbage or donate pile a short while later. Purchases become more intentional as our values shifts to quality over quantity. You shop for only the things you actually need and will add value to your life, not for the thrill of buying something new.
Making this shift is when you stop just decluttering and start living a minimalist life. My husband has often said that all my decluttering is pointless if I just go buy more stuff again after I’m done. I *may* be guilty of doing that! So a big focus of simple living for me is to make sure I get rid of the excess and then stop buying more!
Using what I already have
Again, by choosing to own less and buy less, you choose to make do with what you already have. Finding ways to reuse or re-purpose things you already own.
It may take some creativity to find ways to re-purpose what I already own to solve the problem I’m facing. But I want to shift my mindset to first try to think of ways I can use what I already have, and only buy something new if I can’t find anything that works.
Being content with what we already have
Ultimately the decision to own less comes down to being content and grateful for what we already have. Our family is very fortunate in that all of our basic needs are always met. We have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear. We not only have enough, we have more than enough.
Part of my journey to simple living is to shift my perspective towards contentment and gratitude. It’s so easy to get caught up in the idea of owning all the latest and greatest of everything. It’s easy to believe that if you just had the newest whatever (gadget, clothes, accessories, etc.), then you would be happy. Simple living shifts our focus away from wanting more, and brings it back to gratitude, seeing that what we have is already enough.
2. Slowing Down and Doing Less
Slowing down and doing less
A big part of living a simpler life to me means slowing down and intentionally deciding how we will commit our time. It seems as though life is so hectic today. People are connected to the world 24/7 with phones, texts, social media, emails, etc. Kids seem to be participating in a different activity every night of the week. People are always busy, rushing from one thing to the next.
As part of our journey to a simpler life, we want to slow down and do less. We make it a point to sign up for fewer scheduled activities, and are selective about the ones we do sign up for.
We want to make time and space for a lot of downtime and free play time for the kids. That’s when the magic of childhood happens! I don’t want to rush through that or take that away from my kids. It’s good for them to get bored and have to figure out a way to entertain themselves. I want them to explore outside and see what they discover. I want them to play and create and use their imaginations. That time is so precious for kids. And too often it’s infringed upon by too many scheduled, structured activities.
Slowing down applies to our whole family. We want to build in a lot of time at home together for all of us. Both my husband and I limit the commitments we take on to give us a lot of time together as a family.
Another way we try to slow down is prioritizing cooking meals at home and eating them together as a family, especially supper. We aim for simple, healthy and balanced meals. I am not a very adventurous cook and my family aren’t particularly adventurous eaters. So it works well to keep our meals made with simple ingredients. This way I avoid cluttering my pantry with specialty, rarely used ingredients, while still offering balanced meals.
Create your Vision of Simple Living
This is how I define simple living and encompasses what I’m aiming to achieve. For me, it all comes down to intentionally choosing to do and own less in order to create a simpler, more intentional life.
If you are thinking about creating a simpler, more intentional life, I highly recommend the first step be clearly defining what a simple or intentional life means to you. Get clear about what you want simple living to look like in your life. Share your vision with your family and get their input. With a shared, clear vision, you are much more likely to reach your goals.