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It seems to me that the idea of living “simply” is a style that everyone wants to attain, yet there are few that actually grasp the concept. I think the main issue is that we don’t really know what it means in the day to day. It requires us to daily examine our stuff and our schedule to see if we are living our best life. Simple living does not mean minimalist living. Simple living does not mean boring living. The enemy of simple is clutter.
In her book A Simplified Life, Emily Ley does a fantastic job at breaking down the areas of our life that we can simplify without feeling like we need to throw away everything we own and start fresh. (If that’s what needs to be done, you could go to that extreme, but it is in no way necessary!) In fact, when Emily does her “Ruthless Declutter Challenge” each year on her social media, the first thing she says is, don’t buy anything during this challenge that you think will organize your stuff better (odds are you’ll find organizational tools while you declutter). No matter how well you have organized your stuff, it still doesn’t negate the fact that you probably have too much stuff to begin with. “The lack of organizational tools isn’t the problem, the overabundance of stuff is.”
While listening to my local Christian radio station last week, I heard this quote:
“If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive”
There are several things on my calendar, or in my house, that cost me my peace. I spend time thinking about how to organize all those kitchen utensils I have, what decor to keep or not to keep up, how to make my house look more like a magazine. . .I spend time thinking about all the things I need to do, all the things I’ve said “yes” to that are stressing me out, and yet somehow feel like I should be doing more. If you’ve ever felt this way, something in your life is probably costing you your peace. Figure out what it is and get rid of it.
Taking ideas from Emily’s book, here are three main ways I believe you can get started on simple living ASAP!
Clear your clutter
It certainly is a process, but it’s a rewarding one. Make a list of all of the places you can think of in your home that can become cluttered. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- Bathroom closet
- Clothes dresser/closet
- The kitchen catch-all drawer
- Your office desk
- Your entryway/mudroom
- Coat closet
- Laundry room
Next, you want to go through and “ruthlessly declutter” as Emily Ley would say. Ask yourself the following question when you look at each item: “Is it my favorite one? Is it the best one/quality? Is it absolutely necessary?”
If you have 3 can openers, only keep your favorite one (as long as it works).
If you have 3 white tshirts, only keep the one you feel the most confident in that is in good condition.
If you have 10 lipsticks, keep the top 3-5 you wear most often.
You get the idea…
Here’s what Emily says about clutter:
“Not only does clutter vie for our attention, it makes up the general atmosphere of our spaces—leaving us feeling uninspired or overwhelmed.”
“I underestimated how much physical mental and emotional effort I was giving to maintaining all our stuff. But when the clutter was gone? Everything in me quieted in a noticeable way.”
Clear your schedule
“You can’t experience simple joys when you’re living life with your hair on fire.” Running around from place to place works for a little while, but eventually it leaves us feeling unsettled and our souls feel loud with peripheral unnecessary noise.
Learning that we don’t need to say yes to everything we get asked to do is HUGE. And that is not just by friends, church leaders, or colleagues. This could be our children too. If having them in 2 different sports during the summer is keeping the family too busy and frazzled, eliminate one or both activities.
The Lord requires of us that we use our time each day wisely and for His glory. How do we do that if we say “yes” to everything and feel like we’re running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off trying to accomplish our commitments?
Remember, even if it is a very good thing, doesn’t mean it should get your yes. If something you agree to will take you away from your greatest blessings (your husband, your children, your friend time), perhaps it isn’t necessary.
In her book, Emily says, “Your kids may not remember your fancy dinners, but they will always remember the focused time you spent with them.” It is so true. One of the things I remember about my childhood is not what we had for dinner, but that we all sat together at the dinner table at the end of the day and talked. I remember “friday night movie nights” and “just family Sundays” that were specific moments that mom and dad did nothing else but spend time with us. The movie we picked isn’t remembered, but the moments of us sitting all together on the couch munching on popcorn certainly will be remembered forever.
Social media influencer, Jenna Kutcher, said it wisely, “Busy is not a badge of honor.” We can get into this mindset that if we can tell our friends, “oh, i’m so busy” that we are somehow accomplishing great things and they should be so jealous because their boring lives aren’t half as busy as ours are. It’s not a good thing to be super busy and it’s a good reminder when we are tempted to fill our schedule so that our planners look like our life is a little more exciting.
Clear your head
Take the time each day to do what really matters, clear your head and heart and replace it with God’s truth from His Word. Daily reading His Word should be the first thing on the to-do list each day. I know for me, on the days that I do my devotions (read that: I admit I do not do them everyday, but I know I should), I feel more ready to tackle the day, it’s problems, and I have an overall better attitude.
I love this quote from Emily Ley:
“If your brain is on overload, constantly flipping through your to-do list, constantly comparing yourself to others, constantly worrying about when the next shoe is going to drop, you cannot fit happiness, joy, and calm in there.”
It’s not just stuff and schedules that can make our life unsimple. . .it is our thoughts too.
Another way to clear our head, is to purposefully turn our focus away from what is distracting us. It doesn’t just automatically happen every time. When we get home from work, our minds could still be racing with thoughts. When the children wake up early from nap time, our minds could still be stuck in “clean all the things” mode. When the husband get home from work, our hearts could still be feeling ungrateful and ugly. It is important to give our hearts to who is in front of us. . .that is simple, focused living. “While we’re spending time with our children, if we are mentally distracted by work, we’re actually giving our hearts to work—not the little ones in front of us.”
If you have not already, I encourage you to purchase A Simplified LIfe (or borrow it from your library or a friend). Also, follow Emily Ley on social media to be daily encouraged to live simple lives that are filled to the brim with love and joy!
“And I’m learning that this is what God wants—he wants our hearts, even if little by little. when we let Him in, he’s able to do more work, and more organizing, and more simplifying of our thoughts than we could ever do on our own.” -Emily Ley