The road to simplicity is marked by complexity. But it’s still worth it.

With all the talk about simplicity these days, you’d think that the route getting there would be, well, simple. But many find that with each step they take toward simplicity, they encounter temporary complications.

These complications sometimes feel so vast they make you want to quit before you’ve even started. Switching gears in life can be painful, and progress isn’t always initially visible.

I am a mother of three children, a homeschooler, a blogger and an author. Each day I spend the majority of my time on areas of my core values and priorities, crafting the life of my dreams. Yet getting here has required navigating through obstacles and complexities.

Here are a few areas that may temporarily become more complicated in our efforts to simplify them.

1. Our stuff

the sunroom in our previous home after I decluttered it

Tsh makes a powerful case in her book, Organized Simplicity, that more clutter doesn’t add more meaning to our lives. Many of us innately sense this to be true. But if you’re like the typical Westerner, you may realize this only years after filling a garage with non-necessities. What will it take to shed that excess?

Work, time, and mess. Lots of mess.

I realized this two years ago when I decided to spend one month decluttering each room in my home. My husband and I have never been packrats, but I still found the process tough. Getting rid of certain items was easy, but with others I wrestled with an emotional attachment to items I no longer needed or even wanted.

In spite of the challenges, I’m so thankful we persevered through this process. Though I never saw it coming, we moved to a new home at the end of that decluttering year. Somehow getting rid of extra stuff paved the way for us to physically move on to where we wanted to be.

2. Our homes

a view of our current home in the country

We wanted to live in a more rural area, and a dream opportunity came along that led us there. On the surface this sounds nice and idyllic, right? And it was a move toward a more ideal family life for us.

But the move was also fraught with complications. As anyone knows who has attempted it, packing and moving with three children is never simple. Our move to the country also meant that we needed to invest in a second car, something my husband and I had avoided for over 13 years of marriage. Steve also chose to go from a 15 minute commute to a 45 minute one.

Contrary to popular belief, simplicity doesn’t always mean a life in a studio apartment with only 100 possessions. I thank God each day for providing the home we now live in. It has significantly improved our family life, but the process of getting here involved effort and struggle.

3. An intentional life

my seven-year-old son, Jonathan

It’s easy to dream for our families, but when it comes to putting legs on a vision—actually taking action—simple may not be a word that comes to mind.

This is especially true when your dream requires you to step away from what our society deems as security—a regular paycheck, for example, or the security of a home to live in. I call this the hard/easy life.

Sometimes it’s easy to know where we want to go, but then we have to make the commitment to take an uncertain, complicated step toward that goal. As abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

So struggle, step forward, fail, progress. It’s worth it.

4. Our thoughts

in front of the fireplace in our renovated barn

Scientists estimate that we have, at a minimum, 15,000 thoughts rushing through our mind on any given day. It is much easier to let these run on autopilot, rather than pay attention and use them to fuel the life we want.

Though we may claim we want to eliminate fear and worry from our days, reaching that place of freedom requires effort. The complication of confronting deeply-rooted thought patterns and negative cycles deters many from arriving at the positive life on the other side.

I took this leap several years ago–attempting to use my thoughts in ways that would better serve me and my family. Though it took work to get here, the time I invested has reaped huge dividends in my personal happiness and peace of mind.

I recently wrote about my journey in an e-book, Mindset for Moms: From Mundane to Marvelous Thinking in Just 30 Days. It contains 30 short entries, perfect for busy mamas to read, each one highlighting a practical way we can transform our thinking and our lives.

A special offer for Simple Mom readers:

Any Simple Mom reader who buys Mindset for Moms in any format (PDF, Kindle, Nook, or iTunes) can receive a FREE PDF version of my first book, Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood (a $9 value!).

To take advantage of this offer, simply send me an email after your purchase with the subject line “I bought Mindset for Moms” and I’ll respond within a few days with your free copy of Steady Days. Offer valid through May 31, 2012.

Have you found that your efforts to simplify certain areas of your life have led to temporary complications in those areas? Do you think it was worth the effort required?


Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents.

She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Check out her newly released book: Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.

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  1. Yes, simplicity isn’t always easy, but you’re right in the end its worth it. It took us moving across the world with only what we could fit in our airplane bags to see how little we really need. Sure we had to buy furniture and some kitchen stuff here, but the process made us see how little we really need and be very intentional about what we’re buying.

  2. I feel like I have been decluttering our home and lives for the past 6 months! Perhaps doing it with two littles who follow behind undoing everything isn’t the best use of my time 🙂 However, I have gotten so much clarity over what is important to me and my family, and how some things that I thought were important, really are not. Eventually I will get to a place where I am happy with the amount of stuff that we hold on to, but while on the journey, I just try to take it a day at a time.

    It also doesn’t help that all of these changes are in the opposite direction of where friends and family think you should be going. But, I have never been one to just go with the flow 🙂 I love both of your books, by the way, and refer to them often.

    • I completely agree with regard to the clarity! We’ve spent the past two years decluttering and reorganizing our home and once things were more open and in place I started to experience much greater clarity. My husband did too. It’s not like our house was all *that* bad but it bothered us. We didn’t work on it constantly for two years, of course, but would go through phases of intense decluttering and sit back for awhile. It really put us in a completely different mindset with regard to Stuff and we’re more on track with how we want to use our space. It’s helped us in terms of realizing and following through with the kind of life we want.

      For me that meant quitting a large part of my job. I’m a freelance musician and as of yesterday I no longer teach private lessons. It took me awhile to come to terms with that because teaching was once my greatest passion. But once I had the clarity I realized that was no longer the case and for the good of my family I needed to stop. Yay for clarity!

      • Thank you so much for sharing this. I was just talking with a friend the other day and she asked why I kept doing something (flying/traveling) that I really don’t enjoy. I said I had always enjoyed it before. She reminded me of the importance of staying open to growing and changing and growing some more. It sounds so silly but I think there has been a fear for me not traveling for awhile because I loved it so much before kids. Maybe I’ll love it again and maybe I won’t. I’m trying to be okay with whatever the answer is.

    • tabitha says:

      Our family has been decluttering for the last year, and our one zone of resistance has been the coat and shoe closet. But now we have closed out our extra storage area, and have adapted to our smaller town home!

  3. 15,000 thoughts a day! I’d never heard an actual number before. Wow!
    I’ve enjoyed reading your family’s journey in your books and online. Thanks for the encouragement that pursuing simplicity is worth it–even if it’s not easy! We have a major decluttering purge planned for the summer, and I needed the reminder 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness Jamie can I ever relate. There have been so many complexities along the path of intentional living. Moving three times in 1 year has been only one of those. Right now I’m dealing with all kinds of paperwork complexities of moving and no having fun with it.

    So yes, complexities along the path to simplicity – absolutely.

    Worth it? Yes!

  5. Thank you for this post! It’s so true that changing directions can be so hard. And it feels like in our culture, if it’s hard people say “it must not be for you then” When I decided to stay home this happened to me. It wasn’t easy so my friends kept telling me I should go back to work. But when I did I realized that wasn’t right either. It was amazing to slowly realize what I needed and what was the right path for my family. When I sold my curriculum from teaching (to de-clutter) I cried and cried. But not only did it free up space in our house, it freed up space in my head and in my heart. It was really amazing.

  6. Some days our simplistic life feels like sunshine. Yet it seems that each new decision in our life challenges our simplistic way of living…even the little ones, like getting our daughter a fish tank. Then I remember to take a deep breath and take it all in. Thanks for your post….it’s definitely a journey!

  7. I couldn’t agree more about the 15,000 thoughts running in my head. I crave simplicity, but our habits and western culture get the best of us. There are days when I am ready to toss the TV and my husband is on board. Then I post it on Craigslist and he gets cold feet. We have the dream, but not the clear vision how to get there. Small baby steps towards awareness then action is how we will proceed. Thank you for sharing.

  8. We are working on simplicity at our house and are finding it to be precious work as well. I find that decluttering is a constant process, so my new task is 15 minutes (0r more) a week.

  9. Thanks so much for this post! Simplifying can definitely lead to complexity and hard work at first. And it can get discouraging. This post helped to re-engerize and re-motivate me to keep going with my decluttering and simplifying! Thanks!!

  10. Katherine says:

    Yes! We have also moved to the country and it did bring some struggles, throw in a bunch of kiddos getting the stomach bug in Feb and then in March (Come on!) and it gets a little overwhelming and yet I need to be able to be flexible and not always try to be sticking to a plan, stomach bugs are not on my schedule but they do happen and I am bad about freaking at first . I do think that the things that caused the most hard labor and struggle are the ones that have brought the most joy so it is definitely worth it. Hope you and your family are having a blast on your trip!

  11. I can certainly relate with the road to simplicity being complex! Previously, hubby and I were a dual income/high earner family with way more excess than we needed. After I lost my job after the birth of my 3rd child, we were challenged with the reality to simplify to be able to live off of one income. Living in S. Orange County, let me tell you, this is not the norm!

    Now we are enjoying our ever-growing mini-homestead on our postage-stamp sized suburban home with our 4 children…with backyard chickens, worm composting, compost bin, “remote” vegetable garden, fruit trees, and other “green” & “simple” elements we’ve implemented. We are loving it!

  12. This post could NOT have come at a better time. My husband and I are currently in the process of selling our current home (about 2000 square feet, historic, beautiful, in an awesome part of Dallas), and buying a smaller home (just under 1300 square feet), in the suburbs. We are NOT suburb people… but I quit teaching in November to stay home with my kids, and we have made the decision to downsize, move closer to my husband’s work (and our church… he works for the church!), be closer to everything (because for our family, that is much more simple), and have the kids in an amazing school (we have prayed through and ruled out homeschooling for our family). It has been a complicated process to live more simply, but I know that once the process is complete, I will be so thankful that we made the changes. It has been a huge adjustment to go from living in a really “cool” house to living in “just a house.” But, it’ll be worth it. I have actually been writing a lot about this on my blog the past several days :-).
    Thanks for sharing this!!

  13. Thanks for this encouragement. It’s nice to hear from someone who has been through such intentional simplifying. I’m a bit discouraged with the daily effort it takes, but this post helps. Have a good weekend!

  14. Simplicity is such an ongoing process…sometimes I grow weary in that and want to give up,(and wonder if it’s even possible with 5 kiddos) but it is so worth it! Love this encouragement here!

  15. Oh Jamie, how true this is! We feel so ready to downsize and simplify, but doing so is such a challenge. We are moving back to the States after several years overseas (and progressively bigger houses), and the only house we can find is significantly smaller than our last house. We want to downsize, but this will make us downsize our belongings straight from the shipping container into the house. Hmmm…. A force-fit may be a good way to make us downsize, but it will not be easy. And thank you for the kind offer of a free book! I have both of your works, but perhaps a copy for a friend? Should I email? Best wishes to you!

  16. I always thought I did pretty good at declutterng until we moved recently. Having to go through everything made me realize how much stuff we had stored that we just don’t need anymore, but it was still there because it was put in the storeroom and left there!

    I can be sentimental about stuff too. Sometimes something does mean a lot and is worth keeping. Other times I have to just let go of my sentamentalism and purge!!

    It is a very good feeling to declutter! I really like it when I can bless someone else with something that we’ve enjoyed but no longer need!

  17. I, today, just relinquished 8 hand-thrown clay mugs that I’ve moved 4 times but used zero times in the last 6 years! It was at first agony, but by the time the 8th one was in the box, freedom took its place and I found myself hunting for more dead weight to eject from my house.

  18. I’ve had the same feelings of clarity & freedom after decluttering my home, but it is not easy to get there, or to keep it decluttered.

    The part about working on our thoughts – getting away from fear & negativity- really resonates with me. Changing your thoughts, especially thought patterns that you’ve had for a long time, is hard work. But it’s worth it.

  19. As we make our second move in nine months, I’m hard at work decluttering – again. We’re doing well at not accumulating new “stuff”, but I still have some boxes left (mostly paperwork, aargh) to go through, scan, shred, and recycle. Talk about baggage, LOL! I will be sooo glad once the process is finished!

  20. I am currently neck-deep in the struggle to simplify. It is SO HARD! I feel like I spend more time shuffling piles and caring for things these days and I am so tired of wasting time. Thank you so much for giving me perspective and a much needed nudge!

  21. My friend thought I was crazy for having a garage sale the same month as a graduation party, but actually it has made it easier because there is less stuff to deal with now. I find that I can think better when I have less things in the house and my tables and counters are clear. Thanks for writing!

  22. Love what you said here: “It is much easier to let these run on autopilot, rather than pay attention and use them to fuel the life we want.” We need to deliberately and intentional take our though lives off autopilot and to live more on purpose. I think realizing that simplicity is relative and looks different for each person is important. We quit comparing and realize that we need to puruse our own simple lives, not someone elses. I had to write a series of posts on simplicity in order to work out how I really felt about it. You summarize much of what I wrote. Good post!

  23. I actually wrote a post about the difference between simple and easy. Because they are vastly different. Simplicity is fraught with hard, and sometimes complex, decisions. But it’s the lazy, “easy” decisions that usually leave us unhappy in a home we don’t like filled with stuff we don’t use. Simplicity is not exact simple in execution, but once the extra stuff is removed, the simple rewards that come are oh-so-sweet.

  24. For many years, we have been the victims of consumerism with my wife. Now, we find simplicity in our home by giving of 90% of the things we really don’t need to the people who really need them. I am a great supporter of less is best philosophy.

  25. What a great post. I nodded my head all the way through it. 🙂 We just moved to our “Dream Farm” that we’ve been waiting on for YEARS…this was going to provide us with the the simplicity we needed. And yes, its definitely more simple but simple does NOT mean easy and its been work since day one. Fitting our homeschooling life into that has been another whole struggle. Yes, its simple…but its hard work to make all those changes. Thanks so much for this post!

  26. I often give my sisters my patented “Guilt-Free Pass” when one or the other of them is agonizing over something, but I rarely give it to myself. I want a simple, intentional life for myself and my family. I knew the decluttering part of simplifying wouldn’t be “easy,” but I thought I was failing in this quest for simplicity because nothing about this process has been simple. Most of use are so entrenched in the manic and complex–it takes a while to slow down! Thank you for a dose of perspective. 🙂

  27. I know exactly what you are writing about how it is even harder if you don’t have people that you care about “having your back” in the process of changing something major in your life. They don’t always understand what is going on on our inside whilst I believe we sometimes feel what is the right thing to do and even if getting there means sacrificing some.. We just know that it’s worth it. I had several changes in my life I considered major such as becoming a practicing Muslim, moving from my home in Switzerland to Singapore and later to California etc.. That meant lots of decluttering material wise, mentally but also lots of decluttering friends that were too busy holding on to who They waned me to stay, instead of being happy for me about who I wastep happy to become.

    My two cents, God bless, Myriam

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