Tiny wins for a simpler life

When I first heard about simple living, I wanted to be all in. The next day. No, really. Tomorrow. (And I’m only doing it tomorrow because I don’t have time to do it right this second.)

All it took was reading a few blog posts – okay, I stayed up all night binge reading every simple living post I could find – and I was ready to sell all our stuff, move into an RV, and enjoy the pleasures of the simple life.

I tend to be all or nothing. Now, I was ready for nothing and lots of it.

When I excitedly told my husband my plan to get rid of everything we owned and move our family of six into an RV the next morning, however, he was strangely not as enthused as I was. He may have used words like, “crazy” and “not a chance” and asked if I was thinking clearly in the midst of my sleep deprivation.

I have a feeling some of you can relate to my story, because the number one question I get emailed is, “How do I get my spouse on board with downsizing?”

As for my husband and I’s initial foray into simple living, I agreed to get some sleep and think about the idea some more. But the conclusion was yes – yes, I still wanted to give it a try, so I persisted in my vision. And he kept on resisting, which was okay.

Because I think if he had said yes, and we had actually went straight to living in an RV, I would have hated it.

We still would have had too much stuff. I still would have had a shopping problem. And I would have been happy for a bit, but the discontent would have crept back in because I still believed that happiness was a result of external circumstances.

Our experience would have been a disaster, instead of the fulfilling journey it turned into.

Part of living more simply means building patience and practicing contentment no matter where you are at on the journey.

Because if you don’t, you’ll never have few enough possessions, your life will never be simple/fulfilling/enriching enough and you’ll always be anxious to do something more drastic.

It’s a process, especially when you’re adjusting life not just for you, but your entire family.

So instead of making a drastic change right away, I focused on getting tiny wins. Tiny wins are little pieces of evidence that show you just how capable you are of creating the life you want through simple steps.

Tiny wins are things like:

  • Decluttering your kitchen (instead of selling everything and moving into a tinier space because you’re overwhelmed with all your stuff)
  • Inviting a friend over for a cup of coffee (instead of putting off focusing on relationships because you’re stressed over hospitality)
  • Doing a few sun salutations in the morning (instead of fretting over not having the time for a 90-minute class each day because you know a little centeredness goes a long way)

They help you determine if what you’re after is truly what you desire, or if there’s really something deeper that needs addressed.

Plus they give you some instant gratification that keeps you moving forward.

Changing your life doesn’t have to be a massive and overwhelming project that makes your significant other think you’ve lost your mind. It can be simple, fulfilling, and even fun. (And hey, if it’s that important to you, they will probably come around.)

So if you’re tempted to do something drastic in your excitement to change your life, try getting a tiny win instead. (Here are a few if you need ideas.) You may find that in your desire to live a simpler life, what you really need are some simple changes that help you appreciate what you have now and find more joy in each day.

Enjoy the process.

15 Comments

  1. Madeleine

    Hi Nina

    Thanks I kinda needed a dose of reality. I’ve been pinning tinny houses like crazy. An dreaming about selling everything building one and just travling around with the whole family… Haha never gonna happen, will take the small wins where I can. Beautifully written thanks.

  2. Kariane

    Yes! It’s easy to want it all now, but I think long-term change come from deliberate action over time. I’m working on simplifying our lives one step at a time, and each step feels great. I’m writing about our efforts each week at EverydayMindfulLiving.com. My post from last Saturday is here: http://everydaymindfulliving.com/simplify-saturday-practice-gratitude/

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I enjoy hearing about other people’s journeys toward simplicity.

  3. Brittany

    I think I needed this reminder today. I have all these ideas + wishes for a simpler life (or even just a home with LESS STUFF), and my husband is rarely on the same page. It’s frustrating, but you’re right—it’s a journey, and really, a character-building process (which is definitely not a quick fix). Thanks for the perspective 🙂

  4. Vicki

    Sitting at bingo, listening to full timers talk about how they got started. My eyes met my hubby’s and we both said, bingo. We had 3 weeks to fit into our camper and dispose of our stuff. Phone rings, daughter frantic, her rental house was being sold, school about to start, blah blah blah. She agrees to rent house and we have 3 days to finish. Overwhelmed! We were sorting like crazy, keep, give, trash..our goal was just 1 box of stuff to store! Decisions became faster and easier. We did it, I love it and I can’t remember anything that we got rid of. Living small changed our life style, and our hearts.. We stay on top of stuff with one in, one out. Did I mention I love my home, we camp Host in the summer in the mts and spend winter in fl. You could say we follow the weather! Simple is soo good. Tiny keeps us simple.

  5. Suzie

    Thank you for this post, Nina. I can be all or nothing a lot of times. I get all excited and jump in and then burn out way too quickly. Like Kariane said, I need to take to take it slow if I want lasting good change. My hubby helps keep my feet on the ground while my head is up in the clouds. I am happy to find out there are others like me. I recently shared with some co-workers a small win with a good habit I was working on and they actually laughed at me. I wasn’t hurt, but was surprised that two grown women behaved so childish and unprofessional. If I wasn’t exposed to so many other people working on these things like me I would have been hurt.

  6. Aimee Wiley

    “Wherever you go, there you are.” (I think that’s an original of mine:)) We really have to tackle the mindset behind our consumption before we can make true progress in our journey toward less. Like you said, if you simply changed your environment, you’d still have the same spending problems, etc. and the RV experience would be as unhappy as your current situation. I have been taking my time, allowing myself to hold onto things a little longer until I know I am ready to let go with joy. I don’t want to resent the process of becoming minimalist, and so far, it has been quite rewarding and illuminating. I love the idea of tiny victories!

  7. Lilian Rivas-Waits

    Thank you for the good advice, I wished I would have read it 3 yrs. ago when we decide to quit jobs sell house and move in with in laws in pursue of the simpler more meaningful life, we have been through a crazy ride! but I have to say I would do it all again! we have been blessed and we’ve been able to provide for our family and we finally purchased our tiny house in Zephyrhills Fl. I totally agree with you it’s a process and it’s not easy, specially when you are surrounded by people that does not understand you and judge you, it requires a lot of praying and faith and it is so important to keep focus, that is why I read your blog and anything that help me remember where we are going. Do not give up! it’s totally worth it, I spend most of my time with my kids, playing learning, (fighting sometimes) and enjoying our simple life. We love it!!

  8. Jean Croker Petke

    I love reading your blog; your content is always interesting and meaningful. But as one writer to another, your grammar sometimes becomes a distraction and detracts from your credibility as a writer. For example, in your latest post you wrote, “As for my husband and I’s initial foray. . .”. It should read, “For my husband’s and my initial foray,” or “For our family’s initial foray,” or “For our initial foray. . .” If you break the sentence down, it’s obvious you would never say, “For I’s initial foray . . .” Nouns and pronouns, subjects and verbs — they all need to agree.

  9. Liz T

    I moved into an rv 6 months ago with my 3 kids, dog and Navy husband. Just tired of moving! It has its challenges but we like it for the most part. It was very interesting how hard it was to downsize at first, but now I love getting rid of stuff. It’s definitely a learning process, and I’m sure we will continue to change as we go.

  10. Susan

    Nina, thanks for your words. I needed a tiny win today, so I organized/purged the garage. Again. LOL. We are in a season as a family that is requiring more patience than we expected. This was a good reminder to cultivate an attitude of patience with our living space when I really want to just chuck everything and start over somewhere else, with minimal possessions. 😉

  11. joanna

    Enjoy the process. My mantra. Very good for so many things. Thx Nina!!!

  12. Angela @ Setting My Intention

    there are sometimes that I want to wave a wand and have 90% of our stuff disappear…but my husband and I are finally decluttering our huge project – the basement together and learning so many things in the process.

    It is a massive project though and I’ve started blogging about my “mini” decluttering projects in the midst of our major project. It encourages me to start and finish a project in 15-30 minutes!

  13. Lyn

    Thank you for this beautifully written post. It all makes so much sense!

  14. Devi

    This is great counsel, Nina. I am definitely an all-or-nothinger, but then I find myself overwhelmed when I can’t do ALL so I end up doing NOTHING.. We are in the middle of a move right now, and it is tempting to think I need to be overwhelmed by it all instead of doing the little things I can do to make our life more simple, more beautiful in the very small now.

  15. Kathleen

    I’ve found I have to start small with my husband if I want big changes too. And too often I end up realizing that most of the time the changes have to start with myself. And once he sees those he starts to get on board. I really appreciated that someone else gets the same big ideas and knows in the end its better to take smaller steps – a great reminder! Thank you!

    Recently we moved into a house where our bedroom is tiny with an almost non-existent closet (from a very large bedroom with two walk-ins) and I wanted to suddenly get rid of everything. He didn’t fall for it. So instead I started with clearing out my clothes and scaling down. It’s taken 6 months but he is finally doing the same. Small steps. On to the rest of the house!

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