In the process of overhauling The Art of Simple, I’ve been perusing the years’ worth of archives. They’re mostly embarrassing, but I do like how they serve as a historical record of sorts for my personal life.
If you’ve heard me speak before, you know that I started the blog five years ago as a creative outlet to help alleviate my depression. I also wrote about simplifying my life as a way to catalog my ideas of how to make my new overseas life easier. And I also chose this topic—simpler living—because not much was being written about it on the Internet at the time. My, how times have changed.
The topic of “simple living” has come up a lot in my life lately—namely what, exactly, it is. It’s an old phrase, and it’s so broad that it invites as many definitions as there are people who want to live simpler.
And since some readers come to this site in expectation of exploring this phrase, I thought I’d restate what it means here, on the Art of Simple. According to my archives, it’s been awhile since I brought it up.
Simple living means living holistically with your life’s purpose.
You might have a different definition, but that’s what “simple living” means here on this blog, and what it also means in my life. It’s how I defined it in my first book, and it continues to ring just as true in our family today as it did four years ago when I penned it there.
To unpack this definition a little bit, this is how simple living looks here.
What “simple living” is:
• Firstly, it requires knowing who you are. And from that, it means you have a general sense of your life’s purpose.
• And then it’s holistic—all the parts of your life are pointing in the same direction, not just the stuff in your home, or not just one person in your family.
• These parts play in harmony—so that the stuff in your home, the people that live there, your physical and emotional health, your calendar and commitments, and your relationships don’t conflict or function in opposition to each other.
• It’s a process, not a one-stop arrival. Living simpler isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the time and effort it takes, because in my experience, it’s the best way to live. It’s less stressful. It offers more peace and joy.
I’m not perfect at it, at all. There have been seasons since this blog’s inception that have been downright stressful for my family, which have made our life feel more complicated than simple.
But that doesn’t mean the journey hasn’t been worth it. As we’ve simplified our life, one piece at a time, it hasn’t eliminated the crashing waves, but it’s made them easier to ride.
What simple living isn’t:
At least, not on this blog.
• It’s not a backwards race to see who can live with the least amount of stuff. Every family is different, so who am I to say that you absolutely shouldn’t have two cars, or that you’re doing something wrong if you don’t grow your own food? Preposterous.
• It’s not a competition. Just because one family is doing X, Y, and Z doesn’t mean it’s best for you. We should learn from each other, of course, and it often doesn’t hurt to try something new before writing it off. But no one’s in a contest for Most Minimalist.
• It’s not the end all, be all. Living simpler for the sake of living simpler can get boring. So you save money because you bicycle most of your errands or you line-dry your clothes. What are you going to do with that saved money? You’ve cut out almost all afterschool extracurriculars in favor of more family time and less fighting traffic. How is that time spent?
I believe that relationships are more important than things, and that life is so much better when we live beyond ourselves. Mother Teresa once said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”
That’s it. That’s what it’s ultimately about. Our family chooses to live simply—in the way that best resonates with our life’s purpose—so that others may simply live. So that we have extra funds to give to Denise and Abubeker, our Compassion kids, along with several other global projects we’re passionate about. It’s so we have more time to spend lots of time with each other, so that we’re our kids’ most significant role model and can impart the values we care about. We do our best to live with minimal clutter so that we can better appreciate true beauty, in all its forms—which includes good stewardship of the environment.
So when you hear the term “simple living” on this blog, this is what it means. We don’t bow down to the most minimalist house or the family who lives a Spartan lifestyle. It’s more than that. I’m passionate about living well.
Your turn—what does “simple living” mean to you?