When it isn’t simple

Sometimes it just isn’t simple, is it?

Sometimes it’s complicated.

Sometimes it’s hard.

Sometimes it’s broken hearts and tough decisions and just keeping our heads above the water.

A post about complication and chaos might not seem like a good fit for a simple living blog at first glance, but something tells me I’m not the only one whose life sometimes runs right off the rails, despite my desire to live simply.

I know that most of the Art of Simple writers and I can tell you that, even though we write in a place where the focus is on the art of simple living, each of us has had times in our lives that seemed anything but simple.

I’m pretty open about certain aspects of my life, like our debt and my depression, but I don’t talk about specifics and how they impact my life, such why my special needs sister-in-law came to live with us, or exactly what almost broke my marriage (it’s probably not what you think), and the reason is because they aren’t my stories to tell. Or at least not mine alone. I mention them now to show you that I’m not a stranger to hard times.

But you and I don’t need to know all of the gritty details of our lives to be helpful to each other.

Which brings me my purpose today. I want you to know that if your life seems complicated and overwhelming right now, you’re not alone: I’ve been there.

5 things to remember when your situation isn’t simple

1. Remember to simplify what you CAN. When it seems like everything is out of control and chaotic, seek out the things which you can keep simple. If it helps, write a list of the things you want to focus on keeping as simple as possible, essentials only. Be practical.

That list might look like:

  • Simple meals – soup and salad anyone? I keep this post from Simple Bites handy for when putting dinner on the table is overwhelming.
  • A simple calendar – what commitments can you gracefully bow out of? What can you postpone? Clear some space, give yourself downtime (I know sometimes this just cannot be helped, but do what you can).
  • Simple homekeeping – in times of crisis, my focus is on dishes, laundry, and cleaning up spills, because those are the things that keep the household functioning – and keep the stink away – until life gets back to normal. Many hands make light work, so enlist help where you can get it. But if the freezer isn’t deep cleaned or the carpets don’t get shampooed this season, you know what? That’s okay. This is pick-your-battles time.

2. Remember to set boundaries. I talked about this in a post I wrote about personal finances last year. The sentiment holds true for other scenarios, too: the idea of living within your means is sometimes about more than money. Your emotions and your time are also valuable commodities.

If you find yourself feeling worry or anger over a relationship or a circumstance, that’s probably a clue you need to set some boundaries, so trust your instincts. You are entitled to set limits. You are allowed to say “no” or “not right now.” You can give an explanation if you want to, but that’s not an obligation either.

3. Remember not to further complicate things with guilt. I’m a believer in the 80/20 rule. Don’t carry guilt if you need paper plates on the table and disposable diapers on the baby to get you through, for example. Odds are what you are going through is difficult enough without adding guilt and self-loathing into the mix.

Remember that one person’s simple might well be another person’s complicated. It’s okay to step away from things that don’t work for you and your family so that you can find what does work.

4. Remember to take care of yourself. I had a revelation during the long winter: I’m not high maintenance BUT (and this is a big one) that doesn’t mean I’m no maintenance.

Inspired by the Hibernate online workshop, I spent some time thinking about my needs and wants and what my personal “recipe” is for wellness and happiness. I wrote it out and put it in my journal and I check in with it often.

Kara's personal wellness recipe | When life isn't simple | the Art of Simple

This isn’t necessarily a check list to follow every day, but it gives me a visual representation of the things that help me feel well and happy.

5. Remember your WHY. Life can be difficult and circumstances can be anything but simple. But that doesn’t mean we let go of our vision. In fact, challenge might even be the catalyst we need to reaffirm our commitment to a simple way of life.

Maybe this time is the test that tells us what really rings true?

We are human, and flawed goes with the territory. But so does beauty, friends! And loving your flawed, beautiful life in the face of whatever challenges are in front of you seems to me like a task – even an art form – worth pursuing.

Perhaps it really is as simple as that? I hope so.

If I can add one more personal note to this post, let me leave you with this thought:  you are more than your situation. What looks hopeless or overwhelming now can change and quicker than you know. Hang in there!

20 Comments

  1. Jody

    I love this post! I love all of the reminders and especially “5 things to remember when you’re situation isn’t simple.”

    I hope that the next generation of kids is raised with more awareness of self-care than my generation was. If we don’t take good care of ourselves we cannot take care of others or our jobs well.

    “Remember that one person’s simple might well be another person’s complicated. It’s okay to step away from things that don’t work for you and your family so that you can find what does work.”

  2. Juanita

    “…the idea of living within your means is sometimes about more than money. Your emotions and your time are also valuable commodities.”

    “…I’m not high maintenance BUT (and this is a big one) that doesn’t mean I’m no maintenance.”

    “We are human, and flawed goes with the territory. But so does beauty, friends! And loving your flawed, beautiful life in the face of whatever challenges are in front of you seems to me like a task – even an art form – worth pursuing.”

    I think these are those subtle things that are extremely easy to overlook (for years). You brought them out so eloquently!! Thanks!

  3. Lisa

    Thank you! This was a very timely message for me this morning. 🙂

  4. Shawna@nottheformerthings.com

    So beautifully said. Thank you for just saying it – we might desire to live simply, but sometimes life just isn’t simple.
    I will be creating my own wellness recipe. I just love the idea of reminding myself of the things I need to be settled.
    Shawna

  5. Lauren

    Thank you for this. After my miscarriage last year and then watching my best friend with her beautiful brand new baby today, being gentle to myself is a necessity to ensure the survival of my family right now. I’m glad to have these simple to-dos, because they give an easy focus for how to work through it until things are a little sunnier. Wishing you strength – Lauren

    • Ellen Russell

      I’m so sorry for your loss Lauren! After I miscarried, several friends from church gave birth right around her due date. It was so tough. Definitely be gentle to yourself and hang in there.

  6. Absolutely Tara

    This is a great post and I love all the advice. It is obviously born from the humility of experience. I am with you on the “keep the smell away” mantra when everything is overwhelming and choices have to be made. Thank your for sharing. Great piece.

    -Tara

  7. monique zing

    Hello everyone!
    This post is what I needed! Thank you for your kind words! It is because of you that I am alive today!

    Monique

  8. Miriam B

    I just took on a 2nd part-time job in addition to grad school, owning a dog, and being married. I really appreciated this post and the encouragement to simplify where I can. It’s so hard to give myself grace sometimes.

  9. joanna

    I like the idea of a recipe of what you need. That’s a great way to,look at it.

  10. Ellen Russell

    Thanks for this encouragement today! And I loved how you said that just because you’re not high maintenance doesn’t mean you’re not “no maintenance.”

    • Juanita

      I loved that too. I grew up with a mantra of spending extra time on your looks was not utilitarian, for the spoiled girls with too much time on their hands and with the take home message that your priorities aren’t quite right if you do that (not sure that was the intent but it was the message received). Recently, I’ve had a rare, comprehensive opportunity to do “spring cleaning” on habits and this came up. I love how Kara stated it so eloquently….

  11. Mandi

    This is fantastic!

  12. Eileen

    Thank you for this. I’ve enjoyed your posts so much.

  13. Naomi Byler

    This is wonderfully encouraging, and just what I need right now. Thank you.

  14. Rachel

    Thanks for this.

  15. Ally

    This was great!

    Thanks for sharing the simple non-suppers link too! Whenever my hubby is out in the evening I lose all motivation, but still feel guilty… that had some great ideas.

  16. Beth

    #4…YES!!!! I am by no means a person who has to have 12 spa treatments a week and spend 2 hours getting ready every morning but if I want a pedicure once a month and it makes me feel good, I want to do it without someone saying “Oh it must be nice”. IT IS NICE…that’s the whole point right?

  17. Erica Layne

    LOVED this, Kara. I WISH it always felt simple to live simply, but yes, in this chaotic world it really isn’t.

    And I am all about “the why.” Thanks!

  18. Sarah Westphal

    I absolutely loved this post Kara. You are very encouraging and inspiring. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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