I can’t write about simple living when life isn’t simple.

The other night, I was sitting with my husband on a shaded patio in the hot Texas evening. Oscillating fans stirred the air around us and covered us with a light, cool mist as we sipped frozen margaritas and chatted.

We were on a much-needed date—it had been far too long. I commented on that fact out loud as we sipped, and he agreed, then added, “Lately it seems like we say that every time we go out.”

“We say what? That it’s been too long?”

“Yeah.”

I nodded in agreement. “Yeah.”

When life isn't simpleThere have been seasons in our marriage when we stuck to a near-religious schedule for our date nights, sacred both on our calendar and in our budget. Other seasons, things are more chaotic. We’re definitely in a chaotic season right now.

I licked the salt on the rim of my glass and took another sip. I could feel beads of sweat running down my back, despite the shade and the misting fans. Texas summer is no joke.

“It’s also been too long since I’ve written anything,” I said.

“I know,” he said pointedly, eyebrows raised.

“Well, I have a post due for the Art of Simple next week, but I don’t know what to write about. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, I don’t even know if I remember how. But also, how the heck can I write about simple living when our life is so complicated?”

Shaun smiled at me across the table. “That’s what you write about.”

“What do you mean?”

He repeated, “That’s what you write about. How can you write about simple living when your life isn’t simple?”

I stared blankly at him for a moment, then began to nod. Okay. I think I get it.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the past year has been the very hardest one of our family life. Since last September, we’ve walked through at least seven or eight separate circumstances that each, on their own, could be considered anywhere from stressful at the least, to devastating at the worst.

It’s like this: have you ever been playing in the ocean and gotten knocked over by a wave that you didn’t see coming? You’re tossed and tumbled in the wave…you can feel its pressure and its pull washing over you and holding you down as you fight to figure out which way is up, to get your feet back underneath you and get your head above water.

And just as you finally emerge to draw a breath and wipe the salt water from your stinging eyes, what happens? The next wave comes along and knocks you off your feet again.

That’s what the past year has felt like—over and over and over.

We all go through seasons of chaos, seasons of peace, and everything in between.

Our circumstances are much better now, thank God. But after a year like ours, there is no getting “back to normal.” We have to find new normals.

When life isn't simple

And we’re still getting there. Things are still more complicated than I would prefer. And I’m not really sure when—or if—that will change. I’m trying to figure out how to make peace with that, and still continue to “live simply, so that others may simply live,” as we say here at the Art of Simple.

So I don’t have any words of wisdom today.

Sometimes, life isn’t simple. How can I write about simple living when my life isn’t simple? All I can really do is tell my story, listen to yours, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other and encourage you to do the same.

If you’re in a hard, complicated, decidedly non-simple place in your life, know that you’re not alone.

If I could, I’d sit with you and we could share a cup of coffee—or some frozen margaritas, if you prefer. Salted rims optional.

33 Comments

  1. Jodie

    Thanks so much for sharing honestly, Katie. I love this post. It enabled me to breathe out.

  2. Janie Fox

    I knew this was you before I saw your name and pic! Everything was spot on about the last year, particularly about “finding a new normal”! I love your writing. And here’s to a better year from this day forward!

  3. Sharon

    In hard/busy/complicated times, I find that it is about making little things simple. Like using paper plates because you forgot to run the dishwasher, giving a gift card because you just didn’t have the time to shop or come with a great gift idea etc. I think it is about bringing simple in small doses where you can.

    Love this post!

  4. Seana Turner

    There are definitely seasons of life. It is the same with organizing, which is my field. Many times people are quite organized and keeping things in order, and then they knocked off by a life event (illness, job change, relocation, etc.) Rather than beat ourselves up, we should acknowledge the change and its impact, and then do exactly what you said – find a new normal. Also, it is helpful to talk with older people who can put our chaos into perspective — they have great wisdom on the seasons of life issue.

  5. Paula

    Yes!!! I LOVE this blog and the podcast, but with what’s go my on in my life, I am usually thinking, is life really that simple?
    Sometimes it’s not, but it is nice to remember times where it was and hope that it might be once again.

  6. Meg

    Thank you for this. I really needed to hear it today. It’s been a few years of wave after wave, and I’m prepping for a meeting in 30 minutes that has the potential to be another. It’s not simple. It simply *is.*

  7. Carrie Willard

    I think we all feel this way from time to time. Sometimes complicated comes and finds us and attacks us even as we try to fight it back. And sometimes things get messy for a time before they can get simple again. (Like cleaning out the hall closet!)

  8. Tsh Oxenreider

    Thank you for writing this, Katie. I know it’s an encouragement to quite a few readers out here… Glad you’re my friend. XO

  9. melissa hirshburg

    So much grace in this post. As I drank my coffee this morning, your writing brought me some needed comfort. Thank you.

  10. Anna

    So good! I’ve had a season like that where it feels like the waves keep coming. Fortunately, we are past that now, and like you, we are finding our new normal. Life isn’t always as simple as I would like it to be, but we do what we can to simplify. We have been trying to make once a week date nights. The thing that is working best for us right now is sitting on the porch talking while the kids watch a movie. It’s free, easy to plan, & it’s working for us.

  11. Gail

    Is there ever a “normal”? Even without major bumps or tragedies, life always changes. We get married and find the normal as a couple. Then a baby is born and another normal is found. And so one, until your children have started their own lives. And the new normal for empty nesters is not the same normal that the newlyweds had. Enjoy the good things; deal with bad with grace and fortitude. Live, laugh, and love.

  12. Kathy

    In a complicated world and life, sometimes simple is just putting one foot in front of the other and surviving until life gets better. And it also means finding gratitude in the little things that seem minor but add up to joy during day to day living. Sometimes that just has to be enough.

  13. San

    Yup. This happens to all of us – sadly – at one time or another. The scariest thing is to find the new normal after turmoil. It’s not easy.

  14. Kathy McClelland

    Loved this. Three years ago my baby was born with medical complications and severe special needs. No matter how hard I try, my life will never be simple. I long for simplicity and can find it in small spaces in my life, but mostly without sacrificing things too important to us as a whole it’s just not my life. Thanks for your honesty.

  15. Becky

    Thank you. I needed to hear this. I’m in a season where nothing is going according to plan and sometimes it’s hard to remember that this upheaval won’t last forever.

  16. Tracy Davis

    Thanks for your honesty! I’m just beginning my simplifying journey, and life does not cooperate at times.

  17. Anne

    One of the best posts ever! I understand how you feel as I’ve had after wave for three years now. I’m taking it day by day during the worst of it and clinging to the bits of light and grace as it comes along. Honestly, I have a difficult time accepting a new normal but I’m hoping and praying for strength to accept. I’ll be praying for all of us. Thank you for your words.

  18. Rebecca

    These thoughts were truly a blessing. I simplified my life almost 10 years ago–I wanted my days to be about people–not things, or activities. I forgot to factor in just how complicated people can be!

  19. Cris

    I can relate. Last December I got a small wave tattoo on my foot to remind me that I’ve gotten back up after every wave that knocked me down over the last two years. From health problems to losing my dad. The power of the ocean is a perfect analogy.

  20. Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life

    Thank you for sharing! Life has been falling around me in patterns that aren’t recognizable anymore. And there are times where I feel like I’m failing at this life thing. But in reality, it’s about remembering that changes are inevitable and everyone has the same rollercoaster ride.

  21. Cherie

    I am right there with you, wave after wave. But because of my faith I get up in the morning and do my best with what I can. Job hunting is no joke today and I’m grateful for what I have. I hope to see a rainbow after the next wave of events.

  22. Carla

    Loved this. Thank you for your open-hearted honesty.

  23. Leigh

    This felt like getting a hug. Great post Katie.

  24. Alyssa

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I think we sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves to live simply that when life gets out of control we, feel as if we’ve failed to live simply.

    It’s true that there are seasons to life and we do the best we can, where we are, with what we’ve got.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    I hope your new normal is filled with love and joy.

  25. Katie Fox

    Hi everyone,

    I’m traveling this week without much computer access so I can’t respond to each comment, but I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve read each one as it came into my email. I’m so glad this post resonated with so many of you. I was a little nervous to hit “publish” – but now I am so glad I did. Blessings be upon each of you. 🙂

  26. Courtney

    Lovely post and I’m glad your husband could pose as your inspiration this week. Your patio sounds like a great place to connect and find the calm in the chaos. I hope you both do find more time for it.

    I’m in the midst of probably the most chaotic time in my life and it’s been wave after wave for 2 years now. We’re currently standing before a tsunami where it seems time has stopped and all we can do is stare. The next couple of weeks are crucial and all I can do is sit helplessly and hope for the best.

    Let’s hope we can all come up for air very soon. xo

  27. Leah

    Thanks for being so transparent Katie. At times, I think I feel guilty when our lives are in such chaos. Sadly, our lives hadn’t been simple for far to long. Things had become so far off what we desired, that we did not feel like we could even find our new normal in our current circumstances. After years of such chaos, our family decided to kinda jump off the bridge and take a four month family sabbatical. We needed time together to reestablish our commitment to our God, our marriage and our kids. It was our way of trying to get our priorities in order. It has been amazing, exciting and hard too (kids are still kids when on the adventure of a lifetime). As we prepare to truly find our new normals and return “home”next week (which we do not really have since we sold our place before we left), your message here is a great reminder that we are not alone in trying to live well (even if not simply) in the chaos. At times, that can simply mean being honest, aware and continuing to thrive where we are at now. Praying you and your fam do come up for air very soon!

  28. ONLYWHATSESSENTIAL

    This is a beautiful post. I started my own ‘simple living’ blog earlier this year and then life got complex and I’ve found it hard to keep doing with it. The ocean analogy is excellent and what I needed to hear. Enjoy your margaritas x

  29. Kristal

    This was very moving. It kinda sounds like my 2015 year. One tidal wave after another. But today I look back and see, much like the tidal waves shape and smooth the rocks in the ocean, so the storms of last year did the same in my life. I trust that once the storms have passed you too will look back with gratitude for the way that they shaped you.

  30. Krista

    Thank you for just being real, Katie. Your words are appreciated. xo

  31. Wellie

    I’ve found that as I’ve moved to a more “simple” existence it’s actually a lot more work than it was when I did everything the “modern” way. Laundry takes twice as long or more when I have to hang it on the line and wait for it to dry. If I cook instead of getting take out, I have to take the time to grocery shop, prep & cook the food, and then wash up after. And so on and so forth. It’s worth it, and the slowing down is incredibly freeing in its own way, but I’d never categorize the “simple” life as “easy”. I hope things continue to get better for you!

  32. Sherri

    I almost cant believe I found this blog. First your bumps in the road hit home and then this was the grand slam. Oh how I hear you and felt every word in my inner most being. I told my husband we werent alone! 🙂 hugs to you.

  33. Olivia

    Thanks for sharing.

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