You do you (a different kind of spring cleaning)

This year’s spring cleaning series has been a bit of a different one because of my family’s current travels. It’s all good, though, because I’ve really enjoyed writing about this sort of stuff from a different perspective: we’ve talked about minimalist beauty and health routines, a minimalist approach to kids’ toys, and a simple trick I discovered last year to minimize the kitchen insanity (which can also apply to other parts of life).

Next week’s final spring cleaning session will be more conventional—I’ll share my favorite tricks and tips for keeping our home simple(ish), sane(ish), and minimal(ish). Today, though? Let’s talk about our guts. What drives us to make our decisions and convictions.

No doubt, the past seven months have been the strangest we’ve ever lived. I mean, who takes three kids under 10, straps little more than a backpack on their shoulders, and travels the globe in hopes of a slightly (read: understatement) different education for a few months? We do, apparently, and it’s been worth it in every way. Many other people do, too, as we’ve come to discover. In fact, a number of families do this indefinitely (they call this lifestyle “location independent”).

It’s been a fun ride, but both Kyle and I are eager to return to our sense of normalcy—we’re definitely not made for location independence. When we rent a car to drive around a country, we talk about things we rarely get to chat about on public transportation, and the conversation usually falls to When We Return, We’ll… You can fill in the rest with stuff about work, kids’ school, community, personal health, and the like. Planning real life. Because well, we’re made for that, too.

pamukkale
Walking through Pamukkale, Turkey.

Combine this trend of ours with a nonstop, continual stream of (pleasant, well-meaning) comments we frequently get that sing to the general tune of, “I love what you’re doing, but I could never do that,” and it’s all got me thinking about why we’ve made our somewhat unconventional choices.

I get why many people think they couldn’t do what we’re doing. It’s hard—really hard sometimes—to travel with kids for as long as we have. But here’s the deal: It’s worth doing, and it’s do-able, when it’s what you’re meant to do in that season. It just is. Extended family travel is no harder or easier than many other things in life; it’s just one more option.

It reminds me of conversations I sometimes have about homeschooling. A common response when someone hears how we currently handle our kids’ education is, “I admire what you do, but I could never do it.” I smile and nod, because I understand the sentiment (oh believe me, I do), but I silently think, Yes you could. If it’s what you were meant to do right now, you could do it.

I actually think the same thing about traditional schooling. I hear of parents’ needs to fill out reading logs, volunteer for this or that, fight traffic for drop-off or pick-up, meet with teachers for conferences, and handle the general cacophony of a morning where you have to leave at a particular time, and I think, “I admire what you do, but I could never do it.” And of course, I could. (I’ve done it before, and I very well may do it again.) Both schooling options are valid and good, and both have challenges. That’s life.

trainschooling
Trainschooling somewhere in Croatia.

Almost every decision has multiple options to weigh, and they’re usually both hard and easy in some way. Take any fork in the road, and you’ll notice that every direction has some sort of challenge—a shaky bridge to cross, mud to slop through, steep terrain to hike, diphtheria to contract (oh wait, this isn’t Oregon Trail). Everything from schooling options for our kids, to taking a new job or staying where you are, to smaller things like saying yes to an evening out or staying home—all have plusses and minuses.

It’s so simple, but I think we forget this. We freeze with indecision, or we wonder if life would be better if we take that other bend in the road, because we simply forget that nothing in life is perfectly easy and everything has a challenge to it. (Except maybe guacamole—the answer is always yes right there.)

So what’s the solution, then, to making the “best” choices for your family, and therefore eliminating the other options? What’s the number one way to declutter your life’s options and forge ahead with confidence? How do you spring clean your modus operandi?

It’s this: you do you.

tate at breakfast
Tate “distracting” herself while we meet with friends in Kosovo at a fancy restaurant.

That’s it. Such a no-brainer, I know. But honestly, this is why our family is able to take on the challenge of traveling around the world with three kids, why some years we choose to homeschool, why we make a big deal out of birthdays, and why we do family movie night Fridays. We’re doing us.

And it’s the same with your life choices, too. You’re able to have your kids in that school, or live in that town, or take on that position at your office, or whatever, because you’re doing you.

(And if you don’t feel like you know you—it’s not easy to “do” you if you don’t know you, after all—you might enjoy my eight-session, self-paced e-course.)

Here’s the deal: all of us doing us is a beautiful thing. We’re doing who we’re made to be, and we’re confident in who we are. We don’t feel the need to justify our choices. We’re focused on our own yards instead of either criticizing our neighbor for watering hers differently or wishing our grass looked like theirs. We’re in love with the patch we’ve been given to cultivate.

playing in the falls
The kids playing with the EntreFamily kids near Split, Croatia.

So next time you’re weighed down with too many options, too much life clutter, too many question marks about what you should do, remember this: be you. Do you. Honor how you were made with that freeing agenda. It’s what’s kept me going all these months on the open global road. And it’s what’ll keep me returning and steeping in deeply back to “normal life” when the time comes.

watching the park
Our old playground at our old Turkish neighborhood.

You can say no to constant busyness.

To lead your family with peace, you need to know your NOs and YESes. But what are they?

Like Your Life can help you figure them out.

32 Comments

  1. Angela Mills

    I love this! It’s so easy to get caught up in what you see everyone else doing and feel like you’re not doing things the right way, or that you’re not doing enough. This is why I hate the labels we give parents (helicopter, free range, etc.) Let’s all just do us and trust that that’s enough.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Trust that that’s enough – yes indeed, Angela.

  2. Veggie Mama

    My life choices mostly include guacamole 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      As well they should, my dear.

  3. Helena

    I agree. I do what I love to do, except for there’s no other choice. For example: in the Netherlands all kids must go to school, homeschooling is not an option. It doesn’t fit me, but I have no other choice. So that’s easy, I don’t have to overthink it too much 😉

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      You’re totally right, in that sometimes the choice is simply made for us via circumstances. I certainly have a number of those things in my life as well. Thanks for the reminder, Helena.

  4. Maggie

    It’s so true that we end up learning to do so many things we think we could never do. Your kid has food allergies – BOOM – you figure out how to live without the peanuts.
    Good for you and your family for not letting the fear of the unknown stop you from this great adventure. It’s been fun to watch 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Maggie!

  5. Margie

    In Amy Poehler’s book, she had a blurb/section on “Good for her, not for me” as a phrase that all women need to add in to their vocabulary. I loved that concept and the way it relates to this. Not I couldn’t do that, but I’m glad you are choosing it, but I’m not.

    Cup of Jo had some thoughts on the same phrase in a post called Motherhood Mantra that I bookmarked for days when Facebook Envy gets the better of me.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      “Good for her, not for me.”

      Ooh… I so love that, Margie. Her book is on my waiting list at the library, so I’m eager to finally get my hands on it. 🙂

  6. Ellen

    This sort of post is why I love AoS!

    I need to get better at this. My problem actually is that I can imagine doing many of the things that others do ( I was raised in a very can-do homeschool family and I rarely think ‘I couldn’t do that’ – except about getting kids to the bus every day! ;). I end up with idea overload – should we take a trip around the world? Study extra foreign languages? Renovate? Run a day camp? Etc…

    I don’t feel terribly defined by what I do or don’t do – I can see myself doing many things – and as such I have a hard time sometimes knowing which things are really good ideas and which things are ‘me’.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Ellen! I appreciate your being here.

      Sometimes I think the answer to many of my ideas (and I have many!) isn’t necessarily “no,” it’s “not right now.” It might be a good idea of mine, but it’s just not the right time. And yeah, it’s knowing the right time that can be tricky, but the better I know me and how I’m best wired, the better I can gauge what’s truly best.

      Totally get what you’re saying here. 😉

  7. kariane

    I love this! I feel the same way when people tell us that they could never make the same “alternative” choices we’ve made in our lives or in/with the lives of our children. We simply do what’s right for us. And we love it (well, most of the time). 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Right on, Kariane.

  8. Courtney

    I love this: “So next time you’re weighed down with too many options, too much life clutter, too many question marks about what you should do, remember this: be you. Do you.” I couldn’t say it better. One of my favorite mantras is that we live the life we’ve chosen to live. It’s all about choice. My goal for this year (and really the rest of my life) is to choose the life I want and to live it, which to me is ‘retiring’ from the conventional life and choosing days that make me content and happy. Thank you for so elegantly putting that goal into words.

  9. Sarah Williams

    “You do you” is the theme of my life!! This perfectly describes why!
    You are awesome, Tsh!!

  10. Ann Kroeker

    This continues as kids grow, and the pressure some subcultures in the US put on going to college or going to a particular college starts increasing. We have to pass along this value to them, too, and give them the freedom to choose an unconventional path as young adults.

  11. Allie

    Tsh, this is so true. I think most people mean well when they say “I could never do this”, but it does come off badly.

    So… I’ll do me. And enjoy reading about your travels, and while this may not be a dream of mine per se, I’m very happy that you’re doing you :).

  12. Kelsi

    Amen!

  13. Missy Robinson

    I so completely agree! I hate when people say, “I can’t…” or “I couldn’t…” I want to say, Of course you could, if you choose to do so!

  14. Dana

    Love this. My husband and I are learning to do this since we both retired. Before our days were so circumscribed by our (very stressful) jobs. Now that we have the chance to figure what is “Us” and what isn’t. It does mean moving to our own rhythms about what choices make sense for us right now….people make assumptions about what others should do at all stages of life. We have chosen ( for now) not to work but to pursue interest and dreams that we did not have time for previously. For me that is writing and art classes. For him it is woodworking and volunteering to coach soccer and baseball.

    So many people say ” Now that you have the time you should …….”

    I usually reply with ” that’s an interesting idea to think about.” That seems to keep them happy and me off the hook! : )

  15. Sunny

    Beautifully said. Thanks, Tsh.

  16. Traci

    Your post reminded me of a verse I read in Galatians earlier today (in the Message translation):
    “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”
    Gal. 15:25-26
    Yep. Work it out; you do you!

  17. Shelley

    Loving reading about your world schooling experiences. Are you hitting the uk soon? We have some AWESOME sights in Northern Ireland that you should try to see. A welcome committee could be arranged also!!! 🙂

  18. Natasa

    I have been thinking about this very issue lately and your post came at the right moment to remind me that there is no sense in measuring my decisions against what other people do. My husband and I and our 2 children live abroad – we left Europe a few years ago and are now in SE Asia. Friends at home don’t understand why we are not in a rush to return. We have decided to home educate and to live without some comforts that are taken for granted by expats here, so I have had people question my decisions about that too. I started wondering about it all, if we were doing the right thing? Should we do what others are doing, just go with the flow? And the answer is no. We need to do the right thing for us, even if we are criticised along the way. Thank you for writing about this.

  19. Heidi

    thanks for this post! Our family is currently at a crossroads and as we discuss the options, we know that there are pros and cons to each option- there is no “perfect” answer as to what to do next. But a friend encouraged us to consider what we most want to do, because we are choosing between good options. And your blog just reinforced that! It all involves living internationally/homeschooling/sharing love and light with others, but in different ways. I am asking which option is most “us”? How can we do “us” best? Appreciate the encouragement!

  20. Rita

    This was food for my soul! thank you.

  21. Lindsay

    I loved this post! It’s so easy to get caught up in comparison and not live the life you were called to. Having a family mission statement or core values has really helped our family in this area. It’s given us a better idea of who we are and our motivation for taking on some things and letting others go for this season. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  22. Lynnette

    I LOVE this! It is sometimes so easy to get caught up in the riptide of wanting to keep up with the Joneses and temporarily forget who you are and what makes you tick. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Thank you for reminding us that it is better be yourself, regardless of what others are doing. That is where true joy is found.

  23. Michelle

    Love this post. We are also travelling around the world with our kids – 11 year old twins. We’re in our 7th of 9 months away from Canada and I feel like this post came straight from my heart. So true!

  24. Julie

    While I a) don’t have kids, and b) am not currently travelling the world, this post really resonated with me. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time living vicariously through other people’s adventures as THEY do all the things that I would someday like to do. And yet, when forced, I would say that it’s not the right time for me to be having Adventure A. I’m currently having Adventure B (which sometimes doesn’t feel like much of an adventure!). It’s not the season right now for me to do that thing out there. Ignoring the calls from my social media feeds helps me stay grounded in my current adventures, but it’s definitely not easy. Cheers!

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