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Creating a simple life doesn’t happen overnight

You can’t de-clutter your entire house, find a perfect meal planning routine, and magically achieve family/work/life balance all in one day. Shocker, right? Simple living is a journey. As Tsh talks about in the new Upstream Field Guide, to make your life less complicated, you have to figure out who you are, what you value and then from that, you can craft the life you want.

It’s not an overnight process. It’s not a 30 day process. Meaningful goals and dreams take time to accomplish and changing your lifestyle to fit your values is a journey.

Maybe you don’t need that reminder, but I sure do. Every day, actually. It’s easy to get disappointed that I don’t have an efficient system for this, or I said yes to too many commitments again because I didn’t have my calendar organized.

It’s easy to look at someone like… ahem, Tsh… and feel like her level of organization and “simplicity” is unattainable. But, another way to look at it is that she’s simply five years ahead of me on her own journey of creating a simple life. When I look at it this way, I can then get excited and motivated thinking about how much progress I will have made in the next five years if I continue making intentional choices to create and sustain the habits, routines, and systems that will contribute to the lifestyle I want.

It helps me to think of it like going to college or taking any kind of class. I can’t take 20 classes in one semester. I can’t even take 10 classes in one semester. But, I can take three or four classes in one semester. I can take one bite at a time.

As a pregnant working mother, I should probably think of that more like one or two classes. But, that’s still progress. I can know that in five years, I will have made some of the significant lifestyle and habit changes that bring more simplicity and peace to my life.

For me, this has been the first time in a very, very long time where I’ve truly felt like I’m not in survival mode and I can be more intentional about the big picture and how to make small steps now to reach the bigger life-simplifying goals. I’ve been actively working through forgiving others to let go of internal clutter, healing from the trauma of my divorce, am no longer in the daily-drowning-extreme-survival-mode of single parenting and have gotten over some of the initial hurdles of being married again and having a blended family.

I say all that to acknowledge that there are so many different seasons of life, and you’ve got to be honest with yourself about where you are in your circumstances and your emotional health when you endeavor to “simplify your life.” Set yourself up for success by setting reasonable goals and not starting a million simplifying projects at once.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t endeavor. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t compare yourself to those who already have a master’s degree, if you’re still in the undergraduate School of Simplicity like me. Be honest with yourself, make meaningful changes, and don’t waste energy on comparison. Just focus on what you can do now, in your own life, to bring more simplicity into each day.

Do you struggle with comparing your level of “simple living” to others? Where are you focusing on making progress to create the life you want in this season of life?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Ellen Marshall

    This is beautifully written and full of good advice. I’ve started simplifying at the beginning of a new ‘season’ of my life which is semi-retirement. The benefits of being organized and simplifying are already being felt. I look forward to more from Crystal.

  2. KK

    Thank you Crystal! I love your words “Be honest with yourself, make meaningful changes, and don’t waste energy on comparison” . I really needed this.

  3. Katherine Willis Pershey

    Such good wisdom here, Crystal! I am definitely susceptible to the temptation of comparison. It helps me to think of the people I look up to – about simple living or anything, really – as mentors. It takes the competitive edge away and allows me to see where they are and where I am without it being a value judgment.

  4. Dona

    I love this article! Thank you for sharing! My husband and I are attempting, at 62 and 67, to do a lot of changing in our lives. Diet is at the top of the list! Our number one goal for 2015 is to get healthy! Thank you for your encouragement that “change” is not a 30 day or quick fix.

  5. Michele

    Thank you for sharing. I am in one of life’s transitions. As a single mom that is soon to be an empty nester, I am in the process of learning to let go, move forward and dream.
    Your words are encouragement.

  6. Dee

    Love this. Very honest and real.

  7. aimee

    Thank you for this post……simple and yet very affective advice. 🙂

  8. Stefania

    It’s so hard for me not to get overwhelmed when I think about all that has to happen in order to reach my end goal of a simple life. Ironic that in the short term it actually complicates life.

  9. Georgia B.

    I, for one, needed this reminder. One thing I am amazed at over the past two years as I tried to simplify my life is how long it has taken and how I don’t even seem like I’m close to being “there” yet. So this is an encouragement. While I find it hard to accept that it could be another three years before I feel like I have achieved the simple life I crave, I’m at least glad to know from others also doing it or from those who have gone before that it is not an overnight thing, so I won’t be as hard on myself that I seem yet so far or like I’ve barely just begun. I don’t usually compare myself to others, but I do get caught up in comparing where I am to where I started and to where I’d like to be. When I have the right {most realistic} time-frame in mind, that comparison becomes less suffocating and more freeing. Right now I’m focusing on making progress in my physical surroundings. I tend to feel like I can’t simplify other areas when there is physical clutter around me that clouds my ability to think and streamline the other areas.

  10. Liisa R

    It is interesting how my definition of “simple” changes according to the season I’m in. A few years ago gardening seemed simple and was truly joyful and life-giving. But the last 2 years in a new desert climate have been really frustrating and not much fun. I decided that simple for this next stretch of going to law school looks more like NOT gardening and getting my produce from an area farm that delivers to my house. I can tend to get really stuck on what is simple for someone else or what was simple for me in the past but I’m learning to hold it all loosely and let go of different elements according to where my heart is. Very freeing. I think simplicity can look lots of different ways and is much more fluid than I originally thought… more of a state of mind than having to look any particular way.

  11. Jamie Morphew

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for these words! Just what I needed to hear.

  12. Lori

    This is so true! When I first found Tsh’s Organized Simplicity book, I followed all the steps and had fun with that part of decluttering and simplifying our home. I loved reading Simplicity Parenting and incorporating many of those ideas into our parenting. This year I have FINALLY tackled meal planning, shopping, exercise, and budgeting, and you know what? It was simple! But it wasn’t simple before because I wasn’t ready for it.

  13. Marriage Counselingalt

    Thanks for giving your advises and selecting this topic. Absolutely great points, I really like your one point that “be honest with yourself, make meaningful changes, and don’t waste energy on comparison”. The Marriage Counseling Alt is here to provide you traditional marriage counseling, expert advice and much more to fix your marriage.

  14. Karen C

    Great word! We’ve just made a major life change and i’ve been slow about thinking about goals for this year (yes into February!), mostly purposefully because i know i want everything to be ‘more normal’ now and i want to achieve this and that in our new life and location. So, as I am starting to put some things on paper this week, i really appreciate the reminders of life stage, season, emotional ability and reasonable goals. Thanks!

  15. Lorrie

    Such wonderful words. Thank you.

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