A New Approach to Simple
I’ve started this update three times now the past few weeks, which should tell you a thing or two about it. It’s been on my mind for several months, and it’s birthed from something that’s been gestating for a couple years now:
It’s time to do something else.
(Just so you know right away, I’m not shutting down this site.)
It’s almost as though all the hints I’ve left myself this past year should have clued me in, much less anyone else who could read between the lines. (I only talked about change here, here, and here in just a few months’ time.)
I’ve wanted to hang up the closed sign on this website several times the past two years. Never because I no longer liked it, nor because I wasn’t proud of what all had been built over the course of a decade.
It’s simply because I’ve felt like I’ve said all I could say about the idea of simple living.
AoS is ten years old, which is astonishing to me. When I started, we were living as expats in Turkey, I had a six-week old who, when I nursed, I read up on what it meant to blog. My oldest was not quite three.
Now I’ve got a daughter turning 13 in a few weeks, my newborn turns 10 today, and their youngest brother is 7 1/2. Kyle and I celebrated our 15th anniversary this fall, and after that fifth floor high-rise apartment with a view of the Aegean Sea in urban Turkey, we then lived in five more homes.
We now reside in a lovely small town outside Austin, not far from where I spent my first 18 years, we travel as much as we can, and I pinch myself that I’m privileged to do what I do—write books, drop podcasts, teach classes, and the like.
Things have changed a lot in ten years.
There’s been an interesting full-circle I’ve noticed this past year, with people admitting they miss the good ol’ days of internet publishing, when writers still blogged and readers left mostly thoughtful, respectful comments. People—myself included—have grown weary and suspicious of the benefits of social media, where friends and followers spend more time sharing one-off memes, arguing without listening, and trying to be first to share news so they can Monday-morning quarterback it all.
I miss old-school internet, too, and I’m holding on to hope that there’s still enough of us that feel the same. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram help us connect, but as fine-tuned as they are, they’re still not great places to really flesh out thoughts best formed through longer form.
So, I’ve realized that—at least right now—I don’t really want to shut down the site. Instead, I want to steer it to new places.
It’s the topic of simple living that gives me that painted-in-a-corner feeling.
When I realized/admitted this, my immediate knee-jerk was to start something new—a new site dedicated to something else. Let’s wrap up this site, build a new place, make it totally different! But honestly, that sounds… tiring. A lot of work. And kinda missing the point, really. It’s not like I want to build a completely new house. I’d rather rearrange the furniture, renovate the kitchen, plant new flowers in the garden.
We already painted the walls and hung some new artwork around here when we updated the site design a few months ago. It’s now time to bring new ideas to live here, to water them and watch them grow.
To celebrate this website’s new decade, we’re changing something here that might seem small, but is a game-changer for its next season:
We’re changing the definition of “simple,” at least how its defined in The Art of Simple.
Simple simply means “easy to understand.” But as this site evolved to focus on the idea of simple living, these two words joined to form a phrase that invoked, indeed, fantastic values: living with less, making the most of what you have, and making sometimes unconventional life choices.
I’m obviously still 100 percent a believer in this ethos. I’m still a fan of capsule wardrobes, essentialism, living debt-free, and the beauty of small houses. That doesn’t suddenly go away. I’m not going to delete the hundreds of posts in our archives, and I’ll still suggest my intro course to anyone who comes to AoS unsure of where to begin when they’re desperate to simplify.
But we’re ready to also write and talk about stuff like music, style, history, and technology, as well as still diving into travel, relationships, books, and more. Instead of a blog and podcast about simple living, this will be more a lifestyle blog and podcast for people who value the simpler things in life.
Whether that’s something big, like how to navigate a crisis of faith, or something a bit smaller, like current great picks on Netflix, we want to dive into the stuff that makes up the bits and pieces of life.
Let’s talk about putting together outfits, why global politics matter in our local neighborhoods, how to make real time to read actual books, parenting teenagers and beyond, nerding out on fandom in your thirties and forties, and beyond!
It’s great to simplify our lives… but then, it’s also good to stop and smell the roses. You know—enjoy, contemplate, and live that life.
I’ve been in this line of work long enough to know the wisdom of not making plans too far in advance—who knows how I’ll feel about this site a year from now. But, here are some plans for the next few months, and if we like it (meaning, both us the creators and you the readers), we’ll keep going:
• On The Simple Show, we’re going to shift to deep-dive series of topics, exploring one idea over the course of about a month. We’ll go back and forth between heavier and lighter subjects—navigating a faith crisis, followed by our favorite children’s books, for example.
• The blog will follow suit, pairing essays with podcast episodes for further nuance, depth, and perspective. Not everything we publish will fall neatly into a deep-dive topic—we’ll write about other things here and there as the mood strikes. Because we’re people!
• Because we haven’t suddenly changed, new things we explore will still naturally come from an ethos of caring about the natural world, the need to live beyond a consumer mindset, and the like. I won’t suddenly do sponsored posts from brands I can’t stand behind. It’s simply that we won’t talk about those things as much anymore. We want to make room for other things, too.
Our popular Facebook group, Simple Collective, now has a life of its own, and has become a fantastic place where you guys share your ideas and thoughts on simple living. This will still be a place for this! And we’ll continue to share our many archived posts on the subject there. (In fact, that’s a great place to be if you’re reading this and not in love with this new idea.)
I still love Like Your Life, and will connect on a more one-on-one basis with those of you who enroll in the accountability group add-on next week. (Doing this was a highlight of mine from this past fall.)
I’ll still mostly podcast, but this shift here feels so freeing to me I may actually find inspiration once more to hit publish on a blog post. In the meantime, though, I’m excited to work on a new project, I have another idea for something else, and I plan to make more time for writing fiction.
The best way to keep up with anything we create here honestly isn’t via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram—it’s via email. I send a letter every Tuesday that can be read in under a minute, and it’s a highlight of my work week to write it. Sign up here to get it.
I also write a monthly letter about the art of working from a place of love instead of fear. It’s where I do most of my longform writing these days, instead of blogging (though they’re still not very long). Sign up here to get it. In fact, if you’d like to know more about the behind-the-scenes why behind this decision, you’d like the email. I know I’m usually interested in the more business-y side of things like this.
If you feel disappointed in our shift, please know that, to be honest, this official change is actually rearranging our furniture to match how we’ve already been living here. In some ways, our shift won’t feel that huge, because we’ve already been exploring things beyond what it means to live simply.
We’re mostly just calling things as they are, and officially giving ourselves the permission we’ve always had to publish new things. You need only access our archives to read hours’ worth of content on simple living.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing I’ve learned in a decade of online publishing is this: Authenticity matters more than anything else. If my heart isn’t 100% behind what I create, readers and listeners are missing out on the better side of me, the one that’s waiting on the sidelines to have her turn.
I’m excited for the days ahead.
Next week, I’ll share a new Simple Show episode, and Like Your Life re-opens on Wednesday. It’s a fantastic way to start the year with a clear head and full heart!
p.s. Looking for my New Year’s Eve reflection questions? Head here.
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