Redefining simple living: choose your priorities
It is with reserved awe (and just a smidge of weirdness) to let you know that the countdown to my book’s release has begun. Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living is due for release at the end of this month. I’ve said it already, and I’ll continue to say it — this book exists because of Simple Mom readers.
You all have blessed me with a platform for my writing, so thanks doesn’t seem like an adequate word. Having a book published has always been on my “bucket list” of things to do in my life, and I’m astonished that it’s actually happening. Perhaps saying it three times? — thank you, thank you, thank you — will competently express my gratitude.
Not quite, but it’s getting closer.
With my book’s ever-nearing release, my mind has been circling back to the classic, overarching theme here on the blog… simple living. My desire for a simple life was the fuel for starting this blog almost three years ago, but ironically, the concept behind it can easily get a little — well, complicated.
Just what is simple living?
In my book, I devote some space talking about what simple living both is and isn’t. It isn’t a lot of things we presume — living off the grid, or swearing off TV, for example. Simple living could include those things for some people, depending on certain things.
But one thing for sure — the thing that is true for everybody — is that in order to truly live a simple life, you need to choose your priorities. Just like we don’t all have the same interests in music, or prefer the same climate, we can’t all live one pre-determined life and call that “simple living.”
My definition of simple living in the book requires an honest evaluation of all your priorities. And it asks you for a gut-check analysis to determine whether how you’re spending your time actually lines up with what’s truly important to you.
To get your brain percolating on the topic this month, here are some common characteristics that should be true of our priorities. Some are easier said than done. I’m definitely a work in progress on many of these as well.
1. Priorities work towards a greater good.
Okay, so it’s easy to say our priorities should be for good and not for evil (no “taking over the world” then, I guess). But things get a bit fuzzier when we have to choose either spending more on organic produce or saving that money to reach future financial goals. Or through what system our kids are educated. Or whether we take a new job opportunity that also requires a move.
2. Priorities are congruent with your season of life.
Ah, sweet bliss — it’s Finn soundly sleeping. Last night, actually.
Right now, it’s not as much a priority as it usually is for me to rise early in the morning. Finn, my three-month-old, still nurses once per night and thereby interrupts my otherwise good night of solid rest. I’ll take sleep when I can get it.
It is, however, a priority for my husband and I to keep our twice-monthly date nights etched in stone. Our brood of five-and-under offspring sweetly suck the life out of us on a regular basis, and if we’re not careful, we could easily go weeks without a meaningful conversation.
In the future, we won’t have to be as conscious about going on regular, methodical dates because our lifestyles will be freer and the kids can watch themselves. I’m sure we’ll have a different set of priorities by then, ones that are currently not a concern for us.
Priorities look different for different people, but good ones line up healthily with your season of life.
3. Priorities are responsible.
Okay, so I might not love waking up at 4 a.m. to feed Finn, but it’s my job as his mother. Going to work every morning might not be the most fun ever, but if your family depends on your paycheck to eat, then it’s pretty darn important.
Priorities should answer to your responsibilities; they should mature you. It doesn’t make much sense to prioritize reading ten magazine subscriptions if it means there are no clean clothes. Likewise, it’s irresponsible to prioritize staying up late to catch Letterman if it means not getting enough rest for the next day. Or to buy new furniture without first saying up the money.
It might not always be fun to prioritize responsible things, but that’s what grown-ups do.
4. Priorities answer to the important, not the urgent.
Photo by Heidi @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
I’ve written before about understanding the difference between the urgent and the important, and how many times, the urgent can’t be helped (spilled grape juice or serious knee scrape, as examples). But if our priorities aren’t regularly checked against what’s truly important, the urgent will enslave us and suck the life out of us.
Answering the phone at dinnertime — is that important or is it urgent? How about the great sale you just happened upon at Target? Or driving over to school — again — your son’s forgotten homework? Or how about caving in to your toddler’s tantrum just to give your ears a break?
It’s a daily struggle for most of us to clearly differentiate between the two.
5. Priorities speak to your passions.
I love this last one… That if all the above reasons are true, our priorities should speak to that place deep within our souls that cry out for attention. We are each made uniquely and specifically, and our priorities should reflect that. I love writing — it fuels me and lights my inner fire. I can’t not write. I’ve made it a priority in my life to stoke this fire and keep it kindling.
Photo by Lindsey T
I also love being outside, good music, celebrating seasons and milestones, and nesting. As long as these things work toward a greater good, align with my season of life, answer to the truly important, and are responsible, then it’s okay to make them a priority in my life.
Yours will be different, both individually and collectively as a family. You might be in a unique life stage that calls for a certain set of priorities. Your children might have particular interests that dictate some of your priorities. Perhaps even the geography of where you live shapes what you prioritize. And of course, there just might be an innate, God-given passion for something in life that means you cannot not make it a priority.
Knowing your priorities are an essential part of simple living. When I discovered — what I feel like is — the true definition of simple living, it became so much easier to freely say “yes” to those lovely things in life I’ve been called to prioritize, and say “no” or “not right now” to the things that just aren’t so important. And to do so without any guilt.
Next Monday, I’ll share more about what it means to redefine “simple living” in a realistic, reachable way.
What are some of your priorities that speak to your passions? Are you making room for them right now?
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