What Downton Abbey and Myers-Briggs taught me about living simply

It all started with Downton Abbey and the internet. You see, I happened upon this post in which the author created a brilliant infographic lining up each character from Downton Abbey with a Myers-Briggs personality type.

I’ve taken some form of the Myers-Briggs test at least 4,092,726 times in my life, but who can remember a bunch of letters? Not me. So every time I’d read something about the test…I’d take it again because I couldn’t remember what I was.

Until this week.

Apparently, I’m Anna or some sort of weird hybrid between Anna, Sybil, and a little bit of Mary. Now that? I can remember that.


As I read more about my ENFP personality, I learned that I can get really excited about things and fall into a perpetual cycle of trying new things and not finishing the…

Or I can take on way too much, simply because itallsoundssoveryinteresting.

And then, there is my life motto: “Do as little as possible, as well as possible.”

See? They don’t jive.

The Personality vs Life Motto Smackdown

But regardless of how anti-Kat it is, I am determined (at some point in my life) to become a woman of excellence and white space. I dream of being someone who does things well and creates space in my life so that I can be successful in the core things that matter most to me, and yet have enough grace and energy to carry other people’s burdens.

But right now, I look like an airport valet transporting luggage for a family of 6 chronic over-packers on a ski vacation at Christmastime.

So, for all my ENFP friends (and everyone else), how do we live simply?

1. The first step, for me, has been to avoid excuses. I could say it’s not my personality. But then I could also say that my muscles aren’t naturally strong – no, I need to push them to make them that way. In the same way, I need to exercise my character to strengthen it.

2. Evaluate opportunities. I measure each new opportunity against my motto and my life mission statement.

3. Limit Projects. I “try” to limit myself to 3 projects at a time. Obviously, this is kind of arbitrary considering all the various facets of life, but if I have more than 3 big things fighting for space in my brain, I know it’s time to scale back.

4. Measure relationships. If I’m feeling a strain in my relationships with my husband, my children, my friends or with God, then I know I’m probably overloaded and need to simplify.

A Success Story

It’s an ongoing process, but I’ve seen some wonderful growth in the past couple of years. In fact, just last year, for no particular reason, I felt that I needed to step back from traveling and speaking for all of 2013. So, for the first time in several years, I didn’t fly anywhere or take on any new speaking engagements.

I didn’t really know why I was doing it at the time, but I know now…

This year has unexpectedly been the most challenging and busy work season my husband has ever encountered. I can’t imagine what our lives would have been like if I hadn’t intentionally stepped back to create white space for our home and family. I love that I’ve been able to carry that burden with him, so that he can be awesome at work and feel supported.

The ENFP in me loves the result of living simply.

Because I’m insatiably curious, do you know your personality type? (You can click here to take a 5 minute test.) Share it in the comments. Does your personality make living simply easy or hard?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Karin

    I am an INFJ, which makes me a Mr Bates. I find living simply easy in some aspects (I have zero troubles letting things go out of my house – we downsized our possessions by about 50% this summer with an out-of-state move, and keep on editing). But in other aspects it’s harder that I like to admit (trash-reduction for instance). As far as family activities, we have 1 vehicle and 3 kids (ages 9, 6 and 3) and the 2 older ones, my girls, have 1 activity each outside of school, and presently, it’s even at the same time, at the same place! I’ll keep it at 1 extracurricular activity per child.

  2. kimmie

    ISFJ. Ugh. I’m such a “mom”.

  3. Lisa K

    I am an INFP – we are almost exactly the same! I knew there was a reason a liked you! πŸ˜‰

  4. Anna

    I am an Anna too which makes it dead easy to remember as it is my given name. I think that that. Limiting to 3 things may be key for me, not say tho. I need to pin this post and refer to it often. Thanks loads you are fab.

  5. Crystal

    I’m a “Lord Grantham” πŸ˜‰ And I’ve completely adopted your “do as little as possible as well as possible” life motto lately and it is life-changing. You’re awesome πŸ™‚

  6. Lori

    I’m a “Lord Grantham” – and as a mom 3, being a protector is about as accurate as you could get! Enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing! ~lm

  7. The Nester

    INTJ here. Always the villain. Always.

  8. Emily

    INFJ – it’s easy to live simply because I don’t get bogged down by details! I’m a big picture type person.


    ENFP….. Need to quit making excuses! and as Nester puts it ….to “uncomplify” my life!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  10. kelly

    I am ISFJ…Lord Grantham.. and actually never even seen this show….YET…my kids got hooked with my parents and so of course ill try and watch a few episodes just because..

  11. Tarissa

    I’m an ISFP, an Edith. Which is so interesting, because she is my least favorite character. Following her emotions leads her down so many paths where heartache is inevitable. Now I’m wondering – is that what I do? Fun and thought-provoking post!

    • jenn

      Me Too! I think I’ll try to lean more towards INFP. I like Matthew so much better!

      • Tarissa

        Yes, Jenn! I want to be a Matthew, too. πŸ™‚

  12. Breanne

    It’s a toss up between INFJ and ISFJ, but I identify far more with Lord Grantham then Mr. Bates and you are right, that’s a way easier way to remember.
    I need to apply the 3 big projects to my life, that sounds like a great way to keep it simple and still do stuff.

  13. Alaina

    I am ESFJ. πŸ™‚

    • Lindsay

      πŸ™‚ Me too! (I’ve never taken this test before.)

  14. Ashley

    Oh my goodness! I’m definitely a fellow ENFP, desperate to find peace and balance but tragically impulsive and afraid of “missing out”. What a fabulous pep talk! This was one of my favorite posts πŸ™‚

  15. Andie

    INFP~”Matthew.” I’m just like you in that loving to start things but never getting to fini

  16. Angela

    Wow – this post soooo hit home! I’m an ENFP and have struggled all my life with being torn between wanting to do this, that and the other. Then I attempt to do it all and fall flat on my face. Or having some big idea and then getting off course because something else caught my attention and never completing what I originally started (just ask my husband about all the unfinished projects around the house). Definitely lots to ponder in your post.

  17. Raynel

    I have heard Tsh and the rest of you talk about Myers Briggs so many times on the podcast and was always fascinated, but I just finally took the test after reading your post. ENFJ. Now I am reading descriptions of that personality type, and it seriously fits. But, it also makes me Sybil.
    Simplifying my home comes easily to me – I’m organized and tend to go on purges regularly just to feel in control again. But I have trouble simplifying my life, because I always end up with too many commitments (multiple Bible studies at a time, saying yes to helping with everything, etc). I guess that fits with ENFJ as well.

  18. Angela

    I sooooo relate to this post (and it doens’t hurt that I’m a huge Downton fan either πŸ™‚ ). I’m an ENFP who constantly struggles with taking on way more than I could possibly handle because it all ‘looks so fun.’ But my husband will tell you that it has definitely taken its toll on me this past year. Thanks for giving me some concrete guidelines to consider as I move forward and try to simplify (and finish all those unfinished things too).

  19. Janey B

    This is fun ISFJ, so I am Lord Grantham!

  20. Kate

    INTJ here. I can’t say I don’t enjoy Thomas and O’Brien’s scheming.

  21. Franziska

    I finally took the test. Was on my to do list for a long time πŸ™‚ INFJ… my husband guessed it in about 2 seconds πŸ˜‰

  22. Jo

    I’m ENFP as well, or a 7 on the Enneagram (which is awesome, by the way). I have one 18 month old and one on the way in 3 months and I’m dreading the return of more limits, less capacity for projects and more at home with small baby time, so I’m sure it’ll be a growth opportunity for me to simplify and just be in the moment more, rather than planning, planning. I’m way extraverted so too much alone time makes me cranky, unmotivated and sad. But I’m pumped to start watching Downton Abbey which I clearly need to get onto! Breastfeeding viewing for sure!

  23. Jenn (student mom)

    I am predominantly Mrs Grantham with a bitod Sybil throw in.

  24. Shelby

    ENFJ! Woohoo, Syb’s my favorite. It is interesting, I wonder how much this sort of thing lines up with the path we pursue.

  25. chandru nadi

    Such a lovely post, Written simply and tastefully. It’s pleasant to read. Thank u.

  26. nifsindia

    nice story.thanks for posting…

  27. Amy

    I am Mrs. Hughes! I have taken this test before and it always strikes me as funny that I shouldn’t work in a profession that requires interaction with others- but I am a teacher! Hahaha

    I see a problem and work to fix it immediately, am not very sympathetic, and can analyze anything and everything.

  28. Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity

    I love the idea of “White Space in Life” – thanks for the thoughts and the shout-out on the chart. I’m glad it helped sort things out!

  29. Bet

    I’m an ISTJ (Carson). I think my personality type makes it relatively easy to live simply. I’m rarely tempted to over-commit and I leave as much room as possible for down time in my schedule. That’s easier now that we’re empty- nesters, but I managed to do it while raising 5 kids– most of the time!

  30. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Awesome, have been wanting to do a wuick MB test since hearing your love of it via your podcast. Finally did it! I’m an ESFJ. A quick test, yes, but sounds spot on from reading the description haha. Lady Grantham all the way!
    Heidi xo

  31. Jessica

    Another ISFJ here, so sam as Lord Grantham in Downton and apparently Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter, I’m happy with that! Only recently did the test myself and was surprised at how accurate it was about me, I’ve always been a tad skeptical of these tests, but it was actually rather insightful!

  32. Miasma

    This is so funny. I just took the Myers Briggs test about a week ago and just started watching Downton Abby. I’m an INFJ. Totally Mr Bates. Keeping life simple has taken a whole new perspective for me since developing insomnia. I’m exhausted all.the.time. We keep things VERY simple or else I just can’t handle anything.

  33. Jennie C.

    INTJ here, and I say, what’s the point of doing things that are easy? πŸ˜‰

  34. Julie

    INFJ…every time I take the test. We’re supposed to be the rarest type, but my daughter is INFJ, as are several of my friends. I simplify my life because I must in order to survive. Today it was the herbs and spices…I threw out the old and replaced only what I regularly use. But my books…they’re another category…like my friends…

  35. Domi

    INFJ – I am a creative person and pretty laid back on some things (gatherings, deadlines,, finishing things) and rigid on others ( Values, Principles, OCD-like organiztion, Concrete plan and scheduled activities)! I like having meaningful relations with a few people But I need to be alone to recharge at the end of the day too. I also feel other peoples emotion like they are my own, putting myself in their place but that doesn’t stop me from being objective. Huh, I’m completely contradictory!!! No wonder my husband is confused! : )

  36. Tonita

    I’m Rose…but that’s not me at all. My problem with the questions is so often my answer is different depending on the situation they apply to. I’m more of a mix of Anna and Sybil. Oh well!! I’m most defiantly not the life of any party. πŸ™‚

    • Tonita

      Oh and a little of Edith…

  37. Kelly @ Love Well

    I’m a fellow ENFP, so naturally, I get this with every fiber of my being.

    Like you, I find that outside circumstances are the surest path to me learning to live simply. I’ve been a SAHM for the past 13 years now, which was the opposite of my life dream when I was in my 20s. But I have ENJOYED it (something ENFPs excel at), and necessity has taught me to prioritize, create margin and remember that every yes is a no to something.

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