Catching up on simple pleasures this morning. I woke, again, to the purrs of our little Milly next to my pillow. Always a joy to hear that soft little vibration, and feel her tiny cold-wet nose and whiskers brush against my cheek, rousing me back to consciousness following a deep night’s rest.
As my eyes adjusted to the early morning light, I noticed a rosey glow around me and turned to face the window. I was immediately taken by the majestic sky before me and jumped from bed to snap a few photos. Just gorgeous. God’s simple gift to start my day in gratitude.
It lasted only briefly as the sun lazily rose in the sky, but long enough for me to breathe the cold morning air deeply into my lungs and open my heart and mind to a fresh new day laid out before me.
I couldn’t help but pause to give thanks for the amazing beauty of this fresh morning slate. And a simple two word phrase quickly came to mind, “But God…” There is no worry, struggle, or challenge I will face today, followed by those one syllable words, that I will not have the strength to overcome.
So, I look forward, setting my eyes on my goals and knowing that there will be more beauty in my day if I am aware and open myself up to receive it. The simple joys in life that can be missed if we are not intentional about slowing down and seeing the small pleasures in our day.
Slow your pace. Be intentional in your plans today, and each day. Make it a habit to look up and notice what’s around you. Really see it. What is right outside your front door today?
We can move through life so quickly on our personal missions, driven by our to-do list, obligations, and responsibilities. But God…
“From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.”
Psalms 50:2 NLT
Being grateful for what you have in life is one of the easiest (and best!) ways to simplify. When you are genuinely happy with what you have, no matter how much or how little, you will find that you live with true contentment.
On this Thanksgiving Day, pause for a moment and think about the blessings that have been bestowed upon you. Jot them in your journal, giving thanks for the simple things that bring you joy.
The joy of a beautiful, frost-covered morning.
A soft kitty nuzzling me awake as I snuggle down deeper into the warm blankets.
Quiet, peaceful time to study my Bible and reflect on God’s goodness.
Watching my daughter become more graceful and confident as she dances on her Pointe shoes.
A hot, steaming cup of coffee to soothe me into a more wakened state.
A dear friend to share in my health and fitness quest.
Talking to my husband about our plans for the house and what projects to start next.
Knowing my mom is rising early to cook us all a lovely meal today.
Reaching the ability to have much contentment in the small things.
After revealing a bit about our spending habits, (in my previous post Spending Significantly Less) it makes sense to think about what our true priorities are. Not what the world dictates that they sihould be, but what matters most to you deep within your heart. If you delve in to find that your biggest and only priorities are sustenance, a few articles of clothing, and a roof over your head, congratulations! You are already a true minimalist and need to read no further. But seriously, creating a simpler life does not mean that you must let go of quality of life.
You can have things, you can do things, and you can dream and reach goals while leading a simpler life style. You may want to pause here and jot down in your journal what you know to be some of your personal priorities. Mine look like this (in no particular order):
My faith: My faith is a tremendously important factor in who I am. In my belief system, my moral compass, and the spiritual family I have been blessed with in my church and growth group there.
My family: My days revolve around the needs and desires of my immediate family. I love them intensely and feel the pull to do so much more for them. I truly want to focus more on doing fun things with my hubby, and nurturing that delicate relationship with my teenage daughter. (And don’t even think of doing anything to cause my Mama Bear to come out!)
Hospitality & EncouragementofOthers: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to honestly have an open door policy with no worries of your stuff embarrassing you? This is my number one goal for simplifying our home. I want my family to feel ensconced in peace when they are at home. I want to be able to have anyone, at anytime, stop at our house and be warmly welcomed and invited in to sit down and chat awhile. I want our home to be a refuge and a safe place for kids to hang out, and neighbors, friends, and family to relax, feel welcomed and catch-up.
Finances: Well, you already know that I am not fond of this subject. But some things that are really important to me here are spending locally, buying with less packaging, gardening to provide a supplemental food source, cooking and baking more from scratch, and learning more ways of sustainability.
Health & Wellness: Sigh. I definitely need to spend more time taking better care of myself and feeding my family healthy meals. More organization, and planning, would go a long way in this area!
Our Home: What can I say? This one’s a biggie! This is by far the greatest obstacle to reaching my goal of a simple life. For those of you that are not aware, we made quite a downsize in our home about 4 years ago. This happened quickly and a lot of baggage (from a much larger space) came along with us to our small and cozy home, without a chance to really go through it. Oh. My.
My Work: Over the years I have spent my “life away from my family” by putting my efforts toward work at a non-profit organization. Though I still would not choose to work if I didn’t have to, it has evolved into something I can truly be proud of. Working in a non-profit that serves kids, we are making an undeniable difference in their lives. There has been considerable change, and growth, in me, as well, as I welcome new challenges and opportunities into my days. It has pulled me out of my shy turtle shell, and generated much confidence.
Unfortunately, during this season of life, despite knowing my priorities, I can never seem to stretch myself thin enough and I know I need to simplify further. It takes effort. It is not as easily done as simplifying sounds to be. I find that, like restoring a long neglected home, once you begin to tear down one wall, you find everything else that it effects and the project seems to hinge on so much more.
Simplifying life is much like that. But it’s time to dig in and get serious about our renovation project. For example, last night it was late and I was lying on the couch watching reruns of Law & Order. I thought to myself – I could accomplish so much more if I wasn’t so exhausted all of the time. Immediately I was convicted with the reality that if I went to bed earlier I would have more energy. How could I go to bed earlier with all that needs done? I could plan better. Utilizing my planner and scheduling in time and ideas for things of importance – and going back to it to look at and do what I have written down!
Have you narrowed down the things that are truly important to you? It’s time to break them down further into segments of action that you can begin to work toward. Those items on your list should be receiving regular attention – and if they do – will aid in moving you toward your own goals of simplicity. Let’s renovate!
What do you spend your money on besides food, clothing, shelter, utilities, tithing (if you belong to a congregation of faith), and other necessary personal or household items?
We each have our own ideals and principles for what we cannot, and should not, do without. For many it’s an education to make life better and to do something they love. For some it is travel, a substantial savings, a business, dance or music lessons, or sports for their kids, a homestead, or serious hobby… whatever it is, only you can determine the importance of it in your life and no one else should attempt to do so.
But aside from those things, What else are you sinking your hard-earned cash into? I can think of too many things I spend more than I should on, and I even consider myself to be quite frugal compared to most. I don’t need to have the latest or greatest of anything, and I like what I own to do double duty if possible. I don’t consider myself fashionable. I like sporty or classic styles, I don’t get manicures, or pay for expensive hair styles, treatments or coloring, and I genuinely enjoy the hunt of shopping second hand.
My home is not fancy, in fact it really is pretty simple, despite the fact that there is still much to declutter.
So, I have to ask myself, where does my money go and how does my house keep filling up?
I don’t like to think about spending, saving, or money in general. I definitely don’t really want to write about it. But this I know, my home will never be decluttered without addressing it. Why? Because there are always purchases that can be avoided if I make myself fully aware of my spending habits. So what do I spend on that I could focus on changing? Various things – from the occasional iced mocha, impulse purchases when I’ve had a rough week and feel that I “deserve it,” to fast food in a pinch (too often, I’m afraid), and fun treats from online shopping.
Most of the time I really do have a plan for my purchases, however, and I get better at spending less every day. Especially when all that I have given to charity, recycled, shared with a friend, or thrown into the trash is fresh on my mind! Not to mention the things I’ve unearthed that I’d forgotten I had or just couldn’t find.
Throughout my life I have learned to get by, and be content with, whatever financial season I find myself in. Money truly is not everything.
Actually shopping, for me, is often like decluttering. (Say again?) Yes. Like decluttering. I look at an object and I subconsciously ask myself similar questions as I do when I am purging my closet, garage, or any room in my house. Do I really need this? Will it bring me closer to my goal? Do I have another one like it, or something that can be used in its place? How often would I actually use it? Can I borrow one instead?
And one final thought… I find that with most things, planning ahead is paramount. If I know what I am going into a store for, and stick with just those items, I will save money. If I know I need something and I plan to borrow, I save money. And if I ask myself key questions when I find that I am contemplating a purchase, I will ultimately save money as well.
So, S – Spend Less.
1. What do you spend your money on?
2. What are your spending priorities?
3. What are some unnecessary purchases you know you could cut out?
4. Do you ask yourself questions, not only when you purge, but when you purchase?
5. How can you plan ahead so you don’t splurge?
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
Philippians 4:12 NLT
Today I have taken some time to determine what simplifying our lives is all about. While I am in the throes of minimizing possessions in our home, scaling back my wardrobe, and creating a clearer space at the office, there are many other areas where simplifying is just as important in order to begin leading a more balanced life. It’s not solely about our possessions.
Over the next several weeks I will focus on the below areas one at a time and begin to unpack what each one can mean to you and your family as you consider a simpler lifestyle. So, you may want to keep a journal, notes on your smartphone, a tablet, or however you like to record things for future reference… or not! No homework here, just a place to jot down your personal thoughts and ideas as you consider where you are at in your own life and where you want to be.
S – Spend less.
I – Identify your priorities.
M – Minimize possessions.
P – Plan ahead.
L – Let go.
E – Everything with a place.
“There was not enough land to support them both because of all the livestock and possessions they had acquired.”
Genesis 36:7 NLT
There’s nothing quite so simple as a clean slate. A blank page staring back at me, waiting to be filled with something worthwhile. Something that may inspire someone, give new perspective, or maybe validate someone else’s efforts to live a more minimal lifestyle. But the words don’t come.
I sit and ponder the very idea of why minimalism is so important in my life. What has led me down this path of simplicity, spurring me on to be the best me I can be?
First, I think it is something inherent in me. Not from my mom and dad, or in the way I was raised, but many other things that have come together to mold me into the person that I am. I like to think that in my ancestry maybe somebody somewhere led a joyous life and thrived without a lot of baggage or stuff. Perhaps someone who lived in a small wooded cabin, Irish cottage, or even a humble prairie Soddy. Getting by with only those items they needed to survive and provide for their family. That’s all I really want. Joy in the little things. Life in the people I love. To be humble. More compassionate. Tied less to objects and desires, and impressions, and more to experiences, contentment in the blessings I’ve been given, and the carefree peace and attitude that comes with a greater confidence in who I am.
There’s our culture. The Western World is so driven. So many other nations, and I’m not even talking third world countries here, know how to live with less, take pride in, and great care of, the few useful, worthwhile items they possess. They know how to slow down, socialize and rest.
Not the least of reasons is our own culture. The Western World is so driven, by work, attaining more, and the stressful lives we lead. We watch shows on television depicting real people that can’t let go of their stuff. Even to the point of saving actual trash that they eventually have to climb over to get from place to place inside of their home. Folks that must compulsively buy, everywhere they stop, to fill some void. Or regularly wrack themselves with envy over what their neighbor has, fearing how others will judge them if they do not “measure up” to some high standard in their own minds, which leaves them living in a state of depression and bitterness over what they don’t have instead of simple enjoyment in what they do possess.
I don’t want this struggle to be mine, or my family’s. I want our evenings to stop being about exhaustion, lethargy, and guilt about the things around us that aren’t getting done. And our weekends to stop being about anything but rest and family time. Because we’ve got to cram so much upkeep into such a short amount of time, we are missing out on life as it rapidly passes us by. And we’re not the only ones.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 TLV
One week has passed since I completed my 5 Day Purge. Many things are still awaiting our attention, and will be. Nothing is final. But there is definite movement to keep things going in a positive direction. I made a list of some smaller, or ongoing projects that I can jump in and complete when time allows and I know the declutter must go on. But I am not writing to tell about those areas of my life. Instead, I wanted to share the relaxed pace of our Saturday. A lot is being accomplished, but it is not at the crazy hurried pace that it usually is. I think having fewer items around us, and keeping some clear and usable spaces in our small home this week, has made a notable difference.
For instance, leading up to today, I stayed on top of my planning, created meals that would work for our family, exercised more, got more rest, drank more water, and ate less (and much more healthy) than I had been. I moved about and completed tasks at a more deliberate pace and enjoyed my family, loved ones and friends each day. A welcome change of pace in my uber busy life.
I slept slightly later than I normally do this morning, and as I woke, stretched and listened to the birds singing joyfully. With a smile on my face my feet hit the floor and I peeked out the window to see if our visiting doe was grazing under the apple tree. Then I tossed on some walking gear, harnessed the dog, and took her out for an early morning walk while it was still cool.
Afterward, while enjoying my morning coffee, I read my dovotion and wrote in my prayer journal. Then joined my hubby in the kitchen and made myself a duck egg, toast from a crusty loaf of bread with a bit of local apple butter, and poured another hot cup to enjoy at the table with him. (The same table we played two of those unearthed games at the night before – and as a family, decided to keep one and ditch the other!)
Once I cleaned up the kitchen a bit, and hubby and I had enjoyed a productive discussion about a wonderful, large window we’re going to add to our dining room (I’m all about letting in as much sunlight as possible and bringing the outdoors in!) I made my way out to my perennial gardens to trim roses and remove the dead plants for fall. (Will probably need to get back in there to winterize before November.)
As I trudged my way down over the hill to unload my wheelbarrow, I once again noticed black walnuts dropping from the tree. So I decided to grab a couple of small buckets to go back down and gather them. I recently discovered it this summer growing amongst the other trees and was pleasantly surprised to be able to try our hands at drying tree nuts.
If you have never seen a black walnut in it’s most natural form, they almost look like small green oranges and have a pleasant, surprisingly citrusy, smell. I would have saved some photos of them, and the process we followed, but my husband was already into them by the time I came back up over the hillside. (Maybe next year!) So, for now, the walnuts are spread out over a table drying in the sun and breezy wind.
A fire has been burning out back all afternoon with plans of stoking it to roast a few hot dogs with neighbors tonight, to enjoy a little friendly chatter and catching up.
So will end my day. A day full of margin. Patience, fun, trying new things, getting something done, working hard, planning, and best of all – joy!
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT