***This is the first installment in a three-part series about simpler living.***
A Simple Life
“Simple living” is a trendy topic these days. It seems that everywhere I look, I see some variant of this catch-phrase thrown around in the media to lure us in with the promise of making life “simple.” You know what I’m talking about: the magazine headline announcing a way to make your day stress-free in 5 easy steps, the talk show guest sharing her secret for decluttering your house, the TV commercial suggesting that you, too, can attain peace and serenity if you purchase that yoga DVD.
Most of us know there’s no one product we can buy, no single act we can perform to make life “simple,” and yet we still listen to, and still sometimes buy into, the hype that is being marketed to us because we are just that desperate to attain a more “simple” life.
This desperation should come as no surprise, considering how overextended we, as members of our modern society, are. Our culture places so much emphasis on productivity, money, prestige, and consumerism that we waste huge amounts of our time, money, and energy simply trying to keep up with the pace of the life we’ve created. And worse yet, trying to keep up with the Joneses, too. Heck, it’s tough enough just keeping up with the impossible schedules and obligations we’ve committed ourselves to, yet most of us still aspire to add even more to our plates. To say we put a lot of pressure on ourselves is a huge understatement.
For women, that pressure can be even more intense. We play many roles on a daily basis, and we often hold ourselves to unattainably high standards. We expect ourselves to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, friend, neighbor, daughter, and member of the community – all at the same time. We exhaust ourselves trying to do it all, compare ourselves endlessly to everyone else, and beat ourselves up for not achieving utter perfection. We know that logically, it makes no sense to expect perfection, and yet we do it anyway.
Just thinking about how exhausted we are is exhausting, not to mention depressing. No wonder so many of us are desperately looking for a way to break the cycle and escape the rat race.
And here’s where simple living comes in.
Those two little words conjure up refreshing images of new and invigorating things: a reprieve from all of the crazy and unnecessary complexities that we’re used to, replaced instead by more fulfilling uses of our of time, money and energy.Sounds nice, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds… perfect. A perfect life. Ah, maybe that’s why so many women have bought into the hype and are striving for this “simple life” – there’s that irresistible pull toward the ultimate manifestation of perfection.
So how do we attain this tantalizing Utopian life? There’s a simple answer: we don’t. “Simple living” is not “perfect” living, because a “perfect” life just does not exist. There are always things beyond our control that prevent us from achieving perfection. Even attempting to pursue a “perfect” life is a waste of time. It it absolutely necessary to accept that as truth before we can begin the journey toward a “simple life.”Well, that explains what “simple living” isn’t, but what is it?
At its core, simple living is about getting back to the basics of what is fundamentally necessary
, not just for survival, but also for the health and satisfaction of all family members in all areas of life
. It’s also about recognizing what is not
contributing to the health and satisfaction of each family member and cutting out
anything getting in the way.(One thing to note
: Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive, but “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy” or “cheap.”
Sometimes addressing the needs of the family members involves more
time or money or effort than what is currently being done.)The most important thing to realize is that simple living looks different for every person or family
because we all have very different, very individual needs and values. There is no one-size-fits all solution!
- For one family, simple living might involve homesteading in a remote location, growing all of their own food and living a sustainable life in every possible way, and homeschooling. That’s great – as long as this family’s lifestyle and choices reflect the needs and values of each family member.
- For another family, simple living might mean foregoing a car in favor of taking public transportation, buying produce grown at a local organic urban garden. Again, that’s great - as long as this family’s lifestyle and choices reflect the needs and values of each family member.
- And for yet another family, simple living might just mean cutting back on a few after-school activities to ease an overloaded schedule, spending more time playing outdoors, periodically de-cluttering the house, and having one home-cooked, sit-down meal each week. That’s great, too - as long as - you know what’s coming!- this family’s lifestyle and choices reflect the needs and values of each family member.
Simple living doesn’t require you to go to extremes, or to throw away all of your personal belongings, or to eat only certain foods, or to raise your kids following a particular philosophy. It just requires you to identify the needs and values of your family and to consciously live in accordance with them.
***Stay tuned for Part 2 of “The Journey Toward a Simpler Life,” which will introduce the idea of a “simpler life” and present a strategy for starting on your own Journey Toward a Simpler Life.***