Simplify For a Slow & Purposeful Life

simplify

Time to pause and think and chat with a stranger in the grocery line. Breathing room to linger over books or watch movies with my kids cuddled under the well-used rag quilt. White space to putter around, preferably in my PJ’s, to prepare simple, real food for my family without rushing out the door, or to enjoy long walks with my husband. Holding hands. A daily rhythm with chunks of time earmarked for creating, connecting, moving my body and sleeping. Plenty of sleeping, please. An orderly, peaceful home environment. Living within our means, free of consumer debt, but with a bit of money set aside for books or occasional travel or art supplies. These are all goals of mine and some of the gifts of choosing to simplify for a slow & purposeful life.

Of course, not everyone desires a slow life but even if you thrive on more busyness than I do, if you are a journalist or surgeon or public speaker or a stay at home mama of many, surely you would benefit from a purposeful life. One in which your actions, spending habits, home environment and relationships truly align with your core values and desires. A general sense of peace that stems from being super clear on WHY you make the decisions you do.

Before continuing I’d like to briefly address the idea of privilege which affords me the freedom to carve out a slower, simpler life. We are a middle-class family in central Alberta, Canada, who pays a third of our income to taxes. We have free basic health-care and an extended health plan. Access to (relatively) clean food and water, libraries and public education – should we choose to use it. So absolutely, compared to most of the world, including my husband’s family, we are in a position of incredible privilege.

I have received a comment which likened me to a parasite, claiming that my lifestyle is only possible on the back of either society (nope, I am not on welfare) or a long-suffering partner (my husband and I make our decisions as a team and my willingness to stay home and bake muffins and home educate, take care of the bills, chauffeur, tend to the emotional and physical needs of our kids, etc. benefit the entire family).

Another commenter asserted that my choices were only possible because of “white privilege.” My African husband who immigrated to Canada at 30 years of age and grew up in poverty thought this rather humorous but another reader pointed out how insulting this assumption was; as though all black people obviously live in poverty and lack.

I have friends and family who are single parents and families where both parents must work minimum wage jobs (or close) to pay basic bills. So their lives are going to look different from mine.

And yet, I still believe that learning to simplify to live more purposefully can help all of us, regardless of precise life circumstances.

People also like to throw out excuses. Justification for why they must live the harried, unhappy existences they do. As if huge vehicle payments, fancy furniture, and trips to exotic destinations are non-negotiable. 3/4 of my best friends have made the decision to live on one income, with a side-gig here or there, while kids are younger because this supported their highest values and family priorities. They shop second hand, at least much of the time, live debt free (apart from mortgages for the most part), live creative, beautiful, inspiring lives. Not perfect, easy lives. Lives that involve sacrifice. And I believe they all model the power of thoughtful choice – the impact of spending time getting clear on who and how they want to be in their lives as opposed to being pulled here and there by shifting cultural values, consumer pressures to buy more or societal messages that we must always be more and do more in order to be happy or “successful.”

Anyways, what are some of the ways that I simplify in order to live a slower & purposeful life?

I Choose a Minimalist Wardrobe

My fashionista sisters and my daughters fall apart at this idea. It is not for everyone, I suppose. But a simple wardrobe, largely grey and black, makes me inordinately happy. Because I have strict maximums on the number of pants, tops, etc. that I own, I do less impulse buying (if something comes in, something else must go out). I add a little color through a cardi or scarves or my impractical but cute orange flats, but I actually prefer darker colors and don’t have to think much about what looks good together. Black and black always match, non? And I am trying to become better at supporting ethically sourced clothing which requires more thought and often, money.

I Menu Plan and Eat Simply

Some Holistic Nutritionists are amazing recipe creators or seem to LOVE spending countless hours in the kitchen. I actually prefer super simple food and plenty of time out of the kitchen. Pots of spicy soup or stew, hearty salad with a crisp baked potato, roast chicken and veggies please me. I am not a gourmet cook. I take shortcuts and don’t measure and my food is never Pinterest perfect. Ever. To simplify further we double up on recipes for leftovers and my husband cooks up steamy pots of Jasmine rice, black-eyed beans, and spicy tomato sauces to keep as staples in the fridge. Real food does not have to be rocket science. Of course I also sometimes burn my veggies because I’m multitasking as I cook so you probably shouldn’t actually follow my advice;)

I Say No to Most Opportunities

I went through an ugly period of burnout. Now, I practice telling people I’ll think about it when opportunities come my way. I have a rule (which I still break often enough much to my chagrin) that I take at least 24 hours before jumping into something because in the moment, starting a new work project, signing up for a new exercise class, or saying yes to a volunteer commitment might sound fabulous. But then I actually have to follow through. Joyfully. I do want to contribute to my community, engage in meaningful work and continue to learn but I aim to pause and consider very carefully before saying yes. After all, we’re surely all familiar with the adage, “every time you say yes to one thing you are saying no to something else.”

I Know My Big Rocks

I am clear on my 3 Big Rocks or major life goals. Every decision I make ultimately leads me closer to or further from these goals, though it is not always apparent at the moment. But this is where regular Life Visioning comes in. Sitting down at a minimum of two times per year to evaluate where I am at and if I need to shift course to better align with my Big Rocks helps me live with greater confidence and peace. Consider this: when you are at the end of your days, what is it you’d like people to speak about you or how would you want your closest circle of family and friends to remember you?

I Love to Declutter

Sadly, I am the only person in my home who loves to declutter. The mere mention of decluttering children’s movies or books or toys- which none of my children have touched in eons, by the way, sends my girls up in arms. They attach such sentimental value to these things so I try to do this in layers, bit by bit. And I allow them to keep some of their favorite books or movies in their baby boxes or rooms. A tidy, decluttered environment (this does NOT include their bedrooms) helps me think and breathe more easily. I resist purchases (except for books – amazon.ca is my nemesis) in general and dislike gadgets (except I really, really love my iPhone, laptop, and treadmill!) that I have to store and maintain. I get a high from hauling bags to the local thrift shop but have also learned to respect the other people in my home; I used to throw away my husband’s things which did not go over very well, let me tell you.

I Build White Space Into My Calendar

My assumption is that meetings always run longer than planned. Interruptions will happen. We underestimate how much time and energy will be required for various work projects or how much money it will really cost to take that inexpensive trip to Montréal. So I build the room for this into my calendar (and budget). This padding allows me to catch my breath and go to the bathroom (literally, I know how many of you hold it all day), put my feet up for a bit or actually give my full attention to a child who wants to show me their drawings and tell me all about the characters they are creating. In infinite detail. Actually, this year I have not done well in this department and my youngest has let me know it in no uncertain terms. But I am adjusting course and heading into a Gap Year to afford me more of this white space I so desperately crave. Do you have enough white space in your life?

We Aim to Downsize and Reduce Expenses

While some families at our stage of life are renovating or building new homes, our goal is to downsize when our youngest graduates. An apartment with natural light and a little balcony will suit us fine, providing it is cute and well-kept. We have never focused on wealth acquisition and our retirement goals at this point look like trips to the farmer’s market, long walks, and a bit of travel. Slow and Simple. We both hope to continue with some manner of meaningful work (paid or unpaid) until we can no longer do so. So even though we could buy nicer furniture or dishes and my kitchen is old (yet functional), these things, beyond basic upkeep for our home, are not priorities for us. You have permission to think for yourself about the kind of life you want to lead.

What might you need to simplify?

I could chew on this topic all day and would love to hear your thoughts. I know some of my online friends are selling homes and renting or moving to cabins in the woods or diving into full-time studies again to pursue a dream. It doesn’t always look like slow and simple. Yet each of these women inspires me with their thoughtful, very purposeful, life choices.

Krista xo

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7 comments on “Simplify For a Slow & Purposeful Life

  1. I too would love to live a more simple, debt free life style. Unfortunately my family doesn’t agree with me. I had to smile reading about trying to unclutter your children’s “stuff”. My daughter would nearly hyperventilate at the mere mention of getting rid of anything when she was younger. As she has gotten a little older (13) she has gotten a little better. I’ll find a small pile of stuff she no longer wants/needs sitting in the dining room once in awhile and I’ll be quick to get it out of the house before she changes her mind! Debt free is my big dream. I would love to owe nothing to anyone! Unfortunately (again) my husband doesn’t share my vision. He is a much more outgoing, always on the move person, while I prefer quiet times and puttering in my yard and garden. We have learned to compromise somewhat by owing less, but I doubt we will ever see debt free.

    • It is certainly trickier when your family is not on board with your desires. That is great, though, that your daughter is slowly willing to part with stuff; my youngest who is my most anxious about getting rid of things has recently gone through a spurt where she is outgrowing (more emotionally than anything) some clothing, toys, etc. and willing to part with them. I always try to play it cool but inside am terribly delighted! For years my husband wanted a big house while I have always dreamed of a small, space efficient cottagey type home. Fortunately, over time, he became more realistic about the trade offs – all the energy to repair and maintain, the cost of heating and insuring, all the extra stuff we’d inevitably buy to fill the bigger space, and so on. I am relieved. But being family is also about compromise and loving each other as is, as you obviously know. Thanks for sharing:)

  2. There is still value in being at home. Cooking, laundry, cleaning, paying bills, going to the marketplace to procure food or whatever. Taking elderly parents to their appmts or for groceries, helping a neighbor or friend when no one else is available, watching someones children so they can see their Dr without the kids in tow. Gardening for fresh and healthy food, canning that food for winter use and budget meeting peace. Teaching all these and many more life skills to the children or a neighbor. There still is value and industry in being at home and living a quiet life.
    There is also greater peace for families as the outcome.
    Keep passing the message on.

  3. Oh how I feel we were cut from the same stone! I feel like I am reading…..ME! I just found your site today and I am going to become one of your most loyal readers!!!! This is just simply BEAUTIFUL!

  4. I loved this article! Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for being a stay-at-home mom. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my four daughters until the youngest was in kindergarten. We had second-hand furniture and didn’t have a brand new car but I have never regretted that choice. My ” baby” will be 20 in June and I still look back on those years I spent at home with them as the best years of my life! I love your outlook on what’s important in life 🙂

  5. This article has me all over it. We moved from our busy lifestyle to the country 13 years ago. Although I’m sure my family is much older than many of yours we’ve had this type of calm.. I will always cherish it. Somehow we have come across that busyness again.. Its different than the city but it is still there. It creeps back in until you realize its not about living in the city or country its how you decide to live life where you are. My youngest two are now teens and definately like sports. We drive 1 hour anywhere we go to get to civiliztion. Its difficult for us b/c its an all day venture for us. I’d say we are as busy as we were in the city.. with additions to taking care of our farm and acreage and my mom down the street. But I’v e decided this is a season of life. Our children have different gifts and ambitions. They love to build and can drive a tractor, plant a garden, run barefoot through a weed infested pasture without even one thorn. They also have other interests that I want my kids to be able to invest in. Our precious Lord has given them a gift for sports. So I will do it for them for now. We have things we’ve given up for this but again its a season. Our home is feeling neglected. I no longer cook my bread from scratch and have declutter and reorganize b/c this is whats important to our family for now. We’ won’t be doing this forever and its just for a time. Thinking back to my years in the city.. we could have done many things just the same except the animals of course. Turn our backyard in to a garden maze.. crafts, Gone on more wilderness trips on the weekend to hike, fish, hunt.. It CAN be done it just needs to be more creative. I long to stay home, feel the grass between my toes and the day trips to our back pasture and read a book to my grandchildren one day. Until then I’ll savor the crazy moments too.. Because when you blink slowly they will be gone. And my kids will be grown.

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