Experience tells me kids show us who they are from a very young age. I never woke up one day as an adult and decided that I wanted a slow and simple life; pursuing simplicity was a natural part of my hardwiring from childhood.
I don’t think there’s one right way to do life and my pursuit of simplicity may very well look profoundly different from yours. This is part of the joy of crafting a purposeful life; you don’t have to wear anyone else’s labels. And it is so important to keep in mind that simple isn’t always easy. But it is worth it.
My decision to stay home, raise my babies and homeschool kept my life in the slow lane. We didn’t have to rush out the door in the morning, pack lunches or operate according to school bells. My kids and I had freedom to explore on nature walks, read aloud and discuss great novels, or cuddle on the couch watching a movie when we needed the break. We enjoyed time for long discussions and lego and could pack up and visit family without waiting for the weekend.
Homeschooling is also hard work and as a strong introvert who spent her time 24/7 with kids for 20 years, I sometimes felt desperate for alone time. I felt rather starved, at times, for affirmation: a stay at home mom doesn’t receive awards for 5 or 10 years of service, get paid coffee breaks or bonuses for a job well done. And this year, pursuing simplicity for us meant an unexpected shifting of gears and sending our youngest to public school (if you are looking for homeschool inspiration through the high school years check out Renée’s blog).
Our kids are spread out in age – close to 4 years between the first two and 5.5 years between the next. We didn’t discuss this at the start of our marriage; my husband and I simply took our time and listened to when we felt ready to bring a new little person into the family. Losing my mom was extremely hard and also influenced the larger gap between my daughters.
This also means that we ended up not having the four babies we had dreamed of because we were simply too tired to try for number four. Our kids are at very different life stages so never developed the friendships that might come with being closer in age (Edited in 2019 to say that they now have built friendships with each other).
Many years ago we chose to live on one salary apart from about 18 months when I ran a day-home to help pay off my massive student loans (paid off 12 years ago now). We’ve opted for a lot of second-hand: for vehicles, much of our furniture, clothing, and dishes even. We set financial goals, invest in our future, and live according to a values-based spending plan. We content ourselves with simple pleasures because this has allowed one of us to be home to make real food, maintain order and be present for the kids.
Sometimes this has meant not being able to offer our kids all the same opportunities others might have, or all the opportunities we’d love to give them; we grow tired of rising bills and frozen salary. Holidays are very simple affairs at our house. We have needed to come together often to remind ourselves that we chose this path and that comparison only robs us of joy.
In this new season of life, I’ve stepped out to start my own part-time business serving women and writing because I get to be my own boss, work primarily from home, and make my own schedule. There is great freedom and joy in this and it honors my wiring. Simplicity in business involves saying yes to some scary opportunities and saying no to many more. It often means choosing good enough over perfect and going to bed on time even when the to-do list is long.
But building a business comes with a bucket load of challenge and because I refuse to hustle, growth is slower than it could be and my income isn’t steady. There are many new skills to grow into and sometimes I make mistakes and feel a little overwhelmed with all the ways I’m not keeping up. It means daily reminding myself to keep my eyes on my own paper and just offering my small, simple gift. Letting that be enough.
(Another edit: showing up slow and steady these past years has helped me grow a healthy business including consistent income – if you’re just starting out, don’t despair – and I can help!)
While peers build their dream houses and fill them with pretty things, I dream of selling my bungalow and moving into a “right-sized” apartment when my youngest graduates. I am clear about our financial status (aka we don’t have a ton of money) and what truly makes us happy and downsizing will mean more freedom and time for slow walks and travel and writing. A smaller space means less stuff and this also suits me just fine.
But this will mean giving up my favorite tree in the front yard and my red Adirondack chairs, gifted to us years ago from a local shop teacher and his wife. No more bird watching from my living room and I will miss the deer and moose that visit regularly for winter snacks. It will mean learning to live once again in even closer proximity to neighbors. It means selling a home full of happy memories and trusting that the future will hold many more. Pursuing simplicity requires releasing the old to make space for the new.
Simplicity for me has meant opting for smaller bookshelves and a minimalist wardrobe to create a firm boundary around reactionary spending. It means menu planning and eating simple meals of real foods including lots of humble rice and beans. It means living aligned to my primary goals and values rather than being pulled to and fro by the latest fad or bandwagon.
Yet it also means learning to offer my family grace and space to be who they are when they don’t want to fall in line with my slow living or minimalist message. Sharing life and home with diverse, interesting people, with their own personalities and perspectives. Learning to discuss and listen, disagree and compromise on a daily basis. I’m still learning to listen.
Life evolves, dreams are reimagined and simple isn’t always easy. But for those of us who are hardwired for slow and simple, wholeheartedly pursuing simplicity is worth it.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it, but also tell me: what does pursuing simplicity look like for you in this season of life? And here are a couple books you may enjoy on the topic (referral links): Chasing Slow and The More of Less.