When I first began to think about reducing the excess in our life in order to embrace simplicity and gain more time for the things that are important, the task seemed daunting and nearly impossible in many ways.
I started by evaluating what in my life was a need and what was a want. At first, this became an absolute obsession. I would lay awake at night thinking about these things. Every time I stepped into an area of my house, I found myself figuring out how to eliminate the unnecessary.
The first things to go were things I bought and disposed of frequently, like disposable diapers and purchasing items that had unnecessary packaging. I began to make more homemade cleaning solutions and hair products so that I wouldn’t be wasting bottles (or having all those chemicals in our home). Starting to do these things led me to reduce other areas of over-consumption. Once you being to question these things, you just find yourself asking harder and harder questions, which at times, you will not have any sort of tangible answer to. This is where it can get a little tricky and discouraging, because you will contradict yourself.
At least, I do all the time. And then I have to remember that this is all a process. If I am not afraid of making mistakes or what others may perceive me as and am able to maintain a willingness to learn, then this crazy, never-ending rabbit hole can become a journey full of joy, rather than fear of failing or not doing enough.
So, here are a some things I’ve learned since beginning to de-clutter our life, which helps me to keep things in perspective when circumstances change and the whole pursuit seems too large a task:
1. start where you are
Don’t expect to be able to change your life overnight. This is a process. In our culture of fad diets and immediate fixes, taking time and waiting to see change can be a hard discipline to learn. Learn from others who have gone before you and use their example as inspiration, but don’t try to become exactly like them or expect to accomplish all of the same things in the same way. What is a big step and challenging for you may be completely different for someone else. Don’t be disappointed if this whole thing takes time. I imagine it should take a lifetime.
2. start small
Make little changes at a time. Slowly adopting new habits and adjusting them is all part of the process. You may make mistakes, you may learn new and better ways of doing things, but the important thing is that you keep adjusting and don’t allow yourself to become completely overwhelmed. And if you do – it’s okay! Take a break and then get back into it when you are ready. There have been many times when I have “relapsed” so to speak, because I felt like I couldn’t give it ALL up or do it all. Simplifying does take some work (don’t think that simple means less work – a future post in the making), but it doesn’t have to all happen at once.
3. focus on the positive
I’ll use food as an example.
It seems to me that many diets are about restrictions. You can’t have carbs. No gluten. No fruit after 1pm. Whatever. Many times when I talk about the changes we have made in our diet, people respond with, “I could never give up (fill in the blank)!” This reaction is focused on the negative – on what you are giving up instead of what you are gaining.
The number one question we get asked since we became vegetarians/changed our diet is, “What do you eat, then?” A lot of food, actually, and a greater variety than before. I focus more on the delicious, nourishing and healing foods we get to eat, rather than on the stuff we’re “missing out” on because we’re all “crunchy” and “healthy” now. What we have found in our life to be true is that change can be a much healthier process when you are focusing on who you want to be rather than on who you don’t want to be.
4. find a healthy balance
Balancing is all about making adjustments. Try to balance on one foot. You will notice that your body is making tons of little adjustments to stop itself from falling over, and sometimes when you start to fall, you have to “reset” and tap your other foot on the floor to regain your balance. We have to do the same thing in life.
Living with less has helped us as a family spend more time together and out in our community and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Some of the ways we have simplified have just been a natural outcome of life circumstances, while others have been intentional choices we have made. As these circumstances change, we are constantly discussing and making more adjustments. When we lose our focus and find ourselves reverting to old habits, we try to “reset”. We regain our footing and start again.
Sometimes, you just need to take a break.
Take more walks.
Find space to rest and evaluate.
Do what energizes you.
Have coffee or tea with a friend who will listen and help give you some perspective on the change you have made in you life.
Reconnect with what you are passionate about.
Make a new plan and start again to take steps toward your goals.
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (one of the books that disrupted my life unexpectedly)
You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel (interesting thoughts on happiness and simplicity)