There is much talk lately about simple living. Oftentimes, especially on social media, this idea is presented to us with pretty pictures of thrifted home décor, a cup of coffee, or a bouquet of dahlias freshly purchased from the farmers market. While I love all of these beautiful visual expressions of tender moments captured by others (and even enjoy taking pictures like that myself) I also recognize that sometimes this portrayal of our little pleasures can lead others to believe that this is what “simple living” is. Unknowingly we begin a chase for these things: hitting up antique stores, shopping online for vintage quilts, making our own beeswax candles, etc. All in a hurried effort to achieve this idea of a simple life.
Recently I read a quote by Charlotte Mason and it really impressed upon me the necessity to evaluate the things we are pursuing and saying “Yes” too. Reminding myself that every thing we put on our calendar ultimately takes the place of something else.
We should take life serenely: take the calm planetary course, not the fussy, noisy course of the steam-engine.” – Charlotte Mason, The Conference at Scale How, April 1909
So, what is this simplicity we all desire and how do we create this environment in our own homes? Rhonda Hetzel, author of Down to Earth: A Guide to Simple Living states that, “Simple living is about being authentic and living an examined life and if you’ve thought about the values you want to live by, be confident and stick with them no matter what others around you are doing.”
We have embraced a very slow pace here in our home. It doesn’t often make sense to others but for us it is exactly the type of life we need to thrive. It hasn’t happened overnight, in fact it has been a process that has oftentimes been learned the hard way. Sometimes our choices have been made out of pure necessity, others because we desire a more serene and peaceful life and feel desperate the jump off the noisy course of the steam engine. Nevertheless, I thought I would share some practical tips our family has used over the years to help keep guard over our time and resources. Whatever it is that is nudging you toward simplicity, I hope these tips are helpful and that you are left feeling encouraged as your work through them.
DEFINE WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU
Sarah MacKenzie in her book Teaching from Rest lays out this thought for homeschooling mothers when she says,
I like to picture my children about twenty years down the road. I imagine they are enjoying a meal with friends and are asked about their growing-up years. “You were homeschooled,” a friend says. Then she asks, “What was that like?” Which words, phrases, or sentences do I want my child to use when describing his or her homeschooled childhood?”
The answer to these questions can look completely different for all of us not only in regards to homeschooling but also in what we desire for the atmosphere of our home. Looking ahead at what we want our children to remember and how we want them to describe their days and the atmosphere of their growing up years helps us put pen to paper about what is truly important to us. There will always be other things vying for our attention and trying to pull us away from the mission and vision we desire to achieve in our own lives. Chasing after the distractions and detours will feel anything but peaceful and slow. Having a clear path helps keep those things at bay.
SAY NO TO “GOOD” THINGS
The simple, quiet days we all long for often reveal themselves when there is nothing else on the agenda. Running from one activity to another, grabbing dinner from the drive-thru, and checking a bunch of tasks off of our lists allow very little opportunity to meaningfully connect with our children and spouse in ways that truly satisfy.
Now that you have thought through and identified what is most important to you it is much easier to distinguish the good from the best. This gives you freedom to boldly release those things that should go. I like to remember what Sally Clarkson said in her book Own Your Life,
Although our culture seems to worship being busy, constant activity will slowly undermine our perspective on life and kill our souls.
Leaving a bit of margin built into our life: time to linger over food, over friends, and over our family these are the moments that allow us to savor life and establish deep, meaningful connections with those we love. Moments that are not planned, days with nothing on the calendar, or purposefully slowing down after a season of busyness, these are healthy habits to learn.
BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE
Have you ever felt contentment, peace, and satisfaction from the constant chase of bigger and better things? These are not the emotions I typically experience when I feel like I need to keep up, have more, or am lacking in some way.
Sometimes the most satisfying moments are those that require us to think creatively and gather from what we have. Look at the resources that are available to you. Are there new ways to use them to create something beautiful, simply for the joy of it? Would a good scrub down of the cabinets or re-stitching the hem in your old jeans do the trick rather than purchasing something new? Many times we quickly push the “buy” button when things are ragged or begin to wear out, but there is value and worth in thinking creatively and making do with what you have. Seeing things that are already yours (either relationally or materially) with new eyes that are full of care and appreciation brings a new sense of satisfaction.
GROUND YOURSELF IN GOD’S WORD
I love the first words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” – Psalms 23:1-3. If you really want to experience the still slow moments that feed your soul and leave you feeling like your cup is full cling to the one who offers this type of life.. This is the invitation he sets before us in Matthew 11:28-30.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
His ways are unhurried and uncomplicated. More than anything else, it is He who leads us to the sweet spot of slow living we all long for.
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