What To Do When Simple Living Isn’t Simple Anymore
Have you ever felt like you’re trying to do it all and not keeping up? Like you want to simplify your lifestyle but it ends up even more complicated?
Getting back to a simpler way of living is pretty popular right now- and for good reason. Our modern culture is all about fitting as much into each day as we can. We need to slow down and take some of the busyness and consumerism out of life.
There’s only so much we can keep up with without losing our minds.
But how do we actually simplify our lifestyle? There are hundreds and thousands of books, articles, videos, and podcasts that will tell you exactly what does and doesn’t belong in a ‘simple’ life. Everyone has an opinion.
Get back to nature. Start your own garden. Raise chickens. Stop using plastic. Go off the grid. Make everything from scratch. Be a vegetarian. Eat the Paleo way.
The list of ways to simplify our lives is endless, not to mention conflicting.
How to Really Simplify Your Lifestyle
Years ago, I was excited to change my own lifestyle and go simple and all-natural. I was all ready to grow and cook my own food, raise animals, make my own clothing, live by candlelight… etc.
And yet a year or two into it, I was feeling burned out for some reason. I was trying to follow the advice of everything I had read or heard. And it was exhausting.
That’s when I decided I needed to simplify the simple life. Chasing after the next new thing in simple living was just as bad as the lifestyle I got away from.
The magic formula I eventually came up with? I figured out what was really important to me- what I thought simple living means.
Yeah, that was it.
Knowing What’s Important is Important
So why is figuring out what’s important so important? To me, it’s the one thing that will help you to simplify your lifestyle by keeping what matters to you and letting the rest go.
One of the ways we make life too complicated is by trying to live out someone else’s values. I mean, it’s great to learn from other people who are living the lifestyle (we think) we want to live.
The problem comes when we start doing things just because that popular green-living blogger said so or because this expert thinks it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. We fall into the trap of thinking there’s a right and wrong way to live simply.
The truth I discovered is that no two people care about the exact same things in the exact same way. One person may think that growing their own food is key to a simple lifestyle, while another person thinks that living without a cell phone is at the top of the list. Neither person is wrong- they just each have a different viewpoint.
Once you stop to figure out what is really important to you (as opposed to what someone else tells you is important), you get to simplify your lifestyle yourself and find some peace of mind. Here’s a practical way to do it.
Find Your Non-Negotiables
The first step is actually deciding what matters the most to you. The things at the very top of your list should be considered your ‘non-negotiables.’ These are things you’ll stick to, even if it means extra time, work, money, etc.
Go back to what you really want your lifestyle to look and feel like. Remind yourself of why you went down this path in the first place. What speaks to you?
Do you want fewer toxins in your home? Is buying your food locally or growing it in your backyard important? Or do you just want to not be busy all the time?
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Gather your thoughts into about five top values and practices you want to stick with that will actually simplify your lifestyle. The hard part is learning to separate what comes from your own heart and what you’ve heard from other people.
For example, I used to look at homesteading and living off the grid as the destination I should be heading for if I really wanted to do this all-natural thing the right way. I could almost picture myself tending to loads of animals, bringing my water back to the house from a spring nearby, and living in a tiny house. Almost.
Until I realized that I’m pretty attached to hot showers, electricity, and personal space. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that homesteading was someone else’s dream. It was something I thought I should want, so I convinced myself I did want it.
So Step #1: sort out your own priorities and decide what you want to focus on.
Let It Go, Let It Go
Now we come to either the hard part or the fun part depending on how you look at it. Once you know what’s important to you, you get to let everything else go.
It can be hard to let go of things that you’ve been working really hard to try and achieve. Even if they aren’t truly what’s at the top of our list, we get invested in the lifestyle we are trying to create for ourselves. But think of the relief it will be to not have to try to do all the things, all the time.
It took me a while to let go of the ambition to grow all my own food. I love gardening, so I thought this would be one aspect of homesteading I could really go after. But now that I’ve crossed that one off my list, I have so much more time in the summer to do other things!
I still grow some of my own food, and it’s so much more enjoyable now that the pressure is off.
And that’s a major part of the second step: let go of some things for now and pick them back up when you’re ready. Stop trying to do all the things that didn’t make your top five list, and you might discover that you want to pick some of them back up down the road- without any of the pressure.
So in case you missed it: Step #2 is to let go of what’s not on your ‘most important’ list, give yourself some time, and add back in what you want to when you’re ready.
Leave Some Things Behind (For Good)
Some things you’ll decide you want to put back into your lifestyle, but some things you just need to leave behind for good. Find what matters to you and what makes your life better, and don’t let someone else persuade you that you need to do it their way.
I read all the time that to be the most all-natural person ever I should avoid processed sugar like the plague.
While I don’t think that processed sugar in large amounts is good for us at all, I don’t feel the need to be radical about it anymore. I can eat the cookie someone offers me without feeling like they are trying to poison me. It’s very freeing.
Seriously though, there is no way to please everyone, whether you’re trying to live all-natural or not.
Step #3: leave behind what doesn’t work for you and move on towards sanity.
Simplify What Matters Most About Your Lifestyle
I hope this post encourages you to take charge of your lifestyle. Living simply happens when you discover what’s really important to you and don’t worry about what’s not. What is important might change over time, but it should be you who decides and not someone else.
So don’t forget to:
- Figure out your list of what’s non-negotiable in your values and lifestyle
- Let go of what isn’t on that list
- Add some things back in when you’re ready
- Leave the rest behind for good
Here’s to the clarity that will bring a simpler, natural, and more balanced lifestyle!