Thank goodness something has come along in social media to replace “Eat This…Not That.” Now the internet and good people everywhere are obsessed with SIMPLIFYING. And, yes, it must be printed in large block letters. Upper and lowercase combined are apparently not simple enough. Blogs, social media posts, “happy news” spots, and office conversations are all about how we are simplifying our lives.
So, instead of following my instinct to ignore or delete references to SIMPLIFY, I decided to read a blog post or two, just to see what I am missing. Blog post #1 offered twenty-five ways to simplify your life. Twenty-five, and every single one of them was something to do, including three different kinds of “To Do Lists,” creating a “capsule wardrobe,” and quite a bit of cooking. Every single idea sounded like a good way to live an organized life, but there was nothing simple about any of it. Blog post #2 took an even more all-attack approach to simplifying and instructed readers to clean out their closets, get rid of at least half the items in their kitchen, rearrange and landscape their outdoor space, and pack their lunches a week or two at a time.
Honestly, I was stressed and exhausted just reading them. I also couldn’t help but notice that they all involved spending both money and time.
I get it. That bare space in the pictures with the single flower in the vase sitting on soft blue painted side table ($349 plus tax and shipping), next to the white couch with the view of the ocean, is lovely and simple. It also would not last five minutes in my house. In my house, the cat would knock the vase to the floor and carry the flower away as his prize catch of the day, and my husband would stack mail on the table, ignoring the clever box hanging on the wall by the door with MAIL etched in a simple san serif font on its reclaimed wood side.The labrador would take a nap on the white couch after which it would never be white again. And, of course, the only ocean view I have here in Kansas is on TV when I watch Beachfront Bargain Hunt.
So, what is simple living? I think we all agree that life in 21st Century America is complicated. If we are honest, we will admit that in addition to complicated it can be frustrating and even frightening. We all have too much “stuff.” I know that I don’t always use my time in the way I should, or even the way I want. There is no doubt we need to simplify. But do we really need a list of 25 things to do and buy? Do we need simplicity that costs money, uses up time and adds to our stress?
So here’s my list of four things we can do make our lives simpler. It wouldn’t make a very attractive magazine spread, but everything on it is accessible, doesn’t cost money, and hopefully doesn’t add to anyone’s stress level.
- Find a filter. This will be a deeply personal thing, not something you read about in a blog. It might be a scripture, a personal mission statement, or something your grandmother once said. Whatever it is, it will be something you can hold up to activities and obligations and use to choose those that actually fit you and your life, not the demands,suggestions and opinions of the rest of the world. This filter will change as you change, but in the cacophony of voices vying for our attention, energy, and focus, a filter can help us find the simply important.
- Find a time and place for silence and stillness. Not just once in a while. Every day, even if it is only for a short time, but try to add at least one longer time in your week. If you haven’t experienced silence and stillness for a while, or ever, it will be uncomfortable at first, but give it a chance. The world we live in is so constantly noisy and full of movement. In silence and stillness we can find refreshment, discernment, and hear God speak to our weary and confused souls.
- Take advantage of the gift of fresh air and sunshine, even if your idea of outdoor recreation is sitting on the patio at a restaurant. Observe the wonders of creation, especially the small everyday ones.Soak up some sun. Watch water flow. Listen to the birds sing. Ponder your place in it all.
- Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like the beloved child of God that you are. If some of us love our neighbors as we love ourselves, our neighbors are going to be seriously mistreated.
That’s it, my simple and short list. It’s not any special color or shape, but it’s manageable enough to put in your pocket or put on a post-it. And you don’t have to redecorate!