Today is my 40th birthday. I know, I know, I’m supposed to lie about my age, but I don’t, and here’s why:
- I don’t look bad for 40, but I look terrible for 23, so…why go there?
- Nobody can call me a liar liar pants on fire.
- Every day is a gift from God. Why would I pretend He’s doted on me any less than He has. That’s not very grateful.
- The number 40 makes me sound wise enough to pull off a post like this one.
In honor of my 40th birthday, and particularly because of number 4 above, I’m sharing 40 things I’ve learned about simplifying. On your mark…get set…read!
1 – Humans can complicate anything, including simplifying.
2 – Simplifying is first and foremost a mindset.
3 – To do anything in life, especially something difficult, mere mortals need motivation. Find it. Mine is my family, peace, and joy.
4 – Less is more, true, but less is also less. If stuff acts as a security blanket, there are deep-seated emotions that need to be addressed before that stuff can be taken away. Nobody can throw out someone else’s stuff…although you’re welcome to get rid of mine!
5 – I love being able to reach into a drawer or cupboard to get something and know exactly where it’s going to be. I especially love not having to move anything else to get it. That’s motivation to not bring anything new into the house…or travel trailer, in our case.
6 – Empty cabinet space is my friend. You are my friend, too…but you may not put your stuff in my empty cabinet space.
7 – Stuff means clutter, and clutter means work, and work means time that could have been spent with loved ones or on something worthwhile that matters a whole lot more than dusting and organizing and cleaning and putting away stuff. (This is from my 12-year-old philosopher.)
8 – A child is happy playing with rocks and sticks. Why mess with that?
9 – A person can only wear one pair of pants and two shoes at a time without looking like a clown. Throw in a few extra so you’re not doing laundry every day and voila! Enough!
10 – Obligatory gift-giving has gotten out of hand. As my 12-year-old philosopher says, “If I can’t eat it, use it, or read it, I don’t want it.”
11 – I used to think that good stewardship meant keeping my things for a rainy day. Meanwhile, my rainy day stash was ruined by age and mini-disasters (otherwise known as mice) in storage. Now I define good stewardship as passing things on to others who can use them now, because maybe today is their rainy day. Part two of that is trusting that my need will be met on that eventual rainy day.
12 – An empty schedule is a thing of beauty.
13 – If an empty schedule scares someone, that someone needs to learn to enjoy being alone, being still, and being with family at home getting to know each other better as people, rather than mostly knowing each other as tasks on a calendar.
14 – The best times I have had with my family and with visitors is sitting at home with no activities, no television, no schedule, just talking and laughing…and eating.
15 – The best aspect of homeschooling is the simplicity–no buses, no bells, no parent-teacher conferences, no carpool, no pressure.
16 – We have had full schedules and empty schedules. When asked their preference, my children unanimously voted on empty schedules. I wonder if parents fill up the calendar for themselves, for the kids, or for society. We keep ours empty for simplicity, peace, and together time.
17 – I gave up keeping up with the Joneses when I realized that the Joneses weren’t heading where I want to be.
18 - I gave up keeping up with the Smiths when I realized that the Smiths had no idea what they were doing, and were only imitating the Joneses.
19 – I gave up keeping up with my own expectations when I realized, humbly, that my expectations were unattainable, unless I was willing to sacrifice joy, peace, and home on the altar of perfection. Unrealistic expectations complicate life.
20 – I gave up trying to meet other people’s expectations about two weeks after my first child was born (and again about every two weeks thereafter), because I realized that their expectations did not fit in with my family. Trying to please everyone complicates life.
21 – The word “need” is often confused with “want,” “might need,” and “am experiencing a momentary and illogical whim.” Ignore it.
22 – Money should be kept on a tight leash, giving being the exception…unless you are giving to a child (full-grown or otherwise) to fulfill a “need.”
23 – Getting rid of processed foods may initially seem like complicating life, but in the end it is simple, affordable, and healthy.
24 - Few things are as therapeutic as a walk outside with the man you love.
25 – Simplifying makes time for the important things, like a game of chess with my boy or calling Mom and Grandma.
26 – Screens are time-suckers. Turn. Them. Off.
27 – Use the word “no” often with others so you can use the word “yes” often with your family.
28 – Never volunteer without sleeping on it for a week, and discussing it with your husband and kids.
29 – Don’t let other people undermine the peace in your home.
30 – Homeschoolers need to set visitors’ hours, because some people think homeschooling means they can bring their kids over at any time to play with your kids.
31 – Answering machines and voice mail are excellent tools. Use them.
32 – It’s okay to wipe the slate clean and start over.
33 – Sometimes we need to go into crisis mode, and that’s okay. Handling the basics during that time (food, safety, and snuggling) is enough.
34 – The words “I can’t” are often synonymous with “I don’t want to.”
35 – Everybody has a different definition of simplifying. To me, simplifying is reducing clutter, stress, outrageous schedules, and anything else that robs me and my family of our joy.
36 – People should always be prioritized above ideals, possessions, pets, and pretty much anything else under heaven.
37 – Use your time, energy, and calendar space on that which is most important to you first, such as the children and dessert. Don’t save the best for last, because all-too-often there’s no room left.
38 – Never start one activity until the previous activity is finished, even if that means you’re eating bananas and popcorn for lunch.
39 – Simplicity (and the joy and peace that go with it) cannot be obtained over night. The little victories and improvements along the way are almost as good as chocolate…almost.
40 – Simplifying is hard work, but it’s worth it.
There you have it, friends. Forty years of wisdom condensed onto one page. It’s almost frightening how puny 40 years of wisdom looks.
Please share your simplifying wisdom in the comments below.
For a little glimpse into our family life on the road, check out A Day in the Life of the Travel Bags.