After many years of striving for a simpler life, I’ve learned that simple living is a continually evolving process that requires discipline, diligence, and determination to achieve… along with an intentional effort to stay on top of the constant influx of stuff that doesn’t ever stop coming back in!
In other words… simple living is not necessarily the easiest way to live.
However, in my opinion, it’s most definitely worth a little extra effort upfront as you’ll reap the rewards for weeks, months, and years to come!
Let me share two very simple examples that might put things into perspective a bit:
1. Meal Planning:
It will probably take you about 30 minutes to make a meal plan and grocery list for your family each week—but that 30 extra minutes upfront will save you at least 15-30 minutes at the grocery store because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy. Plus, you most likely won’t need to make multiple trips back to the store later in the week to buy items you may have forgotten without a list (saving more time, money, and gas).
You’ll also save precious minutes each day as you no longer have to wonder, “What’s for dinner?” or “Do I have all the ingredients in the house?”
On top of all that, you’ll save money on impulse purchases at the grocery store and last-minute fast food trips as you have a plan for dinner each night. And of course, you’ll save a whole bunch of stress and frustration around 5:00 each day, because you know dinner is in the oven (or at least in the works) and will be ready in just a few minutes.
So you tell me, is the 30 minutes upfront worth all the time, energy, money, stress, and frustration you saved yourself the rest of the week?
2. Dirty Dishes:
If you’re anything like me, it takes you less than 5 minute to empty a clean dishwasher and less than 15 minutes to wash a sink full of dirty dishes.
Even though I never feel like doing either of these chores, I almost always do them before I go to bed because I know it will save so much time, energy, and stress the following morning.
After all, I’m certain I won’t feel like doing the dishes in the morning when I’m trying to get everyone dressed, fed, and ready for the day. And as the day goes on, more and more dirty dishes will pile up next to the sink when they have nowhere else to go.
When I don’t take 5 minutes to clean out the dishwasher and 15 minutes to wash the dishes before going to bed, I feel behind all morning. I look at dirty dishes all day long. I think about the dishes and cleaning out the dishwasher countless times throughout the day. Once I finally get around to cleaning it out, it takes much longer than 5 minutes because I then have to rinse all the dirty dishes and pile those back into the dishwasher.
So you tell me, is the 5-15 minutes upfront worth all the time, energy, stress, and frustration you can potentially save the following day?
As I mentioned above, these are two extremely simplified examples to make my point. There are literally hundreds of other examples about how taking a little extra time upfront can saved hours and dollars in the long run—thus simplifying and de-stressing our lives in the process.
However, as you might have realized, taking the time upfront one time doesn’t mean you’re finished forever.
When it comes to simple living, it’s almost impossible to ever be completely finished.
I don’t say this to dissuade you from pursuing a simpler life—but rather to be upfront and honest about the fact that simple living is not something that just magically happens. It takes work… hard work… daily work… work, even when you don’t feel like working.
I know too many people who get discouraged after a day or a week or a year of trying to simplify their homes and lives—only to realize there is still more to do. They figure they must be doing something wrong… so they give up.
On the contrary, they are usually doing it right, and have simply come to the realization that all of life requires maintenance. We don’t eat once and expect to stay filled and nourished for the rest of our lives. We don’t bathe once and expect to stay clean for the rest of our lives. So why do we often expect that our efforts to organize, plan ahead, and simplify should be a “once-and done” kind of deal?
If you’ve been trying to simplify your life but always feel like there is more you could be doing, that’s because there is always more you could be doing!
The tricky part comes in finding balance. How can we achieve a simple enough life to be happy—without spending all our time and energy doing so?
For me, it comes down to priorities and what areas of my life are most important for me to simplify. That picture is going to look differently for each one of us—but it starts with having a clear picture of our goals, being willing to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t align with those goals, and intentionally choosing to work towards simplicity day after day.
A simple life won’t magically happen overnight, but with some intentional effort, it will happen eventually!
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Did the examples above ring true for you? Have you put off doing something because of the upfront work only to realize that you created a lot more work for yourself in the progress?
- What simple tasks could you do upfront to simplify your life this week?
- Have you heard of the 2-minute rule? The principle is simple: “If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.” Where could you apply this rule in your home and life?