What Simple Living Means for Me

posted by Andrea | 07/31/2017
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I’m often asked how I would define “Simple Living”, what Simple Living means for me, or how I would explain a simplified life… and I’ll be honest, that’s a really, really difficult request!

I think there are many factors involved in my explanation — and to be perfectly honest, I feel that what Simple Living means to me might be VERY different than what society thinks when they hear the words “Simple Living”.

Let me explain…

In my opinion, Simple Living does NOT NECESSARILY mean:

Small

With the growing popularity of tiny homes, it’s not a huge surprise that “simple” is often equated with “small”.  Because of this, I know many people who feel that Simple Living is not in their grasp as they have a large family… or just aren’t willing to live in a teeny tiny home.

Well… as many of you know, Dave and I do not live in a tiny home; and at the same time, I would definitely say that we practice (and are continually striving towards) Simple Living.

Our home is a pretty good size, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a playroom, a home office, a large unfinished basement, an oversized 2-stall garage plus an extra garage and heated outbuilding. Yes, our house is relatively clutter-free (I even have many empty closets and cabinets) but it’s not small!

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting a very small home, but I also do not feel it is a requirement in order to achieve a simplified life.

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Sparse

Most people think that because I’m neat and organized, that I’m also a minimalist… so it’s no surprise that one of the most common statements I hear when people visit our house for the first time is about how many decorative items we have in and around our house.

I don’t think our home looks or feels cluttered — and we certainly enjoy all the decorative antiques and old books 🙂 — but I would not consider our home “sparse” or “minimalistic” in any way.

Yes, we do have some empty closets, cabinets, and drawers. Yes, I am very diligent about regular purging and try not to bring anything into our home unless we actually have a need for it. Yes, I keep most of the surfaces clutter-free. However, I also REALLY love decorating my home and living in a space I feel comfortable in. My decorations help make my home feel comfortable for me (and hopefully for my family too).

Also, with little kids around, I want to make sure our home is child-friendly with toys, books, and craft supplies down at their level — so no, my home is not necessarily sparse!

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Serene

I know what you might be thinking… I thought Simple Living was suppose to be “simple” and relaxing and serene and just plain easy. And you are partially correct!

While there are definitely times when Simple Living IS everything mentioned above, there are plenty of other times when Simple Living means doing load after load of laundry in order to prevent it from getting out of control. Or staying up until midnight washing dishes and packing lunches because you know how much smoother the morning will go if you just do those things now.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it… Simple Living is NOT always ‘easy.’  However, living a simplified and organized life DOES pay off in the long run (I know from lots of experience). Sometimes it just means more day-to-day busyness in order to achieve a long-term, overall stress-free and simplified life.

That’s worth it to me as I’ve reaped many long-term benefits from some day-to-day busyness!

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Obviously, Simple Living COULD mean small, sparse, and serene (and there are definitely times when Simple Living IS small, sparse, and serene). I just don’t think that small, sparse, and serene are requirements to achieve a simplified way of life — and I say this based on years of personal experience striving towards a simpler life.

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That said, in my opinion, Simple Living DOES mean:

Systems

Not rigid systems with no room for change or error — but systems and plans that streamline various aspects of your home, life, work, etc.

Do you have a system for dealing with clothes clutter and regularly purging + donating items you no longer need, use, want, or love? If so, your closets and dressers will stay clutter-free and your morning routine of getting ready will be streamlined and simplified.

Do you have a system for dealing with junk mail, magazines, school papers, kids’ art projects, and other paper clutter? If so, you won’t have to work around piles of paper clutter, your filing cabinets will be neat and organized, and you’ll be able to find all those important documents at a moment’s notice.

Do you have a system for grocery shopping and meal planning? If so, you have most likely realized how much less stressful the whole process is — especially if you deviate from your system for a week. I know when I slack off and skip a meal plan or (very rarely) go to the grocery store without a list, I always forget something, then I need to go back to the store, and dinner time is always a mad rush.

Do you have a system for cleaning and maintaining your home? If so, I’m positive you clean faster and more efficiently than anyone who doesn’t have a system. Plus, you know that everything is cleaned eventually — even if you don’t have time to do it today or this week.

Systems simplify. Period.

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Schedules

Again, I think the word “schedules” often gets a bad reputation for being rigid and inflexible — but in my opinion, schedules (or even basic routines) play a huge role in Simple Living.

Without a schedule, my business would be toast. There is no way I could keep up with everything I have to do for my blog and business without basic weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly schedules. This doesn’t mean that every minute of my work life is planned out. It just means that I know what I need to do, when I need to do it, and I rarely feel stressed or frazzled trying to balance my home, work, and family all at the same time.

As I’ve mentioned before, our amazing bedtime “schedules” and routines have literally saved my sanity as a parent — especially now that we finally have all the kids in bed by 7:00 or 7:30 every night!!

Another schedule/routine that simplifies my life is always writing out my daily to-do list the night before. It only takes me 3-5 minutes to make my list but it saves me boatloads of time the following day and allows me to get right to work before the kids wake up for the day.

As a type-A person, I’m naturally drawn to schedules and routines; however, I know many people who are NOT Type-A and still swear by the simplifying power of schedules.

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Storage Solutions

I certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to hoard massive amounts of stuff in a storage unit, or hang onto things you don’t need, use, want, or love… but I do think there are most definitely ways to store the items in our homes so they take up less space and are stored more efficiently.

The ways we hang and fold our clothing can drastically alter the amount of clothing we can fit into a small drawer or a narrow closet space.

How we rearrange our kitchen cabinets plays a huge roll in how efficient our kitchen functions and how much we enjoy working in our kitchens.

Using vertical storage, hidden storage under the beds, storage behind closed doors, and even hanging items from the ceiling are all relatively simple and low-cost ways to maximize the amount of storage in our homes.

You know as well as I do that when everything in your home has a place to be stored, clutter is much less likely to accumulate… and with less visible clutter, our homes and lives instantly feel simpler and more organized!

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Speaking Up

So often, I encounter someone trying to live a simpler, more organized life — but they just can’t get there because they are ALWAYS saying “yes” to every person and opportunity that comes their way.

As someone who LOVES to say “yes” and serve in different ways, I totally and completely understand! It’s SO hard to say “no”, even if it’s something you’re not passionate about, not gifted in, or something that will take time away from other, more important people and activities.

I think it’s our innate human nature that causes us to want to please others by saying “yes” as often as possible — but by doing this, we are actually complicating and over-stimulating our lives…  causing unnecessary stress, which isn’t great if you’re working to simplify!

Speaking up and learning to say “no” every once in a while is a crucial skill to learn as you strive towards a simpler life.

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Of course, with all systems, schedules, storage solutions, and speaking up, there is never any ONE RIGHT WAY.

There might be one “best way” for right now — but as our lives change, as new babies are born, as kids go off to college, as we age, as jobs changes, as we move into new homes, etc. etc. our systems, schedules, storage solutions, and the ways we choose to spend our time will also change.

That’s OK! It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong!

I think one more key to Simple Living (in addition to everything I mentioned above) is our ability to change, alter, tweak, shift, adapt, and modify to new situations, new phases, and new circumstances.

Even if we find the PERFECT system, schedule, or storage solution for right now, there’s a very good chance that in 6 months, or a year, or in 6 years, that same system, schedule, and storage solution won’t work nearly as well.

So if we can continually be on the lookout for opportunities to change and adapt, our lives will most likely be less busy, less stressed, and less chaotic.

And THAT is what Simple Living means for me! 

What does Simple Living mean for you?

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19 comments

  1. Rachael

    02/27/2015

    What’s your Myers Briggs personality type? I like your style, I seem to operate like you so I just curious (I am an ISFJ). I am looking into possibly becoming a professional organiser once my kids are all in school but am not sure if it is right for me- just because I love order doesn’t necessarily mean I can help others achieve it! Anyway, been reading your blog since you were pregnant with Nora and everything you talk about resonates with me. Thanks for being so willing to share with us.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — we’re close. VERY close! I’m an ISTJ — verging on ESTJ depending on the day 🙂

    I do think that for me the “T” versus the “F” is very helpful in organization because I’m not an emotional person (Thinking versus Feeling). I’m just very matter-of-fact and can say “you need to get rid of that because you haven’t used it in 5 years” and I don’t feel emotionally attached to my stuff.

    Here’s a blog post I wrote about my personality type (and there’s a little quiz you can take in there too for your personality type)

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    Anne Reply:

    I’m ESTJ, no wonder I connect with you so well 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — no wonder!

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  2. Heart and Haven

    02/27/2015

    Love this post! I agree with your definition of simple living. Most of which I’ve been striving for over many years in my home. It’s a process of continuous improvement as stages of life changes.

    btw, I love your decorating style. Where do you tend to find most of your vintage/antique items?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks! I actually haven’t purchased anything new for our home in years… it was all from thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales before kids (when I made the time to do those fun things!)

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    Heart and Haven Reply:

    Yep, same types of places I find my vintage & antique treasures too.
    I was hoping you had some other secret source to share! lol

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    no secret treasure spots over here… sorry!

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  3. Amanda M

    02/27/2015

    First of all let me start out by saying I think your last two blog posts have been two of the VERY BEST you have EVER done! I have been following your blog since at least early 2011, if not sooner. I love how you don’t have to “fit into the blogging crowd” that is the MAIN reason that I have continued to follow you as long as I have. I cant find another blog anywhere near to the “real’ quality of yours!
    The second point I would like to make is that about 1 yr ago you did a blog post(I cant find it) but you talked about how my organization and your organization don’t have to look the same it just has to work for ME!!!! That statement set me free!!! I love to organize and am called on by families members to help purge and organize, but I thought mine had to look like yours!!!
    Again thank you for being real and sharing your world with us, I look forward to your posts and I love your home!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Amanda! I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement!

    Also, I believe THIS is the post you were referring to 🙂 It was actually 2 years ago already — but towards the end of February (so you have a good memory!)

    Glad you have found the “type” or organization that works for you — it’s so great once we finally find that system or solution to our organizational problems. I remember when we renovated our kitchen, it took me at least 3 tries before I found the “right way” for us. Of course, over the last 2 years, I’ve tweaked a few more things but overall, the general layout has stayed the same and it’s still working well for us!

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  4. Summer

    02/27/2015

    I completely agree with all of this, but particularly your ending comments on adaptability. Improvise, adapt, and overcome is a life skill that is pivotal for simplicity! You just can’t control everything and everyone and the quicker you adapt to whatever change you are presented with, the less stressful you and your life becomes! I see so many people that would benefit from just giving up some of their ‘controlling’ (often demanding) ways and it would truly simplify their lives and make them so much happier. But, they would never change their ‘methods’ because that’s how it’s always been done. Even if there is a better, faster, easier or simple solution! I’m guilty of this too, especially with technology. I need to embrace those changes and allow them to make my life easier and yes, simpler!

    Great thoughts Andrea, as always! Stay warm and enjoy the sunshine!

    [Reply]

  5. lydia @ frugaldebtfreelife

    02/27/2015

    Love. Also I love the top photo you look so content in the chaos of motherhood.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lydia! When I was thinking about what photo to use for this post, that one immediately popped into mind!
    I love it too — especially the fact that even though no one (except Dave and I) knew at the time, I was about 9 weeks along with baby #3 🙂

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  6. Dawn

    02/27/2015

    We live in 1600 sq ft, and there are still 10 of us here. Systems are crucial to our daily life. Serenity and simplicity come when our systems are running smoothly. (How’s that for some alliteration? LOL!!)
    We have daily chores, weekly chores, and our mornings are spent homeschooling and doing our work. Breakfast, chores, school, lunch, finish schoolwork if necessary, free time, etc.
    Our laundry days are divided by bedrooms. I have 2 days a week, my girls have 2 days a week, and the boys have 2 days a week. Sundays are for catch up if I need it, or if I need to get mine done early for some reason.

    It is definitely possible to live a simple life, even if you are crowded into a small space. You have some great ideas to help in this post!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes! I think I mentioned it in the post — but Simple definitely CAN mean “small” and “sparse”, etc. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that “small” and “sparse” aren’t necessarily requirements for simple living.

    You are achieving your version of simple in a smaller space — we are achieving ours in a larger space. 🙂

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  7. Kellie

    02/27/2015

    Great article, Andrea! I was super convicted when you included “Speaking Up” as something to consider because I have never stopped to contemplate how (even good) busyness can account for crazy living. I learned the hard way several years ago when I finally crashed and burned after “doing it all” and realizing I didn’t even like doing it all anyway. It truly has made my life so much more enjoyable! Great points!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kellie. I actually almost didn’t include that point because sometimes I feel like “saying no” isn’t a fun thing to talk about. However, in my own life, I feel like the times that are the most stressful and “non-simple” are when I’ve gone against my instincts and said “yes” too many times. So speaking up and just saying “no” sometimes is a huge factor for me to achieve simple living!

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  8. Siobhan

    02/27/2015

    I agree with all of these! With your inspirational posts I’m getting better at simplifying and it is so gratifying. I’m up to photo clutter now

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yay — and good luck with the photo clutter! It’s SO rewarding once it’s all neat and organized 🙂

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