This post is an updated version of one I originally shared in September of 2014.
Looking back on my life, I have always gravitated towards “simple” over any other alternative… often without even realizing it at the time.
I’ve been striving to live simply and to be more organized for as long as I can remember… and I’ve been blogging about it for 10 years now!
One thought that has occurred to me several times over the past decade is that although “simple living” is an extremely popular topic in today’s society, my real-life simple choices are not always equally as popular.
I can recall countless occasions when I made a conscious, well-thought-out decision to go against an otherwise popular societal choice because I know MY choice was the simpler and better choice for ME at that point in MY OWN life.
I honestly don’t feel guilty about those choices anymore — but I might be in the minority.
I know many who let guilt and societal pressure get to them. They give in to choices and decisions that are not right for them, that don’t help them to simplify, and that cause unnecessary stress and angst because they feel it’s the “right” thing to do… or worse, because they think these choices make them look good to those around them.
Fortunately for you (and for me), I am not the type to care about going against the grain or ruffling a few feathers.
I’m “airing my dirty laundry” here on the blog in attempts to help anyone who might be struggling with choices that don’t match up with what friends are doing, what other blogs are sharing, or what magazine ads are promoting.
I’ve been there too, I know it sometimes feels wrong to be different, but I can confidently say that EVERY time I’ve made the unpopular choice, I’ve been rewarded with a simpler life.
Let me give you a few examples…
Electronic versus Paper Planners:
Popular Choice: Using the latest and greatest Apps to help increase productivity, manage time, and simplify the many things we need to do each day.
Simpler Choice for Me: Using my messy planner, a pen, and a few sticky notes.
I’ve tried over and over again to find the perfect productivity, scheduling, list-making, time-management Apps, but every time, I come right back to my simple paper planner and sticky notes.
I honestly wish I could do more electronically, but for now, the simplest and most effective choice for me is still pen and paper.
Cloth versus Disposable Diapers:
Popular Choice: Using cloth diapers and homemade wipes to save money and the environment.
Simpler Choice for Me: Using disposable diapers and wipes to save boatloads of time, energy, stress, water, and electricity washing and drying ALL those diapers for someone who really doesn’t like doing laundry or dealing with poop.
Organic versus Non-organic Produce:
Popular Choice: Eating all-natural, organic produce from the grocery, a local farmer’s market, or even straight from the farm.
Giving myself the freedom to choose whatever fits our produce needs at the current moment without feeling like a horrible person if I don’t pay twice as much for organic.
Picking my own berries to can homemade jam and buying apples straight from the farm for delicious home-canned applesauce — simply because that’s what my mom and grandma have always done and we absolutely LOVE the taste of these home-canned favorites.
Recycling Everything versus Some Things:
Popular Choice: Recycling every last shred of paper, plastic, glass, tin, aluminum, etc. so nothing ends up in a landfill.
Simpler Choice for Me: Recycling SOME things that are relatively simple for us to do through our church or Dave’s school… but trashing others because our garbage company charges a huge upcharge for a recycling bin (crazy, I know)
Giving myself the freedom to decide to pay the much higher price for recycling in the future, but also not letting myself feel bad for taking a little time off.
Choosing simpler ways to reuse and recycle like using cloth napkins, taking super quick showers, turning off the lights, turning our heat down, keeping the AC off, and almost always buying used items instead of overly-packaged new toys and home goods.
Getting All the Best Deals versus Buying What I Need:
Popular Choice: Finding every last deal, using coupons and rebates for everything, shopping 5 stores each week, and never ever paying full price for anything.
Simpler Choice for Me: Saving time, energy, stress, and gas by only shopping at one store. Using a handful of digital coupons at Meijer, buying mostly sale items and store brands to save even more, shopping mainly at Aldi (never thought I’d say this!), shopping online with cash-back programs, and planning my meals around sale-priced foods to cut our grocery bill as much as I can without sacrificing more time than necessary.
Cooking 100% From Scratch versus Eating Some Processed Foods:
Popular Choice: Going gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, and/or making everything 100% from scratch. Yes, I realize some of these choices are for medical reasons, but I know dozens of people eating this way because it’s popular right now — and it’s making their lives anything but “simple”.
Simpler Choice for Me: Abiding by an “everything in moderation” mindset and eating all foods — even some less-nutritious foods.
Having fun grinding my own grain to make 100% whole grain bread, while still buying several pre-packaged items from the store — even though I know I could technically make healthier versions at home.
Limited versus Unlimited Screen Time:
Popular Choice: No TV or screen time for kids (or very limited).
Simpler Choice for Me: Holding NO strict rules for TV or screen time and simply using my day-to-day judgment to decide how much is “too much” for each individual child.
Not feeling bad about turning on a Netflix or PBS show for the kids when it’s rainy, when they aren’t feeling great, when Dave is gone late at meetings, or when I just need 30 minutes of quiet!
Saying “yes” to Please Others versus Saying “no” to Keep My Sanity:
Popular Choice: Saying “yes” to every volunteer opportunity and/or donation request as to not disappoint or upset anyone or look like you’re not “doing your part”.
Simpler Choice for Me: Choosing a few specific organizations to volunteer and donate to and giving myself permission to say “no” to all the other requests.
Knowing that I do so many “behind the scenes” things to give back to our church, schools, and communities during this season of life when I’m home with young children, and not letting myself be guilted into doing more than I can manage.
As you read through the list above, I hope you realize that NONE of the “popular choices” are BAD choices.
No, in fact, many of them are very good choices — I mean, who’s going to argue about recycling, making food from scratch, or volunteering??
I am in no way trying to make you feel bad about your own choices, so long as they are actually YOUR choices and not something you let yourself get pressured into doing because others around you say it’s the “right” and “popular” way to live.
It’s not a great feeling to go against the grain; but at the same time, it’s not a great feeling to always feel pressured into doing things you don’t actually want to do, don’t have time to do, or don’t have the gifts to do well.
Sometimes what I choose (and what you choose) might clash a little (or a lot) with what society implies is the “popular” or “better” choice. In my opinion, as long as we’re making conscious, well-thought-out decisions (not just taking the easy way out) we are probably doing OK.
A simple life looks different for every person.
Decide what it looks like for you, and start making your decisions (popular or not) accordingly.
You won’t be sorry!
What is one socially unpopular decision you’ve made to simplify your life?