Intentional Living

How to simplify life: the critical step we often miss

Woman wearing straw hat overlooking field as an ideal of simple living

Want to simplify life but can’t seem to slow down?

I’ve been there, struggling to make changes that don’t pan out—oh, and thoroughly exhausting myself in the process.

The pace of modern motherhood is often relentless. It’s no wonder that slow and simple living has become a movement—and one gaining increasing traction amongst moms.

While it’s great to have a like-minded community at our backs, this support also comes with pressure. Pressure to adopt the well-intentioned advice and ideas of others.

And before we know it, we’ve got more rather than less on our plates.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can stop spinning and start taking steps towards a slower-paced and simpler life. 

But first, we need to figure out our own version of simple—one that jives with our unique life goals and circumstances.

By the end of this post, you’ll have the tools to start moving, slowly but surely, towards your own personal kind of simple. 

Shall we get started?

Woman sitting on a bench, surrounded by grass and tress, with one leg kicked upwards and with text overlay saying "how to simplify life - it starts with this critical step"

My failed first attempt to simplify life

I’m no stranger to chasing simple.

I usually spend Saturday mornings dealing with the backlog of household tasks. My thinking goes as follows: if I charge through the drudgery, I’ll have more time for the good stuff—time with family and maybe even for creative pursuits.

Sadly, I never get past the frenzied multitasking.

My husband, S., who has remained mostly tight-lipped on the sidelines, eventually couldn’t help but offer his two cents.

During the aftermath of one of my attempted slow and simply Saturdays, S. piped up.

“Everything okay?” He queried. 

“No,” I huffed, flour strewn throughout the kitchen and a dirty wooden spoon in hand. “There’s too much to do.”

S. surveyed the kitchen—his eyes briefly lingering on the kitchen table, where craft supplies mingled with various baking utensils (likely with incomplete homework buried beneath).

“That simplify stuff not working out for you, huh?” He continued, well aware of my new slowness preoccupation.

A much needed reality check

While I hadn’t exactly draped the house in “slow and simple” mantra posters, he’d seen his fair share of books scattered about the house with some form of “simple” or “slow” in the title.

Let’s just say S.’s comments weren’t well received in the moment. And for some time after, I might add.

But his perspective did offer something: a much-needed reality check.

I was chasing simple in a what had become a futile cycle of well-intentioned attempts—efforts that were increasing rather than lightening my load.

Maybe my kind of slow wasn’t synonymous with baking and paper crafts—at least not combined in one hectic burst.

It was time to rethink slow. And find a version that worked for me rather than against me.

Start with your unique vision of a simple life

What does simple living mean to you?

When I think of simple, I envision a hammock. I’m cocooned contentedly, book in hand and uninterrupted. My children play contently nearby and someone else tends to the household duties.

While my family owns a hammock, reality looks completely different. Stolen moments within its inviting stretchy depths are spent ruminating over my to do list. Or interrupted within minutes by the familiar call, “Mom, I need you!”

Other versions of simple—those inspired by Instagram scrolling—have also failed the test of my current reality. Images of moms baking bread with adoring children, impeccably organized playrooms, and chickens running free in the yard all seem great—so long as there is no fighting over who gets to stir, no messy play, and no chicken poo to clean up.

The thing is, there’s no single way to simplify life. My version of slow living likely differs from yours. And our unique visions of simple often change as we move through life’s seasons.

When we chase simple, especially someone else’s version, we end up frustrated and no closer to our goals.

Pursuing slow can be likened to a dog chasing its tail—too much energy spent in the relentless pursuit of something that’s, frankly, not worth catching.

So rather than conform to someone else’s version of simple, we need to plot our own course.

But where do we begin?

Woman's legs seen in hammock hanging from tree as an example of how to simplify life
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You can simplify life—but it takes a certain kind of work

Simplifying our lives takes effort. But not just any kind of work.

It’s a slow and thoughtful process rather than a fast-paced, disorienting rush.

Getting our days—and life—back under control starts with finding time to pause and take stock of our lives.

It begins with paying attention to what lifts us up and what drags us down.

And it requires that we put our own dreams and realities up front and centre, rather than be swayed by the “shoulds” that sneak their way into all aspects of motherhood—including simple living.

Finding the “right” path—THE answer—can seem pretty darn important when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

And when we feel stuck, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we should want other things—like regular baking sessions with our kids, amped up decluttering efforts, and trying a hand in homesteading.

But if we’re honest, incorporating some or all of these things into our lives may only add rather than subtract from our plates.

So, what’s a different approach to simplify life?

Wooden post with arrow stating "simple life" with snowy mountain as backdrop
Photo by Jens Johnsson from Pexels, modified

Action step: make a simple living list

To get in touch with what personally matters most, start by writing down what simple means to you.

What activities and images come to mind? Don’t censor your ideas at this stage—write it all down!

Then sort through the list, looking for your kind of simple. You may have to dig a bit deeper to figure out why a particular image or activity resonates.

For example, even though my hammock vision is more fantasy than reality (at least at this stage of my life)—it still speaks to my kind of slow living.

A life that includes:

  1. More time to relax and read
  2. Opportunities to soak up the present moment
  3. Less rushing off to the next task or activity
  4. Children enjoying the outdoors, independent and carefree
  5. Less time spent managing household tasks

I don’t have to search further—including on social media—to find what kind of simple resonates best.

As you review your list of slow living ideas, ask yourself which ones give you a sense of peace rather than trepidation. Which items spark the thought “I want that” versus “I should live like that.”

Circle your favourites and start thinking of ways to bring these slow living ideas into your days.

For me, a step towards simple is escaping onto my front porch a couple times a week. I’ll sit on the front step, soaking up the delightful spring light and listening to the rally of tweets and twitters coming from our tree-lined yard. Even five minutes outside leaves me feeling refreshed and better able to face whatever the day may bring.

So think about the next small step you can take to make your slow living ideas a reality—something that will offer you a reprise, however that may look, from the business of everyday life.

Woman writing with pen on wooden desk in sunny spot
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

You, too, can simplify life

Overwhelm can feel like an inescapable part of modern motherhood.

And while simplifying helps, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to slow living.

Rather, it’s a balancing act of caring more while also caring less—a process where you embrace some things but allow yourself to let other things go—even the socially sanctioned ones.

For me, simplifying has meant adopting some common practices within slow living circles such as decluttering and home-prepared food. But these activities are works in progress, especially baking with the kids.

And some items on the simple living list are noes. Sorry, no free-range chickens—at least for now. 

The point here is to make our lives better not worse—to take away what is a burden and to add in what brings joy.

Because in the end, this is your life and your choices, mama.

So, choose what works best for you.

I want to hear from you!

Have you found yourself chasing a simple life? What has helped you simplify life? What has gotten in the way of a slower-paced life?

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