When Simple isn’t Easy

Throughout the past few years, I’ve been moving towards a more simple life. I’m seeking less chaos, less clutter, less shopping, less spending, you get it – I want less so that I can have more of what really matters.

More freedom, more mental space, more peace, more time.

But that last one is interesting. What if simplifying leads us to do things…that take up more time?

Simple Isn't Always Easy

How simple can get complicated

For starters, let’s make it clear: I don’t have any more hours in the day now than I did three years ago. None of us do.

But I have found myself allocating those hours so differently these days, and not in ways you might expect.

I clean more often (although it takes less time), I prepare food constantly (or at least it feels like I do), and I spend more time planning days than I have ever done before.

So, what changed? Isn’t one of the driving factors of minimalism getting to the point of doing fewer chores? I think I figured it out:

My values have evolved.

Doing more of these chores isn’t counterintuitive to my minimalism journey. In fact, they’re a direct result of it.

I’m cleaning more often because I love a clear, clean space (and with two bunnies, dusting & vacuuming are imperative). I make my bed, I clear counters and desks, I even do laundry more than I used to. Because a clean home and fewer clothes have become important to me.

I’m also cleaning more because I’m cooking more. Food used to be filler – something to literally get me from point A to point B. Now, food is everything. It no longer just “takes up space” in my stomach – I truly value it as my source of life and energy. That’s why it’s become complicated – soaking beans, shopping two times a week for fresh produce, adding useful kitchen gadgets and even more tupperware for leftovers, etc.

Marketers have convinced us that pre-packaged food is simple: just throw it in the microwave! That’s not quite right – it’s convenient, not simple.

“Convenient” is for when we don’t have the time, “simple” is for when we can make the time. Which brings me to my next point.

Planning a simple life

Now for the planning – I wouldn’t have a simple life without planning for it. Or at least being intentional about my time.

Planner

I take my sweet time when planning my day.

Some days, I don’t take the time to jot down a few goals while I drink my morning coffee. I can feel it for the rest of my day. I feel less grounded and more hectic, which is not a recipe for a happy Emily.

Do you feel it too? If so, I challenge you to take note of it next time you feel that way. Stop, drop and write down your three next steps. Is three too many? Even one will do. Even if it’s “put on a pot of tea” or simply “shower”.

Intentions and a podcast worth listening to

I’ve been learning a lot about intentions and values lately, and it’s helped to put some things into perspective. It’s helped organize my outcome-based goals into long-term guiding values.

If you’re simplifying, remember to always ask yourself why. Reminding yourself frequently of your “why” will help you if you get frustrated about something being just a little more complicated than you thought it would be.

And your “why” might change!

To start finding out more about your gut instincts, check out Jess Lively’s tips on setting intentions. Then check out her podcast, The Lively Show. Start at the beginning, because each episode is filled with inspiration and intentional living tips!

So, simplify!

Simplify to your heart’s content. But don’t be afraid when commitments or projects arise because of it.

If the project really does fit into your life or with your values, you now have less of the “other stuff” to stop you.

So, clean that kitchen every day and be proud that you’re using it. A simple life is not some fantasy of never having chores – it’s a life where the chores we do actually support the life we want.

Advertisements

Checking In On Yourself

”If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

Confucius

I’ve been focusing in on the importance of self-care and self-awareness lately, and one of the essential components of it is to know what you need and when you need it.

And it can be as complex as an elaborate checklist detailing all your physical and emotional parts (think something like a vehicle inspection), or it could be as simple as asking yourself “how is your heart?

As usual, I am writing this post as much for myself as I am writing it for you. I feel like our home and possessions are out of balance these days, so I need to take a moment to evaluate the root cause of that (I’m guessing that it’s overwhelming busyness).

Let’s take a look at what a middle-of-the-road self check-in might look like.

Check In On Yourself

Give yourself space

Commutes and random time spent waiting at a coffee shop for a friend are good times to do a quick alignment check, but to really dive in you should give yourself the time and space you need.

Grab a notebook (even if you don’t use it – am I the only one who thinks better when I have a notebook nearby?) and a beverage and set up camp in a comfortable space. Allow yourself the pleasure of an uninterrupted span of time (I’m going to go with 30 minutes).

A 3-point check up

You might want to add more or only focus on one of these at a time, but here’s a good place to start.

Emotional

This is where you ask yourself about the state of your heart. Are you feeling full and whole? Do you feel balanced, or are there things nagging at your gut that you haven’t fully addressed? Get in the habit of digging deeper to find what is truly at the heart of the matter.

Here is also the place to ask yourself about your relationships – with yourself and with others. Are you connecting in the way that you want to? Do you need another friend to fill a space you currently are missing, or do you need to say goodbye to someone who is detracting from your happiness?

Physical

This is the one I’ve been focusing on lately. It’s a different way of approaching your gut!

Is the beautiful machine that is your body functioning as it should? Are you aching or stiff from sitting all day? Are you pushing yourself too hard?

Many of us are too tough on our bodies, so approach this check-in with a lot of love and kindness for yourself. Don’t make it an opportunity for harsh self-criticism, focus on positive ways you can serve that already miraculous body of yours so it can serve you back.

Mental

Allowing yourself to stagnate is easy once you’re out of the structure of a school. Here is where you ask yourself what you’ve learned lately. What are you excited about learning? Do you currently have projects that you are passionate about and motivated to work on?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford

Now is also the time to ask yourself about your current goals. What is guiding you right now? Is it a solid guiding principal or is it a vague direction? Whatever your answer to that question should be followed up with this: is that how I want it to be?

Ask yourself why

After each check-in, ask yourself why you feel that way. Filtering your grievances through a few layers of “whys” will help you discover the values behind them. Maybe the real reason your are frustrated with clutter in your home is that you don’t find your space inspiring.

From there, evaluate if there’s a way to address the issue. Search for other spaces that you feel are more inspiring, or seek out ways to create a truly inspiring home from what you already have.

This is the most important part – if you’ve had headaches lately, don’t just stop at that. Find out if it’s caffeine or sugar or stress and then actively seek answers.

A quick gratitude warm-down

Warm downs are important when you’re exercising, and I don’t see this as any different. Bring yourself back from the check-in by listing five things you are grateful for right now.

Just like with each check-in, ask yourself why you are grateful for these things. Reflecting on what you are grateful for (and, in my opinion, why you are) makes for a happy brain.

Simple living and intentional living are one and the same: you can’t have a simple life without knowing yourself and knowing the intentions that drive you.

So what do you need to check in on today?

My 3 Words for 2016

New Years Resolutions: I’ve made them for as long as I can remember, but I couldn’t tell you one off the top of my head. They’ve always felt important, but they’ve never been impactful.

I actually just checked back on my blog to see if I had written any of them down and found this post about an alternative way to view resolutions. It was refreshing. Thanks, past me. I don’t remember writing that, but apparently I knew what was up two years ago.

But that’s not what this post is about. I wanted to share a little look into what I’ve set up for 2016. This year, I’ve created simple new years intentions.

They’re more like guidelines anyway

I think the biggest hangup people have with resolutions is that they’re so resolute. There’s no room for error, and a simple slip up can ruin the whole project for the year.

I wanted something a little more open to interpretation. And to mistakes.

It always goes back to being kind and gentle to yourself instead of holding rigid expectations. So without further ado, here are my intentions for 2016!

Three guiding words

There is no heirarchy here. I based these on three personally important areas of my life: my relationships, my all-around health and my work. Turns out, they all ended up being relevant for all areas.

3 words

Nourishment

I chose this one specifically with my relationships in mind. I have been surrounded by some awesome support this year, and I want to make sure I keep up healthy relationships by giving more energy and commitment to them.

But beyond relationships, this hits another area of my life: my own health. I’m notorious for putting work ahead of my own well-being, and that’s something that needs to change this year.

Balance

I’m talking all sorts of balance here, folks: work-life balance, physical balance (hello, yoga) and mental/emotional balance. All of these have been out of whack lately, so I’ve been setting up gentle rules guidelines to help regain my balance.

Again, like I said, these intentions are not meant to be hard and fast rules that I’ll break and then feel bad about. Think of it like meditation – whenever you wander from these core intentions, gently bring your focus back. Self-defeat is not useful here.

Rhythm

I discovered this concept from Brooke McAlary while I was binge-listening to her Slow Home Podcast. She has a great episode about rhythm, and this blog post will help you get started creating a rhythm for your week.

I love this concept because routine is such a danger zone for people like me – if one thing goes wrong, I’m ready to scrap the whole thing until the next day when it starts over. I want to create a rhythm in my life that is kind and productive.

It also doesn’t hurt that I love the musicality of this word, and everyone can use more music in their lives, right?

Picking your own words

I started by picking three areas of my life I wanted to work on, but you don’t have to be that specific.

Chris Brogan has a clear way of explaining this concept, and really helped me get started with mine.

The most important things:

  • These are your words. You don’t have to share them or feel like you have to copy others’ words. Choose what speaks to you.
  • Leave room for change (a year is a long time!) and allow yourself some space to grow into the words. Mine are a little less specific than I wanted, but I loved that I had a little wiggle-room on how I interpreted them.
  • Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t let these words become negatively restrictive or impeding. The only way it will work is if you allow yourself some grace for unforseen circumstances.

With that, I wish you and yours the best new year! And I want to thank all of you readers for joining me on this blogging and simplifying journey – you truly made my 2015 extra special.

Now it’s your turn – what are your intentions for 2016?

Crazy Happy…or Just Crazy?

I’ve recently set a new intention – to pursue crazy happiness.

Note that I didn’t say “to be crazy happy” – I don’t want the denial or stress that can come with setting that particular intention. But the pursuit of it is on my mind.

Basically, I don’t ever want to stop pursuing a happier life. I don’t believe there is a final destination of happiness.

Does that make me crazy?

Do more of what makes you happy.

The “good enough” mindset

It’s easy to find yourself in a day-to-day, good-enough mindset. I know I do it.

The kitchen is clean enough, my writing is polished enough. The trouble comes in when there’s still work to do and the results actually change your life. I’m not going to feel more fulfilled as a person by rinsing off one more plate or finding one more spelling error.

But, if I’m only “happy enough”, then that means I could be happier.

When I was “happy enough”

I was “happy enough” just less than a year ago. When my husband and I lived in Indianapolis, we were stuck in a routine that was just getting us by. We weren’t crazy happy. We were happy enough.

We both were in an environment that just felt like we were passing time. That could really be a depressing story if that’s just where it ended.

But we made a change.

We prepared to move to Los Angeles for months (we had talked about it for years actually), but I couldn’t have prepared for the change it actually brought. It’s been such an adventure!

Los Angeles may not be our final destination, but we are happy here and happy that we decided to take action in our lives. We saw something that needed to change, and we changed it. We talk often and openly about ways we can increase our happiness.

It’s something I want to pursue for the rest of my life.

Am I crazy?

One of the biggest thoughts I’ve had since setting this intention is that maybe I’m just crazy. We’ve traditionally been surrounded by messages that encourage settling and not taking risks.

Maybe the pursuit of crazy happiness isn’t worth it. Maybe the effort I have to put in isn’t worth the happiness I get in return.

But then I think, isn’t any happiness worth working for? And isn’t there happiness even more so with the work?

How to pursue crazy happiness

I am not a happiness expert. But I am currently pursuing it, so I guess I have a little to say about my experience.

You don’t have to move across the country to pursue your own crazy happiness. It may just be a matter of driving a different way to work or taking a walk in the morning.

But what’s important is that you don’t stop and say “that’s it, this is the end. I can’t possibly get any happier than this.”

What’s important is that you’re open to happiness.