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.

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The Joy of Simple Work

I’m just settling in after a couple of long and wonderful weeks of visiting with friends and family who were in town. It’s so nice to have a taste of home out here on the west coast, but there’s something to be said about getting back into my (still new) routine and actually getting some major work done.

Working from home

Work has been one of the reasons I’ve been in such a funk lately. I do data entry and content quality editing from home, and there is no denying that my work is simple. Sometimes the solitude and low-level of brain power involved in working from home gets to me and I start searching for something better.

But then I realize I’ve got it made, at least for now. There should be no shame in doing simple work, as long as it lets you do what you really love.

As a woman who left a tech/marketing agency last year, I feel like I should be launching myself into other office jobs, leaning in, breaking into the tech scene and climbing that corporate ladder. I should be carrying a bat with me so I can break the hell out of that glass ceiling. Right?

Thoughts on the Corporate Ladder

If you are a professional woman (or man!) who’s kicking butt and taking names when it comes to the corporate ladder, I applaud you. But in the past year I’ve started to wonder if that’s what I really want for my own life. And I know others are thinking it too.

I liked my job, some days I even loved it, but I always knew that I still wasn’t in the right spot. I’d come home drained and I was only interested in watching Netflix until bedtime. I felt no spark.

I was wasting my energy and brainpower on something that didn’t return value to me.

So, I quit and I started doing the “piecework” that I do now. Guess what? My creative energy started coming back. The circles under my eyes disappeared.

Climbing the ladder towards those executive positions is a wonderful aspiration, but it is not and should not be the goal for everyone. Sometimes, it’s more productive to direct your energy towards a passion project and work mindless jobs to pay the bills. Don’t be afraid to take a “lesser” job – we are not defined by how we make money, but by how we choose to use our energy.

The zen of simple work

I couldn’t resist using the word “zen” because there are some days I fall into a productive, calm rhythm. My brain isn’t working too hard, but is still functioning at the right level, and I can work for hours straight. These days are rare, but beautiful.

Simple work helps me connect to simple pleasures. If I need to get up and pet the rabbit sitting by my feet, I can. If I need to get out of the apartment, I can.

Work from home desk

This is my experience working from home, but there’s something to be said for all the different “simple” jobs – one of my favorite jobs was as a minimum-wage barista. I loved serving people at such an important part of their day. If you’re tired of a mindless job, see if you can reallocate some of that negative energy to something more positive and productive like a hobby or side venture.

The future of simple work

I imagine I’ll be doing these things (and maybe some other freelance projects that come my way) for the foreseeable future. I might end up doing these things indefinitely, or I might change my mind.

In a month I could be working a 9 to 5 office job. But here’s the best part of simple work – it can be there for you until something wildly better comes along. I have the freedom to search, interview, and choose a job that’s right for me while the simple stuff pays those nasty bills.

I do know this: I was able to see my friends and family for two weeks and squeeze work in while they were out, or after the 3-hour time change had them in bed by 9PM. I didn’t have to miss a beat, and I still feel rested as if I were on vacation too.

It’s time to take a stand for those of us who find peace outside of the rat race. For the women who choose to lean in in a different way. For the men who don’t feel like suits and ties are suitable workwear. For anyone who’s life has called them into a simpler line of work.

There’s no shame in taking on simple work – it might be the greatest thing you’ll ever do.