Welcome back to our second installment of this fall’s Simple Living Series.
Last week we talked about what simple living is, as well as what it’s not. If you missed that post, click here.
Today I’m sharing my simple living story:
Because simple living can mean something different to everyone. The important thing is, simple living is a tool to help you live your most intentional, most fun joy-filled life!
So what does simple living look like to me?
What has it meant to me throughout my life? Where am I on my journey? And where am I looking to go next?
Read on, my artful friends!
I’ve always been drawn to simple living.
Growing up, my very favorite books were The Little House on the Prairie series and my American Girl Kirsten books.
For those of you not in the know on American Girl dolls in the ’90’s, Kirsten was a “hearty” Swedish immigrant living in Minnesota in the 1850’s. That’s right, they called her “hearty”. Other girls wanted to be princess, I just wanted to be hearty. That should tell you something about me, right there. 🙂
So we see a theme here, right? I was drawn to these books because of the way these girls lived: their connection to nature, the joy they found in everyday tasks, their simple Christmases of one stick of hard candy and one thoughtful homemade present, it all just seemed so “real” to me somehow.
This was enforced by my parent’s enjoyment of simple pleasures, too. For example, camping in our family was high adventure. I remember being so content when we were camping: I was out in nature all the time, and I had my one little backpack of things: reminiscent of Laura Ingalls’ one box of possessions. Even at a young age, I sensed on some level that I was happiest when things were simple.
Of course, I was too young to make sense of this at all, and it wasn’t until I sort of “fell into” minimalism after college that things started to click…
Minimalism saved my sanity after college.
I was an acting major in college. Unlike most college kids, who anticipate getting a good job after school and leaving their college poverty behind them, I knew I was in for a long haul of being pretty poor! So I made it my mission to learn to live cheaply.
The major way this played out was through an ongoing search for the cheapest housing available. For a while there, I moved every few months, whenever cheaper housing presented itself.
Now we all know moving is the worse. So what happens when you find yourself moving several times a year?
You get rid of all your stuff.
Every time I moved, my pile of possessions got smaller and smaller. This made the process pretty simple, but I wouldn’t say I was a minimalist yet.
Because even though my actions were typical of your everyday minimalist, I hadn’t made the switch with my brain. My possessions were dwindling, but in my head, I still had the “constant desire for more” that our culture suffers from.
The major way this played out was in clothes.
I love clothes, always have, always will. A huge part of what I loved about acting was the fun in putting on another’s personality through beautiful costuming.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving beautiful clothing. You can be a minimalist and still love clothing and style.
But looking back, I see that my obsession with style really generated from not knowing who I was.
I was constantly on the prowl for my “new look”. How would I define myself this season? So even when I was poor and couldn’t afford new clothing, I was still always thinking about it. Always scouring the internet, or spending my afternoons in TJ’s or Marshalls looking for deals.
It was an obsession, so even though my physical surroundings demonstrated simplicity, in my head, things were anything but simple.
And clothing was just the tip of the iceberg:
“Anything but simple” is a subtle way of putting it. In truth, my head was a mess. I was chronically stressed from a life of never knowing where my next job was coming from, and feeling like I always had to please everyone, in order just to eat.
The fact that some days, I would be working as an actress, and some days as a waitress, or desperately trying to get the next job, meant I had no routine whatsoever. Now some people really thrive on this, but I’ve since learned that I really thrive on routine, so having none at all added additional stress to my life.
Additionally, I had worked so hard toward this goal of being an actress all throughout high school and college, that I had never really learned how to have a social life, hobbies, or really all the things that make life enjoyable. The message I had always received was that if I really loved acting, I had to prove it by working really, really, really hard. So that’s what I did. And never really learned how to have a balanced life.
Somewhere, in the midst of all this confusion, I was able to figure out that if my surroundings were simple, the mess in my head would start to simplify, too.
Now, this was 2008 and thereabouts. Minimalism hadn’t “taken off” the way it has in recent years, and if people were talking about it, I hadn’t heard of it. This was me just desperately trying to create some sort of order and peace in my life.
I realized that I wanted me to speak for me instead of my clothing, so I created a “capsule wardrobe” of very simple pieces. I started to buy the best quality I could afford, so my clothing would last longer and I wouldn’t have to shop as much.
I pared down my possessions even further. I got rid of any photographs or memorabilia that brought up bad memories or didn’t bring me joy. As I slowly grew my “adult” possessions, I made a point to try to save for things I really loved:
An example from this era is the Le Crueset yellow dutch oven I bought for a steal at TJ Maxx. It was still expensive, mind you, but a lot less than Le Crueset typically is! I loved buying this because it was an investment in my home life. I had never invested in my home life before, so this was a big step.
By the time I met my husband, my surroundings were the height of minimalism.
My family joked that the apartment I shared with my good friend, Stephanie, was a “John Lennon/Yoko Ono” apartment. Everything was white. We had very few possessions between us. My room consisted of my bed covered in beautiful yellow floral vintage sheets, an antique yellow chair with a few beloved books stacked neatly on top, and a spacious walk-in closet with about twenty hangers holding my garments.
I LOVED living in that apartment.
Now, that’s way more sparse than my current home, and I probably wouldn’t want to live quite so minimally again, but in that time of my life, that level of simplicity was what I needed to calm the storm in my head.
As I dove further into simplicity, I started to make a million more connections: simplicity in the way I spent my time, simplicity in relationships and work, and so on.
I realized that simplicity was less about not having stuff, and more about intentionally creating a life I loved, unencumbered by “noise” from the outside world.
Once I embraced simplicity, I was able to walk away from a career that no longer brought me joy, even though I feared what that meant for my identity.
I was able to begin to learn about myself again, questioning what made me happy, relaxed, and peaceful, and begin to pursue those things.
And I was able to take the first awkward, tentative steps to building a life I truly wanted: a life rooted in faith and family,
A life less about a list of accomplishments, and more about a collection of well-lived days.
After being an “accidental minimalist” for nearly a decade, the minimalist movement we know now started going strong and I began to read more about what other people had to say on the subject.
One writer, the inspiring Allie Casazza, has this to say about minimalism:
“I truly believe in two things: Jesus and minimalism.”
Yep, I think that about sums it up.
BTW, Allie has an amazing story about how minimalism saved her as a young mother. If you are an overwhelmed parent, her story is definitely worth a read.
So after being a minimalist for a decade, I have it all figured out, right?
Wrong. Remember, simplicity is all about living your best life. And because life is always changing, your minimalism is going to change, too.
Since my initial learning about minimalism, I’ve had to navigate living with a non-minimal spouse, trying to create a minimalist household with children, living in a tiny space, becoming a SAHM/WAHM and maintaining healthy rhythms, and life continues to change.
I’m still learning about myself. I’m still finding ways to be my happiest and healthiest, and create a home where my family can be healthy and happy, too.
So that means I’m still striving. These are the ways I’m still seeking simplicity these days:
- I’m continuing my project of simplifying housekeeping so I can have more time to spend with family and on our passions. I have made a lot of progress on this in recent years (which you will hear about soon!) But I want things to be even easier.
- Remember how I said I never really learned how to live a balanced life? I’ve made a lot of progress, but those old workaholic demons keep rearing their ugly head. Just this morning my sister commented on how “rigid” I am with my schedule. (She absolutely didn’t mean it meanly, but…yikes. Who wants to be called rigid? Not this gal.) I need to learn to relax and take care of myself better.
- I stay home with Little Monster, but I also do a bit of working from home, and would like to do more. However, Brandon has a very intense work schedule, which means I am in charge of home life. So I need to be careful about balancing the work I do at home, and in the world, with taking care of my own needs.
So that’s how the quest for simplicity is looking in my life these days.
I’m sure you’ll hear more about this as the series continues, and if you have any questions, by all means ask them. I try to be very authentic about my journey, in hopes that it will help someone else who may struggle with the same issues.
This week I would love to know: if you are a “minimalist” or enjoy simple living, where have you noticed it makes the most difference? What benefits do you see? How is your life different than your pre-minimal days?
Can’t wait to see you Friday for this week’s Weekend Whimsy!