Steps to Simpler Living, Part 4: Sticking to Simple
So you've made the decision to pursue a life of greater simplicity. Good for you, friend!
Maybe you've decluttered your whole house, said "no" to some extra commitments, and started meal planning every week.
But now you're struggling to keep going. Where do you go from here? What's next?
ADOPTING RHYTHMS OF SIMPLICITY
When it seems hard to cling to our goals or changes we're trying to make, it's often because they haven't become our habits yet, fundamental parts of our lifestyles.
I've found it incredibly helpful to adopt new rhythms that encourage greater simplicity in my life. Picking out my clothing for the week on Sundays. Packing lunch for the next day when I'm putting away dinner leftovers. Batch cooking breakfasts so I don't have to decide what to have every day.
Your rhythms might not look like mine, but that's okay! It's not about imitating anyone else's application of simplicity; it's about figuring out what works best for you.
What daily rhythms would make your life simpler? How could you eliminate some decisions, extra work, or extra time spent doing tasks you don't have to be doing over and over again?
SETTLING INTO SEASONS
Our lives happen in seasons. It might not always seem like it, when a season drags on for too long or goes by too quickly, but there are definite periods of time that can be characterized by certain circumstances, moods, life stages, or struggles. No matter what season you find yourself in, there is a way to integrate simpler living into it. It just might look different than it did in the last season or different than it will look in the next one, and that's okay!
All too often, I find myself wanting to hold onto old patterns just for the sake of, well, simplicity. And maybe safety, too, if I'm really being honest with myself. But some habits fit in one season and not in another. And if I hold to them too tightly, they end up not simplifying my life, but actually complicating it because I'm trying to force ill-fitting actions and habits into a season they weren't meant for.
When I choose instead to embrace the fact that life happens in seasons and make the most of the season I'm currently in, I can better find rhythms, routines, and actions that will simplify my life and reduce my stress instead of adding to it.
THREE BIGGEST THINGS
Each day, you can only get so much accomplished. There is a finite amount of time in each day, despite our wishes to the contrary. So it is paramount that we decide what things we're going to prioritize.
One way I like to keep my priorities straight is to not overload my daily or weekly to-do lists. I have a planner (it's this one) that has space for monthly goals, weekly checklists, and notes for each day. I write big-picture goals on the monthly pages, which I break down for each week, focusing on the biggest things I want to accomplish that week. But then I take it a step further and assign time-sensitive tasks to specific days. I'm careful, though, to not overbook or overcommit myself by assigning too many tasks to any single day, for I know that's a surefire way to stress myself out.
I heard of another writer listing out her top three things to focus on each day (and there are planners that have this function built in, if you're interested), and I follow that loosely. Until the top three things are taken care of, I don't add any more to the list. It keeps it manageable and far less stressful. It keeps it simpler. And isn't that what we're all looking for?
GRACE UPON GRACE
No matter what, we are not perfect people. We are all fallible humans. We make mistakes. And often when it comes to other people making mistakes, we're quick to forgive. But we're typically less willing to forgive ourselves.
On this journey of simpler living, as in all things, we're going to have to be willing to extend ourselves some grace.
Because this isn't a one-and-done kind of thing, we need to accept that there's a bit of a learning curve. And even when we feel like we've finally "got it," there's always going to be more to learn and more room for improvement. That's not a bad thing, either! We don't want to become complacent, right?
In order to keep growing in our lives, we have to be continually challenging ourselves. But as long as we keep trying, keep getting back up, keep our eyes fixed on our bigger "why," we're doing it right. We don't have to reach some Pinterest-worthy end goal to feel proud of ourselves. Just committing to the work is a win!
So let's remember that this life, this path of simpler living, is a step-by-step process, not a shortcut or get-rich-quick-scheme. It's a new perspective, a lens, an attitude, and a posture to adopt as we walk through our lives. And not a single one of us is going to do it perfectly. It's going to look different for everyone because it's customizable, and it's about making your life more focused on what matters to you. There's wiggle room, forgiveness, and heaps of second chances. So don't forget to give yourself some grace along the way.
What helps you stick to simplicity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)!