Life Isn't That Simple Right Now, And That's Okay Too

I often think back to an article on Simply Liv & Co. called “There’s No Such Thing As An In Between Phase In Life". That post resonated with me and I try to reflect on it when I’m feeling overwhelmed and thinking about the “next thing” in life.

Right now, my life is incredibly busy. The life my husband and I live is full of school, work, a toddler, and exhaustion. Our plan to finish our education and raise our daughter simultaneously has left little room for free time in our lives. I’ve recently considered if I can even call myself a minimalist or someone who believes in simple living during this crazy period of my life. When I look at our calendar, overlapping in colors and details, I become overwhelmed and start looking forward to when there will be more white space on the page.

Olivia points out that viewing periods of our lives as an “in-between” phases distracts us from the narrative. She says, “I love viewing life as a story or journey. I often think about other people's lives, wondering where they've been or what their goals are. Believing in the existence of in between phases essentially is like saying that this point in your life is a chapter (or two) you would like to leave out of the novel.” This chapter in my life is long and it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean it contradicts my values and ideals.

Sometimes life doesn't feel simple. Here's why that's okay.

Despite my jam-packed schedule I’m still living a life where I strive for simplicity and authenticity. I may not be able to have as much time as I’d like for self-care, but I do try to find as much time as possible to spend with my family. I may not be able to read all the books on minimalism that I’ve been planning to read, but I am making a compromise by prioritizing writing instead. I may not be able to frequently go out to coffee or dinner with friends, but I am able to eat healthy, homemade meals that my husband and I make together.

Sometimes living simply means compromising and making things work to the best of my abilities. It doesn’t feel simple, but when I step back and look at my life, I can see that I’m still following my values. We are intentional with our time and pursuing our goals, while still enjoying the simple moments when they come our way. This part of life may feel like an “in-between” phase, but really it’s just another part of the journey.

Maybe you’re in a similar busy period in your life, I’d love to hear how you live simply and authentically even when life gets a little crazy.

How Letting Go of Expectations Helped Me Fall Back in Love With My Passion

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. I loved writing reports in elementary school about animals and historical events. I kept diaries and wrote short chapter books, that would be mortifying for someone to read now. But I absolutely loved writing. I loved being able to create something out of nothing and that I didn’t need to share my writing with anyone to call myself a writer. I could keep poetry in a notebook without showing it to anyone and not consider myself any less creative.

As a child, I was a writer. If I told someone that I considered myself to be a writer, no one would’ve questioned me. Yet, now as I’m pursuing a degree in creative writing and hesitantly sharing my writing with others, there’s less freedom in simply being a writer.

Letting go of how others view your passion can give you freedom to pursue it without fear.

People, of course, no longer ask what I want to be when I grow up, instead, they ask questions like how I expect to support my family with a career in writing. Questions like these have terrified me and made me doubt myself. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew that I need to write regardless. When I decided to let go of other's expectations and demands for my life and my creativity, I was able to find joy in writing again with much less fear. I stopped leaving room for negative opinions in my life.

This isn’t to say it’s all be easy. I had to decide that I can write whether it pleases others or not. I’ve also had to decide that I can consider myself a writer whether or not my entire career is devoted to writing. I can let writing be a place to record my thoughts, allow myself to grow, engage with others, and express myself without having to answer to others.

I love to write because it fills me with joy. It gives me purpose. It keeps a record of my life. It brings out the best in me and my life.

Maybe there’s something you love that has fallen by the wayside because you were afraid of failure or you were afraid you wouldn’t meet others expectations. If you’re looking for permission to find joy in that activity again, here it is, not that you need it anyways. Whatever it may be that you used to enjoy doing it’s not too late to try again, even if the complexities of life have prevented you from pursuing it in the past. When you live simply, you allow space for the ideas and activities you love wholeheartedly, and you’re able to push away the limited ideas other people may have, even when it’s difficult to do so.

The Simplicity Of Releasing Control

To say that I'm a dreamer is as true a label as I can force myself into. Ask anyone who knows me deeply, and they'll tell you that I'm constantly filled with expectations, new ideas, start-ups, far fetched travel ideas, or thrown-together business plans. And while generally, this trait is a good thing — it certainly creates a vivid imagination, and a life that doesn't feel bound by "rules" — oftentimes my expectations get the best of me. 

I have a habit of cycling through my old issues of Darling magazine as the seasons change and as I was reading last year's Fall edition, I read a piece that spoke so accurately to where I'm at in my life right now that I couldn't help but share my reaction. Titled Waiting for the Spark, the piece spoke about the benefits of "traveling in darkness", instead of always needing to know our next step. 

Life right now, as it so often is, is very "up in the air" for my family. We recently put our house up for sale in a town where— though we've enjoyed living here— we knew would never be our "forever home". We spent the past two years fixing up our 1925 home in the hopes that it would sell quickly and would give us the funds to buy our dream home in the mountains (where both my husband and I feel truly at home). But it's been almost three weeks, and nothing. A few showings and calls here and there, but nothing. Things aren't happening quickly, and the dreamer inside me is starting to feel squelched.   

Life often feels like a struggle between having big dreams and being stuck in the everyday motions, but does it have to be that way? Learn why releasing control of the unknown can be a good thing.

We are stuck in the limbo of not knowing our next step, and as someone who loves to dream big but also relishes in having a plan, this is hard. It's difficult to accept that we might be here longer than we had planned, and it's equally hard accepting the fact that my dream may be further away than we hoped. 

But as I read through the article, one quote struck me.

The danger for dreamers who plan is that we often end up clinging too tightly to our expectations about how life ought to unfold, rushing our way toward dreamed-of destinations at the expense of simply savoring the journey. 

Talk about speaking exactly to where I'm at. And as I read on, I realized that my tight expectations I've been clutching to since we made our plans to move have been crippling me, causing my inner-life to be anything but simple. 

There is a certain beauty and freedom that comes when you relinquish control of your life and simply allow yourself to be led, opening doors when they're presented; not rushing or expecting too much. The simple moments become the moments— tucking my girls in at night, waiting anxiously for my husband to return home from work, sitting together at the end of the day talking about our dreams. Instead of living for the "next big thing" in life, I'm convicted to take the small moments as they come, embracing them for the back-bone of life that they truly are. 

Contentment is a choice, and one that anyone who has been reading my blog (in it's many forms over the years) knows to be a struggle for me. But I'm convinced that there is a way to mesh my "dreamer" personality with contentment in the moment. And I think simple living is the answer. 

In it's bones, simplicity says that what I have now is enough. It simultaneously frees you from the material to dream about the future, and make plans much bigger than simply getting more stuff. Practically, it says that the choices we make everyday matter and that choosing contentment with where we are now (waiting expectantly for "the light at the end of the tunnel") frees you from the stress of forcing life into the rigid molds we've constructed for ourselves.   

So while it's great to plan, dream, build and take action, sometimes the beauty of waiting for the mystery to unfold is where the real, life-building happens. And that is the mindset I'm seeking to cultivate in seasons when I'm walking in the unknown. 

Why Being Busy Isn't Better

To say we live in a culture of excess is an understatement — and something that's probably abundantly clear to anyone reading this piece. But society's obsession for "more" goes much deeper than just an urge to collect stuff. We're pressured to have excessive houses far too large for us packed with stuff we don't really need, obtain excessively "perfect" bodies, and maintain excessively busy lifestyles. The problem with all of this excess is that ultimately, we're left craving more — feeling burnt out and under-appreciated in spite of our unrelenting efforts. 

Part of the beauty of simple living is that it touches all areas of life, not just the amount of stuff you allow yourself to accumulate. It applies to your relationships, your mindset, your diet, your social life. Everything. And while there's much to be said about all of those things, one of the hardest for so many of us to change is our (seemingly) innate glorification of staying busy. 

Don't get me wrong, minimalism isn't about sitting on your couch doing nothing in your empty house all day long. It's not about saying no to things you enjoy doing or being "bored" all the time. It is, however, about being mindful with the way you spend your time and if the way you're spending your time isn't really consistent with your "less is more" philosophy, then maybe it's time to downsize your social schedule too. 

We live in a culture of constant business, but how does minimalism apply to your social schedule?

When your time is filled with endless meetings, play dates, after school activities, extracurriculars, errands, and chores there's no room to simply be. There's no room for self-evaluation, elimination, re-focusing, or simple self care. 

Sometimes your job may require you to have a full schedule, or your kids may be filling your calendar with birthday parties, soccer games and field trips, or maybe you're just addicted to being busy, always saying yes and never saying no. 

But the danger lies in believing your life is more fulfilled when it's filled to the brim with to-do's. And I believe the heart behind a simple life is one that knows when to say no and just take time to be. 

And by "be" I don't mean sitting in a room and meditating instead of going out for coffee with a friend. I mean learning the difference between over-booked and fulfilled. 

Here are four ways I've learned to narrow down my "schedule" so that I can focus on the things that I love: 

1. Does this event/outing/party bring me joy?

While there are certainly events that are "musts" — like family events, paying bills, business meetings and such. But others are totally optional. Weighing your choices based on the level of happiness vs stress it will bring can be a great way to pick and choose what you do. For example, as an introvert, certain social events put more stress on me than they would someone who is more extraverted. When you do have a choice, make the one that brings less stress to your life, not more. 

2. Have I Practiced Self-Care Today?

No matter how packed your schedule is, it's vital that you make time to care for yourself. Be it a hot bath at the end of the day, a trip to a coffee shop to read a good book, or an all out spa day, doing something just for you each day will ensure that the things you do decide to do aren't adding to your exhaustion. 

3. Am I Going For The Sake Of Someone Else?

Oftentimes we do something because we're scared of how someone else will react if we don't (or vise versa). Worrying about the opinion of others (whose opinion truly doesn't matter to you) is not only unneeded stress, but it adds complications to your life. 

4. If it's a "must do", how can I simplify elsewhere to ensure I'm not over-booked?

Making sure to carve in some downtime in your day, no matter how busy, will help you from getting too busy. 

Is being constantly busy something you struggle with? What's something you can do to bring more simplicity to your schedule? 

5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I Started My Minimalist Journey

To be honest, I'm not even sure how I came across the minimalist lifestyle. At some point during the early hours of the morning nursing my baby I was probably scrolling through Pinterest and saw some gorgeously simple home that I aspired to have sometime. It wasn't until recently that I spent a lot of time researching and learning purposefully about minimalism. In the beginning, I was just searching for peace and simplicity. My daughter is now two and I'm still in awe of the simplicity of others' homes and lives, but I'm slowly but surely making progress toward the lifestyle I first envisioned when I stumbled across minimalism. 

Minimalism doesn't look the same for everyone. Here are five things every "aspiring minimalist" should know before they jump in.

1. It may be incredibly hard

There are times when I'm just exhausted after going through the personal items that I've held onto for an entire lifetime. I find sentimental items are the hardest to purge. But sometimes things like clothes, or my daughter's toys can be just as hard to go through. It's easy to make emotional connections with things. Sometimes I'll need to go through everything and get rid of some things and then wait until I come back to that collection to go through again and let go of more. At first, I thought I was the only one who thought it was painful to let go, but then I realized other people had similar struggles and attachments. I wasn't alone, I was just seeing others who have moved through the difficulty already. 

2. There isn't necessarily a timeline

There are so many articles, magazines, and entire books outlining exactly how you're supposed to de-clutter and simplify your life that include a specific timeline for doing so. But here's a secret: you don't have to follow any of those timelines. That schedule may have worked for someone else, but that doesn't mean you have to blindly follow it. Maybe you want to purge your entire house in a weekend, eliminate one item a day, or take many passes through your possessions. We should encourage others to go at their own pace and provide support, not demand that they follow the routine we followed. 

3. Your simplicity doesn't need to be the same as someone else's

The other day in a large online community I witnessed a mother who had asked for suggestions to store her children's stuffed animals. The responses quickly turned harsh and unproductive. Instead of assisting her with suggestions of simple and effective organization tools, they attacked her journey. People quickly got hung up on a number of stuffed animals her family owned, and not on actually helping the mother get organized. 

Your simplicity is yours and yours alone. However you seek to pursue a simplified life is up to you and hopefully, anyone who wants to give you advice is looking out for your best interests and your own goals for minimalism. 

4. It's a journey that never ends

Sometimes I'll get a room in order or think I've pared down my clothes so I only have ones I love, but slowly the room becomes a mess again or I'll have a closet full of clothes I never wear. In those moments, I have to remind myself that minimalism is a journey. 

I recently went through all of my daughter's baby clothes and sorted them to be donated. And then before I knew it, she had a closet full of items she was outgrowing. Minimalism isn't something I achieve, it's something I will continuously pursue. The journey allows me to be mindful of what I'm allowing into my life. 

5. It will be so worth it

I've found such peace in eliminating possessions, commitments, and negative ideas that no longer serve me. When I envision the life I want to live, it becomes easier to purge possessions or say no to a commitment that I just can't handle at the time. When I realize that I've been able to go on a walk with my family every night and eat homemade dinners of healthy food we love, letting go becomes much easier.