How to Solve the Problems Keeping You From a Simple Life
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou
I have a friend who inspires my minimalism pursuit every time I see her. She wouldn’t call herself a minimalist, nor do I think she subscribes to any particular simple lifestyle movement, but her simplicity is tangible and practical. Simple is just who she is.
Her home is simple yet beautiful and welcoming. Never too much, only what reflects who she and her family are. Her personal style is eclectic and fashionable; a unique way of self expression that always seems effortless.
Her values are hinged on social justice and environmental consciousness; with the foundation of her faith and hope in God. She participates community organized meetings and knocking doors. Her voice and presence are her weapons of choice. She isn’t too busy to involve herself in the issues deeply rooted in her heart.
She’s not concerned with screen time and juice boxes- mostly because neither is readily available to her daughter. She utilizes the library for books and her part time gig as a spinning instructor at the YMCA for exercise. As far as I know she and her husband don’t own a television and she doesn’t concern herself much with social media.
Her simple living is quiet and profound because it’s as if she doesn’t realize how inspiring it is. And that’s why it’s so beautiful.
More often than not I feel that I’m always trying to simplify. I have to think about it. It’s not a natural inclination to resist the complicated and inessential. It’s a constant process of creating new habits that hopefully become instincts in which I’ll achieve the life I want.
I’m reminded of a line in the movie The Martian that we paraphrase a lot in our house:
“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you…everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem…and you solve the next one…and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
When we find ourselves outside of our natural environment – whether it’s on Mars like the movie or the unnatural pursuit of simple – we solve the problems with our trying; the constant effort to do better and be better.
It’s not easy – the work of starting and the solving. But the only way we make any progress in life is by solving one problem at time until we solved enough to get somewhere. And this is certainly true when we are working toward a simple, slow, and intentional life.
My friend’s life is simple, but it’s not perfect. And with time and effort we can solve our way to a simple life that feels natural and effortless.
3 Steps to Solve the Problems Keeping You from the Simple Life
- Quit settling (“this is it. This is how I end”)
Generally, we get to this place gradually, unintentionally slipping into routines and habits that distract us from who we are and what matters most. Often, at a certain point we begin to believe that this is just how life is. This is it. Until we get so overwhelmed that we feel there is no hope of coming back up for air. This is how we end – chronically overwhelmed, exhausted, burned out, and trapped in our own life.
We can settle for a mediocre life on the edge of run down and ragged or we can do the work that will lead us to safer ground.
- Identify the first problem (“You just begin. You do the math”)
No longer settling for how life has turned out will unveil problems. And usually they come in layers, so it’s important to identity the first problem and how the others stack upon it.
There was a situation in our home a few months ago of boundary lines being crossed. The problem was I never expressed what the boundaries were in the first place. As I started to declutter my life of stuff, busyness, and negative self talk I finally had the time, clarity, and perspective to see the problem and work toward a solution. I voiced my needs (after a good amount of wise counsel) and set the boundaries I needed to survive and thrive in my life.
With proper boundaries set, I’m able to pursue the intentional life I want without anxiety and overwhelm. And I move on and inward to the next layer – constantly moving toward resolution and freedom.
- Get to work (“You get to come home”)
When we do the work of decluttering the excess stuff, slow down, and pay attention to the life around us – it starts to feel like home.
A home with less clutter means less tension and maintenance. With fewer activities on the calendar you get more time with your family or to pursue passions. Your inner self – your soul – will finally get the love and care that it’s been whispering for in the dark hours.
Home becomes more than your residence. It becomes your soul refuge wherever you are.
I don’t know how my friend became the simple, slow being that she is but I do know that we can all get there. Whether it’s our natural inclination and personality or it’s a 33-million mile journey to reach our own version of simple – we will get to come home.
Home to love, to deep breathing, and peace and comfort. Home to gratitude and grace and home within ourselves, exactly as we are.
Just begin. Do the math. Solve the first problem. Keep trying, keep doing better and you will solve enough to arrive at your own simple life.