By Michele, Contributing Writer
A life of simplicity sounds nice, doesn’t it? But what does that really mean?
Stories abound of families selling everything to live off the land, leave a small footprint, travel lightly, or other endeavors. But does that sound simple to you?
Maybe… But perhaps not.
Our family has lived various versions of the above scenarios at different times, but life changes, as seasons come and go. It’s obviously a lot of work to till a garden, scrub dishes by hand, chop firewood, or walk for all your errands. (These seem to appear frequently in all those “simple living” stories, don’t they?)
However, those activities are not the definition of a simple life for me (even as often as we’ve done them); they are just elements. The foundation of simplicity for me, is living a life that is consistent with our values.
When my husband and I establish a foundational vision for our family, we seek to live it out wherever God takes us, and with whatever He provides. If we forget, that is usually the season where we end up with a life full of “clutter” (perhaps physical items, as well as overflowing schedules), and often tempers become short. We feel overwhelmed.
Anything outside of our values becomes an extra burden; complicating instead of simplifying life.
For example, when I teach my children, it is easy to become overwhelmed by curriculum choices, catalogs of natural “necessities,” or community activities. Simple living doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of everything. It just means I need to filter the choice through my personal values of: Nourishing their Souls, Nurturing a Love of Learning, and Developing Godly Character.
For the most part, it doesn’t depend on the size of your house, the number of bags you’ve recycled, or the amount of produce you preserve. People in all sorts of life seasons and situations can evaluate life opportunities through the lens of: “Does this fit my values?”
I have sweet memories of visiting a grandma years ago (barely 5 feet tall, including the fluffy white curls on her head), and curiously browsing the shelves of tiny knick-knacks on the walls of her small home.
She gave handmade gifts each Christmas from her generous heart, and her most prized “collection” was her grandchildren. She shone joy in her life of simplicity (but others might say she should have “decluttered” those shelves and sold her favorite old gas-guzzling vintage car). It was perfect–a haven for family to browse old photos and laugh amid the timelessness. It’s about values.
Years later, I visited a sweet family who owned a beautiful large home, built themselves, overlooking a clear lake, surrounded by wooded acreage. That may not sound simple to some, but their simple-living ways allowed them to nourish their many guests with an atmosphere of peace, cups of soup, and a small shelf of books.
They valued hospitality and had created spaces for hurting souls to heal, within those bare wooden walls and lakeside views. Instead of furnishing their home immediately with expensive furnishings, they chose to share a bathroom lit only by sunlight or candlelight, and shower with rainwater. They had a firm foundation of values.
Sometimes we have to be creative in finding a way to pursue living our values amid challenging life seasons. It may mean dreaming a bit, setting some goals, and making gradual changes or investments over time.
Choosing what we value most is a form of self-care, as well as caring for specific family needs. Simplicity means setting healthy boundaries, establishing a foundational vision, and identifying our values.