Finding Joy in Simplicity

I feel like my life has become some weird kind of “Mad Max” meets Little House on the Prairie hybrid. 

Between the toilet paper-hoarding-apocalypse and the sudden home-centered church, schooling…who am I kidding, home-centered-EVERYTHING, I find this strange dichotomy confusing and taxing, yet oddly peaceful. 

What has brought me peace and joy during this strange “New Normal” is simplicity.

Applying the KonMari Method to My Life

I’ve decided there’s no time like the present to KonMari my life.   Or at least, apply the beautiful, simplicity-guru Marie Kondo’s sixth rule for tidying: “Ask yourself if it sparks joy.”  

During this unchartered period of day-by-day living, I am simplifying my life by engaging in what brings me (and my family) joy.

Before you scoff, I’d argue that yes, we actually do have that luxury!  Our lives of busyness have ground to a halt.  Distractions are now only self-imposed.  It is now time to erase the big façade that busyness equals productivity, or that being busy, in itself, is worthwhile. 

“And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Joy Doesn’t Erase Stress

Does choosing to only maintain that which brings joy mean that all stress disappears?  Of course not.  There are things that exist beyond our control, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we are still sometimes entities that are “acted upon” by outside influences. 

With our activities being limited under this National State of Emergency, some of us are facing loss of income, and stressing about how to pay bills; others cannot get the food and household supplies they need and are stressed about how they will continue to care for their families.

Then there is the stress of simply adjusting to the uncertainty of the future and the “New Normal” we find ourselves thrust into.

But focusing on simplicity helps us prioritize what we can control.  It helps us discover the joy we lost long ago in simple pleasures and realize that a simpler life is more than enough

So, while we are agents that are acted upon by epidemics and Executive orders, let’s revert to simplicity and learn how to find joy in three arenas: our homes, our families, and ourselves. 

Simplicity in our Homes

1. Replace hectic schedules with simple routines

Take advantage of slowing down the non-stop taxi-service or always-on-the-run mindset and put a simpler routine in place. 

If you’re now working from home, or suddenly have kids staying home, start with a slower morning.  Set a more peaceful pace and follow it deliberately through the day. 

Let simple routines like eating, showering, relaxing after dinner, playing games, reading before bed, etc. dictate your schedule instead of outside demands on your time.    

There is comfort in routine. But let simplicity dictate that routine.  Allow it to grow naturally from simple activities that bring you and your family happiness.   

2. Re-invest in good eating habits

By “good habits”, I don’t just mean replace fast food with home-cooked meals, I mean slow down and make mealtimes “social times”. 

If there is one constant in my household, it’s dinner time as a family.  And I can honestly say, some days those family dinners are the high point of an otherwise pretty rotten day. 

Family meals do not need to be extravagant—pancakes are a big favorite in my house.  Because it’s not really about the food, it’s about the time spent together.

While your schedules find everyone at home, let mealtimes become part of your simplified routine.  Let them become a grounding moment for your family during chaotic uncertainty.     

And for those who live alone, use the technology we have been blessed with to your advantage!  Always wanted to learn a family recipe?  Set up FaceTime and make it together.  Go out on a “dinner date” with a friend by sitting down to eat together over Skype.   

Keep it simple and it will be joyful.

3. Give attention back to what’s been neglected

I saw a funny quote on Social Media the other day that said,

“Thoughts and Prayers going out to all the husbands who told their wives they’d ‘get to it when they had the time’…”

It’s funny ‘cause it’s true! 

We work so hard every day to afford our homes, and then we spend so little time enjoying them! 

Embrace the simple joy of taking pride in your home.  For you that might mean:

  • Decluttering KonMari-style
  • Re-decorating or rearranging a room
  • Planting a garden
  • Organizing a home gym
  • Teaching your children homemaking, mechanic, woodworking skills
  • Or even a larger-scale remodel that will enable you to enjoy that home you are working so hard for but spending no time with!

Finding joy in the simple aspects of “keeping house” isn’t outdated or unsophisticated, it’s peaceful and empowering.   

Simplicity with Family

1. Teach your children simple life skills

Make learning how to navigate this “New Normal” a family affair.  Let your children be a part of meal-planning and budgeting.  Show them how to change the oil on the car.  Get them out of bed in the morning and into that new home gym!

It’s the enthusiasm that you show towards these life skills that influences your kids’ reactions.  If you find joy in making homemade bread, they will find joy in it, too. 

Show your children that you believe in them, that you are proud of the things they are learning, and that you appreciate their worthwhile contribution to the home and family. 

Not only are we teaching our children life skills, we are teaching them how to be resilient and calm in a stressful situation.

“Our kids are watching us and learning about how to respond to stress and uncertainty.  Let’s wire our kids for resilience, not panic.”

@drbeckyathome

2. Nurture relationships by slowing down

Another funny quote I passed on my Social Media feed read something like this:

“If I have to be quarantined with my husband, it’s not the Corona Virus that will kill him.”

Funny? Yes.  A little sad? Also, yes.    

How many of us are a little stressed that all this “extra time” with family might be a little beyond our ability to manage?  Maybe that’s a sign that we need to invest a little more in our most important personal relationships.

Are we out-of-touch with our spouses?  Have we become more like ships passing in the night than a team equally yoked and facing the future together?

If so, nurture your relationships through simplicity.  The movie theaters are closed.  Noisy restaurants are closed.  Sit and talk.  Make and eat dinner together.  Go for a walk or lay in bed together and read.  Shut off the outside world and remind each other why you fell in love.    

3. Simply take more time

With all your family relationships, slow down and communicate to them that you have no more pressing, no more important thing to do than to listen and give them your time.

Love is spelled T-I-M-E, Time

The truth is we always make time for what is most important.  By simplifying our lives and removing distractions, we will suddenly discover more time to kindle the joy we have with our families!

Simplicity with Self

1. Simplify your mind

When we are overly busy, our minds can become our worst enemies.  We focus on what’s happening next, what we’ve forgotten, all the things we simply don’t have time to do! 

Stop.  Simplify your mind by slowing down your thoughts, erasing negativity, and accepting yourself—both good and bad. 

With more time and slower schedules, make it a priority to de-clutter your own mind. 

Uncertainty is a breeding ground for anxiety.  The more space we give those two thoughts in our minds, the less joyful and peaceful we will be.  Remember our thoughts, words, and actions are all inextricably linked.  Simplify your thoughts, and the others will follow suit. 

2. Stop putting things off

It’s often the simple things we wish we did that fall by the wayside in our overcomplicated schedules. 

Read the book that’s been sitting on your nightstand collecting dust.

Write in your journal for simply 5 minutes a day.

Go for a walk.

Work on a Scrapbook.

Meditate.

The reality is, we make time for convoluted, difficult tasks every day, yet neglect the simple ones that would bring us so much more peace.  Let’s try and reverse that!  Prioritize the simple acts and discover what complicated tasks suddenly become unnecessary.     

3. Embrace the hobbies that make you uniquely you

While you’re simplifying your mind and making time for positive habits, reflect on the hobbies that bring you joy.

How many have been shelved during your busy lifestyle?  Do you suddenly have time to bring one down off the shelf?  Sure, you might not be able to go surfing or skiing, but what about dusting off a musical instrument?  What about tidying up a flower garden, writing poetry, singing, or reading?  You know, all those Little House on the Prairie type hobbies! 

When we simplify our schedules and remove unnecessary distractions, we just might discover we have time for the passions that bring us joy. 

Perfecting Simplicity

During this constantly evolving period of uncertainty, embrace Simplicity.  Actually, don’t just embrace it, perfect it. 

The joy that comes from simple routines, quality family time, and positive habits is infectious.  When our lives return to the way they once were, if we’ve perfected simplicity and relish the peace and joy it brings, we just might make more time for the simple things.   

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