When you think ‘living a simple life’, often you think in terms of tangible items, such as slowing down, growing a garden or spending time with family. But to truly live a simple life, you need to delve into the intangibles. These are the feelings and emotions that make up the very basics of living a simple life.
To help you determine how to use those intangible things, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself a few questions.
What are You Competing Against in Life?
Some of us feel our jobs are keeping us from living as simply as possible. Between the hours in the office and the commute, much of our time is taken up with working.
In some cases, we bring our work home with us. Sometimes that is literal work, and other times it just monopolizes our thoughts, which prevent us from focusing on our homes and families. Work often consumes our lives, whether we are there or not.
Hectic schedules are another thing with which we compete. If we have children, after school activities, homework and play dates have to be micro-managed almost, just to fit them all in. A spouse also has his or her agenda to consider.
Money is one of the biggest competitions we have in life. There is never enough. The cost of living is at least twice what the average income level is. Because of that, we have become 2.5 income families, and in some cases it takes three incomes to make ends meet.
What Lies Beneath?
There are also intangible things we compete against. Our unfulfilled dreams have a way of resurfacing, and making us wonder ‘What if?’ But just as the traffic light turns green, they get pushed aside so you can focus on the traffic jam.
Guilt just loves to ‘poke the bear’. Work made you miss another recital or the first soccer goal. A home cooked meal is replaced with yet another drive thru, because there just isn’t enough time. Sheer exhaustion has you sleeping in on Saturdays, instead of having a picnic with your family.
You often fall into a pit of despair and depression because life is just too hard. It’s hard to focus on the basics of a simple life when dealing with all of this.
Determine what it is you are competing with, and find a way to either win, or remove yourself from the competition.
What You Do Should Make you FEEL….
Your lifestyle shouldn’t be so difficult. Yes, there are going to be times of frustration. We suffer through economic hardships, illness and even the death of a loved one.
There are times when we need to pitch in to help someone else, which means the time we need to do other things is cut in half.
The truth is, life isn’t always easy. But overall, your life shouldn’t be a constant source of struggle. What you do and how you live your life should be a good thing.
It should make you feel comfortable. Happy. Challenged. Passionate. If you take it to the next level, you should also have a healthy self-respect as well as a deep level of contentment. It is these feelings and emotions that help you to look forward to a new day.
What is Missing?
If you and any one of these feelings and emotions are total strangers, it may be time to ask yourself another question – What are you missing? Time to breathe? Quality time with your family? Opportunities to explore those dreams, become passionate about something, or feel challenged in a good way?
Perhaps there is another way to look at it. Think about what there is in your current lifestyle that you would not miss if it was no longer in place? What is preventing you from enjoying the basics of a simple life?
Would you rather spend 10 minutes with your child in the car while driving from one activity to the next, or spend an hour or two with them after school? Do you want to spend time on the computer, using your hard-earned money ordering the next latest greatest, or have a date day with your spouse?
Compare working a second job to using that time instead to have a family day. Whether it is a picnic in the park, teaching your children a craft, or spending your time with friends at a sewing circle, I am sure you can think of something you would rather be doing other than working.
What Exactly are The Basics of a Simple Life?
The way I always think of it is this: Peter takes a fruit basket to his neighbor.
Did I lose you? Let me explain.
The very foundation of my simple life is my faith in God. From there, I started the building process. For some of my ‘supplies’ and ‘tools’, I use two verses. 1) 2 Peter 1: 5-7, and 2) Galatians 5: 22.
Peter was an apostle. In the first verse, Peter tells us we need to make every effort to add to our faith several things – goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love.
Galatians 5:22 is known by many of us as ‘The Fruits of the Spirit’ verse – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control. As you can see, the two are almost exactly the same.
When you use the Fruits of the Spirit as your blueprint, and Peter’s list as your supplies, your simple life will be built structurally sound.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have a leak in the plumbing, or a baseball come shooting through the window every now and then. I know I have had several ‘repairs’ that needed to be made in my own simple life structure. But overall, the bones are sturdy and can withstand some of the strongest storms.
Whether you build your foundation on faith or something else, these are still the tenets that anyone’s life should be built on. These are the things that make for a happier life.
Time to Deliver a Fruit Basket
Building the basics of a simple life begins with a tool box. As with any building project, you may have a few of the necessary tools on hand. Some may need a few repairs, and others you still need to add to the toolbox.
The best way to build a tool box – whether it is a literal tool box or an emotional one, is to start with what you have. If you need to improve your kindness tool, bake a cake or cookies and take them to a neighbor.
If your peace is lacking, take some time for yourself to regroup. This may mean taking a walk, joining a group of friends to knit and visit, or just sitting still and breathing.
That self-control tool is probably the most difficult to master. Mine usually flies out the window when I see all my cows visiting with a neighbor, instead of being in the pasture where they belong. And it heads for the hills when I find a raccoon chasing my chickens.
However, every one of us can make some improvements in our basic simple life tool box. And therein lies the foundation of living a simple life.
Start treating yourself with the same tools. Be kind to yourself. Have patience with your shortcomings. Fulfill your dreams and reignite your passions. Then treat your family to the same things. Once you have mastered you and your family, you can take it outside the home.
But be prepared. If you have already started using the intangible tools on yourself and your family, you probably have already used them on friends, neighbors and others. These are tools that are created in the heart, and your heart leads the way towards how you treat others.
While you are Making the Shift
Are you ready to shift your current, hectic lifestyle to one that garners peace of mind? Go ahead. Get started with the basics of a simple life by slowing down, growing a garden and learning to live on less. But as you move through your day, consider the intangible side of living such a lifestyle.
And then make time to deliver those fruit baskets. There are folks out there just waiting to receive them. Yourself, included.