How to Succeed in Simplifying (Without Really Trying)

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “simple” as “free from guile, free from vanity, and free from elaboration and figuration”.

A simple life is one I have aspired to and dreamed of.  I have fantasized about making every single thing we eat from scratch, raising chickens for our eggs, and growing our own vegetables.  I have longed for the time to crochet more and become more skillful at it, as well as learn to sew.  I desire long days at home, working in my home, on my home, and with my children.

Despite not having worked full time in just over 3 years, my life is no closer to this ideal than it was the day I quit my government job.

Why?

I’ve asked myself this for a couple of years, and more intensely over the last several months.

How is it possible that after removing the largest time commitment from my schedule (my full time job) I am busier than ever?

Of course, having a second child has made life busier; there is certainly no question about that.

There has to be more to it, though.

Certainly.

In looking at my life just several weeks ago, I could see I was trying to do everything that was good, but not doing everything with the appropriate energy and enthusiasm.

I worked part time, I watched my nephew on the days I didn’t work, Madeline was going to both ballet and Cubbies (Awanas), I was taking care of the finances in my MOPS group, I served with kids on Sunday mornings at our church, I was making breakfast for the worship band once every 6 weeks, and my husband and I were leading a small group, all in addition to cooking, cleaning, raising babies, and trying to have a healthy marriage.

I found I was spending almost more time in the car going places than I was tending to my family and my home.  This existence was not simple.  Things had to change.

And change they did.

I carefully looked over and prayed over the many activities I had.  I considered which were most important and which were least important.  I considered which ones required the most time commitment or made me feel the most harried.

The first to go was Madeline’s ballet class.  Although it was very inexpensive, the class was way across town, it was difficult to get there without waking the girls up early from their nap, and Madeline was too shy to dance anyway.  Why was I bringing her then?  Did Madeline love it?  After talking to her about it, it turns out Madeline would rather pretend to be a ballerina in our living room than dance in a roomful of other little girls.

Decision made.

Next to go was making breakfast for the worship band.  Although it was a small time commitment, breakfast had to be at the church by 8:15 am, just 10 minutes before I had to be in place for my normal Sunday serving.  It was always a struggle getting kids ready while making sure I wasn’t burning biscuits or undercooking an egg casserole.  I knew this was not a commitment I should hold on to, but I had a difficult time letting go of it.  It took me almost 3 months to finally tell the coordinator, no, I cannot continue to serve in this capacity.

Phew.  Two down.

This month I had to make the difficult decision to step down from my leadership position in MOPS for the next year.  I’ve been attending MOPS at a different church than my home church, and although I had never felt like an outsider, being on the leadership team just didn’t feel right.  In addition, Ryan and I have already committed the next two years of our lives to five couples from our home church, and leading in MOPS was taking time, energy, and my very minimal socialization capacity away from that small group.  This decision was the most difficult to make, by far, because I will deeply miss the ladies I served with this year, and I will miss MOPS.  It’s truly a great program.  It is simply not for me anymore in this current stage.

After taking just three things off my plate (one that won’t even be gone until the summer), I feel I can breath deeper, smell the fresh air around me.

I notice my patience increasing.  I am less short with the girls and much more grace-filled in my mothering.

I am finding more time to connect with my husband.

How can you begin to simplify your schedule and your life?

1.  Be Realistic:  Write down everything you are committed to on a sheet of paper.  Write the amount of time each commitment takes.  Write down how each commitment makes you feel.  Write down any conflicts these commitments have with everyday routines (meals, naptime, etc.).

2.  Prioritize:  Order your commitments based on what is best for your sanity and for your family.  If your 8 year old is signed up for soccer, which has two 2 hour practice per week, but he hates it, it’s not a high priority!  Your Tuesday morning bible study that you look forward to after dropping the kids off at school might be higher on the list because it gives you time to study the Word with other believers.

3.  Work from the bottom up:  Start un-committing to things from the bottom of the priority list.  If you are always saying “yes” to everything, this first “no” will be very difficult, but so very satisfying.  Once you feel the freedom of one little spot in your schedule, the next “no” will be much easier!

Join me, friends, in simplifying life and living more fully.

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