I've been thinking about simplicity. I've been thinking about it for a long time, actually, but it's especially been on my mind again lately for a number of reasons. And I guess this is one of those things that makes sense in my mind as a big, unified idea, but it's really kind of a messy conglomeration of a lot of smaller things. So I'll start by talking about the smaller things.
Every year the women in our stake get together for a Saturday afternoon full of wonderful talks and workshops. And every year that I've been a member of this stake we've had the privilege of having a woman named Alice Fulton, author of It's Here... Somewhere, come and speak to us about what she calls "streamlining." Basically, streamlining is the process of getting rid of the material things in your life that you don't need, want, like, use, or have room for.
Listening to this woman's workshop is empowering to me every single time I go. Mostly because it makes me feel like someone is giving me permission to get rid of the junk in my life. Of course nobody has to give me permission to do that, but it's nice anyway.
Inevitably, after listening to her at the work shop every year I come home ready to tackle our whole apartment and do a major purge. Luckily Bryan has always been on board with this and he's supportive about dropping whatever he's doing to jump right in and help out, which I'm super grateful for. Because it's definitely a team effort. It's important that we're both there so I can say, "Hey, do you still want this?" so I don't accidentally throw away something that he does still want to keep.
Let me just say that if you have never done this, it's time to give it a try. Because all of us have stuff in our homes that we don't need, want, like, use, or have room for. And if you're living in a home as tiny as mine (about 600 square feet) then you probably have an abundance of things that you don't need, want, like, use, or have room for.
So what does this have to do with simplicity? I'll tell you. It has everything to do with simplicity. So often we accumulate things that the world tells us we should have. They may not be bad things. In our case, one of those things was as simple as a dresser. It's not that dressers are inherently bad, it's just that we didn't need ours or have room for it. And when we moved all of our clothes onto the shelves in our back closet and put our socks in some tubs and baskets we already had, it truly did simplify our lives. Not only did it make our clothes more accessible, but it gave us more room to breathe and move and do good things in.
Anyway, I'm not saying that your life will be better if you get rid of your dresser. But I am saying that your life will be better if you evaluate the things in your life and decide whether those things help you live the way you want to live.
Finding balance in our busy lives is a task that I believe will always face. And I personally believe that the test of finding and righteously striving for balance in our lives is one of the most important ways we'll prove ourselves in this life. Balance is so central to who we are and who we are trying to become. But we are always changing. Our circumstances our always changing. And so it's easy to get thrown off balance.
So the key, I think, is to know where the center of our balance lies. For me, that center balance is Christ and my Heavenly Father. When I find I'm focusing too much on one thing and not enough on another it helps me to take a step back and ask myself what my Heavenly Father would want me to put as my first priority. When I evaluate things that way, everything just seems to fall into place.
I found myself working through this process of evaluation just recently. Almost on a whim I decided to start up my Etsy shop. And anyone who's ever started an Etsy shop knows how quickly it can consume your whole life. You fall asleep wondering how to fix a certain problem you're having. You wake up in the morning thinking about how to make things better. And soon you find that much of your thinking is spent worrying over and analyzing sales and profit margin and products and so on.
It's good to work. And it's good to like to work. But, as in all things, there must be balance. And spending all of my time and thoughts on my little shop was not the most important thing in my life, nor did I want it to be. My family is most important to me, but I wasn't acting like it. So I took a step back, talked things through with Bryan, and calmed down. Of course I still think about my shop. It's fun to make things and sell them! But it's my family that I focus on now.
Although maybe I'm brushing over things a little too much. Because it's not like there's just some switch that you flip that automatically brings balance and harmony back. It takes conscious thought and effort and action. So I didn't just say, "Okay. Things are out of whack. I'm going to focus on my family first," and then--poof!--it was done. No, of course that's not the way it works. For me, it takes actual plans to make things happen. So I've started planning meals for the week. And I've started getting back into planning daily preschool lessons with Olivia.
And even though those things may seems small, they really help. They help me redirect my focus and my plan for how I'm going to spend my time each day. They make my life more simple.
It's not the same as Easy
The thing that sort of brought all of these thoughts together for me was the simple wisdom my sister in law Lisa shared on her blog a couple of days ago. She was talking about an episode of a radio show she listened to recently called "Conversations" with Elder and Sister Holland. Lisa says,
During the interview he said something about "simple is not the same as easy." Simple is not the same as easy. Gospel principles are simple. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. That doesn't mean they are easy. I strive to simplify my life. That doesn't mean it'll be easier. But it's more fulfilling.(You can read Lisa's entire post and find links to the radio show HERE.)
I've been thinking a lot about what Lisa and Elder Holland said since I read it a couple of days ago. And I've been thinking about how it applies to streamlining and finding balance. And, in thinking about all this, I realized that I've been striving for simple for a long time, but hadn't really ever verbalized it, even to myself.
But now that I have this tangible thought, I'm loving the way it applies to my life and the way that it gives me courage and strength. Having courage to live simply means having the courage to be true to myself and to my Heavenly Father. And having the strength to live simply means having the strength to make those changes necessary to living a simple life.
Because Lisa is right. Living the way Heavenly Father wants us to live--living lives that are streamlined and balanced and simple--isn't always easy. But it is infinitely more fulfilling.
Are you with me?