Why “Living Simply” Isn’t Simple At All

Post by Contributing Writer, Lydia

She eyes me as I diaper my son in the Parent Room at church one Sunday morning.  “It’s really not a big deal” I tell her, depositing the soiled diaper in my wetbag and stashing it in the diaper bag.  “Just an extra two loads of laundry a week.”  She nods, but still looks dubious.  I know why.

Living the simple life really isn’t about making things “easy” at all. It is about choosing to focus on the complexities of things that matter to you, and making space in your life for those things.

It is certainly easier to throw away a diaper than washing it.  It saves time to buy produce instead of coaxing it from seed.  I can run into a store and buy a dress for my daughter faster than I can sew one (and usually for less money as well!).  Hand-knit sweaters take hours – a store bought one is certainly easier to come by.

Ease and economy certainly have their place.  It is why the “Dollar Menu” is infinitely more popular at the moment than a home-cooked from scratch meal.  Living the fast-paced life leaves little time for letting bread rise.  Our modern lives are lived in a constant rush that doesn’t allow for hours spent at the sewing machine.

This is why slowing down and living simply go hand in hand – you simply cannot have it all. To live a life focused on the complexities of the small, you must slow down and simplify other areas of your life – deciding what is truly important to you and prioritizing it.

In our family, this is constantly in flux.  What is important and beneficial for us as a family changes on a yearly basis and requires thought and intention.  What works today may not work tomorrow.  What works for some families may not work for yours.

Here are some Basic Tips for Simplifying:

1)      Make a list of the family activities.  Truly give thought to the pros and cons to each one – does it take you away from your home?  Do you find yourself compromising other important areas just to make it work?  Is it worth it?

2)      On a list of 1 to 10, list the things you wish you had more time for – the things you would like to incorporate into your life. Could some of these things perhaps take the place of some of the activities on list 1?  Contemplate the schedule of yourself and your children.  Are they getting enough play time?  Are you getting enough time together as a family?  Do you have time to yourself to pursue your own interests and hobbies?  Reflect on how important these things are to you and intentionally make space for them.

3)      Look around your home. Are there possessions here that require more upkeep than they are worth?  Is life easier or more complicated because of them?

Living Simply is the act of eschewing the unnecessary to focus on what truly matters to you and your family. A life lived with this sort of intention can bring about much satisfaction and contentment when you are truly giving thought about what matters to you – and making space for it.

Lydia is Mama to 4 (soon to be 5!) little ones, wife to a wonderful husband, knitter, writer, grace-seeker and beauty chaser.  You can catch up with Lydia daily at Small Town Simplicity.

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11 comments to Why “Living Simply” Isn’t Simple At All

  • Nice perspective! I’m noodling a post to finish up my simple living series this week, and one aspect I want to highlight is that no one has to do it ALL. That’s why we have a community of friends. For example I trade raw milk for sourdough bread with a friend of mine – I still get sourdough bread, but I don’t have to make it 😀 And, she is blessed with milk that I otherwise couldn’t use because my herd share provides me with more than my husband and I can use on our own.


  • Love this post and Wendy’s comment. We too have been thinking, talking and praying about what our priorities are. And boy, are they in flux.

    I love the bartering idea shared in Wendy’s comment. Isn’t that what all of life and earning money is about anyway? Work is trading skills and time for money and when we purchase something we are trading our money (our time) for something else.

    Mainly I love that the author of this blog stated clearly that WE CANNOT HAVE IT ALL. I need to hear this daily.



  • Miranda

    Thank you. We’ve been living simply for years now. However, I’ve been unsettled and struggling lately. At a time when things should be easier they are seemingly more stressful and difficult. Thank you for helping me return my focus on the things that mean the most!


  • Miranda – it is normal to get overwhelmed and to need to re-evaluate. This fall, when I first became pregnant, was homeschooling my four older children, I could not keep up with the laundry – much less diaper laundry! I needed to allow myself to take a break from cloth diapering while I focused on the things that mattered most during that time. It was hard to let go of certain ideals during that point, but I ended up being happy I could relax for a little while!


    Kate Reply:

    These are great points. Some days the baking homemade bread, cloth diapering, scratchy as possible meals flow naturally, and some days I have to stop and realize that my marriage will benefit greatly from ordering Chinese food. Priorities are so important.


    Lydia Reply:

    @Kate, So true. I have had to acknowledge that my current life with many small children necessitates that I set aside some ideals for the time being – it is just the season of life I am in at the moment.


  • So, so true. In the days when people “had” to live more simply, they had fewer clothes and washed them less often. Some of the compromises just wouldn’t be acceptable to most of us.
    I asked one of my aunts how my Grandmother managed to cloth diaper when she only had washing day once a week. The diapers had to be boiled on top of the stove on other days-not something I would want to do! Thankful for my automatic washing machine.
    Love your definition of living simply.


  • Rebekah

    I really related to your thoughts, Lydia. This same truth has been on my heart in recent months … I know that I spend more time on certain chores then the average mom does in the name of simplicity. Sometimes I feel like I create more work for myself, LOL, but I do it because I know there are long-term benefits to our choices. I also agree with some of the other commenters here that you have to know when to call it quits and order some take-out! Thanks, it’s nice to hear that someone else is thinking these things too.


  • Making space in your life for the things that matter. Oh, how I love this. It is just as true about our physical space as it is about our spiritual space. Finding room to breathe. It is grace…


  • Living simply isn’t simple largely because we have to let go of old habits and acquire new ones. I agree – even with my own family – this is constantly in flux. What keeps me hopeful is knowing that the internet provides a venue where we learn from each other and tools which we can use to simplify our lives.

    My friends and I have organized ourselves into a buying club using a tool called SplitStuff which aids us in organizing bulk purchases so we save a lot. As a group, we also use this free online tool to organize sharing or bartering activities and community projects.
    We also save so much time by being part of this shopping group which enables us to do more of the things we love with our families.


  • […] Before I close I feel a strong need to add a gentle reminder about “simple.”  Are you looking at my meal pictures and descriptions and feeling overwhelmed?  You might enjoy this quote from a great post by Lydia at Frugal Granola: […]

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