Life in the 21st century is anything but simple. Do I really need to tell you that? Our world feeds us countless messages defining what we need in order to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. Messages like: Live the dream! You can be anything you want to be! Buy [this product] to be more [attractive/productive/happy]. We’ve all heard these messages, either directly or indirectly, and we’ve all bought into at least some of the hopeful promises that our lives can improve…if only we [fill in the blank]. I’ll resist the urge to enumerate the unsatisfying results when we get caught up in wanting to do it all and have it all.
But the true result of our modern life, trying to keep up with our packed schedules, overflowing To-Do lists, and material abundance is sadly, not satisfaction and peace. Rather, we have stress, anxiety, broken relationships, and a LOT of stuff.
So, in the complexity of our technological age, what does it mean to simplify? What does a simpler life look like for an ordinary family keeping up with work, school, and countless demands? Regardless of the season of life—a young couple, family with children, or empty nesters—how can any of us find a greater level of simplicity in our noisy, chaotic, energetic world?
The beautiful truth is that the concept of “living simply” looks different for each person and every family. What I deem a simpler, less complicated life for my family will undoubtedly look different from your ideal. The challenge is that it takes effort to figure out how to step out of a cluttered and demanding lifestyle to pursue a more balanced and satisfying experience of daily life.
I want to highlight the two qualities that define a simpler life, according to Deborah DeFord in her book, The Simpler Life (The Readers Digest Association, Inc, 1998). These are integrity and intentionality.
Integrity is defined as a state of being whole and undivided. This ideal means I need to look at what is important to me, and then live according to those goals and values. If I believe physical fitness is important but never make time in my week to get up and move, then I am not living an integrated life. Rather, to live according to what I value, I will commit to walking 3 times each week and schedule it on my calendar. It’s as simple as that: Live in accordance with what is important to you.
Intentionality means we act with purpose. We consciously decide the choices we make throughout our day. Thus, to be intentional requires a certain mindfulness. If we are always “going with the flow,” we may feel spontaneous, but we are not in control of our day. We are reacting rather than being proactive. I must admit that I sometimes fell prey to impulse purchases, buying things because they were on sale, even though they were not items on my list. The result was I spent money I hadn’t planned to spend, brought home things I might not actually use, and then had to find a place to store my latest bargains. Learning to live with intention means pausing to evaluate my true needs.
How will pursuing integrity and intentionality help you lead a simpler life?
Only you can decide what is most important to you. Only you can be in control of: the way you spend your time, the things you buy, and the relationships you pursue. When you proactively make decisions on what you need in your life and shut out the noise of what others are proclaiming, you will have the ability to pursue only those people, activities and things that give meaning to your life. Saying “no” to the unnecessary is saying “yes” to what is most valuable—which leads to true satisfaction, contentment, and peace.
I grew up in an immaculate home. Really. My father was a carpenter who built our stone front colonial split level home on a hill with a pastoral view. My mom, a dedicated, full-time homemaker, kept our home well-ordered and immaculately clean. Have you heard the saying, “You could eat off the floors?” Yup, that was our home.
As for me, I’ve always been creative and busy. I loved being involved in as many school activities and/or art projects as possible. I always had something going on. This meant two things. First, that I was always taking things out faster than I was putting them away, and second, I wasn’t paying much attention to the mess in my bedroom because I was habitually out and about.
My mother wanted a neat, clean, organized home, and my crazy schedule, coupled with my belongings scattered around, certainly must have been a source of frustration for her. But rather than scold me or demand I clean up my trail, she would just tidy up my art projects while I was at school.
However, when I would stop long enough to look over my room and see the clutter, I would take the time to pull things apart, empty drawers and closets, and begin sorting and organizing until order was restored. Yet, in light of the high standard of order that surrounded me, I never actually thought of myself as being organized—or as an organizer.
In recent years, when friends marveled at how orderly I am, it didn’t strike me as anything special. They were just acknowledging a task that I figured anyone could do. That’s the thing about being organized. If it comes naturally to you, it’s hard to see that it’s not natural to others.
But to me it was a game. A puzzle. And everything had to fit.
I look back and see how much I learned from my mom. Everything had a place in our home. If it didn’t, she would make a place or it had to go. Is the kitchen counter really the designated place I want to keep those papers? Is the floor the best place for that pile of clothes?
After I grew up and had my own family, I continued to be creative and busy. Our home would suffer from toys strewn about, projects lining tables and paperwork in various piles. I would sigh and think, “Certainly a far cry from my childhood home!” Four growing children in a townhome meant a lot of stuff, a lot of activity, and not necessarily a lot of room.
And do I dare tell you that we home schooled? Yes! I wouldn’t trade it for a minute!! But of course, the kids were never out of the house and off to school for me to keep things as neat and tidy as my heart desired. I knew I was choosing a lifestyle that would not provide much downtime, so I sacrificed the orderly home for countless rewarding moments with my children.
And yet, although I had a home that I perceived as forever messy and disordered, friends would complement me on how organized I am! What did they see that I didn’t see?
It took years, until all four kids were in college and beyond that I began to realize how much I enjoyed organizing! Looking back, I realized that I took on organizing projects in every workplace since high school. When I had time at home, organizing a drawer or a room actually served as an outlet! Strange? Or can you identify?
It was during a conversation with a trusted friend a year ago that the idea took over. I was driving home during my dreaded hour commute from my office. My dear friend was planning her summer goals, wanting to get her home back in order after a long school year. Suddenly I blurted out, “I’d rather be organizing your home this summer too!” Crazy! But I felt like a lightbulb went on in my soul! “Yes!” I thought, “I really would love to organize your house!”
Over the course of the next week, the idea grew stronger, clearer. I loved organizing! And I loved helping others. I’m great with people one-on-one, when I can really focus on the story of another person. Oh, I knew what it feels like to have a house full and feel out of control. I also know how much better it is when everything is in order. Then I can focus on the things that really matter in my life—my family, friends, church community, etc. I have a passion to help other women regain a sense of freedom and peace.
On July 11th, 2016, I launched Peace Restored Organizing as a way to help others find order in their homes—and through order, a greater level of peace.
For more information on Peace Restored Organizing, visit www.peacerestoredorganizing.com .
About Denise ...
The core of who I am comes from my faith in God and my relationships with my husband Sandy and our four amazing children. That's where I want to spend my time! Having a well ordered home enables me to focus less time on things and more time on what makes life worth living. Join me as we journey together to make our homes a haven.