When was the last time you were able to just sit down, breathe, enjoy a moment of rest, feel peace in your home? For many of us, the answer to that question is something along the lines of, “What’s rest? What’s peace?”
It’s so vitally important to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our family, though, to find joy and contentment in our lives and our homes. We have to find a balance between doing all the things and doing all the right things
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What Is Simplicity? (And what it’s not)
Many equate simplicity or simple living with the trendy topic of minimalism. But the truth is, there’s so much more to simplicity than just having less stuff.
There is an inward focused aspect to living simply. Simplicity is about finding freedom from the need to impress others, accumulate things, and acquire status. It’s about finding an inner peace and contentment regardless of your outward situation.
Paul says in Philippians 4:12,
See, Paul had learned how to live a life of simplicity. He wrote these words from prison. He didn’t have an easy life. But he had a blessed life. And why is that? It’s because he learned the secret to simplicity.
To live simply is not equivalent to living with few belongings. Although, the two can and often do go hand in hand, they are not necessarily synonymous.
Consider that many people living in poverty are far from being content or having inner peace. Some of the most greedy people can be found among the poor.
On the other hand, there are those of great wealth who give freely and are not concerned with their wealth but are able to enjoy and share from their bounty.
Simplicity is, at its core, learning to put aside thinking about things at all. Those who spend their time concerned with always being more frugal and having fewer belongings, and flaunting their ability to “live simply” are not truly living simply.
They are no better than those who make their wealth their security. Both individuals are setting their love of material possessions (or lack thereof) as the priority of their lives. Neither can fully enjoy the blessings they’ve been given because their focus is in the wrong place.
Scripture speaks quite frequently to economic issues. We read of caring for the poor, and not storing up treasures on earth. We are reminded that all we’ve been given is ultimately God’s possession and is not ours to cling onto.
But God also doesn’t call us to live a life of poverty either. God pours out his blessings on his children regularly and tells us to enjoy the riches he bestows upon us.
The point here is not to live to an extreme one way or the other. Rather, we should hold with open hands all the blessings we’ve been given. They are not ours to hoard, but are meant to be shared and enjoyed.
If you have plenty, give out of your plenty joyfully. But don’t assume that the act of giving in and of itself somehow makes you righteous. It is the attitude of the heart that determines your righteousness. Clinging too tightly to anything besides God pulls you away from Him.
Simplicity Is Expressed Outwardly
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, outlines ten ways an inner reality of simplicity is expressed outwardly. Let me elaborate on each of them…
Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
It’s true, brands might earn you clout, but will they bring you happiness? Maybe for a moment. But that new Gucci tee-shirt or Louis Vuitton handbag will eventually lose its luster and appeal. Save your money and buy things that will enhance your life rather than things with a fancy brand name.
Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you
Does your phone command your attention a majority of the time? Do you spend more money on fancy clothes than you do on healthy food?
When something in your life takes focus away from what’s truly important and valuable (God, your family & friends, your wellbeing, your contributions to the world) and begins causing damage in your relationships, it’s a problem. It’s time to admit it and move on.
Develop a habit of giving things away
As I mentioned earlier, we should hold our blessing with open hands. That means that it’s good to give things away. So often we cling so tightly to our possessions that our hands start to hurt (figuratively speaking of course).
We think, “but I paid good money for this!” or “It’s special to me…” I’m not saying we have to give everything away. But remember, things are just that…things. If it’s not bringing value to your life right now, it’s time to pass it on to someone who can use it better.
Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry
In other words, don’t let those catchy and enticing ads and sales pitches sway you to bring things into your life that you really don’t need.
We are so inundated with marketing ploys constantly and everything we see seems like the thing we just have to have because it will definitely make our lives better, right?
But will it really? Before making a purchase, take a few days to really think it through – maybe longer. Will this thing truly add value to your life? If not, then pass it right by.
Learn to enjoy things without owning them
We so often forget that there are many resources available to us completely free of charge so that we can use a product or service without needing to own the thing. Libraries offer just about any book you could imagine for free.
Many online services offer a free trial or even a free version of their paid products (without a few of the bells and whistles). And most of us know someone we could borrow from if needed.
Aside from free services, you can rent just about anything you could want for a short period of time. Why spend a month’s worth of income on a product you only plan to use once or twice when you could simply rent one and return it once you’re finished?
Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation
Get outside more!! It’s truly amazing how much you can enjoy with little to no cost in the outdoors. From hiking to swimming to simply playing at the park with your children, the opportunities are only limited by your imagination.
It’s been said that the best “toy” for children is the great outdoors. Who’s to say that’s not true for adults as well? Take a walk around the block. Sit on your front porch and watch the sun rise. Enjoy a nice chat with your friend as you admire the scenery at your favorite park or beach. Just get outside.
Look with healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes
Listen buy now, pay later is just a tricky way for people to say, “Haha, we got ya now sucker!” There’s almost never any advantage to these offers – at least not for the consumer.
Usually they pull you in by saying it’s interest free. But what they don’t usually tell you is that it’s actually not interest free. Really, they start charging you interest from the moment you walk away with the item.
And then if you don’t pay for it by the time the grace period is over, you get charged all that interest and then some until you pay it off. Not to mention, most of these offers charge you way more for a product than you would pay if you just bought it outright.
Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech
Be honest and straightforward in what you say. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it. Let your life be marked by integrity. Speak so others understand you instead of speaking in order to impress others (spoiler: fancy words are rarely impressive).
Be humble and clear in what you say. Don’t use flattery for personal gain. Remember that half-truths are still a lie. And don’t lower your standards of speech to fit in (trash talking and using foul language just because others do doesn’t make you attractive).
Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others
In this time when tensions are high between different groups – blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, men and women, old and young, religious and non-religious, I could go on – what we really need is to stop pointing fingers and realize that our own actions, whether intentional or not, often contribute to the great divide among us.
As Foster says, “Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world with limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs? Do we enjoy hierarchical relationships in the company or factory that keep others under us? Do we oppress our children or spouse because we feel certain tasks are beneath us?”
Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God
I’ve heard it said that good is the ultimate enemy of greatness. We often have much good in our lives. But a good thing isn’t always a God thing.
Instead of pouring all of our time and energy into something else, why not put all that time and energy into a relationship with Christ? Then He will lead you to the great things he has planned for you. So don’t settle for good when God has something great in mind!
Simplicity Does Not Equal Minimalism
Minimalism can be an expression of simplicity. But simplicity and minimalism are not the same thing. Simplicity is about the posture of your heart while minimalism is about having less stuff.
Simplicity is about putting your possessions in right perspective before God while minimalism is about making your possessions the focus of your attention instead of God.
Scripture says you cannot serve two masters. If your priority is to live with less for the sake of living with less, then you are missing the point. Turn your eyes and your heart towards God first, and your posture of humble gratitude will lead you to a life of simplicity whether you live in plenty or in want.
5 Ways To Make Your Life Simpler Right Now
It’s great to know what living simply means and to have all of the head knowledge. But how can we apply this to our lives practically? Here are five ways to bring a little simplicity to your life right now…
1. Stop Multitasking
Pick just one thing and focus on that until it’s complete. When we multitask, our minds are constantly jumping three steps ahead of us and we’re never able to just soak in a moment and truly enjoy the present.
2. Declutter your home
While simplicity isn’t synonymous with minimalism, decluttering your home can be surprisingly therapeutic and leave you with an environment that breeds joy. So go get rid of some stuff you haven’t used in a while!
3. Batch Your Meals
Sometimes simplifying means consolidating. When you can consolidate a bunch of tasks into one longer stretch of time, do it!
Imagine how blissful your life would be if you came home from work every night this week and dinner was already prepared, all you had to do was throw it in the oven or on the stove to heat it up!
Spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon preparing your meals for the week and you won’t regret it!
4. Plan your week ahead of time
I cannot overstate the value of planning out your days and weeks ahead of time. Use a planner or an app or whatever you’re most comfortable with and take 15 minutes at the start of each day to go over your plans and make any adjustments needed.
At the end of each week, spend 30 minutes or an hour planning for the next week. It really can change everything when you know what’s coming!
5. Make and use a budget
Budgeting sounds scary or limiting or annoying to so many people. But it doesn’t have to be! Seriously, learn how to use a budget so that it enhances your life and things will be so much simpler!!
(Plus, you’re more likely to start living within your means, which means life will get a lot less stressful too!)
As Paul says in Philippians 3:12, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
I’m still on the journey. I can’t say that I always have the right attitude or that my priorities are always in the right place. I have a lot of room for growth still. But it’s my desire to continue on that path of growth towards the things of God.
Simplicity isn’t about the things you have or the stuff you do. It’s about being content in whatever season of life you’re in. Finding peace in the highs and in the lows. Being full of joy in times of abundance and in times of need.
It’s time to move away from the stresses of every day life and stop letting the chaos control you. Learn to be content no matter your circumstances and you will always be rich in blessings!