“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.” — Anatole France
Sometimes I forget the necessity of the beginning and middle to reach the destination, wherever that may be. I spend my energy and focus on the end result of bare shelves and capsule wardrobes and joy of less that I forget that it’s the small daily decisions that matter most. That’s the beautiful path that makes the destination less a goal and more a process.
I’ve been thinking about how simplicity is a slow moving train at my house. I compare myself to other, more seasoned minimalists and wonder if I will ever become a real minimalist. I tell myself I have too far to go and wonder what right I have to write about simplifying when I still have cluttered counter tops mocking me and more toys than my kids could ever play with filling closets and corners and drawers.
I feel a fraud as I’m comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle. I see other minimalists as having reached the goal, having arrived. But, the truth is they haven’t. Because simplifying isn’t a tropical island to beach ourselves in retirement. It’s a daily practice of small choices that build up over time, changing me slow and deep.
The focus on the outcome disguises the beauty of the process, and it’s the process that changes us – not the reward. I know this isn’t a new idea. I’m not rewriting the motivational speech here. I’m reminding you because most lessons in life aren’t new, they’re forgotten.
I’m not as far in the minimalism journey as those who I follow, but I’m on the path and I’m learning to accept that if the journey is what truly matters and the destination is a mirage, then comparing my progress to their’s is futile.
The best way I have found to embrace the soul work of progress and middle-of-the-story living is to start small. I am starting to enjoy the process more than the dream of the result because when I can measure the small successes I recognize that I’m different. And isn’t that the point? To change and grow and see how we becoming a better version of ourselves?
Here are five ways to embrace the journey of simplicity:
1. Think small.
I’m a firm believer that when I change one area it creates a domino effect. Clearing a small desk of clutter can inspire more productive to-do lists which can lead to letting go of boxes in storage which leads to less organization and more time with my kids. The reach of one small act of intention is immeasurable and invaluable. Taking on too many tasks or too large of a task at once will destroy your desire. Your will power is limited, take care that it isn’t depleted.
2. Keep a journal or chart of progress.
You may have heard of food journaling while trying to create better eating habits. This is a practice which holds you accountable to your choices. In a similar vein keeping a journal or spreadsheet to measure your progress can hold you accountable to actionable goals, but there is another benefit – when we feel that we aren’t making progress or that we are stuck in an unproductive cycle we have hard evidence of the truth. You may be stuck, but you’re stuck in a different place that where you started. That’s progress, my friend.
3. Don’t compare; share.
There will always be others with more progress than us, so rather than let that discourage us in comparison to our own story share in their successes. Encourage them and tell them how inspiring their story has been for you. Share their story with others; share YOUR story with others. Because just as they are farther along than you, so are you to someone else. Never underestimate the power of your own story.
4. Be mindful.
I’m guilty of going through my daily life on autopilot. I get caught up in creating routines for my kids and making sure dinner is ready when my husband walks through the door that I forget to see beauty in the small moments. I forget to laugh at the ridiculous, to give thanks for the abundance, and to forgive myself. Mindfulness brings joy and wonder into the process and makes it worth every second. Pay attention to the moments that make up your day and the process will be less daunting and more fulfilling.
5. Create a process in the process.
If we don’t have a process for the changes we are working toward we set ourselves up for failure. As a self proclaimed free spirit, processes annoy me. I hate the idea of having to set my day to a process, but as hard as it is to admit this is how change occurs and sticks. Try implementing a morning routine that’s non-negotiable, create a small but enticing reward, or an alarm on your phone to remind you.
Again, will power is limited, but we can create situations that make it easier to fulfill our commitment. More ideas are capsule wardrobes to eliminate decision making, place your work out bag by the door at night so it’s easy to grab and go, or leave a box dedicated to the donation center in plain view so you’re constantly reminded to declutter and de-own.
Simplifying is a process with an undefined destination. The process is creating change in us that is far more important than achieving a certain level of minimalism. Enjoy your process and stop comparing it to someone else’s.
*Note — This article was originally published at Simple & Soul.