Simple living is living a life of surrender—it’s letting go of today’s clutter for tomorrow’s calm. Unfortunately, surrendering isn’t at the top of most of our to-do lists, and worrying about tomorrow might not be there as well.
We fight for personal freedom in other ways—we buy more, do more, perform more, hold on longer, and work harder. When those fail to offer true freedom and contentment, we give up, not in surrender but in defeat.
I love the definition of surrender: to cease resistance against an enemy or opposition and submit to their authority. To cease resistance, this is simplicity.
In my own search for simplicity and freedom, I’ve been confused about who and what the opposition is. For most of this journey, I’ve resisted the materialism, consumerism, comparison, and busyness that steal the simple out of life.
I thought simple living was about the resistance of the thieves of simple, but I don’t think that’s it. I don’t think those are the oppositions because simple living isn’t about resistance, it’s about freedom.
The real, deeper opposition is me. I’ve been resisting myself, my true identity. My own soul has been my opposition, which I’ve resisted with materialism, with consumerism, with comparison, and with busyness.
I made my own self-worth, value, and inherent “enoughness” the enemy and resisted the natural simplicity of being me. I picked up comparison and wielded it as a weapon in a war against myself, because I didn’t feel I deserved to live in agreement with who my soul was telling me I am.
One thing I’ve learned is this—by surrendering, I cease the resistance and submit to the authority of my authentic, true self. I let go of buying and owning and doing to be worthy of love, and rest in the freedom of surrender.
How to Experience the Life You Want to Live
If you’re living in resistance, I hope today you discover surrender and start living in the freedom of a simpler tomorrow.
Here’s a guide to help get you there:
1. Declutter your home.
Surrender and freedom begin with our stuff. A home filled with things that we purchased to meet a cultural standard, a familiar expectation, or to pacify a wounded self-esteem, will always hold you hostage.
Surrendering our things is surrendering the motives of owning them. The first step to cease the resistance is to confront what we own and why.
2. Reduce the distractions in your life.
Distracted living is the epidemic of this generation. It’s also the antithesis of simple living. Simple living is the undistracted life—the intentional life.
I recognized a habit of constantly checking my email on my phone. Not because I’m so important and need to be available by email at all times, but because there was some kind of rush in knowing that I might possibly have something of importance pop into my inbox at any random moment of the day.
It drained me and increasingly would lead me to also check Facebook and Instagram because, well the apps were right there and it’ll just be a second… and 20 minutes later my kids were still waiting for me to play with them.
Take time to notice your distractions. What’s taking you from being present, from being involved in your life? Is it the never ending housework? Social media and email? Too many commitments outside the home? What is keeping you from the life you want?
3. Define priorities and set boundaries.
I used to think boundaries were selfish; that I should be okay with being available to others whenever they needed me. But, as an introvert, I wasn’t okay. I was resisting my very nature and rejecting my needs, which led to resentment.
Boundaries lead to freedom.
Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, says: “Discern the vital few from the trivial many.” Simple living is eliminating the inessential for the sake of the invaluable. Without a clear vision of what’s on the top of our life’s list, we lose balance and trust in our own ability to gain freedom.
Define your vital few and set boundaries to support them, nurture them, and engage in them. Prioritize your life, before someone else does.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Comparison is the enemy of self-worth and purpose. Teddy Roosevelt said it is the thief of joy. There is nothing to gain in comparing yourself with others, but there is a lot to lose. We lose our sense of worth because we’ve judged ourselves less than and not good enough.
We lose our freedom and individuality. We often lose financial stability by living outside our means to keep up with everyone else. We can even lose our empathy and compassion because we are focused on what will make will make us look better, rather than how we can serve from our own gifts and talents.
Instead, live like you are loved; because you are. Live like you have nothing to prove and no one to impress. Set aside the standard you are trying to reach, it’s much too high for even those you’re comparing yourself to.
5. Practice and embrace gratitude.
Gratitude is always enough, and when you know you are enough, you don’t have to strive for it. When you hold on to it, gratitude will usher you into complete surrender. It diffuses self-resistance as it draws your focus off of your lack, your failure, or brokenness and shines a warm, clarifying light on all that you are.