Sometimes I worry that simplifying our lives will turn into yet another activity that we use to distract ourselves when we aren’t comfortable in our own skin.
We can declutter, minimize, and reorganize all day long, but if we aren’t comfortable with our own selves, we aren’t going to be any more comfortable in a quieter life than we were in a stuffed-full one.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Simplifying to me means making your life — your home, your work, your activities, your choices — reflect what’s most important to you. You stop spending time and energy on less important things, and invest in what you think is essential.
That means you have to know who you are and what matters to you.
We don’t simplify just to make the house look good. We don’t pare down just so we can pat ourselves smugly on the back. We want to create lives that are more in line with who we were made to be.
I was thinking about this while reading Emily P. Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday. Because, as Emily writes, there is “relief that comes from learning to lean back into small-moment living rather than trying to keep up with a fast-moving world.”
When you start to feel insignificant, unimportant, and small, Emily suggests you have two choices. You can try to work harder, to run faster, to keep up with ever-shifting goals — Emily calls this building our own cities by our own strength — or you can rest.
You can simplify. You don’t have to build your own city. You can find a bench, you can sit down, and you can be refreshed.
Emily writes, “In my own soul, when I feel the need rise up in me for more recognition, appreciation, and validation; when I feel my soul grasp and grope for worth, significance, and a city to call my own, I want to look for the bench instead. How can I sit down on the inside?”
Here’s how I’m practicing sitting down.
1. Recognize the hurry.
The world is always hurrying along, moving faster and faster, and sending us messages to do the same. Work harder! Do more! Buy more! It’s never enough!
The world may thrive on those rhythms, but the soul does not. The soul flourishes in the unforced rhythms of grace. When I feel my own heart race to the drumbeat of “not enough, not enough, not enough,” I know I need to make a change.
But to notice that, I have to be listening.
2. Remember who you are.
Everyone around me is just so interesting. It’s kind of a problem for me. Everyone else seems so fun and creative and successful, and I start to think that my way of being is just not as impressive as anyone else’s.
I have to remember that who I am is not defined by what I have or what I do, and who I am is not defined in comparison to anyone else.
Who are you? Maybe you’re funny, friendly, and hard-working. Maybe you’re quiet, thoughtful, and understanding. Maybe you’re full of energy and imagination.
When you focus on who you are, it’s easier to avoid comparing. You aren’t more or less than the person next to you, you’re simply … you.
Saying yes to who I am means saying a cheerful no to everything else, and remembering that is always a relief.
If I notice I’m running at the speed of hurried, or if I notice I’ve wandered away from simply being who I am, I need to slow things down.
I can compete and compare, or I can rest, but I can’t do both.
I can rest on the inside by looking for ways to help others. Helping is the opposite of competing, and it reminds us that our lives are about something other than being the fastest, the biggest, and the best.
I can rest on the inside by noticing when too many things are competing for my time. I can make a thoughtful choice about what’s right for me, for now, and I can let go of the rest. I can rest on the inside by reframing my to-do list.
When there are a million have-to-do’s on my list, crowding out my room to breathe and making me feel like I have to hurry to keep up, I can reframe some of those things as want-to and get-to, not have-to. I get to stop what I’m doing to make dinner for my family. I want to listen to a podcast while I’m doing the dishes. I get to spend time creating something to share.
When I find rest on the inside, I can be comfortable in my home, in my work, in my community, and in my soul — on Tuesday and everyday.