When you’re a mom chances are your life is not going to resemble a Real Simple spread, regardless of how many issues of ladies’ mags you’ve flipped through while waiting at the checkout. That’s the problem with simplicity as most of us have been taught it is that it is anything but simple. It involves systems. Multiple systems. And organizers and nooks where you can use bins from the Container Store to contain all the detritus of real life. Most of the mothers I know don’t have time for the magazine version of simplicity, which assumes you have loads of excess spending money and loads of excess time.
Now I don’t know about you, but the mamas in my life are practically fried. They are having it all and then some. A few may have excess cash but almost none have a surfeit of time. They literally do not have the hours in the day necessary to create a picture-perfect version of simplicity that an editor dreamed up alongside a design team. (Without any screaming kids in the background.) So what does real life simple living mean to real life moms?
Here are some ways you can embrace simple living right now without buying a fancy pantry organizer or downloading any mom apps:
Just breathe. As in, when things start to overwhelm you stop and take a literal minute or two to breathe deeply. During this mini break, look around you. See if you can spot what is bothering you – it might be a thing like dishes piling up in the sink or it might be something like the clock ticking down because you need to leave at exactly noon. What can you do in this moment to make your life easier? Would putting what’s in front of you on pause and powering through the dishes give you peace? Will letting your toddler wear rain boots on a beautiful sunny day make getting out of the house simpler?
Simple living doesn’t mean being perfectly organized. In fact, for some moms it can mean anything but. Instead it means having a relaxed attitude toward life. If you need to be organized to within an inch of your life before you can relax and enjoy life then by all means, get yourself to the Container Store. But most people find they can live with a little chaos if they know the important stuff is taken care of. Decide where you fall on the spectrum and aim to live your best life, even if it looks a little chaotic from outside.
You can embrace simplicity and splurge. Or save. Simplicity and frugality go hand in hand for plenty of mamas, but there is certainly a spendy side to simple living for those who want to go whole hog. For real moms, though, real simplicity looks more like acceptance (as in accepting that there will always be a middle ground). Sometimes you’re going to spend and sometimes you’re going to save but what you shouldn’t be doing is stressing. In either case, set aside some time each day to think about what you do have that you’re grateful for and you may find you’re satisfied with less.
Buy less stuff. Not like less food or fewer necessities, obviously, but if you shop to fill some empty space inside of yourself think about why that is. Are you bored? Envious of a neighbor? The problem with new stuff is that it only satisfies for a short time – after a while, new stuff just becomes stuff. For many people, a clearer home will equal a clearer head. See what happens when you stop bringing in non-necessities for a while. Then maybe even try divesting yourself of some of the old stuff that’s just collecting dust. You may just discover a new sense of freedom!
Stop revisiting past choices and focus on the now instead. There’s no way to go back in time and change what you did with your first or how you handled your second pregnancy or any other decision you made prior to the present moment so stop worrying. Mama guilt is one of the most useless emotions we have all been tricked into feeling. Resolve right now to stay anchored in the present because the present is the only point in time you can actually affect change.
Remember that you’re never seeing the whole story. Chances are that to an outsider your real life already looks pretty simple! There are no cure-alls, no perfect solutions to the messiness of parenting and motherhood. Living simply has a lot more to do with a person’s outlook than with the quest for perfection. Anyone who tries to sell you picturesque perfection is faking it – think about how many stylists and editors and assistants work to make home shoots look the way they do? In other words, embrace life with no filter!
Now you tell me… what does simple living mean to YOU?