Simple living looks different for everybody. This is implied in the definition of “simple living” that I share in my book — which, by the way, should be out in bookstores sometime this week (I hear that Amazon is sending your orders this week as well — hooray!). Living simply, in its very essence, must look different for each family and each person, because of the very nature of what it is.

If you agree with the definition I explore in the book, then your simple life won’t look the same as your neighbor’s simple life. If you’re trying to copy your neighbor’s simple life, then it’s lost the meaning, and is no longer a simple life.

Follow that?

In other words, the crux of living a simpler life is embracing who you are, how you were made, and what’s important to you. When you find those things, it becomes much, much easier to simplify your life — and therefore, all the parts that make up your life, such as money, your home, and your calendar.

Simple living doesn’t only mean not having a lot of stuff. It means you freely let go of the things encumbering you to live the life you’re meant to live, both literally and metaphorically.

Quality versus quantity

Sure, simple living means not having useless things cluttering your life. But you’re still allowed to own things if they make your life more of what it’s meant to be. Heck, you should even enjoy those things.

What? Enjoy stuff?

The point of pursuing a simpler life isn’t to get rid of a bunch of stuff and call that minimalism, or simplicity, or whatever. It’s about letting go of the things that don’t matter to you so that you have the room, the money, and the time to dive head-first into the things that do.

You’re not more pious than your neighbor, or better at living simply than your friends, if you have fewer items and a smaller house, yet are still conflicted about who you are and what you’re about. It’s not a backwards race to see who can live with less stuff.

Remember, for each family, simple living will look different.

You should enjoy your possessions that truly work for you and your family. You should invest in the things that really make your life simpler, congruent with the core essence of the phrase “simple living” (and not the cliché buzzword meaning of a bare, Spartan existence). Invest in quality over quantity — in a way that works for your family — and you can’t go wrong.

This is why I’m okay with advertising on the Simple Living Media sites, because simple living isn’t about getting by with as few things as possible. It’s about all the parts of your life lining up and headed in one direction. It’s about the things you own being items you truly love and find useful. It’s about having the room to appreciate good design and aesthetic, for being truly thankful for those things that make your life a bit easier.

jumping on the couch
Photo by Chris Scott

The freedom to be you

Sometimes, something that’s beautiful and useful to one person isn’t so much for you, and you can’t really wrap your head around why anyone would want to live with that. But that’s honestly not for us to decide. We’re responsible for us. We’re held accountable to the things we allow in our homes and on our calendars.

Sure, it’s not good to own a bunch of stuff for no real reason. But it’s okay to own some things and really love and enjoy them.

• I really like my MacBook, and am glad I invested the money in it.

• I will gladly forego all sodas and expensive lattes to buy a bag of good-quality coffee beans to use at home.

• My sewing machine wasn’t cheap, but it works really well, and I hope it lasts for years and years.

• We don’t own a lot of movies, but the ones we do, I’d happily watch any of them because I like them all.

• The ingredients we buy to make ice cream at home taste a ton better than a pre-made box of ice cream from the store, even though it does cost more sometimes.

To savor these things that I really value, I sacrifice in other areas. I mostly shop thrift stores for our family’s clothing. We only have one car. Our kids share a room because the house we’re currently renting is tiny. We don’t use shampoo. I say no to lots of things because we literally don’t have the money, and we refuse to live on credit.

That’s us. It works for us, and we love it. For others, it’s different, and that’s okay. We’re not all the same — that would be really boring.

Let’s encourage each other in our pursuits of simplifying life, and not balk at each others’ thoughtful, intentional decisions about what we allow in our homes and how we spend our time. It’s different for all of us. That’s the beauty of simple living.

What are some things you own that you truly value? How are they beautiful? How are they useful?