Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fewer decisions, fuller joy {5 Favorite books for simple & intentional living}

So, as we're moving merrily along with our selections in flooring for the new house (we've successfully narrowed it down to a very manageable number of decisions, mostly minor, like which of the 50 shades of gray tan we'd like out of the brand of carpet we selected).

Sorry, Julia, that's about as much of that one as we could afford...
But, even with those (major) decisions under our belts, I've still found with a discernible undercurrent of feeling overwhelmed.  Overall, (thanks be to God) life is very good.  I really have no reason to complain but yet I have this nagging sense of stress.  As I sat and reflected last night, I came to realize that I just feel so cluttered - both homes, all of our possessions, and even mentally.  So many things to think, to do, to see, to deal with, to clean, to move, and to keep out of the baby's increasingly accurate roll & reach pattern.

Clutter.  Ultimately, so much stuff (physical and otherwise) is clamoring for our attention that we find ourselves spinning as the roads diverge in the yellow wood - but here, not two roads, but a seemingly infinite number of choices of what to do, where to put things, what to eat, what to wear, and what to read.  I'm using the royal "we" because I know I'm not the only one feeling lost in the sea of daily choices.

My situation is amplified right now because of the renovations and the juggling of the two houses, but I know even in "normal" times, modern life has an exceptional number of choices.  And so many choices - embodied by the 10 housekeeping chores (only one of which can be reasonably completed in a nap time), by the carpet strewn with toys (most of which you're not exactly sure where to keep), and the exploding Pinterest boards (many of which you'll never complete, even though you just keep pinning) - make the day seem almost claustrophobic.  And the necessity of too many decisions short-circuits our brain and we end up doing nothing.  We turn to the Internet as a distraction from the disorder, feeding our mental clutter and inhibiting our ability to control the physical mess that's encroaching from all sides.

I know I've been harping on this simplicity thing, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that our culture is building a world that is quickly becoming suffocating, and if we don't stop the madness, well, no one will.  The craziness of the world is intruding in our homes, stealing peace and joy from the place that should be our family haven.

I think that if we can find a way to put some of ordinary life on autopilot, we can be fully present in the extraordinary.

The extraordinary here, of course, isn't a trip to Paris, but the belly laugh from the toddler and the chunky rolls on the baby's leg and the fuzzy caterpillar crawling across the porch while you sit and read for a quiet minute.

Fewer decisions about when and how to do things, where to store things, and less to think about in general: less physical clutter, less schedule clutter, less mental clutter means that our days can be more intentional, more productive, and more joyful.  A simpler lifestyle means that we have room to breathe - room to enjoy the extraordinary, even the beauty of the mundane.

If you, like me, want to make a change and need some wisdom on where to start, I highly recommend the following books:

(1) Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids  (Kim John Payne & Lisa M. Ross)

I am only one chapter in to this book, but am so incredibly impressed by the observations and suggestions (just in the introduction!) that I am confident that I should recommend it for all parents.  I list it first because I think it's the most important reminder - this simple living thing isn't just for pretty pictures of all-white kitchens.  It's the foundation for our children's understanding of the world, and if they grow up in cluttered chaos, that can't bode well for their emotional health as they grow.

(2) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  (Marie Kondo)

This Japanese cleaning consultant has some very poignant observations and an extremely useful process for purging - I had to wade through some ideology with which I didn't quite agree, but overall her ideas and tips are well worth the read.  (And you will be SHOCKED by how many items you find yourself dropping off at the Goodwill).

(3) A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul (Holly Pierlot) 

This has more to do with the simplicity and intentionality of schedule and time, but I think that reducing that type of clutter is just as important as physical clutter.

(4) Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living (Tsh Oxenrider)

This is equal parts "why" and "how" in terms of intentional, simple living.  More in my post HERE.

(5) Anything written before (or written about times before) the Internet.

I think our modern age is such an anomaly in terms of information overload that it can be really inspiring and didactic to read something written about/during times that were - by default - less cluttered (at least in terms of mental clutter, and often in terms of physical clutter, as well).

As a bonus, I'll give a nod again to my friend Rachel's book Minimize the Mess: A Mother's Guide to Simplifying Your Home  and I'm linking up with her today for 5 Favorites!

What are your favorite resources for simplifying?  I'd love to hear what you think about these books...and others that you have to recommend!


  1. I'm going to have to check out that first one, that one sounds awesome! Thanks for the shout out :-)

  2. I'm going to put these books on my radar. I do have the tidying book but I lose it! One tip I have is each of my children only does one extracurricular activity each. Like sports , music, etc. Overscheduling is so exhausting for mothers.

  3. these are great recommendations, and I can't believe I'm just now finding your blog!