keep it simpleI recall a transforming moment in my life about fifteen years ago when I read in Elaine St. James’ best-selling book, Living the Simple Life, her timely advice: “In order to simplify, we have to start making choices, sometimes difficult choices.” (Simplify Your Life, Hyperion, 1996, page 96)

As I continued reading I realized that like Elaine and her husband Gibbs, my husband Charles and I needed to make some new choices—about the people we socialized with, the groups we attended, the activities we participated in. What really mattered and what didn’t? If we wanted to simplify our lives, it was time to let go of a whole bunch of stuff, from worn out relationships to worn out clothing, and to learn to say no (in a polite way) to invitations for events that simply didn’t interest us.

That took some doing—but we did it and we’re much more peaceful for having done so. I stopped going to Mexico to help in an orphanage. We declined learning how to ski even though our skiing friends thought it a great way to spend a weekend. And we gave up eating out at fancy restaurants. It was costing too much, the portions were too large, and more times than not, we liked our own cooking better than the chef’s.

As I read what I just wrote I wonder if I sound selfish and self-absorbed. I hope not, but if I do, I’m going to let it be. I did many of the ‘right’ things for all the wrong reasons, including trying to please God, look good to others, and feel better about myself.

What I now know is that when I respond with honesty and integrity I’m being true to myself and to God and I’m an example to others of the peace and joy that can occur when one realizes one’s limitations and expectations of self and others.

Do I still do good in the world? I think so. I write and speak and teach—all of which are true to my core values and talents. I’m involved in the lives of my children and grandchildren, and I knit and hike and cook and garden and share all of it with others.

The blessing of the simple life, at least for me, can’t be overestimated. Now when I am asked to join this group or that, to attend this event or that one, or to get involved in a cause or a benefit, I stop, check my spirit, whisper a prayer for guidance, and then make an honest decision.

For now I’m keeping it simple. It’s one of the up sides of downsizing during this season of life.  How about you? Are you simplifying?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).




Keeping it Simple — 18 Comments

  1. Great piece, Karen. We also downsized and simplified our lives eight years ago when we moved to Florida. The temptation is always there to rev up to living overly busy lives again, but we refuse to. What’s the filter? We talk over our choices and pray about them. Right now I’m learning to be content with my couch when I really want a new one soon. But I’m learning to wait and live with less. Great freedom in that!

    • Thanks, Virelle. I love hearing that you are experiencing some of the same things we are and you’re feeling good about it.

  2. Bless your heart, Karen! This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear tonight. I think I’ll start simplifying right NOW and go to bed! Very timely lesson…

    • Thanks, Kristi: I told myself the same thing last night and went to bed at 8:45. I feel great today!

  3. Bravo, Karen! The older I get, the more I’m thinking that simplifying is actually another way of becoming more in tune with God. If His yoke is easy and His burden light, I’m starting to think that much of life’s clutter was never His will anyway. I’m still in downsizing mode; it’s a process. And one that, I think, takes courage. I applaud yours!

    • Thanks, Grace. I appreciate what you’ve shared. For more tips on downsizing consider my book, The Upside of Downsizing: 50 Ways to Create a Cozy Life (Harvest House).

  4. We are simplifying as well, but not retiring anytime soon. We were talking about how much we love the life God has given us! He never fails to provide. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jerri. Charles and I agree that God has provided and given us a wonderful life. We have much to be grateful for. We are discovering that ‘less’ really is more!

  5. Thanks for the reminder, Karen, that busyness is like radio static – it interferes with hearing clearly what God is telling us. Focusing on the talents He gives us to serve Him is key, as are the circumstances He puts us in. Thank you for your practical, down-to-earth perspective.

    • Thank you, Michele. I like knowing you too are seeing the benefits of less noise, fewer things, and more of Jesus.

  6. Karen, I am really enjoying reading your weekly e-mail. It sure gives me a lot of food for thought. I am now at a point in my life to take care of myself after being a caregiver for so many many years. Keep your good thoughts coming!!

    • Mary, what a pleasure it is to hear from you and to know you are enjoying my weekly blogs. I am really happy to know you are finding some benefit. God bless you during this season of life. We’re in the golden years together!!

  7. Thanks, Karen, for this wonderful message of freedom. Trying to simplify is where I am right now. I heard a good question the other day asking, “Is your hand to full to hold Jesus hand”?

    • Pam, I really like what you said about holding Jesus’ hand. I will remember that. Thanks for taking a moment to comment.

  8. Great post, Karen!

    Making those kinds of decisions can sometimes be difficult, but rewarding. The backlash from offended ones whose events you do not attend require a combination of tact and honesty.

    Setting priorities is key to this kind of ‘clearing’ of one’s schedule and life – and everyone wants to be high on your priority list 🙂

    And you do not sound selfish or self-absorbed. We are better able to serve others when we take care of ourselves. It’s kinda hard to help others when we’re burned out, yes?

    And I agree that meals made at home are usually better than at most restaurants. No mass-produced food at home 😉

    Thanks for your post!

    • Thanks for chiming in on the discussion, Lynn. I just finished eating my ‘meal at home.’Nice to hear you agree with me about the importance of taking care of oneself so there is energy for others. I learned that late in life!

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