Note: This is a guest post from Lisa Avellan of Simple and Soul.
Is it ever too late to simplify your life?
Technically, no. You should start today.
But practically speaking, there will come a time in all of our lives when we stare into the eye of a storm with one hand holding down the fort and the other distracted by the insignificant clutter and demanding tasks because we’ve put off simplifying one day too long.
It’s that moment when suddenly the world stops you in your tracks and reminds you how little you control. The world hasn’t stopped though and now you have to manage a crisis while managing the consequences of overconsumption, overwhelmed homes and calendars, and the important buried under the immediate and you realize you’re spread too thin.
When the Simple Life Matters Most
Until recently I believed simplifying my life by owning (and wanting) less and being intentional with my priorities was the purpose of my new minimalist lifestyle—that the immediate benefits of less distraction and more margin for what I truly love was the sole purpose.
That was until our family was halted by an all too common storm: cancer. Again. The eye of this storm has fixed itself in our lives indefinitely while permanently burning a hole through normal and routine and safe. It is changing the pattern of life, forever.
When the winds are fierce and the howl is deafening and the rains drench deep to the soul, where fear devastates our happy go lucky existence, simple becomes our breath. Simple is our heartbeat.
Because in the face of cancer there is no margin for distraction or comparison or retail therapy—there is only breath and heartbeat. Life yesterday was normal and today it’s threatened. The lens of life, unaided by fancy electronic gadgets and fashion forward wardrobes, now focuses on the absolutes: Love. Family. Health. Hope.
More Does Not Equal Prepared
When we travel with our young daughters, I am often preoccupied with preparing their carry-on bags with enough snacks and activities to keep them distracted, quiet, and manageable for the duration of the flight. I brainstorm every possible need they may have to ensure I can provide something to appease their fickle desires and inevitably I overwhelm everyone with the overstuffed luggage.
I prepare with the mentality that more will fix everything.
Our lives are full of messages that what we need is more. More money, more clothes, more stamps in our passports, larger homes, more toys…the list goes on. Yet, the message of more hasn’t fulfilled its promise.
More does not equal prepared, but it can equal distracted and overwhelmed and fragile. Buried underneath the weight of debt or clutter or busyness we sacrifice our readiness to take on life’s most ominous forecasts.
A prepared life is unrestricted by possessions and activity. It’s free from the unnecessary for the purpose of intentional readiness.
Simple living is more than creating space and joy in your life; it’s also preparation for life’s inevitable storms that require our full attention. It’s removing the side show of distractions and unnecessary fluff which steals our ability to handle the important and necessary with clarity.
The More of Simplicity
Cancer diagnoses, devastating earthquakes in developing counties, or wildfires and hurricanes are not so subtle reminders that he with the most toys does not win. Our physical possessions are quickly discarded when disaster strikes.
Staring in the face of eternity we know soul deep that our hope is not found in our stuff.
The simple life cultivates hope; it prepares us to see and feel limitless hope. It shows up when doctor appointments don’t have to compete with unfulfilling activities on the calendar. Hope shines when a debt-free lifestyle softens the blow of the pending hospital bills. Hope floats as family and friends rally around not in pity but in support and love because of the relationships nurtured with intention.
The more of simplicity is hope!
And hope is mighty powerful in the face of the unknown. Hope is contagious and abundant when we value a life of simple joys, purposeful community, and authenticity.
Better Late Than Never
It’s never too late for hope. And hope is brewing even in the darkest storm. The storm—the frightening diagnosis or the middle of the night phone call or the bad day on the stock exchange—it may be the warning siren to summon us into a simple life, offering us the opportunity to adjust our focus as we ride out the storm.
The simple life presents us with purpose and resolve and we no longer have to gather up our wits and fight with our reserves. We can fight with everything within and be present in the moment—to give ourselves fully to the storm and let go of the insignificant for the sake of the most important.
Maybe it’s never too late to simplify, but one thing I am more sure of now is that the simple life is more than owning less and less to do.
It’s also putting what’s most important first and crafting a life of margin in preparation for the unknown and inevitable complications of this broken world.
Don’t wait till the storm makes landfall. Simplify now and weather it out with hope and clarity and peace.
Lisa Avellan blogs at Simple and Soul where she inspires and equips others to live with intention. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Through a painful domestic violence situation, I was forced to leave with only a jeep full of possessions. The things I left behind, that I really missed (my bike and skis), nicer, newer ones popped into my life with in a month. Our Universe is so abundant!
Awesome, I enjoyed “Simple Living” articles. Keep them coming. Thanks.
Love all the comments . Thanks for sharing.
Invest in your spiritual life. It is permanent .
I was purging this week and realized I have a lot of useful items that I keep “just in case” I need it. I can relate to tree idea if passing everything we “might” need for a trip. Those days are over. Looking forward to worrying less and living in the moment more.
Sara Jane says
Love your blog. Clear and concise. Thanks!
Mary Lou says
One positive about moving around is that you learn to let go of ‘stuff’ that no longer has a place in your life instead of storing it away like we do if we stay in one place. Now I’m at the point of realizing my adult children might not want/need some of what I find sentimental. Time to purge once more. Thank you, Lisa! :)
Great reminder, life is so fragile, but it really is strengthened when we don’t care the burden of too much stuff. Having the freedom to be there for the ones we love, when they are going though really hard stuff is invaluable. Thanks for sharing your story
I was thinking about this very thing recently. My 90-year-old grandparents have been forced, by heath issues, to move into an assisted living home. They’ve had to downsize from an entire house to a one-bedroom apartment.
They had a difficult time parting with so many possessions, knowing that they would never see or use them again. Also difficult was the fact that their children and grandchildren didn’t want much of their stuff – antique paintings, boxes of family albums, sets of fine china.
They’ve been forced to become minimalists – but in a way, it’s too late. It was against their will and was a painful process during a time that was already filled with physical and emotional anguish. Don’t wait until it gets to this point.
Im sure it’s very difficult to swallow (process), the fact that when one comes to the end of this life and realize that they have been carrying around a full set of luggage, when in reality, all they really needed was a backpack :)
What a perfect illustration. We must keep in mind what stress it would be if we were in your grandparents position. I have always been of the opinion that you should give your things away while you know where they are going. Plus we should add having the energy
Valerie Janzen says
I have just lost my younger brother to a heart attack. He was 57 yrs old. He was such a wonderful brother with so many accomplishments. Walking around his yard and seeing the bits & pieces of his life in his home were all just that…bits & pieces. Nothing is more desired by his family then to have him back again. Everything else is just stuff. Simplify your lives so you can enjoy what (who) is most important. All of us will leave this existence some day. Lets be as undistracted as we can to have an even more enjoyable time together & a load of happy memories.
Nathan Atkinson says
Love this! Thanks for a great article. My wife and I aren’t waiting! I’ve been simplifying for a while now and she’s starting to join in. Feels great to declutter.
M Park says
Love. I commented to a friend earlier this week how I was aiming to maintain the simplicity we discovered out of necessity when an unexpected medical issue landed me with a week long hospital stay. We want to be intentional with our time, talent and financial resources.
Peter B. Hawley says
Lisa, I am recovering from open heart surgery, a humbling experience, and learning MORE will not buy you an addition breath, my most important asset. Be well. PBH
Brenda F. says
I have read various books, and articles on organizing and simplifying life as well as written blogs on the topic myself. This is the first one that has pointed the direction toward preparation for the unexpected storms of life! Thank you! What words of encouragement and hope, and new very important reasons to simplify!
It is incredible how, inspite of so many bags and boxes of stuff that I have gotten rid of, I still have so much stuff! As the one with the cancer diagnosis, I really want to get rid of the clutter so my son’s don’t have to. Slow and steady wins the race.
Shawn Lim says
This is very inspiring!
It is true that most people are chasing for more, more and more.
Sometimes it is good to stop and listen to our heart and ask ourselves what we truly want in our lives.
The answer usually is not the shiny object we are chasing, it is the hope, the family, the health, and love that truly matters.
Often times we chase for shiny objects because we want fulfillment. And fulfillment is from within. Thanks for sharing. :)
Powerful, powerful post. Thank you Lisa for writing this :)
What powerful words… This blog post really made me take a step back. You really put minimalism in a perspective that I think a lot of people can relate to. I appreciate you being so real Lisa. Thank you for your message ❤️
So very true. My experience is the same – simplifying your life makes you more prepared when there’s a storm brewing.
Linda Stoll says
Profound, important, vital.
Your message to us all, Lisa.
I’m sharing your wisdom over at LinkedIn.
Michael Evans says
A lovely inspiring article thank you. We all need a reminder to simplify and for me it is slowing down to just be with my young boys. Thanks for the perspective and reminder that hope us all we really have.
Very true Lisa. I have spent the last 5 years simplifying my life and my possessions: 15 minutes of physical or mental decluttering each day (Sally, I felt like you in the beginning. But little by very little my load became lighter. It is not necessary to do all at once).
Recently I got the news that my income will be drastically, painfully reduced from this October. And I am not too worried:
I am not in debt anymore. I have learned not to desire possessions. I have the good and useful things I need for my daily life, not heaps of clutter that makes me think that I miss something. I am not weighed down by worries about how to uphold a certain lifestyle; I know what is important to me. I know, though it is an on going process, how to let go of thoughts and mindsets (autocorrect wrote monsters, kind of appropriate) that doesn’t do me good.
Which means I am confident I will get through this.
I am so happy that I simplified now that I will be in this situation.
We have a 20-something coming to live at our house. She will occupy the den. I am amazed at how much stuff my hubby managed to put in that 10 x 10 space. It is all in a storage unit or in other places in the house. Had I not spent the last ten years decluttering in a big way, we wouldn’t have had the space to put any of his den things anywhere in the house. I follow the PIPO rule: pound in, pound out. Hubby has not embraced that yet. His first family raised a lot of foster kids and he needed things in bulk. Big box stores are where he wants to shop even though we are two and zero teenagers now, and not 6 teenagers and two adults. It can take awhile to get out of the mindset that needs more. Journey is a good word to describe it, as one of the commenters did.
Erica Layne says
Love this, Lisa! Such a unique perspective—the link between simplicity and struggle and (ultimately) hope. Thank you!
Tyson Popplestone says
Awesome words Lisa.
It’s amazing that we all still buy into the myth that more stuff will equal a great sense of fulfilment of joy. I’ve been going through a journey of getting rid of the excess stuff in my life and focussing on what is really essential.
It’s been made easier by the fact that my wife and I are moving from Melbourne to London next week so we’ve been clearing out our house. Just last night we removed a whole heap more gear.
Every time we clear the excess, it’s like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders.
Now nearly all of what we own fits into a backpack! haha.
Loved what you had to say here and looking forward to reading more of your stuff.
Daisy Chain says
I have just come through one of the busiest periods of my life, nothing too serious thank goodness, just a collision of work, home and family issues. I am so tempted to kick back so far as to be comatose for the next while but this article has helped me to realise that I need to use this time to create the habits and behaviours that will make me more resilient for the next hectic period in my life. I think it is said that the teacher will come when the student is ready.Thank you for your article Lisa and very best wishes to you and yours at this tremendously difficult time.
There can be so much superfluous stuff and superficiality in our lives. Unburdening ourselves and simplifying is so freeing, and to your point, makes room for hope. And more room to pursue our passions, family, health and deeper meaning! Thanks.
I look around my house and just don’t know where to start! I get frustrated for not knowing where to begin! I feel like a failure!
You are not a failure. Start small and not with things that hold treasure. Go for all the kitchen gadgets that you don’t use. You can do this if you remember to start small!
Joyce Shiffer says
SAlly, I totally agree that the kitchen is the place to start.
The first thing I donated was the cookware that had to be stored in the OVEN because the cabinets were full. Everytime I use the oven now and don’t have to remove something first, it reminds me of how wonderful a simple life is!
LISA! I am so thankful I found your. Blog. We are facing health issues here, too, and realizing how much it slows down your ability to simplify or just get through the doctor visits and have energy to cook dinner. Note to younger people…don’t wait for retirement to simplify!! GOd bless you with renewed health and love from here????
Lisa Avellan says
Sally, don’t be discouraged! I felt the same way for a long time, but starting small is the best way to go. Start with a desk, or a counter top, or a closet. It’s the small wins that keep us focused and motivated. Also, there is no failing here. There are no comparisons or judgement. Each person has their own version of simplifying, and they all look very different. Create your own version, your own interpretation of what simple is to you. And this blog is a great place to find tips and practical advice. Don’t give up, you’re not alone!
Made me cry. Hope is what gets me out of bed every morning. Thank you for the reminder that hope makes the difference.
Sabrina FM says
Wow, this is beautiful. What a way to show us, remind us, how simple gives room – wiggle room – for the great and the unexpected that swallows our precious resources of time, patience, kindness. Thank you.
joan mckniff says
75, preparing for move to continuing care facility, a very good one. But so much cleaning out to do before I can move, before I can put my condo up for sale.
Sherry Borsheim says
As an Organizer, this is a great reminder of why I do what I do helping others get organized. Simplifying is a journey, not a destination and like you said, when life is over, the stuff doesn’t matter. It’s the memories and experiences that matter most. And this article inspires me as I simplify my own life and make more time for what really matters in life. Great article!
Stephen Roe says
Thanks for the powerful reminder. Your article was written so beautifully and invokes the reader in such an thoughtful way. Thank you.
Just a few short weeks ago, my grandfather passed away. It was unexpected–he was in his eighties, but in perfect health–and it made the family think about what really matters. It brought together a group of people who had, in many ways, grown apart over the years. Just like you mentioned, in the eye of the storm we see what really matters.
I’m going to share this article. There are so many others who will benefit from reading it.
Lisa Avellan says
Thank you Stephen for your kind words. I’m so sorry for your loss. It seems that it often takes the worst situation to bring unity, but that is where the blessing lies I suppose. I’m so glad this article resonated with you. Peace to you and your family.
Lisa Avellan says
Thank you Joshua, again, for allowing me to guest post on your amazing blog and share with your wonderful community. Its an honor. And thank you for the comments! I’m so happy this article resonates with so many people. Much love…
So true. Your words cut like a knife this time especially. My mom is currently in the ICU with liver cancer, I’m flying back soon to see her again, probably the last time. Can’t believe it… love her with all my heart. She also has SO much stuff, even though we had been working to help her declutter for a long time. Now her stuff is left to the rest of us to go through, and it doesn’t feel good at all.
This was a very eloquent and beautifully written piece with so much truth! Some years ago, the Lord put a phrase through my mind over and over, day after day. It was “LIFE AS WE KNOW IT CAN CHANGE AT ANY MINUTE.”.
That was brought home to me when my husband was in a very bad accident and I was away from home for almost 3 mos. Thankfully, my house was not chaos. But when we returned home, things had to be simplified more. A bit of furniture had to be moved to make way for a wheelchair. There were so many wound care items in the bedroom that created clutter, I could not stand any extra items. I took curtains off the windows. A “pretty bed” with decorative pillows was not an option and what use are they anyway? Eventually my husband recovered, but the curtains are still gone and there’s nothing but the comforter left on the bed. No decorative pillows, no bed skirt. It is now so much easier and quicker to make the bed! Other items that were in the way then are leaving bit by bit.
I pray that the person with cancer in this article has recovered and doing well.
laura m. says
Brenda: You may be much younger than me and glad he recovered. Many older people in fairly good health suffer from some arthritis and general stiffness earlier in the day. Another smart reason to ditch the silly things like decorative bed pillows, garish mirrors, extra furnishings, and other decorations. Less cleaning and less work. House cleaning gets harder (and slower) the older we get too.
Laura, I am almost 64 and not nearly as energetic as I used to be. My hubby just turned 76. I am currently in the process of getting rid of years of collections. I have loved all things old. I have no children and want to make it simple for my niece someday when I am gone. I still have way too much furniture, but have eliminated truckloads of small things. I have removed all glassware that was decor and pictures from the walls. Just what furniture and items I have removed so far has made a large dent in my cleaning and dusting time!!! Not to mention all the drawers and places that are sighing a sigh of relief! : ). And I know exactly what you mean about those slow mornings!!
laura m. says
Brenda: Glad to hear from you. I am 71 and he is 74. I like the minimalist decor, have two swirly metal items on the wall from Pier one, that’s it. minimal wall clutter. Downsized photos and passed many to nieces. We have no children either. The Mari Kondo method along with other minimalist websites is motivating. Mari gives simple advice on decluttering by category, (If you love it- keep it, if you don’t- get rid of it. on her site.) We have the basic furniture, nothing more since the folks have passed on. The handful of collections I sold to an antique collector after years of holding on to them. Gave household stuff to group homes I had too many of. Sold extra furniture or donated. A lady that works in a dept. store in the linen section said so many decorative pillows are used on beds. I was overwhelmed by the store displays of many pillows. I told her some just don’t have room to put pillows aside when ready for bed, so told her I used two “empty” pillow shams over the pillows after making the bed. King size ones cover standard or Q pillows. She said she’d pass this info on to friends with small bedrooms. Overall house cleaning got faster.
What has made me miserable in my life is valuing hope over action. What minimalism has made me confront is that nothing will change until I do.
Great post. This particularly resonated with me ‘More does not equal prepared, but it can equal distracted and overwhelmed and fragile.’ So very true. thank you for sharing.
Helen of the North says
Well written article.
i’m readig this as i wait to go to the hospital for an angiogram, Gods timing is perfect! thank you for this article this morning. i’m gonna get this done and join your facebook,page and start this second part of my life with simplicity…
Perfect timing for me, too! Woke up this morning in the grip of self-pity – both the article and the comment gave me the push that moved me onward. Wishing you both the best possible outcomes.
Love that beautiful cloud pic. So pretty! :)
Cheryl Free says
One of the best reasons to simplify is because we never know what major life change is right around the corner! Having “cleaned up” our lifestyle might just make this next unexpected change a little easier to handle! Thank you for this excellent article!
laura m. says
Cheryl Free: Agree. After we settled the estate of my father in law who had a stroke at 88, and sold his house twenty one years ago, the minimalist idea didn’t exist. Then later came the internet, TV interviews on decluttering, and books on minimalist/decluttering got me motivated because why leave stuff for others to clean up after us? the folks were married one year before the crash of ’29, left a small house packed, much of it useless junk, went to charity (furniture, etc), the rest to the curb. The Mari Kondo method now popular also other minimalist websites would motivate logical thinkers. Going thru stuff twice a year (or more) is ongoing. Much goes to group homes in my area. Last year, two friends died (one was his former co worker) and when retired things can take a turn even more so. Other casual friends since passed on, some I haven’t seen in sometime. Few on this site are retirees, and I encourage them more so, not to burden their heirs someday. Several retired friends are still holding on to “stuff” their older kids don’t want- just don’t seem to get it, and seems they will leave it for someone else to clean up.
Joyce Shiffer says
C heryl, you’re talking about me! I have had my kids do a walk thru and tell me what they might want. The rest, will only be things I love in the meantime, and I think I will tag the bottoms saying where they are to go. I am trying to look the other way on things that are sentimental to me only. I want to enter a mostly bare room that takes 15 min. To clean! Then I plan on enjoying a great big grin, walking out to our forest trail and do some bird watching????
Jonas Salzgeber says
First things first.
Cool article, Lisa!