I’m a big believer in living simply. It’s become my life’s work, in fact, encouraging other people to simplify their lives so that they can freely live according to their unique passions and values.
But there’s one problem with living simply: it’s not easy.
See, “simple living” isn’t just a checklist of things to do or not do: drive only one car, live off the grid, grow your own food, toss the TV. Those might be some things you do because of a simpler life, but they don’t define it. No, in my experience, the definition of simple living is, quite simply, this: “Living holistically with your life’s purpose.” That’s it. It’s a simple manifesto that believes that living simply happens when all the parts of your life—your work, where you live, how you spend your free time, how you educate your kids, how you spend your money, what books you read, who you spend time with—are all pointed in the same direction. And that direction is towards your life’s purpose.
So when people ask me where they should start with that behemoth of a goal called “simplifying,” I always, always tell them to start by first finding your family’s life purpose. Once that happens, it’s a million times easier to make those little daily decisions that make up the sum of our life—those things that make up our family’s core values.
The next logical question, then, is, “How do we discover our purpose in life?” That’s quite the question, really. I mean—that is THE question, right?
Since I’m a follower of Christ, I believe the reason I’m here on Earth is to know God and enjoy Him forever, much like the time-tested Westminster Catechism’s classic statement. But what does that look like? There’s not a formula for discovering our purpose—it simply involves prayer, reflection, wisdom, and tapping in to that still, small voice from the Holy Spirit.
A few years ago, I spent a few weeks in serious prayer and exploration, asking God questions and journaling my thoughts. I asked questions like this:
What makes our family unique?
What gets us excited?
What bothers us?
How do we relax and enjoy each other’s company?
What would make us proudest about our legacy to future generations?
And after days upon days in quiet introspection, I scribbled out this purpose statement, showed it to my husband, and we agreed collectively that this was our family’s unique purpose:
As a family, we will…
• Put each other first
• Cultivate deep relationships with one another
• Extend love to those around us
• Live simply
• Be true to who God made us
• Take care of our health
• Be good stewards of creation
• Be lifelong learners
We eventually had this purpose statement printed on canvas, and it has hung in our living room over the years in our many homes—having it front and center helps us remember what we’re about when we’re faced with a decision. Now, we don’t literally refer to our purpose statement every single time we need to make a decision (“What toppings on the pizza tonight, dear?” “I don’t know—let me check our purpose statement”), but it totally helps when we’re torn between something that’s good versus something that’s best.
For example, if we’ve been spending too much time outside the house apart from each other, we might say no to another outing with other people—we need to put each other first and cultivate deep relationships with one another. When we’re tempted to buy something we don’t need only because it’s on sale, we’ll remember that our family is called to live simply. We can live out our daily decisions in peace, because we know they align with our purpose.
These are the things that make up our core values. And our values are the stuff of our daily life, our liturgy.
Creating a purpose statement isn’t a formula, but it’s certainly helpful. It’s helped us narrow down what makes us, us—and it’s helped us live simpler because our daily decisions reflect our core values, our purpose. We sense a deeper tapping in to our Creator and His unique ways for our clan.
Living simpler has become—well, simpler. I’m grateful.
Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net (previously Simple Mom), a popular community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time, a regular contributor to (in)courage.me, an advocate for Compassion International, and a top-ranked podcaster. A graduate of University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon with her family.
For more information visitwww.NotesfromaBlueBike.