“Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.” – Leonard Koren
So I’ll be brutally honest ladies, I was not too excited sit down and write this post. At first. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. My usual response to such feelings is to procrastinate and dawdle until the slice of time I have to complete said task is so gossamer thin, that I have no choice but to barrel through, fueled of course, by equal parts adrenaline and coffee. While I am drinking coffee as I type this at my desk in our bedroom, not atypical for a Monday morning, my focus has changed.
You see, the topic of simplicity is so expansive and just about everywhere you look these days, so it felt like a tumultuous task to undertake for one post. People write whole books on this stuff! But thank God for my husband Andrew who helped me refocus and write this. He sat down with me Sunday morning while the kids tore apart the living room and we wrote this together. I am beyond grateful for his insight, his stories, and his nudge of confidence to share how we can best lead lifestyles void of unnecessary clutter and excess, and full of what matters most. After a few minutes of chatting with him, the doorway of this topic busted right open when he started with one of his favorite lines, words that will drive the conversation we are about to have:
“Simple doesn’t mean easy.”
As a financial planner he shares these words with clients rather often with regard to money management and planning for the future. So many of us see others simplifying and paring down to the essentials to live minimally with a more abundant life, and because of the beauty and allure of the refined end result, they naturally assume it was easy to get there. Through justification, the process can gets overlooked while the product gets glorified. I think before getting into simplifying matters of the heart and home, something you can surely find PDF’s for all. over. Pinterest., one should know the how’s and the why’s before examining the what’s involved. It’s important for us to dig a little deeper before turning up the music and emptying every drawer in the kitchen! So I asked Andrew this morning to elaborate on what he means by “simple doesn’t mean easy” and this is what he said (I quickly typed and pretended the kids weren’t dumping every basket of toys we own into one big unorganized pile – hello irony):
“Simplifying is an art, and it’s not easy. Making things simple is more gratifying, but often times, it’s more difficult to do than to let things get cluttered up. In a world of constant raining down of information it takes work to analyze and compartmentalize that information, and more work to then eliminate the excess or what isn’t essential.” He went on to say, “Naturally, our minds want to complicate things more than they need to be for whatever reason (sometimes to satisfy the status quo), and people tend to over complicate matters to overcompensate for their own insecurities.
An example of this is how sometimes when people see a simply kept and tidy home on Instagram they assume that person is either:
A). lying and putting on a façade
B.) is in possession of some magic elixir that cleans and tidies each morning.
…few people entertain a third, likely more accurate option
C.) which is that person worked hard to get that space to look and feel that way because they value simplicity and tidiness.
We all do this to some degree because we are human and we judge by nature. But this is why turning up the volume on our own insecurities to give them a louder voice than they deserve is dangerous. This way of thinking feeds our ego and keeps us from growing in a positive way. There are of course, people who put on shows to garner likes and gain attention, but I think it’s pretty clear who shares authentically vs. who doesn’t on the Internet if you take a moment to see what it is they’re sharing. If you have been taking part in this retreat, perhaps it’s because you value your time and your authentic self over peering into the lives of others who may or may not be accurately portraying their time and authentic selves. Ring a bell?
Andrew and I continued to talk and he said something that really resonated with me, “The fact is,” he said, “simplifying is simple by nature, but it’s not easy to do or sustain. Choosing to sustain a simpler lifestyle takes a combination of diligence and emotional intelligence. To know what is essential, you first need to know your values and what matters most, and then you need to work to support those values by constantly evaluating and weeding out the nonessential. It takes a lot of energy to do this continually, but the end result is much more gratifying because you are doing work that reflects what matters most to you.”
I agree with him wholeheartedly. To create and then sustain a simpler lifestyle (not merely landing on a quick fix or one week detox) means one must make space to look inward and observe oneself with mindfulness. For example, our family values slow time together on the weekends, so we rarely plan to do much outside of the occasional meal out or church on Sunday. We keep time open for togetherness, and understand that over-scheduling on our family days is not something that we want in this season of our lives. Once we feel that is out of balance, we revisit how we are choosing to spend our time and if that choice aligns with our values. Below are some steps Andrew and I wrote up for creating and sustaining a simpler more wholesome lifestyle. They are practices he applies in the financial industry as well, naturally with different jargon.
Four Steps to Creating & Sustaining A Simpler More Wholesome Lifestyle:
- Observe: Know values forwards, backwards, frontwards. Ask yourself, what is it that matters most to me? Is it family time? Honesty? Creativity? Presence? Wisdom? First you must see what it is that you value before you can evaluate those inner values against external measures.
- Ask: Constantly ask yourself, does this align with my values? Continual self-evaluation must occur so you can stay true and disciplined to your values and not allow external factors to overcomplicate what you know to be true or important.
- Act: After you’ve asked those hard questions and looked inward, you now go through life with those values on the forefront – leading you and the choices you make. Does an excess of screen time go against the values I’ve chosen to live by? If it does, then you need to make changes. If not, then you act accordingly.
- Repeat: No one ever talks about sustaining a simpler lifestyle but it’s perhaps the most important part of this whole process. And you guessed it, while simple, it’s not easy. To sustain this lifestyle you must continue to observe, ask, and act over and over again. Sure, you could do a 30-day minimalism challenge or go buy books showing you what to do to simplify, but really, the significant part of this conversation is understanding that it takes persistence to keep this up. However, if simplicity is a value you truly believe in and want to live by, you will want to put in the work to sustain because you will be delighted with process and will end up savoring the result.
Andrew and I continued our conversation, me typing away as he spoke. He went on to share a few examples to illustrate this point even more, the first one connecting back to when we were in high school together. Did you know we are high school sweethearts? We started dating freshman year if you can believe that, and the rest was history, or for another much, much longer post. He recalled in English class, or most class where we were assigned to write essays on given topics, the best but most difficult teachers were the ones who put a page and/or word limit on our work. They told us to get rid of the unnecessary information; to share only was most true and essential. It was hard. It always involved lots and lots of drafts. It was messy. It was revealing. But in the end, what we were all left with was an essay that was rich with carefully chosen words. It didn’t include redundant or flowery language, nor did it go off on unnecessary tangents. It was to the point and concise in a thoughtful way. These teachers knew what was up. They were aware that this challenge would produce a great piece of writing, or at least a better one without limits. This is exactly what it is like to simplify matters of the heart and home. Imagine you only have room or time for so much, like that limit on an essay, and let the rest fall away. What you will be left with will be more intentional and rewarding.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. – William Morris
Okay, one more example he shared that I loved. It’s called the Elephant Theory, or something like that. Have you ever stood up close to an elephant? Like right up there with your face about an inch away from it’s thick, leathery skin? Yeah, me either. But imagine if you did, okay? What would you see if you were only an inch away from that beautiful, gigantic creature? You’d see thick, leathery skin and that’s about it, right? Sometimes when we are too close to something we are not able to see the whole picture, and our perspective has no option but to be narrowed based on restraints of our distance.
Example: I was too close to social media, and because of that, my perspectives on it were out of balance and all wacky. I was looking at it so close up that I was failing to see that it’s a tool in my life, not a force guiding my life. It’s easy to let this happen by the way. We get so wrapped up in superficial things because it feels good at the time, or we would rather not see the whole picture because that requires us to move. If we want to move against inertia, and if we want to back up to see the whole damn elephant and not just its thick, leathery skin, we must step back. We must move. We must take long, large steps away from that creature to see it in its entirety…to view the whole animal, and not just one part of its complex structure. Right now you guys, we are standing away from the elephant. We have made the choice to move and step back from a narrowing perspective that was no longer life-giving or healthy. That is a really beautiful thing, and I think you should be proud of yourself!
What does this have to do with simplicity? Well I think if you are feeling overwhelmed by this week’s content and call to action, perhaps you need to step back a bit more. Perhaps you need to move against inertia in a way that, while uncomfortable, will help you stretch and grow. It’s the only way we can make real changes here, and that’s what I am after. I think pretty PDF’s with going minimal and embracing simplicity icons and all that jazz are nice, but I think being brave enough to move back from the elephant (in the room) and then choosing to sustain that newfound growth is pretty AWEsome.
“Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let our affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand…Simplify, simplify!” – Thoreau
Does moving away from the elephant mean you need to throw all your crap away and go live in a tiny home down by the river? Nope. Does it mean you need a new, radical lifestyle that only embodies sustainable practices? Nope. Does it mean you must covert anything and everything to a digital platform to reduce your carbon footprint? Nope. Does it mean…blah blah blah you get the point. What it does mean is that you will gain insight and awareness with this distance, giving you room to feel your truth. Space between you and that elephant will give your truth more room to breathe, and consequently, more room for you to breathe as well. What that means for you, I don’t know. I do know that we all have truths unique to each of us, and giving them attention and tending to them with care is probably one of the best things we could ever do in life.
As I mentioned before, this topic is a big one, so I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty details of how to simplify everything because I can’t. Instead, I think it will be valuable for you and I to back away from the elephant and choose six areas of our lives that need simplifying. As a general rule of thumb, you first take everything out and look at it. Make three piles: 1). keep 2). toss 3). give. Items you keep are items that are useful or bring you joy. Bonus points if they are beautiful! Items you toss could be recycled material you no longer use or enjoy, or items that are broken and no longer provide utility. Items you give are things that can be donated or used/enjoyed by someone else.
If you want to read more about this process here are many blog posts I’ve written on this subject.
Simplifying Step One: Choose three areas in your home that are overwhelming to you and need help. These are areas that add negative energy to your day, and ones that are dominated with an excess of stuff. My three are the kitchen cabinets and drawers, our craft area in the loft, and my email situation. I worked on my closet and organizing all our essential oils this past week so that’s they only reason they didn’t make my list. These three areas are messy, unorganized, and cluttered right now. I am going to spend this week simplifying them down to the basics and what I find to be both useful and beautiful.
Simplifying Step Two: Choose three areas in your heart that are overwhelming to you and need help. These could range from over-scheduled days to your cluttered communication with friends to you not having enough time for self-care. Whatever these areas are, they are affecting your heart by infusing disorder and negativity into your days. My three are picking only one play date a week because I know I cannot handle more, finding time to meet with my girlfriends more regularly, and making more time to connect with family who live in other states. These three areas are messy, unorganized, and cluttered right now. I am going to spend this week simplifying these areas down in ways to better reflect my values so my close relationships are more of a priority in my life.
“As parents we also define ourselves by what we bring our attention and presence to. This is easy to forget when daily life feels more like triage. By eliminating some of the clutter in our lives we can concentrate on what we really value, not just what we’re buried under, or deluged with.” – Kim John Payne from Simplicity Parenting
I have decided to keep the material for this week at bay because we will be doing a lot of simplification practices instead. These journal questions I’ve come up with are completely voluntary, as is everything I offer you throughout this retreat. That being said, I have started to answer them myself and have enjoyed reflecting on this further.
Questions To JOURNAL:
- What does your home feel like these days? And if you had to choose three words to represent the energy you desire in your home, what would they be?
- What areas of your home are too full and simulating?
- What areas of your home are the most peaceful and life-giving?
- What three areas of your home need the most cleaning, simplifying, decluttering, and organizing right now? Where do you feel like you’ve crammed in too much and are constantly feeling the negative energy pulling at you in those spaces?
- What would an outside observer think of the energy in your home? What would they think is most important to you?
- What does the flow of your day feel like most days? And if you had to choose three words to represent the energy you desire in your days, what would they be?
- What areas of your days and week are too full and simulating?
- What areas of your day and week are the most peaceful and life-giving?
- What three areas of your day and week need the most simplifying right now? Where do you feel like you’ve crammed in too much and are constantly feeling the negative energy pulling at you in those moments?
- What would an outside observer think of the energy and flow of your day? What would they think is most important to you?
And lastly, it’s hard to believe we are already halfway through out journey together. Can you believe it!? I am interesting in hearing whether or not are you ready for this retreat to be over so you can resume social media, or are you presently scheming up a way to never get back on it again? I admit, I am somewhere smack dab in the middle. I do not know what that means for me once January is over, and I am okay with not knowing right now. And if you have any advice, reading material or anything else that pertains to this week’s content, share away! Below are two of my favorite books on the topic of simplicity, and each of them is ear-marked and underlined through and through! What are some of your favorites?
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Ashley - love love love this post! I so agree with everything you wrote. I always tell people that while the simple life may seem easy or only attainable by some, that its really a continuous process: continuing to fine-tune your beliefs and altering your lifestyle and little by little, it starts to form into how you want it. But, there is never a finished product which I think is wonderful! I love that I can continue to gain more knowledge and insight and work at aligning our lifestyle with our beliefs. That’s the beauty of the journey! Simplicity Parenting is a great tool for it — I really enjoyed that book.
Jenny - A lovely post as always Amanda. So honest and refreshing. I am enjoying this retreat so much more than I imagined. I feel similar to you in that I don’t know how I will feel in February when I download the apps again but it will be interesting. I am hoping I will have broken the habit of scrolling and scrolling at least!
I also love Marie Kondo’s 2nd book ‘Spark Joy’ and have enjoyed reading Sarah Knight’s latest book ‘you do you’. I’ve had a lot more time to read on this retreat which has been great!
Have a lovely week x
Ashton - I seriously can not believe we are half way through. It has went so quickly and if I am honest, I’m not sure I feel ready to enter the world of social media again. I think I need to work on some tangible boundaries and a game plan going forward. That video you posted for us to watch last week almost brought me to tears and was just SO good. So eye opening.
This weeks topic is definitely one that needs addressing in my home and other more emotional areas. In regards to my home, I know I am visually sensitive to my environment and need to address that. Simplicity Parenting was such an amazing resource—-and has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Lastly, I tend to be a big picture person but really struggle with the day to day tasks to get to the big picture. So, it’s been so refreshing to step away from social media and feel a sense of freedom to really nail down those small things that really matter to me and the tangible ways to get there.
Also, a resource, I’ve been using Power Sheets by the Cultivate What Matters shop—by Lara Casey. They really get to the heart of what matters to you and there’s a lot of soul searching before you step out and write goals. It’s like a giant month by month journal that gives prompts and a tending list so you can work towards your big pictures. I’ve been working on it alongside this retreat and they have went together so well. It’s been extremely helpful for someone like me who struggles to see the small steps that get to the big picture.
Kacie - This is so great, Amanda. I’m loving this and I have a feeling “simple doesn’t mean easy” will become a new mantra of mine. So good. Tell Andrew I said thanks. 😉 xx
admin - Kacie, hey girl! I’ll pass this onto him for sure. How are you?! I MISS YOU! xxx Amanda
Kacie - Hi!!!!! We’re good! I miss you tooooo. We’re just wintering over over here – trying to take advantage of the quiet days before we get into the lovely spring/summer/fall here. Let’s email? I tried to send you one but I don’t know if it came through?? I’ve been loving your retreat so much. I’ve been tagging along and doing the journaling and reading – I’ve been still using instagram but holding myself to some serious value standards like getting my chores, work, homeschooling, self-care, and yoga done before I can check in… which means some days I don’t “get” to at all. I find it so much more fun/rewarding when it’s a treat after all the important stuff rather than the procrastination of the important stuff!
Taylor Norris - I think you’re definitely hitting on some truth here. I think even decluttering ONE area of house and heart would be impactful (and likely lead to motivation to continue on). I read somewhere that clutter is stressful because it reminds us of choices we haven’t made (Papers: toss or keep. Toys: still beloved or time to donate? Technology toys: essential or not?) I read a lot of people talking about tidying and donating but few talk about avoiding bringing things into the house in the first place. I think a simpler life and house inspires less shopping to begin with <3
Holly - That’s so true about shopping habits needing to change! I did a big 12-week declutter course and it didn’t matter because I just kept bringing junk back into the house. It’s so much harder to change your habits and patterns than to walk around throwing things into trash bags. For me, it’s been a slow but hopefully lasting shift.
admin - Taylor, oh my yes. This is a HUGE factor in living more simply = have less to begin with! And “clutter is essential because it reminds us of the choices we haven’t made.” WHOA. So impactful. x Amanda
Gladys - This was amazing! thank you
I have been doing the challenge over the last week and it has been amazing. I was shocked how much time I was spending on my phone. Especially on Instagram. I appreciate you husband input on this. I was talking to my husband, he is a computer programmer, he does NOT have any social media account. it is amazing to see how he does not feel that he is missing anything.
I grew up on an island in the Caribbean, and I think back of my childhood and the simplicity ( many would say the lack of opportunities) and then I look I the life of my four children have here in metropolitan Chicago and it hard to imagine my life back then.
Here are some of my realization during the last two weeks,
The use of screen is a way to scape ( not sure form what yet). Now I just watch useless shows on TV.
When my heart is disconnected from who I am and what I really value, social media become a place to judge other and my self.
THank you for hosting this and asking the hard questions. Could I ask for permission to translate some of your question to Spanish? I want to share it with my sister and post it on my little neglected blog.
admin - Gladys, sure thing! Share away, girl! x Amanda
Holly - Simplifying our surroundings & souls is such a natural progression in this retreat! I’ve actually been tackling room after room in our house starting a few days into this retreat. I’ve had so much time on my hands I’ve become a much better homemaker. My husband keeps telling me “you’re on fire!” but actually I’m just not STARING AT MY PHONE ALL DAY. I can’t tell if I’m proud of myself or disgusted with my past behaviors. Next on my list is my pantry, kitchen cabinets & our homeschool classroom/playroom. For my soul, it’s probably setting clear & reasonable boundaries on screen time, establishing a morning rhythm that works for us, and figuring out how to be less anxious when my husband travels.
I had a major epiphany this weekend when working through some more of the resources, journaling & reading other’s comments. In the time I’ve been off Instagram, I’ve realized that if I stay off, then no one will be “watching” my life. When I envisioned what that would look like, it kind of blew my mind that I’ve changed or tweaked parts of my life because of what I thought they’d look like to someone else. Everything, every purchase, every kid’s outfit, every table setting, every meal, gets viewed with the lens of how does it look if/when I post it. Like, if I stop & think of what it looks like not to do that, my life shifts back into perspective. A film lifts from my being, and I actually feel like I’m inhabiting my body again.
Sometimes I think that’s so melodramatic! That’s how it honestly feels to me, like I’m a screen-staring mind-numbed zombie. I’ve begun leaving my phone parked in the living room on the charger, instead of in my back pocket or next to my bed. If I want to check texts, I do it STANDING UP so I don’t get sucked in. I think I’m going to stay off, I know myself, I can’t do it just a little. I’ve tried these ‘breaks’ over & over – eventually I always fall back into the same pattern.
Also has anyone else noticed the new sensation of looking straight ahead instead of down? Or is just me? How has life changed so much in just 7-8 years??
Jamie - Holly,
I don’t think I was using my phone so much that I was always looking down or picturing my purchases in a post, but social media has just taken up too much of my mental space. And I’m thinking of just not going back as well. It’s good to hear I’m not alone… that maybe the right choice for some of us is just to not return. I’m not saying social media is bad, but maybe it is in the wrong hands? I have a life to live and kids who I want to give the best life to. That might mean a present mom rather than a mom who knows all the stuff and is continually inspired but…rarely fully present.
Holly - I like looking at it like that – perhaps this just isn’t the right season in my life for social media use. The cons are outweighing the pros. Yes, the community & support are nice – but I find myself strengthening my real-world connections with other moms, which is infinitely better than the loose ones I had online. This is a season where I need to lean hard into my daily life & the relationships with the people I see every day.
admin - Holly, I know exactly what you mean about the staring ahead vs. staring down. I only use my phone right now when I need to which I haven’t done in years – so if I am looking down at something it’s a book or my kids. It’s been really humbling to see just how much time I had been spending staring at a screen when before if you had asked me “do you find you are addicted to your phone?” I would have said, nah. And the no one “watching my life” is a HUGE realization – because our kids are and our husbands are and our friends are watching AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS but IG makes us feel otherwise. I want to broadcast this to everyone who gets on IG. Thank you for sharing, brave one. x Amanda
Amanda C. - simplifying is a topic I’ve been working on in my own life for many years. I definitely agree, it’s a continual process, and it changes as seasons of our lives change. I’m going to work on our basement storage closet, old paperwork and toys this week. Social media has been my hang up for too long. I think, like you, I was too close to it. I always have the excuse that I’m on instagram for the connection, but only a few people have even sent me a text in the last few weeks. But, 7 years of following and commenting and sharing is going to take some time to make a new habit. If I get down to the bottom of it, that is what it is, a habit. And habits shape us, bad and good ones. I didn’t make any resolutions this year, what I am working on is cultivating healthier habits with my social media use, and for me seems to mean a total fast for right now. My kids are growing so fast, and even though I like to document as much as I can, even more, I want to be present. I want each of them to remember that I listened to them when they asked me something, not me shooing them away because I was on my phone.
Courtney - Love this.
I just finished the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and it goes so well with this week.
While minimalism is the idea of simplifying your stuff, essentialism simplifies your life and overall “to do list”. I highly recommend it.
As for social media, I’m thinking quality over quantity. Far fewer posts with greater impact. Although, that might be an algorithm mistake but I don’t know… yet.
admin - Courtney, thank you for sharing! I looked it up this morning and it sounds amazing. As far as the algorithm goes, what a bummer we even have to consider that, right? I think that is part of people constantly feeling like they need to post or check in to be seen in that space. Ugh. Why, Facebook? x Amanda
Erica - This is an area that definitely needs work in my home! My husband and I are very sentimental. On top of that, I find that I am extremely indecisive, so permanently getting rid of things is difficult for me. However, I am also extremely sensitive to my environment – if my house looks overwhelming, that’s how I’m feeling. We have a small home and three young children, so clutter accumulates fast! I have been really trying to tackle this for awhile and was just starting to see some noticeable progress, and then Christmas came. And everyone gifted our kids all the things! We were very straightforward in telling people that we preferred experiences to gifts. We also suggested specific toys that we thought our kids would like, and somehow still, we ended up with way too much. How do you handle this? We have returned what we were able, but it seems too soon to “purge” the rest since it was just given to us. (I also worry about hurting the feelings of the giver if he/she was to find out.)
Also, if I’m being completely honest, this past week was much harder for me. Even with all the extra time I’ve gained without social media, it still feels nearly impossible to make all my non-negotiables happen on the daily, especially as I’m also trying to implement more rhythm to my cleaning/cooking schedule. Also, it seems like the “comparison trap” has made its way back into my life, even without apps like Instagram. Now it’s just comparisons with people I know in real life! It has really triggered some guilt and anxiety for me, and I feel lost as to what to do about it. I’m sticking with you through the rest of this month though! Thanks again for putting this all together!
admin - Erica, thanks for sharing girl! I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book – it addresses so many of the concerns you brought up in a way that’s nonjudgemental or crass. Keep doing awesome! x Amanda
Kathleen - The last two weeks have honestly felt transformative. I am LOVING being off social media and am strongly considering making it permanent. I feel so much more present with my kids and with MYSELF and feel so much more mental space and calmness. It felt like this constant “mental tug” before and that tug is now gone. I have been cleaning out and re-organizing more so I’ll continue that this week. I’ve also been reading a lot, knitting, playing board games with my kids, and really being present with them when we take trips to the park. While a small part of me misses some of the connections on social media, I feel like that is counter-balanced by the deeper connection I feel with the people I actually see in person in my daily life. With the handful that I am really close with but that live far away, I’ve been texting them photos occasionally and it seems easy to stay connected that way.
I love the second part of this week’s retreat, taking a look at three areas of your heart that seem overwhelming. I will have to mull on that for a while – I’m not sure what will come up yet.
admin - Kathleen, I loved reading this. Your experience sounds so simpler to mine! Enjoy this week! x Amanda
Jane - Oh my goodness, I love this post. “Simple doesn’t mean easy”. This statement is my motto going forward with the simplifying this week and on. It makes a lot of sense, but in my attempts at simplifying, I have often doubted myself and felt discouraged by the mental challenge of differentiating between the essentials and the extra junk. I wonder “is it supposed to be this hard to get to a simpler life?” But yes, yes it is. And I think it will be worth it.
Sooo week 2 was hard. I felt like I really struggled with being “offline” and out of touch with my mom community. I also struggled with some of the boundaries I established with screens (no phones in bed). But man, this retreat has been so good for me. I’m seeing extra time and space where I didn’t think there was any, and using that to enjoy time with my kids. I’m loving this benefit so much that I’m trying to see how I can reduce any screen time, not just social media, but online shopping and streaming shows.
Thanks again for this guidance. I’m also really enjoying the comments and hearing how this is going for others.
Jane - p.s. I love that this week’s post is a collabo with your husband. He had some fantastic insights on this topic!
admin - Jane, I’ll pass this onto him! It was really fun writing this together 🙂 x Amanda
Brittney - wow. this post was enlightening. love your take on everyday life and the intellect that is so important to maintain through out it! thank you for being that light for us all. x
Erica M - This week’s post came at the perfect time for me. I found myself today in a more simplified work schedule than I’ve ever had. I now work from home 3 days & 1 day outside of the home. This simplified work schedule is something so foreign to me but I can’t help but think it’s a time in my life that I need it most. I’m going to make the most of it & continue to focus on big changes I can make this year. This Rest Retreat is the perfect way to start the year! I’m positive that without this month’s Retreat, I wouldn’t be able to make the big life changes I’ve already made. Thank you
Alexandra - I have that William A Morris quote on my fridge. It’s a happy reminder to me of what I’m doing. Also, thank you for touching on how simplicity is not a cookie cutter prospect. I alwaysoften struggle with thinking I’m not doing enough. To be completely happy (I imagine) I need to get rid of all my childrens’ toys And limit them to five shirts each (that they somehow miraculously keep spotless; slim chance for my two-year-old :). I’ve been working to make peace with the things we keep out of true necessity.
Taylor - Wanted to throw out there, for anyone looking for ways to trick themselves into spending less time on the phone, you can set your screen to be only in black and white grayscale. It looks so awful you hardly want to be on there 😉 I also second the advice of texting/scrolling while standing up. Keep it up on a shelf and only use in that spot then walk away. I’ve used both techniques.
Chelsey - This week has been so hard. I am more present, but the presence has been forcing me to deal with some hard feelings. I have noticed I was using social media to self medicate depression, anxiety, and and overwhelming feeling of inadequacy in this parenting gig. Missing the hit of dopamine throughout my day has left me cranky and exhausted. Sticking with it and going to be making some big changes with social media. Thanks Amanda.
Holly - I read through the comments again & got a little sad about this ending! I don’t know what your plans are once the retreat is over, but I wonder if you might consider doing some kind of monthly or seasonal follow-up posts to keep the spirit of this renewed focus going? As someone who has struggled to make this permanent shift in my life, I’ve gotten so much from the journal prompts, resources & comment discussion. I really appreciate the work you’ve done on this! I hesitate to ask because I don’t want to make it a burden, so just an idea! <3
Jena - This retreat has been so wonderful and I have enjoyed every second of it! I’m so giddy to be able to start purging and cleaning and getting my home space to a comfortable peaceful and happy place to be! A very positive outcome of the retreat is that I have had multiple friends call and catch up with me because they haven’t been able to follow me on social media, so instead of a mindless click of the like button I instead got a meaningful conversation with good friends and caught up with loved ones!
Inger - I can relate so much to what the other readers are commenting here. Logging off and effectively turning down the noise – it’s like waking from a haze and my world feels calmer and I’m more focused and feel so much more content. Your words from your last post – “in a constant state of disconnect” really struck a chord.
I must say I thought I’d miss seeing all the updates from friends and family and getting inspiration from beautiful photos and words. Instead I am experiencing the biggest joy from “missing out” on everything happening at social media. I am bubbling with creativity, I’m feeling focused and calm and at the same time I have lots of energy. I have learnt that I clearly need to shut out the noise to allow space for my own stuff to really come through. I’m not sure how I’ll approach social media going forward but I know for sure it will be with a much more mindful approach. Thank you Amanda for setting this up and for your thoughtful writing and providing these useful resources. I could not have started the new year in a better way.
Natalie - Like the other daring, intentional women who have commented thus far, I have also been extraordinarily enlightened and blessed by this Rest Retreat. Thank you so much for the soul-searching, candid frankness, and time that you’ve taken to develop this for us all. You’re making SUCH an impact through these ripples you’re creating, Amanda.
First, I made the decision to go social media-free several months ago. I FEEL for everyone riding the waves of social media withdrawals. I honestly challenge those sensing a true dependency on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to retire from these addictive platforms for a little bit longer after the month concludes… It’s been my experience that it took a while for me to “wean myself” off of social media before I was really able to gain the peace and inner stillness to properly deal with the themes you bring up such as boundary setting and deep self-examination. Learning how to quiet the chatter of my mind was necessary for me to confront the rhythms and patterns of my life.
Because this past winter for me has been permeated in forced stillness that counteracts the heartbeat of our culture, I’ve struggled. Hard. However, after coming out on the other end using your inspirational words as momentum, I’ve found myself wholly changed as a result.
Now, I SEE clearly. Not just my eyes, but with my senses. I perceive things that I wasn’t able to ascertain before. I feel like Dorothy walking into Oz for the very first time- life is vibrant, juicy, and fun.
For my sake, for the sake of my 17-month-old son, and for my family and friends, I thank you for being such a motivator and an encourager in this brain-numbing age.
Your example has certainly changed my life.
Erinn - I’ll start with a whole-hearted and enthusiastic expression of gratitude – As something I have been struggling with for years (pretty much all of the them, since the dawn of social media access on smart phones) I am thankful for your gentle encouragement, and for offering this opportunity as a sense of community. Knowing that I am taking this plunge and journey with others; reading the vulnerable comments and posts since we have started has helped me go into this with authenticity and grace. It’s great to feel like we are all in this together, and I have been so thankful for all the ways you are encouraging us to make this journey our own, to reflect more deeply on what all this means for us individually, and also for the ways that you have given us some weekly focal points (to help me fill all the time and energy that abounds for me now that I am digital distraction free – ha!)
This experience has been truly life transforming for me – I have been in a state of distraction-less fog, and now,a few weeks in, I am just beginning to see the ways that my misguided focus has let soooo much inner work and awareness fall by the wayside. I am slowly beginning to realize just how many unhealthy behaviors I have been engaging in. I am motivated to make my leave of social media a bit more long term, if not permanent, to allow for more time and investment for my relationship with myself – one that I feel has been neglected for far too long.
I am humbled, and so incredibly grateful for you, and all the ways your beautiful blog has inspired me. Namaste, Amanda.
Lisa - I have an interesting predicament that has arisen after I signed off from Facebook and Instagram. I have to now wean myself off other distractors on my phone. I am afraid that I check email more often now, and I have felt an increase in my Amazon shopping! I have a knee jerk reaction to just pick up my phone whenever I feel stillness. This is my new challenge in this third week, to put my phone down, period. I don’t know if or when I will return to social media, as I am really seeing what an addictive effect it has had on me. I wonder what others think they will do about their phones after the retreat is over?
The retreat has been so helpful. Thank you.
Lovelle - I just want to say thank you so much Amanda for organising this retreat. I feel like I am now more present at work and at home without the distraction of constant scrolling and looking at people’s lives.
I feel like I have more time in my hands now and get more things done. I don’t think I will be going back to social media anytime soon. Now that the fog of distraction has lifted, I don’t want to be in that situation anymore.
The journal questions are such great prompts to look into things that I really value the most!
Lori - I’ve spend many days pondering if what I am doing in this life is suppose to be this constant.. this post helped reassure my life long journey of creating what I know to work for our family is a non stop process and while yes there are many moments of doing nothing but whatever is in front of us the community of people who also work for simplicity brings me peace knowing
Cai - I have to admit, I have struggled this month and cheated a few times with social media, but I’m choosing to be kind to myself because I know guilt is a terrible motivator.
One thing that’s been really interesting and beneficial is not what’s been taken away, but what’s been added. For me, I’ve really rediscovered the simple act of enjoying music this month, which is so sad to me that it was ever lost. I’ve exercised almost every single day in the past couple weeks and already see more strength in my movements. And reading has been a wonderful replacement for phone time. I absolutely adore Simplicity Parenting. Right now I’m reading Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali (Buddhist concepts, not religion, for mothers of any belief background), and it’s wonderful and very relevant to this journey we’re taking. Highly recommended. And I find myself longing for things I truly need – not stuff, not more information, but in-person connections with friends, and soul-enriching activities I used to love, that were a part of my identity as a person, which disappeared when I became a working mother. I hope to be able to fold those things back into my life once more as this year continues, and as I simplify and purge things in my life that are not bringing use or beauty.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve also found that the music I’m drawn to this month has been simpler too. Specifically, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sacred Harp/Shape Note Singing. I’m sure it sounds like a cacophany of untrained voices to some, but there’s something so pure and relevatory about these humble, human voices joining together to exalt something higher. I’m a Unitarian Universalist but the power of these hymns is undeniable. If anyone’s interested in hearing a bit, here’s a Pandora station that’s great:
Thank you again for doing this, and thanks to the commenter above who suggested turning your phone screen to greyscale! It’s only been a few hours since I switched mine but I’m certainly not as tempted to look at pretty pictures on instagram or pinterest 🙂
Kelly - I just watched last weeks video while my sons nap. I often envision my children as teenagers. Things I want them to appreciate and value. Like a low sun peering through the trees on a cold winters day and the sound of the crunch that only really cold snow can make. Things that I love from my childhood that cannot be noticed when you have a device in your hands. In our future I imagine a basket at the front door and house rules. When you come home, the phone goes in the basket. Same goes for their friends. I just don’t want to be part of any virtual world anymore. I never felt a strong pull to it but as a stay at home mom it became part of a way to connect to the adult world, an escape. I don’t need it though. And I can’t wait until February to delete my accounts. I think this blog is enough. And certainly the simple pleasures of nature and my children are enough. I’ve never felt such an urgency before to disconnect from that world than I do after this retreat. I’m so grateful for the materials you have provided us and your words each week to think about. I just want to slow down time and have my children feel it slow too. What a gift this life is. The get to’s and not the have to’s.
Holly - Beautiful words, Kelly. And they really resonated with where I’m at in this retreat as well. I don’t see how I can go back after this.
Priya - Hi Amanda,
I am just rereading all your retreat blogs. I am able to resonate with all this and your thoughts so much. Thanks for putting this up and please do continue. Looking forward for more such blogs.
Ashley Antkowiak - I’ve read several wonderful books about rest since this started in the beginning of the month. The first is called Margin, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was written by a Christian doctor and includes lots of practical encouragement for finding rest and losing stress. The next is geared to Christian homeschoolers, and is called Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. It’s short and so encouraging. Finally I just finished Gift from the Sea by Anne Lindbergh. That one was a beautiful look at what it means to be a woman, wife, Mom, and still have a life of peaceful rest. I highly recommend each of these and would love to hear if any of you have a recommendation of what I can read next!
Callie - Hi Amanda,
Thank you for putting the time and effort into this retreat. It is beautifully and thoughtfully crafted and so intentional, and I adore that. I have been loosely following it, but benefitting for sure. Each time I come back to one of your posts, it’s like a breath of fresh air mixed with my soul taking a deep, grateful breath. This week, I was so excited to see these two books, as they are two of my favorites! I’ve followed you for a couple of years and I bought Simplicity Parenting based on one of your posts over a year ago, before I had children, and now, with a 1-year-old daughter, I am still slowly making my way through it, loving it and soaking it up. 🙂 Another book I’m reading right now that I thought you might be interested in (and pertains to the topics of this retreat and just what you often write about) is “For The Family’s Sake – The Value of Home in Everyone’s Life.”
Jessica - I simply want to say thank you, Amanda. This retreat has opened my eyes to so many aspects of my life that I was neglecting, due to social media and the constant pull towards my phone (both personally and professionally). I’ve shed a lot of layers this retreat, and I’m proud of the breakthroughs I’ve made for myself, and for my family.
I’ve been a long time follower of Home Song, and I’m so very grateful for all the life lessons you’ve taught me here over the years. Thank you again, and much love from Canada!
Ashley Antkowiak - Callie, I just finished for the family’s sake and loved it! Have you read for the Children’s Sake? That was the book that first introduced me to Charlotte Mason and I’ll be forever greatful!
Callie - Ashley,
Oh! No, I haven’t, but I will read it now. Thanks for the share!
Haley - Thanks for posting this, Amanda. I was thinking about you and missing your posts today (I just realized that it has been a while since I saw a post of yours on Instagram), so I went to your blog. I ended up printing this out and going through it with my husband. I like how you focus on the heart of the matter and my motivations rather than just heading straight to a task list. Thanks for being you and for taking time to step away from Instagram. I respect your decision, and I’m blessed by your blog.
Christy - Hello All, what a blessing these past few weeks have been!
Some thoughts: Addictions die hard; when you evict one demon out of your house and it is all swept clean, you must be careful lest 7 more demons come and finding it swept and empty, make their home inside. (My own paraphrase!). I found that once I cut out Insta and FB, I began scrolling through blogs endlessly and still using my “wait” or “down” time on the phone. Thanks to reading the comments here, I realized what I was doing and have most cut that out as well. So thank you to all the brave ladies who have posted comments.
I am starting to formulate a plan going forward and it looks something like this:
-continue my social media fast except for a post to alert those who follow me about my plans.
-continue fast until I truly feel free and have really settled into my new habits.
-unfollow all brands from my insta and pare down the number of people I follow who I do not know personally, leaving only those who I find the most uplifting and personally encouraging in my own journey.
-perform another FB purge (unfollow and unjoin)
-delineate firm boundaries and guidelines regarding my instagram/FB use going forward. Possibly lock these apps with a code that only my husband knows so I have to essentially ask permission before using. Have a specific goal in mind when logging on and set a timer for each use.
-re-evaluate my social media usage frequently and how it is affecting my days.
As far as minimizing goes, I have greatly appreciated the blog and book (The More I’d Less) of Joshua Becker. His definition of minimalism really resonates with me: “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” So cutting out social media, or greatly limiting it, is part of minimalism for me. Because, in excess, it distracts from what I value most.
Thank you for all the needed heart work this has inspired. I hope to continue it long after this month ends.
Jenny w - A challenging week on a topic I find most dear. I rehashed reflections__I don’t usually rewrite a thing. My opinions however shifted multiple times. I didn’t want to complete my pantry tidy and other small projects. Yet with my 5 yr olds help–gobsmacked– initiated by him. It’s done. Gone are the remnants (2 yrs was long enough) of our old way of eating (pre_allergies). Now a little space all round. Thank-you. Time has a way of slowing when you need it. Second ice day here. Home with my kids. No grocery shop this week. Making something from nothing and still calm. Man I wasted a lot of time throughout the day on that phone.
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peyton - Man oh man did I NEED this! One way I’ve simplified/created boundaries for myself during this retreat is letting myself take it as slow as I need. Hence why I’m just now getting to week three content. I’m a student taking 18 hours and have a job and a volunteer position in ministry and it all feels a bit overwhelming right now. I knew I needed this retreat but also knew I couldn’t hold myself to a standard of doing all the things in the confines of a week. So I’ve decided the retreat will be done for me whenever I’ve worked through all the content at my own pace and felt I’ve dug in deep enough. Who knows when that will be, and I’m finally hitting a point of getting anxious to get back/missing seeing some of my favorite feeds, but I think the moment it becomes real work is the moment real change is starting to happen.Thank you for taking the time to create such thoughtful content to reflect upon. I can tell through each journal prompt answered and blog post read that a real heart shift is happening.
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