The difficulty of living simply

Recently my husband and I have been thinking about living more simply. From my perspective it comes from realizing that I have too much choice in my life it’s come to stress me out. I’ve written before about decision fatigue which is something I am still learning to manage. My husband is realizing that we just keep getting more stuff, more books (which we love), more things and we have limited space in our 5 1/2 downtown Montreal. When it comes time for us to get a bigger place we want it to be because of a growing family, not because of growing stuff.

I recently leafed through Organized Simplicity by Tsh from and found it pretty refreshing. Once we get back home from living in suitcases all summer, I’d like to take some time to start giving stuff away starting with another clothes swap (and promise myself I wont take anything unless it’s a MUST).

I posted a question on Facebook to see if people had any helpful suggestions from my friends about how to manage this. In my mind it’s not just about the stuff I have, it’s also about paring down my life to fit in more of the things I want to do and require a lot less mental energy to do it.

Working full-time while being a whole person with likes and dislikes and hobbies and friends and a husband is hard even when your husband does as much work around the house as you do!

As I read some of those responses they were all mostly helpful but I realized none of them were addressing my real problem entirely. Some shared that they had anxiety over a scarcity mentality, as if if they gave away their things they could never get something like it back. I totally get that perspective. But more real is this question:

How do learn to want less? How do I learn to care less about things that are being marketed to me as important?  Why do I want ALL THE THINGS?

want-all-the-thingsI talk about changing habits often on this blog but I rarely talk about changing hearts and desires. One does not simply just change one’s own heart. I know wanting certain things isn’t bad necessarily. In this case, sometimes I think the underlying want in my life is controlling and driving my decisions which is dumb.

This essay entitled “It’s Not Me, It’s the Mall” and a few other articles (that I’ll post later) lead me to believe that this problem of the ‘tyranny of choice’ isn’t just affecting a few of us.

Practically, since I am living out of a suitcase this summer, I’ll have an easy go of it: anything left in my drawers at home by the end of the summer is gone. Anything I didn’t wear regularly this summer in my suitcases is gone. Simple? Probably not. It will likely be embarrassingly difficult. But it’s a start.

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  • Catherine

    C’est vraiment intéressant comme réflexion. Je pense qu’apprendre à vivre simplement se fait graduellement, et que même des personnes qui vivent simplement depuis longtemps peuvent avoir la tentation de faire des dépenses inutiles parce qu’il faut vraiment marcher à contre-courant de notre société consommatrice… Personnellement, j’ai été vraiment touchée par le livre “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”. Je pense qu’une de mes motivations premières à vivre plus simplement, c’est de pouvoir partager avec les pauvres. J’ai diminué mes dépenses pour pouvoir parrainer un enfant 🙂 Mon autre motivation aussi, c’est de plaire à Dieu en étant une bonne intendante de ce qu’il me donne et d’utiliser sagement mon argent. La façon dont on dépense notre argent a un impact éternel! (C’est toute une motivation ça, non?!) Je trouve aussi qu’il y a un aspect très libérateur de se débarrasser de beaucoup de vêtements ou trucs inutiles. Sinon, ça devient encombrant. Je suis aussi une amoureuse de livres, mais j’essaie de me limiter à ma bibliothèque, et quand ça déborde, je me décide à en donner, et je garde seulement ceux que je consulte souvent et qui sont plus rares. Pour le reste, il y a les bibliothèques municipales! Pour résister à la tentation, y a rien de mieux aussi que de ne pas aller dans les magasins! 😉

    • sylvia thompson


      When we came back from Ukraine I realized how much the experience changed me. I lived with people who bought what they needed and used it until it wasn’t usable and then remade it into something they could use again. When we got back I was offended by salesmen who tried to sell me extended warranties by promising me they wouldn’t repair old things…they would replace them! We were overwhelmed by the pasta aisle…25 different kinds of pasta!!!! and the cereal aisle and the…And I was horrified at our use of electricity. We ran our whole house, including computers, washer and dryer on 100 watts a day…and the average in Canada was so much more.

      SInce then I simply don’t go shopping unless I really need something. I buy the best quality I can afford because it will last the longest.

      If you are not going to live overseas then the next best way to live a simple lifestyle is to hang around people that do as well as people who, despite having little, have joy. and contentment. They will encourage your heart to be resolute in devaluing things and real valuing people, God and life.

    • Jess Versteeg

      Bonne suggestion de lire “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.” Je crois que j’ai un copie du livre. Merci.

  • Tena Vanderheyden

    I really love your blog Jess, You inspire me to continue striving to live a better life.

    • Jess Versteeg

      Thanks Tena! I take that to heart!

  • Anne-Marie Montgomery

    The simplest way to reduce purchases is to never go shopping 🙂 It has worked for me for years 🙂 Seriously… I think wants and desires are cultivated…. Where our heart is, our treasure is… It is not a question of trying to love material things less, but of loving other things more…
    Matthew 6…

  • Pingback: Living Simply (Part 2): What do we deserve? | Bucket List Journey()

  • Samantha Buxton

    I loved this topic Jess! It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past two years (without doing much because it stops bothering me for long enough periods of time that I don’t do anything about it). Ever since moving out, I’ve noticed how much SHTUFFF I had which, upon rediscovering, was indispensable to my happiness. Obviously.
    I think that living simply is a really physical obvious reminder for us of what’s important (hint: not stuff). I want to want to live simply. But like you, I want “all the things” sometimes.
    I’ve been donating a lot, trying to use up things that I bought a while ago and forgot about. I’ve stopped using shopping as a means of entertainment.
    But even with that I still have a tonne! I don’t get rid of enough. How do I decide what to throw away? At what point does something no longer become useable (like cothes)? Is it wasteful to get rid of stuff just for the sake of having less? How do you find contentment when your wardrobe gets boring again and you aren’t letting yourself get more stuff? This post got me thinking. Maybe this summer it could be something I work on more! Thanks for posting Jess 🙂