I recently signed up for an email course about simplifying life… 30 days and 30 emails later, and my life was feeling a lot more complicated.
Someone else telling me how to show gratitude, journal, be healthy physically and mentally, purge my closets, and avoid screen time. By the end of the course, I was so overwhelmed. Every new e-mail caused a twinge in my gut; I stopped opening them about a third of the way through.
For the last decade or so, our culture has become obsessed with simplifying life. Resources are everywhere. Topics ranging from organization and planning techniques (keep stuff) to purging techniques (toss it).
Along with those techniques come a entire new set of standards we aspire to meet. Combine that with a thousand Pinterest “to do’s” and that perfect Instagram images being bombarded at us every day and HOLY COW. It’s easy to quickly work yourself into a panic attack in the process of trying to have a “simplier” life.
The thing is--and I don’t know why we as a culture haven’t caught onto this by now--life is different for everyone. EVERYONE. Even a simple life varies from person to person.
You don’t have to “fit” to simplify. You don’t have to call yourself a “minimalist” or a “crunchy mom” or “thrifty” or “green” to live a simple, happy life.
You really, really don’t have to be any of those things to simplify life in the kitchen.
For me, what it all really boiled down to is this question: does my life currently align with my values? And, if not, what do I need to do to change to make that happen?
How it applies to the kitchen
What does simple living look like in the kitchen?
Well, for starters, simple living in my kitchen is not going to be exactly the same as yours! (Ahem, see the section above if I haven’t beat that point into the ground yet.)
In my kitchen, I have some very specific values that I aspire to.
I want to take time to connect with my family every day.
This means that we set aside some -- not all, but some -- evening time each night to sit around the table and enjoy a meal together. We pray together. We share the family news.
It’s really not as romantic as it sounds.
My one-year-old son rejects food by throwing it and usually demands whatever I forgot in the fridge (usually his cup of milk) the second I sit down.
I have a needy dog who started begging for food the second she spotted me through the animal shelter cage bars seven years ago and hasn’t stopped.
My introverted husband is usually unwinding internally from his socially demanding job while simultaneously listening to his extroverted wife lay out every monotonous detail of the last 9-10 hours.
Sometimes we end the meal more frustrated and disconnected than when we began. That’s just how life goes sometimes.
Overall, it’s worth the effort. Today at lunch, we had cereal and scrambled eggs. (There’s a lazy lunch idea if I’ve ever heard one!) We all sat there quietly spooning raisin bran into our mouths and collecting ourselves after a busy morning. It’s moments like this.
And, the moment after when my 16 month-old started drinking the milk out of his little bowl without missing a drop! It’s moments like that too. (I wonder who he learned that trick from? Oh, right, me. Every. Morning.)
I want my son to be exposed to a variety of textures and flavors in his first years of feeding himself.
I have been blessed with an adventurous toddler. I think I fed him two bites of that infant cereal before he grabbed the spoon and started feeding himself. Then, a couple of days later, he started grabbing for whatever was on my plate. He knew that whatever I was eating had to be better than that mush I was pushing toward him.
But even an adventurous eater has to be encouraged. We went through a phase where he was only eating words he could sign. Cracker, apple, milk. Getting out of that rut of him always eating the same foods was a struggle.
I want us to eat with health and nutrition in mind.
When it comes to nutrition, the rules in my kitchen are simple: everything varied and in moderation.
Carbs, fats, protein in various forms and in moderation. Dessert in moderation. Sodium in moderation.
Frankly, it’s more fun to embrace a creative, balanced plate!
At the age of 28, why am I so conscious of this?
Two generations ago on one branch of the family, almost none of my family survived past the age of 55. Heart disease was rampant.
One generation ago in another branch, diabetes grabbed ahold. It feels like we're genetically set up for failure here.
I look to my parents and my husband’s parents, both of whom are very conscious eaters, and I can see how their food choices have assisted them in staying healthy.
Our bodies are much more likely to succeed in the battle to stay healthy if we give them the tools they need.
I want to live within our means and on budget.
Part of reality of living a simple life as parents is that we choose to live on one consistent full-time income. Yes, I do work a little from home, but there is nothing glamorous about our income or our lifestyle.
I choose to stick to a grocery budget and stretch every dollar because I chose this life. Because me staying home right now is important to me, to us, and we love it!
So, here's the question I ask myself often: are the choices in my own kitchen lining up with the way I really want to live?