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In that moment, watching snow flurries fall against a redbrick backdrop out of a coffee-shop window in downtown Bend, I realized that unless our family made more intentional, proactive choices, instead of just constantly talking about wishing things weren’t so busy, we would go on forever wanting a different life. -Tsh Oxenrieder, Notes from a Blue Bike
In the late summer of 2013, my hubs and I decided we were fed up. Enough. Done. Over it.
Fed up with the hamster wheel we were spinning that defined our days; each day looking eerily similar to the day before it. Working, cleaning, eating, moving clutter around, spending time with our kids, looking for something lost in the clutter, sleeping, cleaning, staring at our piles of clutter – around and around we went.
All the time cursing the way we felt overwhelmed with our stuff, our house, our life. This was not the way we wanted to live.
We looked at each other and said, Enough! We have too much stuff. We feel like sardines as a family of five living in a 1200 sq. foot house, but we know we don’t really want a bigger house. We want less stuff.
We want room to breathe, and be, and just live with our family and in our home without the crushing weight of maintaining all this stuff around us all the time.
Fast forward six months, it’s January 2014. Some things have changed. We’ve gotten rid of bags of stuff – toys, clothes, shoes, kitchen items, and more. We held a garage sale, and gave away everything we didn’t sell. We’ve cleared off the surfaces in our kitchen, the kids bedroom, and our bedroom. We’ve organized and arranged our guest room/office/playroom/dumping ground. We’ve gotten rid of furniture and decided we like the way the rooms look with less stuff in them.
And yet we’ve turned around twice, during busy seasons of life, and found that really not much has changed at all. Everywhere we look there is more stuff again. The surfaces in our kitchen and bedrooms are no longer clear but covered with piles of stuff. The guest room/office/playroom has again becoming a dumping ground and no one could stay there if they wanted to. It’s not very conducive to working or playing. The stuff creeps back in and threatens to overtake us, again.
Why is it that our culture is so obsessed with stuff? And why does it hold seem to hold such strong power over us? It’s too hard to get rid of stuff and too easy to acquire more and more stuff, even when we don’t want to.
But what does stuff have to do with living a more intentional life, anyway?
Because for our family, our stuff takes up too much of our time and energy, and steals our joy. So then we don’t have time or energy to give to the things, really the people, who are most important to us. Having too much stuff, for us, takes away from our ability to live lives of purpose and passion, our desire to live with intentionality.
As I read through the first section, and skimmed over the subsequent sections, of Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, Notes from a Blue Bike, my head nodded along and my heart stirred.
I connected more dots as I interacted with my blog’s readers: almost everybody in my life stage—parents with kids at home craved a slower life. They, too, craved a more meaningful life, a life that made margin for doing nothing, for not bowing down to calendars, for saying yes to long walks with their kids and cooking seasonally from scratch because there was time. With few exceptions, we all wanted the same things. Living overseas doesn’t breed this yearning: it bubbles deep down, innately in our souls. As though we were somehow made for a slower life. –Notes from a Blue Bike
Our family wants to create margin in our lives. We want to live for the things, the people, the values that are most important to us.
We put a stake in the ground back in August and said, “Enough is enough.” But our life didn’t magically become less cluttered, less stressful and less overwhelming. We are still committed to that end, but we are learning that in order to live with intention we must make simplicity a continual priority in our lives.
We will do the hard work of simplifying, and the stuff will creep back in. But we will continue to push against it because we know this is how our family wants to live.
It will be hard work to fight back against both our own innate struggle to let go of our stuff, and the cultures constant drone that more stuff equals more happiness and a better life. But it will be worth it.
Once I heard the answer to my prayer, it was embarrassingly obvious: to live intentionally, we had to make intentional choices. And if we really wanted to live slower, as we had in the relationship-based culture of Turkey, it would mean living contrary to what the American culture surrounding us declared was normal. It would be hard, but living well doesn’t mean not doing hard things.” –Notes from a Blue Bike
One of the ways that we live with intention is by surrounding ourselves with inspiration and motivation for embracing the struggle of simplifying our lives. That’s why I cannot wait to dive into the rest of Tsh’s book. Reading along with both her family and a few other families’ journeys will be the encouragement I need when I feel like I want to quit.
Getting a glimpse of how other people are making this work in their day-to-day lives and in the midst of our American culture will provide me with hope that our family can do it too. And if these words are resonating with you and your family’s desire to live simpler, more intentional lives, then I want to recommend this book to you too.
Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. Through small changes to the everyday things in our lives we can choose a life that better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.
And be sure to check out the trailer for Notes from a Blue Bike!