I love what Mark said in her paragraph about downsizing her house. My idea of simplicity is, at bottom, a search for contentedness. I want to identify the things I *NEED*, and then remove everything else, keeping in mind that “need” covers all areas of existence, not just physical things. (So I feel like I “need” my home library, because reading is how I re-energize myself from stress.)
I like ideas that remove conflict. We were continually not getting dishes washed because they’d all stack up so fast and then we’d feel overwhelmed. So instead of us yelling at each other every day to get it done, I removed all the extra dishes, so that each family member had one plate, bowl, cup, and silverware set, and saved out two large microwaveable plates, a large pot, and a large frying pan, and two microwavable casserole dishes. That’s pretty much it. So even if we don’t get the dishes done this meal, there’s not much there, and it’s fast and easy to do.
We had a summer wherein it was exorbitantly expensive, and we’d used the electric oven a lot. So higher cost on running the oven, and higher cost on the AC working overtime to cover the heat that got into the house. So we simplified for a month to see how it worked: we only used the microwave and the toaster oven (that my folks bought us for Christmas). That was three years ago, I think, and it worked so well that we’ve only used the oven twice since then, and I think it was for large trays of Christmas cookies.
For me, simplicity also involves time. I want to know that we as a family have plenty of time to comfortably be together just hanging around the house. Keeping track of a dozen schedules and running here and there, even if we’re all together in the car, is NOT simple for me. Being dedicated to the weirdness of not spending money helps, of course, because it reduces the number of shopping “errands” that seem necessary.
I have my degree in early childhood development, and the part that interested me the most was the amazing power behind environment design. Those classes explored how carefully thinking out the positioning of each item (typically furniture or a category of learning toys) would create a room that allowed the children to explore and learn independently with the least amount of struggle. I have a disability that means a lot of normal home activities are a struggle for me, so I applied what I learned about environment design to my home, and it simplified enormously the steps that I have to take to accomplish things. Basically, it’s taking the idea of ‘don’t arrange a sofa directly in front of a door’ just a bit further than interior design.
So. Simplicity to me is ease of living, and what it takes for me to be contented in my life. Accessed through careful management of time, environment, money, and taking the time to be self-reflective and recognize what it is that you, as an individual, and your family, really needs.