Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
I stumbled upon simplicity by accident.
My intention was never to have less stuff. My intention, rather, was to do more stuff and do it more often with the people I loved.
In the summer of 2010, I was living a pretty good life. I spent my days managing a flexible job with a rewarding freelancing business. I traveled quite a bit for work and pleasure, and my shoe collection was fabulous.
My only complaint was that my great life didn’t include the people who meant the most to me: my husband and my kids.
While I enjoyed travel and rewarding work, my husband spent the majority of his life at a job that paid the bills but bled him dry. The stress of that job and the disconnection that came from long hours had contributed to a painful near-divorce just one year previously. We’d fought hard to bring our relationship back from the brink, and I was now keenly aware of how precious time together was.
My kids couldn’t accompany me on my trips because they were being shuttled between school and extra curricular activities. Even our weeknights and weekends offered very little time for connecting because we lived in the suburbs, land of commutes and car rides to Target.
In August of 2010, I decided that my great life was no longer good enough. I wanted us to have a great life together, and I hatched a plan to travel the country as a family for one year.
We sold our house, gave away my car, and practically gave away the bulk of our belongings through a series of garage sales. And then we set out on June 1, 2011 to travel the country together.
Ten months later, we realized that we were missing the sense of community that comes with living in one place, and we began the processing of deciding where we’d live next.
Although we had discovered that we weren’t ready to be full-time nomads, we also didn’t want to go back to our old lives. We wanted to keep:
The hours of time we spent together as a family
The focus on doing rather than having
The freedom we’d gained from cleaning and maintaining our stuff
Both my husband and I were scared that we’d fall back into old habits of working for the weekend and filling our hours with obligations that didn’t match up with our values. We knew how to live simply in a 24-foot trailer, but how would we keep those habits up in a regular home?
We chose to move to Pittsburgh, a city that was affordable, walkable, and provided the types of entertainment we enjoyed as a family. We elected to live in a small space in a pricey neighborhood that provided easy access to the very amenities that attracted us to the city.
Our goal was simple: live near things we loved to do and have enough time available to actually do them.
Our life remains simple because of that goal. My husband and I both decided not to return to our former careers, and instead opted for work that is fulfilling and flexible. As a result, we have less disposable income and have to be mindful of how we spend our money. We choose baseball tickets over new shoes. We also look for free and cheap entertainment that still allows us to spend time together as a family, like climbing the rock wall at our local REI or hiking in the nearby park.
We don’t live simply because we hate stuff. In fact, there’s a part of me that wants to buy more summer dresses and cute wedges. But the part of me that hates working in sales and loves hanging out around the kitchen table with my husband and kids is bigger and louder. That part of me remembers what it was like to have a marriage almost ruined by stress and disconnection, and it is grateful that my children want to hang out with me.
We live simply because it’s the best way we’ve found to live intentionally. We live without some things we’d like so that we can enjoy the people we love. And doing that has made us all happier.
Britt Reints found happiness through a near-divorce experience, lots of therapy, and ten months spent traveling around America in an RV with her husband and two kids. She shares her journey and the lessons she learned in her new book, An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness and on her blog, In Pursuit of Happiness.