A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Lessons from the Balance Beam of Life

My little sister loves the balance beam. She spends much of her free time perched atop a 4-inch wide beam performing death defying leaps and bounds. I suppose she’s not so little anymore, but at age 15 she seems totally at ease on the beam.

I have learned from watching her, that in addition to hours and hours of practice, the two keys to successful performance are: balance and flexibility.

Are You Feeling Out of Balance Lately?

I have felt my life getting out of balance lately. I think it happens long before we actually realize it. Sometimes it takes someone else pointing out to you that “You just aren’t yourself lately.”

What is it about life that can shake us up like that? It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing to change things up in our life. Certainly choosing a minimalist approach to life out of the blue was not be “being myself.” I definitely caught myself and my family off balance when I chose that path. What I’m talking about here is a different kind of feeling off balance. For me, I see the evidence of being out of balance in very practical elements in my life.

Practical Evidence of an Unbalanced Life

For me, I feel unbalanced when I see these things in my life:

  • Hectic dinner preparation because I haven’t bothered to plan menus or shop for healthy family meals.
  • The kids can’t find a pair of clean jeans because I haven’t gotten to the laundry yet.
  • My daughter wants me to sing another song to her at night, but I can’t stay any longer because I have to work.
  • I have all these great projects and ideas in my head, but I question myself at every turn.
  • My husband gets upset because I have to work late for my part-time job again.
  • I avoid certain areas of my house because I don’t want to deal with the boxes I see.
  • My clothes and wedding ring keep getting tighter, but I have yet to do anything about it.

I’m sure your list would look different than mine. As I read back through my list, I see a lot of issues related to time and priorities. Somehow it always comes back to setting (and keeping) our priorities.

Getting Your Balance Back

  1. Stay Flexible. Just like on the balance beam, you have to stay flexible when you’re trying to keep your balance. Do not try to force your life or your time into tiny rigid boxes. Learn to be carefree again. Be spontaneous. The adult responsibilities will always be there waiting for you.
  2. Set some limits. Giving yourself guidelines can also be freeing. If you give yourself a guideline with a budget, then you also know how much money you are free to spend. If you give yourself a limit on hours you commit to working or spending online, be tough by following the limits but enjoy the freedom within them.
  3. Practice your new habits. I don’t know if it’s true that “practice makes perfect” but practice can make you better. A change in priorities won’t happen on its own. Practice saying “no” to an invitation to the game when you have a family night planned. Practice reading to your kids at night or turning off your phone in the evenings. Good habits and bad habits both take time to make.
  4. Remind yourself of your goals. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a pep talk. I wrote down my goals about why I’m making my life changes. On a really rough day it helps me to read it again. Keep your goals in focus. Share them with someone you care about who cares about you and will keep you accountable to them.
  5. Cut yourself some slack. Some days we’re just going to fall right off that darn balance beam. That’s alright, really. Losing our balance keeps us humble. Nobody is perfect despite the evidence that you may see. Struggling can give us motivation if we don’t beat ourselves up about it.
  6. Get back up! When you feel unbalanced or fall flat on your face, just adjust what you’re doing and keep trying. If we didn’t feel uneasy from time to time we may never feel the need to change anything about ourselves. I once read a proverb that said, “Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up.” So just keep getting back up!


Thank you to everyone who answered the short survey on the topics for my next book on Family Minimalism. I got some great feedback and I always love hearing from you guys.

One of the big requests for book topics was “Advice from Other Minimalist Families.” If you are a minimalist family (with or without kids) I have created a short online list of questions that will be featured in my book and I’d love to hear your story.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to Minimalist at Home or share this post on Twitter. Thanks so much for reading!

photo by jlburgess

Article originally published on 01/20/2011

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