A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Simplicity is Relative

As I pack for our family vacation today, I am once again overwhelmed. I have faint memories of what it was once like to pack for a trip and only be concerned about what I needed for myself. Now I must consider the needs of my kids as well. My boys are many things, but being careful packers is not one of them.

Based on my experience as a mom and as the daughter of a boy scout, I always feel the need to be prepared for the unexpected. I have the vomit kit for my two carsick-prone kids, the on-the-go medical kit for the accidents that always seem to happen away from home, and the back-up plan of activities in case we get rain for several days like last year.

I looked at my lists and all the tiny piles adding up around the house today, and I began to get discouraged. That’s when it hit me:

Simplicity is Relative

I would love it if we were down to a single backpack each, but we’re not at that point. Every trip we take, we manage to take a little bit less and that’s what I’m going to focus on today. We have been making awesome progress! Going on an eight day trip is both awesome and a tad overwhelming to me at the same time. Sure, I could go with just a couple outfits and nothing more and just buy what we might need while on vacation. But that’s also expensive and I cannot afford to do that right now.

Simplicity is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Don’t compare your efforts to simplify to anyone else. I was falling into that trap before I snapped myself out of it. I’ve always said that I’ll never be a backpack wearing minimalist with only 47 things to my name. It just brings a smile to my face whenever I think about how far we’ve come and all that we’ve broken free from.

You get to define what minimalism and simplicity mean to you and that’s why I love it so much!

Our Simple Vacation

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on ideas for low-cost, low-maintenance family vacations. I loved all the ideas and I’m sure I’ll be referring to them in the future. Although I love camping, with temperatures near 100 here in Georgia, I can’t stand the thought of it right now. I also don’t know how far away we’d have to drive to find cooler temperatures.

In the end, we decided to go back to the beach. We have a very generous family friend who is letting us use their gorgeous beach condo for free. The drive is farther than I’d like (see reference to car-sick kids above) but we just couldn’t think of an alternative that made sense for us.

I anticipate some very thoughtful times of reflection from the balcony overlooking the ocean. I’ve got a lot on my mind with my future goals for this site and my other endeavors. I am thrilled that I get the entire week off from my job. I haven’t had that chance in an entire year.

Have a great week everyone! You’ll be hearing from me soon.

If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, Family-Sized Minimalism or subscribing to the RSS or the weekly update newsletter in the sidebar. Thanks so much for reading.

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Article originally published on 06/10/2011

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Comments

  1. Faith:
    Looking forward to hearing how a little time away helped to clear your thoughts and clarify your goals. Be sure to take a lot of showers while you are gone since that is where your best ideas come from! 🙂

    And be sure to take Mel’s sippy cup bands with you. You don’t want to have to deal with moldy cups while you’re gone! )

    Have a great time and I’ll be praying for your safety and time of refreshment.

    Mom

  2. It sounds like you and your family are in for a fantastic week Faith!

    I’m worried about packing for our trip in August too. Last year my oldest was getting car sick for the first part of the 13 hour drive to the beach. Luckily we had a bag in the car!

    With a toddler, there are big things we need to bring. He’ll need a portable crib, stroller and some familiar blankets from home. For my seven year old on the other hand, a swimsuit and a DS would probably be plenty!

    I’ll be anxious to see how much less we’re able to pack this year — but I know it will still be more than I’d like to deal with. 😉

    Have a fantastic week and I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  3. Karen (scotland) says:

    Oh, have a lovely holiday!
    I know what you mean about feeling overwhelmed. As I said last week, our holiday will be twelve days beginning to end with an overnighter on the ferry both ways. Every time I think about packing, I just freeze mentally. And I already have the packing list ready (from previous years’ holidays) so I’m half-way there.
    I’m thinking washing powder and a three outfits each is the only way to leave space in the car for anything else…
    🙂
    Have a fun time and relax at the beach.
    so jealous
    Karen (scotland)

  4. Faith,
    That is awesome some has let you use their condo ON THE BEACH! Driving further is the price to pay I guess. I hear you about this heat, has been awful!
    Do you have a washer and dryer in the condo? I know you are on vacay, but if you can wash clothes, you can take less and you won’t have to come home with 8 days of dirty clothes.
    For the carsick ones, sometimes it helps if they “can” sit up front, don’t let them read while riding, make sure they keep a little in their stomachs but not a lot. Keeping saltines in the car helps. All else fails, give them dramamine! I had one that was always carsick!
    Depending on the ages of your older kids, make them pack for themselves. If they don’t bring something, too bad. Once they get to a certain age, they packed their own backpacks. Sometimes I would tell them how many outfits, underwear, to take and it helps them to learn to pack. You can also have them pack a backpack of the toys/books/ganes they want to bring.
    It is tough for mamas to go on vacations, it does take quite a bit of work. Do utilize your kids as much as possible!
    Have fun!
    Bernice

  5. Faith- When traveling as a family, I am also struggling to get us down to the minimal items. And I too, pack practically an entire medicine chest (is it just my kids that always develop a fever when we’re away from home?), plus other stuff “just in case”. But when I have traveled ALONE (either for work or just a weekend away with friends), I have been able to get my stuff down to just a backpack/single bag. But to try that with children the ages mine are (2 and 1) would be unrealistic. As you have said time and again, the journey is about YOU. And not making you or your family into some idea you have that you or they should be. So, right now, all of that stuff you packed, it is needed. 🙂 In 10 years on another vacation, it may not be. It’s all part of the journey. Now, one thing I’m trying with our next vacation is making a list of all that I packed and then at the end of the trip, taking note of what really didn’t get used. Then the next trip I’ll reevaluate my packing with that in mind. Have a great vacation! 🙂

  6. HI Faith! Long time no ‘see’ (yes, my fault, I know that!)

    This is a post true to my heart – sometimes we get so caught up in this minimalism-thing, especially the more extreme kind where you want to own nothing more than what fits into a backpack. Not possible with little kids!

    In two weeks time, we’re again attempting to go on holidays abroad with only carry-on luggage. We’re staying with family, which makes it possible to do this – I don’t know if it were so easy if were going on a ‘real’ holiday though 😉

    Best wishes from the Netherlands – and have a lovely vacation!

    • Faith Janes says:

      So nice to hear from you, Jurino. Whenever I pack for a trip, I think of you and how you’ve got it down to a science. 🙂 Definitely something I aspire to do.

      I hope you’re doing well. I see you’re back to writing and I’m so very glad!

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