By Bev and Phil Haas
Our family life is busier than ever, and there’s no end in sight. My husband and I are having an ongoing conversation about what we can do to simplify our family life. Do you have any ideas we ought to consider?
Our world has become so complex and busy, even with all the technology that is supposed to simplify life. Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, is a leader in the movement toward simple technology. Remember how challenging it used to be to get your desktop computer up and running? Apple took all the components of a computer and consolidated them into one. When we purchased an iMac several years ago, it came in a single box with a wireless keyboard and mouse.
Whether it’s technology or family life, follow Apple’s example and remember that simple requires consolidation.
Jesus Knows Simple
However, someone who knows simple better than Apple is Jesus. He stepped into a complicated religious world where the religious leaders had developed a system with 613 laws. They chose the number 613 because that was how many separate letters were in the text containing the Ten Commandments. They then found 613 commandments in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). They divided the list into affirmative commands (do this) and negative commands (don’t do this). There were 248 affirmative commands and 365 negative commands. They further divided the list into binding commands and nonbinding commands and engaged in ongoing debates about whether the divisions were accurate. Are you confused yet?
Then Jesus came along. A lawyer asked him which of the 613 commandments carried the most weight. Jesus combined 613 commands into two—love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). Think about the significance of what Jesus did—he made life simpler for his followers!
Two Steps to a Simpler Family Life
Following Jesus’ example of simplifying, we determined to limit our suggestions. Here are two steps others have taken to simplify life at home:
1. Write down what matters most. When Phil teaches he often asks students to write down five responses to the question, “What matters most in life?” He then asks them to reduce their lists to four, then three, and finally two. You can hear the moans from those trying to decide what to eliminate on their already short list. Knowing what you value most is essential to living a simple life. In Organized Simplicity, Tsh Oxenreider describes simple living as “living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values.”
Once you grasp what matters most, you can begin consolidating to make life easier. The apostle Paul said, “I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me” (Philippians 3:13, Easy-to-Read Version). That one thing was a priority for Paul. Sure, he did more than one thing, but he made sure that the other parts of his life never kept him from focusing on his priorities. So start your journey toward simple by identifying what is most important to you and your family.
2. Make “less is more” your family motto. Once you consider what matters most, then start consolidating. Most modern families have stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Americans have a propensity toward accumulating. Simple values quality over quantity. The less stuff you have, the less decisions you have to make, the less you have to maintain, move, or store, and the more time you have to enjoy your family.
When our kids were little they memorized 1 Timothy 6:6 (English Standard Version): “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Being content with less will free up time. And less stuff probably means less debt. Debt gives you one more responsibility and worry, and you probably already have plenty of both. We tend to pack every day full with a to-do list. Give yourselves extra space by saying no to more commitments. Less stuff, less debt, and doing less will help you attain a simpler family life.
Remember that simple is really a continual process of intentional actions guided by your values. Simple is a popular idea right now, but living simply isn’t easy. However, like most things in life, when you do the hard work up front, you reap the benefits for years to come with less stress and busyness and more freedom to enjoy life as a family.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and four grandsons. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.