Confucius – Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated

2020 half yearly review

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated - Confucius

My goal for 2020 is to simplify daily life to spend more time with family and friends. In many ways, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me to make great progress towards my goal. With stay at home restrictions in force for many months and social distancing restrictions still in place, I have been spending plenty of time with family!

Spending time with friends however was made much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions have eased somewhat now in my state of Victoria, but I am taking a mindful and slow return to broader socialising.

I have shared previously on the blog, that while I never would have wished for the pandemic to occur, I have taken many great lessons from this time. One of the key learnings for me was something I inherently already new, but its power was really brought home to me – how living simply can bring great happiness.

I love the above quote from Confucius – Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. The stay at home period stripped life back to its simplest form for us as a family. We worked and learned from home where we could (the older two had jobs in essential services so left the house for work) and we spent A LOT of time together with all seven of us in our relatively small home.

At the beginning I thought this would be an issue. I thought we would all be craving our own space, that we would be constantly on top of each other and getting on each others nerves. While there were of course some instances of this, on the whole we adjusted and even enjoyed the time together.

I worked on the habits I had selected to help me move towards my 2020 goal and:

  • decluttered – removed many, many items from the house, cleared spaces and made it easier for the kids to keep their things organised
  • simplified our home cleaning routine – my husband and I and the younger three all have our key allocated tasks and know when we need to do them. The kids usually need to be reminded to do them at the start of the weekend and then they are good to fit it into their weekend plans.
  • simplified our evening meals – during this time, I went back to my very original menu planning process and kept the meals to the kids’ favourites to help keep family harmony.
  • ran a lot – and was super grateful that even though most of it in this period was alone, I was so glad I could still get out and run

Without so many additional requirements like after school activities, volunteer activities, sporting activities, social activities, kids parties etc life was much simpler and many ways for us, less stressful. I realise it wasn’t this way for many during this time and our family was in a privileged position to experience it in this way.

But it very much highlighted to me, like Confucius says, we have made our lived more complicated by adding so many things to it. Because there was less to do, we did spend more time together as a family – longer conversations over dinner, card games after dinner, more communal time in the lounge room over the weekends.

I would give myself an 8.5/10 for the first half of the year on my goal progress. My challenge though is to keep this progress as restrictions ease (or don’t as the case may be for us Victorians!!!) and continue to simplify further. Simplifying really does make life easier and this will be my inspiration to keep going.

How have you progressed towards your goal?

Half yearly review

HabitConnection to goal - Simplify daily life to spend more time with family and friendsQuote - “A simple lifestyle is good for us, helping us to better share with those in need.” ~ Pope FrancisHalf Yearly Review Review
Simplify our evening meals (make one meal a week meat free)With five kids, two being older teenagers and one being an adult I need to cook a lot of food. These three also have who casual or part time jobs, so having family meals with everyone eating at the same time is becoming increasingly more difficult.

The types of meals I cook now need to cater more for different sittings of meal times and also larger volumes so they can eat left overs for other meals as needed. This can be time consuming and I want it to take up the minimal amount of time, giving me the greatest chance of eating a family meal with as many kids as possible.

I need to simplify some of the meals I make to make this happen and I also want to reduce meat intake in the house, so want one meal a week to be meat free as well.
"If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." ~ Mother Teresa
During the last couple of months of stay at home restrictions, I simplified our evening meals and menu planning back to a super simple and basic process. In fact it was how I first started menu planning.

I would use pen and paper, write out the days of the week, talk to the kids about what they would like to eat, place the meals onto a suitable day, hand write the shopping list, and then head to the shops! This process worked when I had two little ones and no after school activities or no work commitments to factor into the plan.

With food being one of the things we could vary and changeup, I took my planning back to weekly to be able to cater to the need for variety and being able to get the items needed from the supermarket!

This has worked well for us during stay at home restrictions. A by-product of the restrictions is that life hs been much simpler. We have had virtually no other activities that would impact dinner - no after school activities, everyone is working from home, very few social gatherings etc. Once (if!) things change over the next month or so, I will adapt and change as necessary.

Simplify our home cleaning routineWe have the kids involved in doing work around the house across the week, but it isn't as streamlined and as simple as I would like it to be. We also have a different system of contributing to the housework once kids leave school, so I need to work on simplifying how we all contribute to keeping the house clean and tidy. "The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment." ~ Marie KondoIt is amazing how much easier cleaning is when you have less clutter! The impact of my decluttering is now being felt.

We have reorganised the kids' household tasks to reflect their ages. Once the kids go to uni, they are on a different household contribution set up and we are transitioning the 19-year-old to this now.

My husband and I and the younger three all have our key allocated tasks and when we need to do them. The kids usually need to be reminded to do them at the start of the weekend and then they are good to fit it into their weekend plans.
Simplify my exercise routineRunning will be my focus for 2020 but I would still like to keep up strength training and do some yoga. I need to work out a way to fit this into my life without taking up too much time or feeling like I have too much to do.

Both the strength training and the yoga help my running, so I need to find a way to simplify how I can blend them into a routine.
“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." ~ Henry David Thoreau
I am loving the simplicity of my exercise routine. I run 6 days a week, twice a week it is usually with a few others (hopefully we will be able to run as our big group again soon!), do strength twice a week at home and online yoga twice a week.

I no longer have to leave home and go to certain classes to do my strength or yoga, but I can fit it in when it suits my day. I certainly do miss some elements of doing these in the class format, but the convenience and time-saving aspects outweigh this.
Declutter one item a day (can be averaged over a week / fortnight)There are cupboards that are too full, bedrooms that look a little messy because they have too much stuff in them. I find I am spending too much time on managing the stuff of the house.

I want to work slowly over the year to really pare back the belongings we have in the house. I feel much calmer with clear surfaces and minimal mess.
“Three Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity.
From discord find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein
I am still happily working away on decluttering. And more importantly, I am working on bringing less into the house. Whenever I make a purchase, I am thinking very hard about whether it is a need or a want, and trying to keep to the needs only where I can.
Spend an hour outside each dayBeing outside is so good for me in so many ways and good for the kids too. I find the pace of things slows down when I am outdoors.

With my running I do spend time outside everyday, but often in winter this is when it is still dark. I want to spend time outside in daylight hours and also use this time to be with the kids where I can too - who also benefit from more outdoor time.
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao TzuI am currently completing this table outside while on a houseboat on the river. It is towards the end of the day and it is getting cooler and I could be inside, but I am trying to spend as much time as I can outside. It makes me feel better and I am a better person to be around.

I am also practicing mindfulness when I am outside and trying to notice as many things in my environment as I can - the patterns in the clouds, the tracks in the dirt, the insects buzzing. It gives me great joy to acknowledge the beauty of the natural world - simple things like sunrises can have a powerful and positive impact on my day.