Fears of Simplicity

What if I get rid of something that I might need someday? How will my kids react? Making a big lifestyle change can feel scary. Moving towards simplicity is no exception to this. In today’s episode, we are discussing common fears around living a simpler life.

Many many people have fears about simplicity. I was looking around my bedroom the other day, thinking, how did I get here? How did I come so far? Because I have simplicity has never come easy for me. It's something I've really had to work for on behalf of my family. And some of the changes along the way have been scary. And I know that many of you feel the same. In fact, I hear a lot of those fears and concerns all the time. What if I get rid of something and I needed again someday, how do I let go of sentimental items without feeling regret? How will my kids react? Will they feel left out? Will they get behind? What if I make progress towards a simpler life and I'm not able to maintain it? What are other people gonna think of me? These are all concerns and fears that I hear all the time from families who are moving towards simplicity. The reality is that many people start with the physical stuff, getting rid of what's right in front of you, what you can see. But once we make progress on that, it feels so good that we often naturally want to take the next step, which is moving towards simplifying our mental space and simplifying our calendars. But as with any big lifestyle shift,

There are obstacles and there are barriers and there are fears. And that's what we're going to talk about today. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Thanks so much for tuning in today. We're talking about barriers and obstacles to simplicity. I was recently visiting my son's new school and I saw that one of the desks had a sticker on it and it had three checkboxes down in a row.

The first one was I got started, then I'm working on it and then I'm done. And I thought to myself, I need this sticker for pretty much everything I do in my life, because you're probably familiar with the old phrase. Getting started is half the battle and it is, checking that first box getting started and moving into the second box or working on it can be a hard shift to make. Sometimes we don't know where to start. And often there are barriers and fears that prevent us from really getting to work. The number one thing that I hear is the fear of future regret. We are afraid we're going to make a decision that we regret. We're second guessing ourselves. This goes not only for getting rid of physical stuff, but also for obligations and activities, what if we don't attend that birthday party, will my kid get left out of future invitations.

What if I get rid of this pair of shoes? And then I get a new dress that they would have looked great with? What if I don't adequately review every single listing on Airbnb for our potential vacation next summer? What if I make a mistake in the world that we're living in, we faced with more decisions than ever before, especially when it comes to the ways that we spend our money. There are endless products to purchase and less choices, and we can easily end up second guessing every decision that we make in life. We had an au pair from Poland living with us for a year. And I remember one day she was at the grocery store and I asked her if she could pick up some peanut butter and she started sure, yeah, I'll get some peanut butter. And she sent me a picture and the peanut butter island.

She's like, I have no idea what to get. And at that point I became profoundly aware of the number of choices that one has to make. Just when buying peanut butter, even consuming the simplest things in life. Literally peanuts ground up into a butter, creamy, or crunchy with Palm oil, without Palm oil, with sugar, without sugar, natural, organic, old school, flavored, powdered, oil mixed in, oil not mixed in, frankly, sometimes making decisions about our own consumption can feel absolutely overwhelming. And we're just talking about peanut butter, literally nuts ground into a paste. It only gets more complicated from there. We spend so much time making decisions about the stuff that we bring into our home, whether it's food or clothing or toys that it's hard to get rid of it. Not only do we spend a lot of time and energy making decisions about what we bring into our homes, but we also spend hard-earned money on those things and letting go of perfectly good things can feel wasteful.

I find it infinitely fascinating that devices are quickly taking over many elements of our lives. In fact, I can pretty much run my whole business with my computer, my iPad, and my phone have replaced essentially all my office supplies, my notebooks, my cameras, my sticky notes, my to do lists my CD MP3 players, my video cameras, baby monitors, books, book readers, alarm clock. So many things. There are so many things that technology and our devices have replaced, which would lead one to think that we can have less clutter, but with all that technology comes online shopping. It becomes easier than ever to acquire new things, one click, and it shows up on your doorstep. So buying and spending money and consuming have become huge consuming aspects of our lives. So making a shift in this is a big deal. When I first started decluttering and I got rid of 90% of my wardrobe, I bagged it all up.

I put it into two big black leaf bags. You know, those giant, really thick, garbage bags. And I sat them out on my front porch and I put a message up on my local Facebook group and said, Hey, my whole wardrobe is in two giant plastic leaf bags on my front porch. Whoever wants them, please come and take them and seeing all that stuff that I had acquired, all that money that I had spent all the time that I invested in purchasing those things, seeing that all bagged up given away made me feel a lot of shame. And it made me feel a lot of regret, but it also gave me a lot of hope. And it gave me a lot of motivation when I saw all that stuff going out, I vowed that I would do better. I'd spend less time on the clearance racks at TJ Maxx, picking up things that I thought were a good deal that I didn't necessarily love and more time saving up for a few pieces of clothing that I really loved and wanted to wear all the time. And I've done that. And I have never looked back. I've literally never thought again about a single article of clothing that was in those bags. Never wished for them back, not once this fear of letting go of things that we might need again, someday is prevalent. And one thing that I've noticed is that I improvise a lot more. I have a lot less stuff, but I've also gotten a lot more creative.

For example, my son wanted to play this Pokemon game. It's called Pokemon the card game, Pokemon TCG. And he was really into it a few months ago. And he had these paper game boards that got all wrinkled up and stepped on and they were just pieces of paper that folded. And they just had completely lost their shape and were getting ripped up. Sorry, I threw them away. Well, he decided he wanted to play the game again. And now we don't have the game boards. So we rolled out a big piece of paper and drew it out and created our own version of the game board based on a picture that we saw online and we played the game, we figured it out. We got creative. I have a heck of a lot less shoes than I ever had before. And when I get ready to go out, I don't get fixated on finding the perfect shoes to wear with my outfit.

Instead, I grabbed one of my favorite pairs that goes with nearly everything, usually a pair that I've already worn several times that same week, this ability to improvise and get creative and reuse things in multiple ways. Definitely follows me into the kitchen too. I used to have a grill pan, which was a cast iron pan with greats. I don't even know if I'm using the right word. So I had this grill pan, but I didn't use it very often. It was a really nice grill pan though. I got it as a wedding gift and I kept it for years and years. I just kind of moved it around because it always got in the way of the other pans that I used every day. So I got rid of the grill pan and not a single time since I got rid of the grill pan, have I ever wished I had a grill pan?

I also got rid of my hand chopper. It's a little device that you push on a bunch of times and chopped up food into little pieces because I have a knife and I use a knife to do the same thing. And it's a heck of a lot easier to clean. I might not have every single type of spices, but I am quickly able to Google. What's the best spice to replace Terragon since I don't have it on hand. And I use something else sometimes when we don't have exactly what we need on hand, we have to improvise and get creative. But I'm going to tell you that that turns out to be justifying or even better than fine. Most of the time I used to have packing tape and masking tape and double-sided tape and duct tape. And I stopped buying all of the variety.

We used to have my shampoo and then my husband's men's shampoo, which I'm never sure why it's actually considered men's shampoo. And then the kids' shampoo and the dog shampoo. And then I realized we all have hair, even the dog. And we can all just use a natural non-irritating shampoo. We do not need four different kinds of shampoo when you're decluttering, you're going to be getting rid of a lot of stuff, stuff you've probably spent harder and money on stuff that you probably thought you needed at one point in time, but that same stuff might be causing you a lot of headaches and a lot of stress and keeping it all around very likely might be doing more harm than good. And as someone who's been doing this a long time, I'll tell you. It's unlikely that you're gonna regret getting rid of, of whatever that thing is that you're afraid of getting rid of, because I know I've had that barrier and climbing up and over it isn't easy to do, but once you're on the other side, it feels good.

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And that means sometimes we have to make hard decisions for them, decisions that our kids aren't equipped to make based on higher level reasoning and logic and on family values that are near and dear to us. When I entered motherhood, I wanted to give it all to my kids, all my attention, all my love, all the stuff, all the opportunities, but it didn't take long before I realized that they didn't need all that. And in fact, to giving them everything didn't even serve them well in my very early days, when I was seeking simplicity and I had my first baby, I knew that I wanted to get him good toys, good quality toys. A lot of stuff made out of wood, simple stuff, not a lots of bells and whistles and lights and plastic. So I started buying all the good stuff. I want to say all the good stuff.

I mean all the good stuff. I spent a lot of money, money on really high quality toys and had a lot of them. And I justified them for the fact that these are good toys. These are high quality educational toys that are going to help my kids learn and grow, which was all true. But the abundance of those toys was the problem. When we're buying stuff for our kids, we can often justify it as saying, they'll use it. They will use 100 hot wheels cars. They line them all up in one really long row, like a parade. Sure. A kid could use 100 hot wheels cars, but a kid can also use 10 or 20. It doesn't make their play any less rich to have fewer. In fact, it creates opportunities for them to use their imagination. Maybe that parade, isn't just a hot wheel car parade. Maybe they bring in their dump trucks and they make a few cars out of Legos. They improvise and they get creative. They think outside the box.


What happens when we give our kids fewer toys, they start to innovate, create and think outside the box as adults, many of us don't have that ability to imagine and to innovate quite as readily as our kids do. So we can lean into buying a lot of stuff like toy food for a play kitchen. Of course, every toy kitchen needs a hamburger with lettuce and cheese and tomato and pickles. The works right. Actually, no, our kids don't need exemplars of every single food that they eat. They can use other toys. They can use blocks and pretend that the blocks are hot dogs or a loaf of bread. When we give them less, when we buy less, we're actually gifting them the opportunity to create, and we're giving them less to clean up. We know that kids get really overwhelmed about cleaning up a lot of stuff.

We know that we get overwhelmed. I cleaned me up a lot of stuff. And if you've ever looked at a hundred hot wheels, cars lined up and thought about how long was going to take to clean those up, then, you know, imagine how that feels to a small child who gets easily overwhelmed. It feels daunting. A lot of times getting our kids to clean up is impacted by the fact that they're overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that they have. So it's important that we only give them as much as they can handle. And sometimes it takes some trial and error and understanding that my daughter always wants to keep art supplies in her room. And I have learned this lesson many times that it's not a good idea for her to have markers in her bedroom because she runs out of paper and starts using her body as a canvas. And we have a really big mess on our hands, but as she's gotten older, she has been able to make better decisions. And I've given her the markers [inaudible]

And she's drawn all over her body. And then I've taken the markers away again and told her, we try it again when she was a little bit older and then we try it again and I give her the markers again and she colored all over her body. And then I took him away. Again, we have been through this with markers more times than I can count because I keep giving her more than she can handle. And the truth is I don't really even know exactly what she can handle, which is why it is trial and error. She has this plastic tea set from green toys and it's like tea service for, I don't know, like six people, 60 cups, six saucers, six spoons, so many pieces. And they're just everywhere. I have given her more than she can handle. So what do I do? I give her tea service for two and I take the rest away and put them in storage.

And we try again when she's a little bit older and she can manage a little bit more. Now there's a very good chance that she's like me. And she might always be unable to handle a lot of stuff because that's how I am. As an adult. I have a hard time managing a lot of stuff, even with organizational systems in place. So having less is something that will always serve me better, but I'll give her a chance to try again and to have more and see how she does. And the result is that I anticipate she's going to find a balance that works for her as she grows.

I'm not going to be micromanaging the accumulation of stuff, her whole life, but I am going to have a hand in it until she's old enough and capable of doing it for herself. And the same goes her activities. A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was telling me that her daughter who had always done well in school was starting to struggle, especially with finishing her homework. At the end of the day, she was a competitive dancer and she danced about 20 hours a week after school, and then came home and showed resistance and really struggled in her homework. And the result was that my friend was, does she have an attention deficit, which is possible, but it also could be that she has overwhelmed because the human brain, especially the developing brain of a child is not equipped to be maxed out every day. It needs rest. It needs to recuperate. It needs empty white space. And our kids don't always know when to take that.

If all their friends are dancing for three hours after school, every day, that's normal to them. That's what they're supposed to do. That's what they want to do. But when we see it having a negative impact on other areas of their life, as the adults, we have to question whether it's in their best interest, we have to make hard decisions for them and for ourselves because the wellbeing of our kids and the wellbeing of ourselves and the wellbeing of our relationships with one another are all intertwined. And when any one of those things is overwhelmed and pushed to the limit, it's going to impact everything. So yeah, when we cut back on our kids' stuff, when we cut back on their obligations, sometimes they're going to get upset. Sometimes they're not going to like it. But sometimes as the adults, we have to make the hard decisions for them, even if they don't like it, even if they don't fully grasp it and fully understand the implications of it and saying, no, isn't easy, but often saying no means you're saying yes to improving your overall family life. When you have less stuff, less obligations, less mental clutter, you have more space to breathe, more space, to connect with one another more space to laugh and to play and to be present.

There's good stuff on the other side of these obstacles and barriers and the fear of regret is real for everyone. But I'll tell you from my own personal experience and my experience working with thousands of others, that a lot of those fears are unfounded and moving towards simplicity is a wonderful change. And it's a gift for your family. So remind yourself of that. If you want to stay in touch with simple families, go to simplefamilies.com/workshop that will give you the free workshop and puts you on the email list. So you get regular updates. I hope you've enjoyed today's episode. I'll talk with you soon.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.