Time to Simplify Your Life

Ann Byle

“The more you simplify your life, the easier it gets. Simplicity is self-perpetuating because the more you do without, the more you realize you don’t need.” You can do it! Read on . . .


devozine Emma Sleeth5-2Emma Sleeth on Living Simply

Caring for and perserving the environment had always been a big thing for Emma Sleeth and her family; but when they became Christians, they decided to simplify their lives as well.

They moved to Vermont and then to New Hampshire, to a smaller house with no computers, no TV, and fewer possessions. They built the house themselves with a conscious effort to live more simply and to avoid harming the environment.

Recently, the family moved to Kentucky so that Emma and her brother could attend Asbury College without the energy-consuming travel back and forth to New England. Now these siblings walk to school every day, and the Sleeths are walking to the store, riding bikes, and doing all they can to be good stewards of the planet.

Learning to Live Simply

The struggles of living simply were different for each member of her family. Emma’s dad decided to give up the money and prestige that came with being a doctor. Emma struggled to live by God’s standards and her own standards instead of by the world’s definitions of success. Emma sometimes finds it hard to explain to other teenagers why she’s not on Facebook or why she doesn’t IM or check her email compulsively. Even she admits that technology has its allure. “I see a TV and think, ‘Oooh, look at all those images,’” she says with a laugh.

“The more you simplify your life, the easier it gets,” Emma explains. “Simplicity is self-perpetuating because the more you do without, the more you realize you don’t need.” Living simply becomes easier, Emma says, because you have so much less to worry about.

It has also brought her family closer together. “We don’t have barriers in our family. We’re a lot more focused on one another than on outside things and materialism.”

Little Changes

Not sure you’re ready to live simply? Emma says, “Start with the little things.”

  • Walk or ride a bike. Both options are good exercise, emit no noxious fumes, and offer time to enjoy God’s creation and to greet neighbors along the way. If you can’t ride or walk where you need to go, carpool, take public transportation, or do your errands all in one trip.
  • Take the stairs. Running an elevator takes a lot of energy. By climbing stairs, you get some exercise and save energy at the same time!
  • Wash dishes by hand. OK, it’s not fun; but it’s better for the environment—and it’s a great time to reflect on your day!
  • Hang up clothes to dry. They will last longer. Besides, five pounds of greenhouse gas are released into the atmosphere with every load you put in the dryer.
  • Downsize your house, car, clothes, and other possessions. Making and maintaining all that stuff uses resources and energy (including yours!)—and who really needs fifty T-shirts anyway?

devozine 0310279259_cimage.jpgEmma offers more ideas about living in ways that protect the environment in her new book It’s Easy Being Green: One Student’s Guide to Serving God and Saving the Planet. Her father, J. Michael Sleeth, has also expressed his passion for the environment in the book Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action.


“Everything we do affects people somewhere else,” says Emma. “Everything is connected.” Think about how living simply is a way of loving not only the earth but also our neighbors around the world. How does having less give more to others? How would having less stuff free you to invest yourself in relationships with others and with God?

Ann Byle is a freelance writer, the mother of four kids ages 7–17, and a long-time junior high small group leader.

—from devozine (July/August 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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