Friday, May 20, 2011

Our First Step to a Simpler, More Abundant Life: Writing a Family Purpose Statement

A few years ago I read a little book called Better Off which started me down this path toward simplification.  I'm already more simple than many women I know.  I've never kept a day planner or family calendar in an effort to minimize our committments (yes, sometimes I do forget things).  I haven't carried a purse in years and have never carried a diaper bag.  I rarely buy new clothes for myself and often wear things way beyond when they should have been thrown in the trash (my husband says I always have on at least two items of clothing with holes in them at any given moment and I can confirm that as of this moment).  I don't wear make-up and don't carry a cell phone.  But this book, Better Off, chronicled one couple's experiment in radical simplification.  An MIT student writing a thesis on the real benefits of modern technology and his wife moved to Amish country and lived among very conservative Amish for over a year.  His hypothesis was that technology hasn't benefited our lives nearly so much as we think it has.  In the end, he and his wife moved to an urban location where they were able to get along without a car, computer, phone, and many so-called modern conveniences.  As soon as I finished the book, I permanently unplugged our answering machine (now you know why it still "isn't working".)  I also quit my career shortly thereafter.  Both changes lowered the stress level and increased satisfaction in our home life.  But I'm always looking for additional ways to simplify, and keeping our house full of stuff organized is a never-ending challenge.  This is why Organized Simplicity appealed to me.

According to Tsh Oxenreider in Organized Simplicity, the first step toward simplifying your home and life is to come up with a family purpose statement.  This makes perfect sense, because how can we eliminate the "excess" from our lives until we've defined what's not excess?  As I go from item to item in our house and activity to activity in our schedule, I need a litmus test as to whether each one should stay or go.  Our simple life may not look like your simple life, but to keep things simple we all have to be consistent with our perceived purpose.  Our home and schedule should reflect the priorities of our family.  In one sense, this is obvious and we all do it to some degree intuitively.  In another sense, it is profound, and writing out a purpose statement helped me to see why I'm frustrated with certain aspects of our lives.

A couple of final notes about the purpose statement before I share ours:

-I'm terrible at writing these kinds of things so I relied on Tsh's model and just filled in the blanks.  I left the blanks so you can take this skeleton and fill it in to come up with your own family purpose statement.

-It's important for your purpose statement not to be too general (it won't be much help) or too specific (it will drive you crazy).  Initially, I tended toward overgeneralizing our purpose like- "Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves".    This is a wonderful purpose, but it's so general that it would be tough to go item to item in our home and ask whether it should stay or go based on this purpose.  It needs to be fleshed out a little first.  In other words, what does it look like to love the Lord and our neighbor in terms of daily practice?

Our family purpose statement:

We the ___________s believe that our purpose as a family is to bring glory to God.  We will accomplish this by:
- Valuing God's Word and the example of Christ as our main guiding principles.
- Making our home a place of Bible study and worship, fellowship with one another and the body of Christ, and making disciples of Christ.
- Prioritizing things of eternal value above lesser values.
- Interacting with each other in a spirit of encouragement, spurring one another on toward good works.

Just because this is our family purpose statement, doesn't mean we do this well all the time, or even most of the time, but it's a starting place.  It helps explain why my husband and I love having Bible studies in our home, but why we're frustrated that one daughter is playing volleyball right now (pulling us all in different directions 3 nights a week!).  It helps me remember to keep our homeschool focused on God's Word first then all our other subjects second.  It helps us evaluate each item/piece of furniture in our house by whether it helps our family and others study God's Word, fellowship with one another,  focus on eternity, and encourage one another.  In short, it's our litmus test. 

So here I go.  Starting Monday I'll take 10 days as outlined by Tsh in Organized Simplicity to simplify, organize, and clean every room in our house!  At the end of the 10 days our home will not be perfect, but it should more accurately reflect our purpose as a family. 

What's your family purpose?  Are there things in your home or activities in your schedule that are contrary to your purpose?  Is this causing you stress and frustration?  Join me as I strive to make our house more of a home after our hearts.


  1. Thank you for this quick, inspiring article! I looked up the books and am considering reading both. Simplifying is something I need to do as well and I like the method of writing the purpose statement first.

  2. So far we have completed the master bedroom and 1 child's room!

  3. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I long for more simplicity (although I too tend toward the simple side of life) As a matter of fact Mark and I were just discussing a specific (potential) activity and whether or not it fits with our family's culture (which is part of our goal).

    Are you going to blog about your projects?

  4. This book sounds just what I need. My soul yearns for more simplicity - I think I would happily convert to an Amish life... then I think of the laundry and it scares me!



Related Posts with Thumbnails
My photo
I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.