The Spiritual Art of Simplifying Your Life
HGTV's Erin Loechner on why you need to simplify.
Five years ago, L.A. stylist Erin Loechner had a revelation. She was a rising internet star thanks to her popular design blog, Design for Mankind, and had just been tapped to star in an online series for HGTV. She was a young wife and mother, had amassed a large following on social media, and her work was getting featured in home decor-kingmaking publications like Dwell, Marie Claire and Elle Decor. Things were moving fast.
But on December 20, 2012, she opened her computer and penned what The New York Times would later call a “manifesto” to a new approach of working as a professional blogger and online personality.
“We live in a world of more,” she wrote. “And we take it all in, bookmarking each project for future use when ‘someday’ is finally today. Yet friends, I fear that someday will never come. Because there will continually be more to do, to see, to buy.”
She explained in the post, “I want less. I want less for this site; I want less for my life.” She went on to describe how draining the process of trying to keep up with everything had become.
The last line to readers said, “I wish you many moments of slowness.”
Moments of Slowness
In her early 20s, Loechner’s life was the opposite of slow. She and her new husband, Ken, moved to Los Angeles, where she launched her then-fledgling blog.
“It ended up not being for us,” she says, a fact that the two were forced to confront head-on after they received a medical bombshell. “[Ken] was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” she says. “And we kind of shifted gears.”
After the diagnosis, Loechner realized their lives were full of “a lot of distraction, a lot of running away, a lot of chasing things.” In search of a change of pace, they decided to leave Southern California for the Midwest. But after announcing their move to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on her blog, things took another dramatic shift.
HGTV reached out. The network wanted to document the renovation of their home for an online show. Instead of slowing down, their lives began moving faster than they could have ever imagined.
“We thought the move itself would kind of slow our lives for us, but then we started living faster than ever,” she says.
Around the same time, they became parents, and Loechner’s online profile began to skyrocket. She spoke at events hosted by companies like The Walt Disney Company, IKEA, Martha Stewart and Home Depot. Her blog readership and social media follower count was soaring but, for Loechner, something was broken.
Her style and her personal brand is based on the idea of minimalism—the design concept that says true beauty is found in simplicity, not complexity.
If it’s true of design, Loechner figured, why couldn’t it be true in life?
Earlier this year, Loechner released her first book: Chasing Slow. It tells the story of her journey, and why finally slowing down has given her a new appreciation for the beauty of the things she has in her life.
But Loechner has realized just slowing down isn’t enough. True simplicity, she says, has involved more than just shifting professional priorities. “The temptation was ‘productivity equals results,’” she says, admitting that focusing on using all of her energy to live simply ended up being just as draining as striving for success.
“You can, in fact, chase this slow lifestyle, as fast as you’re chasing this fast one,” she says, explaining the paradox of attempting to “chase” a simpler pace. “It’s about surrendering the metric altogether, and resisting the temptation to measure your life. It’s not to be measured. You get today, it’s a gift, not a given.
“You have to not fall into the trap of not busying yourself on whatever track you’re on—whether that’s the freelance career or at home with two kids,” she says.
For Loechner, change started with practical steps—cutting her wardrobe down, limiting her social media presence, even simplifying the food she ate.
Yes, these are all outward steps, but they were about “taking the decision-making out of things that don’t really need decision-making,” she explains. “I think there’s a reason why Steve Jobs only wore a black turtleneck and jeans every day.”
Loechner, who landed a show with a major network, started a family and became a well-known designer all before she turned 30, has come to a realization: Being able to balance all of life’s busyness isn’t about finding ways to take on more, it’s about seeking ways to do less without obsessing over it.
So, what does this new kind of living—that strikes a balance between obsessing over success or obsessing over simplicity—actually look like? Loechner says it’s all about creating margin. “Sabbath is there for a reason,” she says.
“It’s not about the limitations and the measurements and metrics,” she says. “It’s not about taking your lifestyle and making it more like one certain thing. It’s about evaluating the path that you’re on.
“What do you want for your family, and how are you going to get there? Don’t chase the fast life. Don’t chase the slow. Chase what God wants for you life, and ask Him how to get there.”