Simplifying from the inside-out

new mexico 09 pics 009

I remember one 4th of July weekend when my husband and I gathered a small group of friends for a “Freedom Fest.” No fireworks, hot dogs, or Tchaikovsky. Instead, we had a potluck and asked each guest to bring one thing that “I want to be free from,” such as a habit, worry, situation, or concern.

For me, the first thing that came to mind was email. But as I peeled away the layers of the onion and went deeper, I realized that my frustrations with email were just a symptom of my overall busy-ness. And beneath this was my need to produce and create.

Further, I had good reasons for most of the stuff I wanted to accomplish. I think this is where many of us get caught up in this drive and how it becomes an ingrained behavior. We have positive, even noble, reasons for our busy-ness: it’s in service to a good cause, or it’s for our family, or to help our community, or to connect with friends, or in the name of healing and world peace, and so on. Pretty soon we’ve slipped into overdrive, but the only place we ’re driving to is over the edge. It’s just too much.

Throughout the evening, we passed around a basket of freedom questions: What would happen if I was free from ____________? When was a time I felt most free? What does being free mean to me? What would feeling free at work, at home, or in my marriage look like? People shared some fascinating perspectives on the theme of breaking free and simplifying.

Before we all said goodnight, we wrote down all the things we wanted to be free from and burned these outside in a clay pot as a symbolic release.

Days later, as I continued reflecting on the freedom theme, I realized that what we all want most is inner freedom.

Freedom from our stressful thinking, from our own recurring negative thoughts. We want more interior space. We ’re tired of living in the shanty built by our own fears and insecurities. We want to live in a mansion — an expansive, wide-open space where we roam free, content, at peace. Where we can breathe deep, long, spacious breaths. Interior freedom. The space to just be without having to do. Yes, I want to experience more of that for sure. And, I believe we can experience that mansion whenever we want, when we disentangle from the idea that our worth is tied to our ability to produce. As my friend Carol Orsborn shares in her book Inner Excellence: Spiritual Principles to Life-Driven Business: “Your ordinary self is enough.” I’m enough! Without doing. Just me, as I am. What a revelation!

Lately, as I reflect on how I can create more internal space and simplify my life (read more), what keeps coming to me, is a theme that surfaced many times as I was doing research for my last book. Studies in the field of positive psychology show our level of happiness and contentment takes a nose dive when we try and do too much, endlessly juggle or are faced with making too many decisions.

Simplifying and doing less feels good. Less=more.

GIVEAWAY: I’d love to hear how others are simplifying their lives. Share one thing you’re doing to create more inner freedom and simplicity in your life in the comments section here and we’ll pick one winner at random and send you two signed, loved-up copies of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

INVITE: Would you like to gather each month with like-minded women who also desire to simplify their life and reconnect with what matters most? Consider joining or leading a Personal Renewal Group for women. We have life coaching groups meetings in 10 countries around the globe. Learn more. 

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum.  She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.



  1. To help create more inner freedom, I start my day with thankfullness and gratitude. The first thing I do upon waking is thank God for a new day and with a grateful heart, begin the craziness of kids, school, work…life. Those few moments though put my in the right frame of mind to see opportunities, slow down and be enough.

  2. Michelle Bloodworth says

    I continue to be inspired by your posts. They continue to support me as I simplify and practice deep self care.

  3. I love your posts! It’s pretty much the only one I don’t erase:-)
    I try to simplify and create more inner space by doing a “plop and drop into my beanbag at least 2x a day to pause and rest and stop. I call it “drop and plop” after I saw my kitty throw herself on the ground (plopping) whenever she walks a few steps, to just hang and rest:-) It’s so cute, so I thought I would learn from her and do that too. The beanbag works best for me as it really cuddles and supports me:-) Have a wonderful day and don’t forget to “plop”.

  4. Charo Prater White says

    I moved recently well back in May and I told myself at that time that I would be much more picky about what volunteer opportunities I would take on for my kids school. Well it is mid-October and I wish I could say I was doing wonderfully well but sadly no. However, about a week ago I realized something that I was doing – yes I wanted to run everything and make it mine but I wasn’t allowing anyone else to contribute by being the savior of all volunteer programs. So I made a clear decision to give up the I am almighty attitude and let others help me help….yes I would run my son’s boy scout troop but I was really clear to the group that this was my piece and that they would have to take the rest of the pie. At the moment some of those pieces have been taken on by others and some have not …however I am standing tall and staying within my boundaries by not running into save the day. I can only do what I can do. And I recognize by allowing myself to play that role wasn’t allowing me to take on other things in my life that I wanted to do or allowing others to help out as well. It will be what it will be.

  5. One way I’ve simplified is by saying yes to things I know work for me, and not feeling bad for saying no to the things that don’t. A kid play date 30 minutes across town? That’s a no. Bringing a friend home from school to play with my kiddos? That I can say yes to.

    I must take this chance here also to say thank you Renee. I took your self-renewel class a few years ago and it has been so incredibly helpful, and I am still finding little nuggets of knowledge and wisdom in your emails. Today’s take away…”My worth is not tied to my ability to produce.” Thank you for that!

  6. I’m trying to wean myself off checking Facebook. I realized that reading about what wonderful things my friends were doing with their kids made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, that I was somehow lacking. This hurts me and my family as I become pushy trying to get us to have those “peak experiences” when all my husband and son want to do is relax. It’s hard, I still fall off the wagon, but just realizing the effect it has on my mood and outlook has helped me realize “I don’t have to board the crazy train.”

  7. I have stopped going on to facebook on a daily basis, and when I do I spend less time there. This helps open up more time and space in my life, and is helping me re-establish a consistent sleeping schedule.

  8. I give myself more breathing room by giving myself permission to sometimes not go to regularly scheduled meetings when I’m not feeling up to it. The thought that usually comes to me at that moment is “I’m tired of all the running around from one thing to another.” Rather than push myself out the door, I stay home and give myself some down time. The world does not come to an end.

  9. Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments. Renee will be choosing a winner tomorrow and the winner will be announced Saturday 🙂

  10. I am simplifying by practicing meditation and a short yoga practice every morning and working on a having a clearer house to help clear my head! Its working, although its a day to day management of it. slow steady steps to get to the end goal.

  11. The winner of the giveaway is Cinnamon! Thanks to everyone who entered for your great comments.