What Living With Purpose Actually Looks Like

Several years ago, when I had piles of dishes, overflowing counters and far too many pieces of furniture, I determined to live with less so I could do more.
Before I would sit down to play a game with the kids and I would be haunted by the piles of clutter surrounding me. I had thoughts like:
“Wow, it’s been at least a year since I dusted the piano, look how gross it is…”
“I want to take a bulldozer to the house. Too bad it doesn’t just burn down.”
“Stupid dishes. I hate dishes.”
“Why do kids bicker so much?! Gah.”
“I thought being a mom was going to be fun.”
I was annoyed with my children, and I was annoyed at my attitude towards them. So I set out to declutter my life and change that.
I decluttered, I implemented routines, I got rid of over 10,050 things, all for the reason of being a better person, better wife and better mother at the end of it.
And I am. But it’s not as easy as I thought.
I still was distracted when I was with my children.
I still had to learn how to live with purpose, in the moment. I had been able to rid my life of excess. I had been able to clear my schedule enough to be home with my family. I had been able to teach the children how to complete routines, so their life would be better as well.
But being satisfied with my life didn’t just happen because I decluttered. And I didn’t love every minute of it. In fact, I had to fight my attitude the entire way. I had to work at it regardless of how I felt.
Very seldom do I want my kids to help me cook dinner. But they help me several times a week. 
Very rarely do I want to sit and read a book with my children, but we do it anyway.
Very rarely do I want to homeschool, teach them to read or do an art project, but we do something almost every day.
To be honest; I would rather let my kids veg out in front of the TV while I read a book or play on my computer.
I would rather let them eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every meal than hear them whine about chicken and green beans.
I would rather be lazy and self-indulgent.
Of course, there are days when I truly enjoy my children and enjoy the projects that I am working on. But so often, I have to just show up. I have to be there and do what I know is right regardless of how I feel about it.
That is what living with purpose looks like.
I’ve struggled with depression, I know what it’s like to want to stay in bed all day and hide from the world.
During a particularly dark time in my life, one of my good friends referred me to an essay by Andrée Seu, in which she says:

You can say, “I’m depressed. So what?”-and carry on with the energy God supplies. ~Out Of The Blue

It’s the same with living purposefully. It doesn’t matter how you feel, it doesn’t matter the thoughts going through your mind. You carry on and do what you know is right.
We all want hacks and gimmicks that mean we can do the right thing with a smile in our hearts, birds singing around us and the sun always shining. But the fact is, life is hard. Being a spouse is hard. Being a parent is hard. It means we have to die to ourselves, giving to those around us. And it’s just not fair.
But like Peter Falk said in The Princess Bride:

Well, who says life is fair? Where is that written?

And so we carry on. With purpose.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Jessie on 11/30/2015 at 2:53 pm

    Dear Rachel,
    thank you SOOOOO much for this article! Sometimes I’m afraid of being the only mom in the world who feels like this…
    Your article is so true – my experiences are just the same.
    Thank you for sharing this!!!

    • Rachel on 11/30/2015 at 10:45 pm

      Thank you Jessie!

  2. Lauren on 12/01/2015 at 2:55 pm

    A very authentic post, which I’m grateful to you for sharing. I would love to see more on this through nourishing minimalism and other minimalist sites. We can’t all live off the grid in a tiny home and float in canoes, backpack across the globe and I find that is the idealist version often portrayed in the minimalist movement. Thank you, Rachel, for you genuine look at the idea of living with purpose. ” The struggle is real,” my kids would say ( and so would I!)

  3. Diane Marie on 12/02/2015 at 10:35 am

    Over 10,000 things?! I’m gobsmacked. I have decluttered/simplified over the last couple of years but wouldn’t have had anywhere near 10,000 things to begin with. You must have a huge house. No wonder you were stressed. I always like Gandhi’s quote “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:26 am

      Oh, it adds up fast! Our house is 1132 sq. ft. with an unfinished basement and garage… and 8 people. 🙂

  4. Susannah on 12/02/2015 at 11:02 am

    Thank you Rachel for such an honest reflective post. This is why I really enjoy reading your blog. All the best 🙂

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:25 am

      Thank you Susannah!

  5. Sara on 12/02/2015 at 11:08 am

    Love the reality check. 🙂 Thanks too for the link to Andree’s post on depression.

  6. Kari on 12/02/2015 at 11:17 am

    I really, really appreciate this post. Very honest and real, and I can relate. Also, it’s good to read that just decluttering won’t make all the stress go away. Getting rid of 1,000 things doesn’t automatically equate with X more happiness. Sometimes I wish it was as simple as that. But life is still life, even after we’ve created room to breathe. Thank you.

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:27 am

      Thank you Kari.

  7. Toni on 12/02/2015 at 11:19 am

    Dear Rachel.
    This article hits so close to home for me. After every sentence that I read I thought, “me too.” I also suffer from depression and anxiety and have been struggling with de-cluttering since I became a parent to three children.
    Thank you so much for sharing this to remind me that I am not alone. I look forward to reading your future blogs.

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:24 am

      Thank you Toni.

    • KR on 02/19/2020 at 7:06 pm

      Yes! This is why I follow you, Rachel! You are so authentic! The truth will always set you free. I struggle with depression too and when you say “You carry on and do what you know is right”, it hit home. So I just carry on. Ok, I know I can do that!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

      • Rachel Jones on 02/19/2020 at 8:57 pm

        Thanks KR. Yes, carry on. 💕

  8. Joey on 12/02/2015 at 11:42 am

    Thank you for this post and for all of your insight. I enjoy it and it helps me see things from your perspective.
    The one point of view I miss from your blog is that of the American male. We too have similar issues with clutter however there are differences. For some it may be the accumulation of tools in the gararage or shed; for others, old jewelry or inherited family jewelry that is not practical or stylish today.
    Should I see something in your blog that I think misses the male perspective going forward, I’ll let you know.
    Men need minimalization too.

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:23 am

      I totally agree Joey, but I have found many more men who write about minimalism (Becoming Minimalist, Zen Habits, The Minimalists, even quite a few podcasters) and so I write as a woman, to a woman, generally. 🙂

      • Luna on 11/12/2016 at 12:19 pm

        I LOVED THIS ARTICLE. IT WAS LIKE THERAPY. WORTH A 2nd and 3rd read. And yes, i coMe to you for the woman/mom/ Wife PerspectivE. WhiLe i do Follow all the male resources you named, and the kOndo method, your practical wisdom is what resonates on a daily basis to get me through my Mom-wife life. Something that’s missing with the others. Keep it up- please!

        • Rachel on 11/15/2016 at 5:20 pm

          Thank you Luna! <3

  9. Dahlena on 12/02/2015 at 11:43 am

    Thank you so, so much for this post! I’ve spent the last year decluttering & trying to get my home to a place where it feels peaceful. I’be gotten rid of so much, re-evaluated why we buy the things we do, identified a place for every item in our house – yet still don’t feel at peace. I think I am waiting for that magic switch to flip, instead of working on being purposeful in my attitude & actions. Depression is hard, especially when coupled with chronic health problems. Thank you for the reminder that we aren’t always going to like what we’re doing in the moment, but that we do it anyway to live with a purpose.

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:21 am


  10. Gira on 12/02/2015 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you for the thoughtful and honest post. I don’t have children, but on a day-to-day basis, I struggle with making good food choices and keeping a regular exercise schedule as well as keeping my house organized and clean. I would much rather sit on the couch, watch a movie, and let my husband order a pizza! But I want to lead a healthy life, so I need to cook dinner at home, pack my workout clothes for the next day, make sure there is lunch to take to work the next day, clean up the kitchen, put shoes away, etc. Some days is easier than others, and sometimes I am too hard on myself. In general, I need to act like the person that I want to be, and I want to be a person who is healthy, fit, and organized!

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:20 am

      Exactly Gira!

  11. Jenny on 12/02/2015 at 1:55 pm

    So beautifully written. When you write so authentically, you speak to the core of me. It’s important to be positive but it is more important to be real. The work you do helps so many of us who are looking for purpose and meaning. Thank you.

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:19 am

      Thank you Jenny.

  12. Ash from Detroit on 12/02/2015 at 2:10 pm

    I love it when folks are vulnerable and type out feelings that we all experience, but are reluctant to share! This is one of your talents, Rachel. I don’t have kids yet, but can imagine that if PB&J stifles the whining, it is more tempting than something healthy and home-cooked!
    Just to clarify, in the last line you wrote “we have to die to ourselves.” Did you maybe mean “lie” instead?

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:32 am

      Thanks Ash. I did mean “die”. When we have to put our desires aside, to meet the needs of those around us- that is dying to ourselves.

  13. Janelle@The Peaceful Haven on 12/02/2015 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for this honest and true post. I could identify with every single thing you wrote…thanks for being transparent. It is a blessing to all who feel the same. By the way…I love Andree Seu!

    • Rachel on 12/03/2015 at 12:33 am

      Thank you Jenelle!

  14. Christina on 12/03/2015 at 12:59 am

    This is why I follow your blog – you put your truth out there. I know that I’ve said this before – Thank you Rachel for being human…and for allowing your readers the opportunity to relate to your struggles. I commend you for your honesty!

    • Rachel on 12/04/2015 at 12:12 am

      Thank you Christina.

  15. Jeanette on 12/04/2015 at 10:58 am

    Words I needed to hear. Thank you, Rachel.

  16. Myrte on 12/04/2015 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and kindness. That combi is rare and precious. To carry on simply, to just get on is so hard and so underrated. Thank you for showing the worth of that for all of us who do just that.

  17. Janelle on 12/09/2015 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    I appreciate your post. When I began decluttering I realized that our home would be more peaceful and that I would too but that it was no magic bullet for the life I really wanted–a purposeful one. This post hits the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  18. Jessica on 12/26/2015 at 5:03 am

    Thank you! I’ve really struggled with postpartum depression this last year, and am striving forward this coming year especially. I keep thinking once I have the house cleared and routines in place the happiness will follow. Thank you for pointing out that’s not the case. Instead, I’m creating space in my home, life and schedule for joy and true living <3

  19. Kate on 09/07/2016 at 1:53 pm

    This blogpost speaks to my soul. Thank you. xo

  20. Cyndi on 03/12/2018 at 7:27 pm

    Oh my! You just described me. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to write something personal like that, but you did, and you are not alone. Nor am I, if I don’t want to be. Thank you very much for sharing. I might just get those dishes done today now;)

    • Rachel Jones on 03/14/2018 at 3:34 pm


  21. Amy on 03/21/2018 at 9:22 pm

    Yes, still distracted even when my house and schedule are free. I sometimes find it is easier to be busy, even with housework. Being still in the moment is almost a foreign concept in our fast pace world of instant gratification. I am a Christian and found these bible verses have brought me back to the basics. “Be still and know that I am God”, also “Seek me first and All these things will be added unto you.” Learning again how to be still, but not stuck in defeat. Empowered to be still, by God, allowing Him to give me clarity to what is the next best thing. Thanks for your encouragement today.

    • Rachel Jones on 03/27/2018 at 4:51 pm

      Thank you Amy. I agree- God wants us to be still and meditate on Him, and it’s hard to even sit still by ourselves. There is a certain discipline to it. I have found over the last year that if I journal my prayers, it slows me down and I think more on Him and listen better- because handwriting goes slower, one’s thoughts take time to work out and write out. Having that time in the morning has helped me be more present the rest of the day. ❤️

  22. Susan on 03/22/2018 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for this article and your transparency. I needed this years ago. I was the mom that gave in to letting my kids veg out in front of the TV so I could do my own thing. My kids are now 18 and 16, and we’re all paying for it now. They have serious self esteem issues and lack life skills. My guilt and regret goes deep to my soul. I hope your words will be heard by the many other mom’s that struggle, and I hope they will choose to live purposefully and not for their own desires. ❤️

    • Rachel Jones on 03/27/2018 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you for sharing Susan. We can all learn so much from one another. ❤️

  23. Jen on 08/23/2018 at 2:06 am

    Wow, this was so poignant even years later! Words I need to hear

  24. Donna Askins on 01/31/2019 at 6:48 pm

    This post motivated me to get off my butt and go clean the kitchen. “Thanks” just doesn’t cover it! Rachel, you are doing good in the world.

    • Rachel Jones on 01/31/2019 at 10:55 pm

      Good for you Donna!! And thank you! ❤️

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