The Exquisite Lightness of Being

A few years ago, I was reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and came across the most beautiful phrase: “the traveler’s exquisite lightness of being.” It became a sort of personal mantra for me as I whittled down my possessions to a single bag, and traveled throughout Europe and Asia with nothing more than a large purse. I’d never felt so light, so liberated, so free.

Now that I’m back Stateside, and settled down (for the time being) with a little one, I find myself once again meditating on this concept. Can I still realize this exquisite lightness of being, even though I’m not on the road?

I think so. The key: looking at life as one big, wonderful, extended journey—and keeping the associated baggage as streamlined as possible.

But this concept applies to far more than just possessions. When I travel, I’m not only unencumbered with material things, I’m free of schedules, worries, and obligations. I’m usually unplugged (no laptop and no cell phone), and often so immersed in the here and now that I even forget to take photographs.

That’s my exquisite lightness of being: living completely in the present moment.

Which brings me to some difficult choices. Life with a toddler involves far more time and energy than I’d ever imagined…and I’ve become acutely aware that every minute I’m staring at a computer screen, I’m not staring into my little girl’s beautiful eyes and watching her discover the world around her.

What I’m craving now is a total immersion in the present. I don’t want to put Plumblossom in her pack-and-play in order to check email, or write blog posts in my head while I’m reciting nursery rhymes. And when she’s cozy in her crib, I don’t want to make a mad dash to get online; I want to sit out on our deck and stargaze with my husband.

This time in our lives is fleeting, and I want to savor every moment—and right now, that involves decluttering my digital life in favor of my real one.

Blogging involves a fair amount of navel-gazing; and in my opinion, this self-analysis can sometimes feel like an added weight on one’s soul. In contrast, I’d like to live each moment like Plumblossom does—appreciating the beauty and wonder of the world, without the burden of documenting it.

And while I miss you all dearly, I think that right now she needs me a little more. Between my book and blog archives, there’s a wealth of information and support for anyone interested in minimalism and decluttering. My daughter, on the other hand, relies on me minute by minute for her well-being and happiness. I’m her interpreter, her teacher, her companion as she explores this strange and beautiful world.

And she certainly keeps me on my toes—she started walking at nine months, and running through the house shortly thereafter (note: minimalism is the best babyproofing!). Now, at fifteen months, she’s obsessed with language—spoken, signed, and written. She knows more signs than I do, can recognize and sound out most of the consonants in the alphabet, and appears intent on figuring out the words in her books. Yesterday, she wrote her first letter (an “M”) while saying “Mama” and pointing to me. So when she looks to me expectantly, excitedly–whether it’s to read, stack blocks, or do ballet with her in the living room–I can’t bear to turn away towards my laptop.

In motherhood, I’ve discovered a deeper minimalism: one that has more to do with being than possessing. One that’s challenging me to let go of ego, of ambition, of self, and find joy in the simplest pleasures of life.

I don’t consider this a farewell post, though, as I have no intention of closing my blog. I’ll keep running the Real Life Minimalists series, and drift in and out when I have thoughts to share—just not on any fixed schedule. At the moment, I’m devoting my darling’s (dwindling) naptime to working on my next book. When she’s a little older, and playing independently, I hope to be able to post again with more regularity.

That said, Plumblossom, my husband, and I are now off on a little walk, to get some fresh air and see what new shoots are coming up in the garden—and to enjoy, together, our exquisite lightness of being.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide}.

79 comments to The Exquisite Lightness of Being

  • Aureliana

    ‘Childhood’ (Haiku)

    Missing childhood days
    With its innocence and joys,
    like sunflower missing sun rays.

    (By MonMonn)

  • heather

    Minimalism helped me to be a better Mom. I had less “stuff” to worry about, things to clean, messes to clean up, so it let me focus on my son more. I made a deal to email pics once a week to family members and the occasional phone call but for the most part, I immersed myself in motherhood and it was wonderful. Those days may have seemed long at times but it was all worth it. As he has gotten older, I have added very little back into my home. My walls are filled with his drawings and our family pics. My memories are in our minds and hearts.

  • What a beautiful and very true statement… “the traveler’s exquisite lightness of being” – I love it and thanks for sharing. Some great post comments too. JM

  • Pollan is great. Looking forward to his new book Cooked.

    He was playing on the book – ‘unbearable lightness of being’ written in ’82. Became a movie in ’88.

    Have you read it?

    Lovely post. Thanks.

    Mr Simple

  • Vespa

    Miss your regular posts. I do hope you are enjoying your time with Plumblossom. The time pass so quickly, the small moments are so precious.

  • Andrea

    Miss you miss minimalist. I’ve been reading other minimalist blogs but they just don’t have your grace.

  • Vada

    And I just discovered you! Glad there are plenty of archives for me to read. I do enjoy the minimalist series and am glad to hear that will continue. I am on my own journey of simplifying life and the minimalist idea has really taken hold of me lately. I love that you are stepping back to focus on your babe and family! Enjoy!

  • Henny

    Great choice to focus on the real world and enjoy these precious times with your little one and husband – those early days of parenting go so fast and are something you will treasure forever. I with-held eye rolls when other parents told me yet again (and again) how fast it all goes….but it is true! Like many things, it is hard to appreciate in full until you are looking at it retrospectively…

    I will miss your regular blog entries, but your blog has taken me to so many new places, and new ways of thinking and new ideas, so I will be forever grateful to you for your wisdom and your books.

    I am here procrastinating further decluttering as we prepare to move house (yet again)….and as always, your words help me so much in that work, and make an onerous task something that is almost pleasant :)

    Much love to little PB x

  • Cheers for practicing what you preach. I admire your honesty and decision to put the blog down and pick your baby up. Just for that, I’m a loyal fan. All the best.

  • Louisa

    It’s not the same now that Francine doesn’t post her own thoughts and views. I fully support her decision to spend her time with Plumblossom (you never get that childhood back again to share), but it has killed this site and the sense of ‘community’ there used to be :-(

    • Samantha

      Oh for heaven’s sake, Millie and Louisa – you both sound like sulky teenagers. Francine clearly has her priorities right, and you clearly need to grow up!

  • Bettina

    Enjoy your little one. I just finished your book.”the joy of less”. My kids are 39,36 and 32.So important to teach them to tread lightly on the earth,”reduce,reuse,recycle”. I kept 1 shirt box from each child’s school years, and one baby outfit.There are pictures. I have kept the jewelry I inherited because that doesn’t take up much space.I am now decluttering some cabinets I haven’t gotten to in the last year or so.I never travel with more than I can handle myself. Years ago I read that was the safest way for a woman to travel. Thank you.

  • I have a daughter who is nearly 3 years old and she takes up every minute of my day, in a good way of course! These years are so precious. I totally understand your need not to miss out on that. Enjoy this time with your toddler!

  • Millie

    I’m afraid I’m with Louisa: the community’s moved on to other sites, and I came here for Francine’s thoughts, not those of random strangers.

  • I also am feeling the ‘exquisite lightness of being’ after quitting my job recently to pursue my passions. It took about a year of planning and my life is finally becoming enriched with the things I love, but at the same time, I enjoy just ‘being.’ Decorating my mind has become more important than decorating any room with material items. Thanks for sharing.

  • suraj

    DE clutter your home, mind. you will have few things to say. few things to listen to. in other words u will be free to for higher domains.

  • suraj

    Its always better to have fewer requirement. DE clutter should be the way of life. It makes sense while buying a new item whether it is really required. Not only it cleanse the house it cleanse the mind also.

  • Jeannine

    I just discovered your fabulous site and I do love it. Though I fully understand putting your little one first, can you give us a guesstiment when you might be returning with a little more blogging?

  • I am at a point in my life where I am taking on a lot, but I know that one day I will have to make some decisions and let go of the less important projects in favor of the parts of life that make it worth living. My minimalist lifestyle has given me the time to be a part of some great things but there is nothing compared to children! Kudos to you!

  • Muli

    The end of an era with :-( So sad…

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks for all your comments and support! I still plan on returning, just not sure when… :)

  • Marj

    Oooooooh! What a tantalising teaser from MM!

  • Hi MM!

    Amazing how consciously you are living your life! I found it very insightful to read your blog. Your post on the couch, that quintessential proof of “having arrived” really touched a chord with me because it was couch hunting which triggered my minimalist journey too! I am finally ready with enough head space to come back to writing. I am thinking so much of minimalism and mindfulness, intentional living and meditation that I find I need to talk to people. Who better than the great, big internet of people!
    So I hope you have a blast with your little family but do drop in on and off to give us flashes of insight into your minimalist world! We need you!

  • Hi Francine,

    It’s wonderful to hear about your parenting adventures. As our girls are now 21 and 23. I look back fondly on those early years, which went by in a snap. You are savoring your time, which is just lovely. Continue to enjoy every moment.

    I’m thrilled that you’ll be joining us this April on our blog when we’ll be talking about letting go. Can’t wait to hear all that you’ll be sharing with us.


  • […] the exquisite lightness of being: living completely in the present moment. (thank you miss minimalist for that […]

  • Tina

    Still giving away a big bag or two each week. Decluttering takes constant vigilance. Recycling papers and trying not to produce garbage. Trying to live with less and less of everything.

  • Bernadette

    You are so wise to enjoy this time! And she, too, will remember these times you spent with her and not the computer, etc. My girls gave me a homemade sign which I value more than most things. It reads,”Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.” Cherish every moment. Great choice you have made Miss Minimalist!!!

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