simple living

5 Ways to Press the Pause Button on Your Life

What’s the age when you look at a child and suddenly see his future self as much as you see his past self?

I think it might be eight, because lately when I really look at my oldest, I see him as a teenager almost as much as I see him as the child I’ve known for the last eight years.

Sometimes that face—that mixture of boyish and mature—almost knocks the wind out of me.

I’m sure every mother has thought it at one point: Where can I hit the pause button? Please let me slow down the passing of days. 

LightHeart Photography

It’s not just motherhood that inspires this in me. It’s the changing of the seasons, the new wrinkles around my eyes(!), a friend moving away…

Change of any kind reminds us to savor where we’re at, while we’re still here.

That Sounds Nice, But…

But most of the time, life hums along as it always does, and I, for one, need some kind of strategy—a formula, almost—to help me stop living for the future and start experiencing the moment I’m in.

I recently got to speak at a local women’s conference, and for weeks before the event, I turned this topic over and over in my mind, reflecting on the biggest differences between my life now and my life seven years ago, before I started consciously slowing down.

I eventually narrowed it down to five things that I think have made the biggest impact. Five things that—if I weren’t doing them—would make my life look significantly different.

Five things that almost let me press pause.

5 Ways to Press the Pause Button on Your Life (The Formula I Swear By)

1. Know Yourself & Live By Your Values

What are your deepest intentions, your core values—What do you prioritize over everything else?

The first and most foundational step to a slower lifestyle is knowing who you are and what makes you tick. When you know what’s at your core, it’s so much easier to let the extras fall to the side.

If you’ve been around The Life On Purpose Movement for long, you know I never STOP talking about this, so I won’t belabor the point. But if you’re new, try starting here—

Discover Your WHY with These 10 Questions
7 Personality Tests to Help You Live Your Truest Story

2. Stop Being a Stuff Manager

Could life as a “stuff manager” be keeping you from really being there with your people?

Clutter has been linked to emotional heaviness and depression. But more than anything, it’s really just one more thing to spend time on.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we packed up only what we could fit into our Toyota Corolla and drove halfway across the country for his grad degree. For a year, that’s all we lived with. And anything we bought, we knew we’d have to either leave it behind or figure out how to pack it in the car when it was time to drive back home.

I noticed in that relatively bare apartment how little time I spent on stuff. There was less to clean, little to organize, and nowhere for stuff to hide. It was amazing.

I’ve never forgotten that feeling, and even though we have three kids now (collectors of party favors and other such valuables—ha!), we try our best to keep the stuff to a minimum.

Fewer toys… clearer floors.
Smaller wardrobes… less laundry.
Fewer trips to the store… fewer possessions to store and care for.

What we exchange in belongings we get back in time.

PS. I can’t help but recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if STUFF is your downfall.

3. Open Yourself to Beauty & Adventure

I distinctly remember the first time my young family (new to California) hit the beach right at Golden Hour. I’d been in a stressful, heavy season but felt absolutely cracked open by the beauty of the sun setting into the ocean, casting a golden glow onto my beautiful children.

It’s almost impossible to be anywhere BUT the moment when you’re taking in something beautiful.

4. Adopt a Noticing Practice

At the end of each day, can you take even one minute to mentally run back over your day and bring into focus a few small, easy-to-miss moments that meant something to you?

Think of it as a gratitude practice—but more specific, more focused. From the smile you heard in your mom’s voice to the sound of your spouse pulling in the trash bins.

Jot them down in a journal, put a voice to them when you pray, or post a photo on Instagram. Do it regularly and this will becoming your noticing practice.

I use my husband as my sounding board / accountability partner when I’m actively practicing this. He says I’m always happier—and I would add, more present—when I am.

5. Fill Your Own Cup

A few years ago I was in a stage you’ve probably been in. I was working from home, raising to little kids, and running the household while my husband clocked what felt like a million hours at the office. I took care of everyone at the expense of taking care of myself. I thought my stage of life demanded it.

Over time I’ve learned that an attitude of compassion toward ourselves helps us operate from a place of fullness, rather than running on empty.

“Self-care means giving the world the best of you instead of what is left of you.” Katie Reed

24 Self-Care Practices for Mothers

When I get that nagging, uncomfortable feeling that something is off in my life, I can almost always trace it back to one of these five things lacking. Once I add it back in, I find that things start clicking into place again. I hope you find the same.

After all, if you can’t literally press pause, you might as well at least get close. 😉

If you have one more minute, I’d love to hear in the comments which number you are best at and which one you struggle with most! (I’m going to go with 1 as my best and 4 as my worst…) Let us know!

Beautiful images via Australia-based LightHeart Photography. Find Cat on Instagram here


  • Reply
    May 17, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Thank you for such a beautiful and inspiring post! I would say #2 sucks the life out of me. I am slowly but surely ridding my self and my house of stuff (my closet is almost bare and I love it) but the others in my life are less inclined to let go and I find myself still managing more stuff than I can bear. I am getting better at #5, and #’s 3 &4 sustain me and #1 is still a work in progress. I love this list and will come back to it again and again. Thank you! xx

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      May 17, 2017 at 7:57 am

      Oh man, you hit the nail on the head—”the others in my life are less inclined to let go.” That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? But good for you for rocking 3&4 and focusing on 5! Carry on, Lisa!

  • Reply
    May 18, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    The content is so soothing and the photos amazing! Great Post-Laurel Bledsoe

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      May 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks so much, Laurel! I do think the photos added SO MUCH! Major props to LightHeart Photography for them!

  • Reply
    May 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Such a great post! I especially love #4. I like that it’s gratitude but more focused. <3

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      May 21, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      So glad it resonated, Kathryn! Thanks for reading!!

  • Reply
    Noel Minneci
    June 14, 2017 at 7:37 am

    This brought me to tears, thinking back on the beautiful moments in my life and enjoying my six year old grandson growing up. You see, our son died five years ago at 38. People just don’t really know how that changes you and I see so many young women bemoaning how busy they are and not enjoying their children in the hurry-up of daily life. There is no do-over, these moments don’t come by again. Don’t miss out on the joy! I konmari’d our home two years ago and have never missed one single thing that I let go of, even my precious handmade quilts that I donated and gave to friends. Carpe diem! Live for today!!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 18, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Wow, this is so inspiring, Noel! I’m so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your wisdom with us here. <3

  • Reply
    In Review: May 2017 | Daisy Chain
    June 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

    […] 5 Ways to Press the Pause Button on Your Life by Erica Layne.  “Most of the time, life hums along as it always does, and I, for one, need some kind of strategy—a formula, almost—to help me stop living for the future and start experiencing the moment I’m in.”  Erica has five things to try to help us do that — practical but easy-to-do stuff here. […]

  • Reply
    July 8, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Erica, I loved this article! I especially loved – and agree with — “What we exchange in belongings we get back in time.” When the last of our 4 kids left home, so did most of our “stuff.” We sold or gave away most of the belongings that fit into a 4000 sq ft home, sold the home, and moved to a condo. We learned to live with WAY less. Now, just 3 years later we live in a log cabin in the mountains. We still have less stuff and when not working we spend our time hiking, kayaking, reading, or just hanging out on our screen porch listening to nature. It’s a good life, I’ll admit, but your list reminds me, there’s still work to be done to get to the simple life I want for myself. Thanks for some really great reminders.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Wow, Gwen! Your story is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing that here, and best wishes as you continue on the path you want to be on!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you for the post. I have been reading your blog for few months now. I love it. I think it is getting through to me every single time more and more.
    One thing I do not get, are the personality tests. The 20 year old me would always have chosen party over book or lot of friends over few friends. Now in my 30s and with 2 kids it is the opposite. I generally feel, that people don’t change. But with these tests I am always struggling to find a good answer. And as a result I have mixed feelings about the test result as well. But I like to think that I know myself pretty well, without the tests. But then again your post made me think, that maybe I do not. And when feeling that something is off. Maybe that is it. 🙂 Sorry for the long comment 🙂

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 18, 2017 at 9:59 am

      HI Liia! I’ve been on vacation, so I’m sorry I’m late getting back to you! My instinct is just this—to trust your instincts. You probably DO know yourself better than those tests. I love personality tests in as far as they illuminate characteristics in myself that ring true. But I try not to take them *too* literally, because no test will ever know me as well as I know myself. My guess is you’ve got it right in your gut. Thanks so much for reading; I’m honored that you’re enjoying the blog! Hopefully I’ll be back to posting more regularly as summer winds down. 🙂 All the best!

  • Reply
    Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui
    July 14, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Love this article, Erica, and look forward to sharing it tonight. No.3 is the hardest for me. I am soooo serious – I feel like I can easily miss out on delight because I have been rigid, controlling, anxious about not keeping up with things perfectly… and by the time I do all the routine tasks, I’ve missed out on space for adventure and delight. I’ve been working on this over the years. (I will say that I do have an ability to see beauty in the ordinary day).

    This year my mantra is “don’t try so hard, just enjoy yourself.” And recently I have been inspired as part of this mantra to show up curious each day and willing to step out into adventure:) I wonder what this year will bring…

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 18, 2017 at 9:50 am

      I’m a bit late to the party here, Krista, but my goodness, I couldn’t let this comment pass without saying—I feel ya. 100%. And I LOVE your mantra for the year, “don’t try so hard, just enjoy yourself.” Without really putting it into words, I’ve been trying to live this way more myself in the last couple of years. Thanks for articulating it for me; it’ll help me practice it even better.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    2. Being a “stuff” manager is the hardest for me. It’s hard for me to let go of “stuff” I’ve attached emotional value to. I also think about all the “stuff” that people throw away or get rid of and I feel bad. I feel like I could eventually put this “stuff” to use, even though I don’t. I’ve been improving in this regard, though. I’m better able to recognize what stuff I’m realistically never going to use and get rid of that stuff. I try to donate as much as I can. I’d like to minimize even more, though. Working on it!

    3. Being open to beauty, etc, is easily my best =)

    Thank you for this article

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 4:55 am

    3 is my best and the rest I am working on. Less stuff and more memories is #1

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