My daughter was a newborn when I stopped blowdrying my hair.
At the time, I didn’t think of it as a lifestyle choice. I struggled to bathe, much less primp. After every precious shower, I stared at that hairdryer with laser volcano eyes.
You’re stealing precious minutes of my life, I fumed.
It did not defend itself.
When I realized it was weird to resent a personal appliance, I put it in a drawer and I didn’t get it out again.
My oldest got older. I had another baby. That one got older. My hair’s been air-drying for a decade; I have no plans to do otherwise.
Can I confess something? Not using a blowdryer fills me with a ridiculous amount of glee. It takes all of five minutes to get my hair dry, but not bothering feels amazing. Partially, it feels like a feminist victory: I have decided my hair is fine as-is, no beauty products, effort, or angst necessary. Part of it is gratitude for my privilege: my hair is really easy to care for.
But the biggest victory is this: I don’t enjoy daily beauty regimens. Once in a while is fun, but every day? I’d rather spend my time reading, or playing Angry Birds or writing or cooking or eating or—well, pretty much anything.
Every day I don’t blowdry my hair, it feels like saying yes to all the stuff I actually like.
Abandoning my blowdryer is such a small thing, really. A symbolic victory more than an actual time-saver. The amount of joy I get out of cutting the cord is completely out of proportion with the obvious payoff. Five minutes a day: whoop-de-do.
Why does it make me feel giddy, then?
Because the payoff isn’t really about time. It’s about simplicity. And intention. And living my life on purpose.
Can I be honest? Simplicity isn’t simple for me. My default mode is to be stingy. I have just a few tiny issues around money and privilege. I find it easy to give up things—to cull and do without, to say no and not now.
But I don’t want to be stingy with my life. I want a spacious, joyful life, not a cramped, fearful one.
So I am often suspicious of my own thirst to keep things simple. Is it about guilt? About smallness? Or is it really a happy “yes” disguised as a “no-thank-you?”
Having kids has clarified things. My kids call me on it when I say no too freely. Or, at the very least, I see my stinginess reflected in resentful eyes at the dinner table.
But I also see the results of too much just as clearly. Too many activities, and my kids are cranky. Too much stuff and they struggle to keep it tidy. Too much spending and we’re all overwhelmed.
What I’m seeing about true simplicity, gracious simplicity, simplicity that gives me glee, is that it’s not really about saying no—whether to hairdryers or Lego sets or spending money. And it’s not really about saying yes, either.
It’s about thinking about what brings me joy. Then, it’s about saying yes to that one thing, and no to everything else.
The thinking part is the most important part—moreso than saying yes or no. I have to know myself—what I want, what I value, what gives me joy. Stinginess and gluttony are simply thoughtless yeses and noes.
I want all my choices to fill me with as much glee as that decision to abandon my hairdryer does.
And to do that, I have to know myself, trust my gut, and choose wisely for me and my family, not for anyone else.
My choices should really only work for me. My friend Alia loves doing her makeup; for her to abandon her daily beauty regimen would be stingy and joyless. My friend Melissa doesn’t really enjoy meal planning; she finds freedom when she radically simplifies the process. I, however, get so much joy out of cooking and eating that the same choice would grieve me.
There’s no one right choice. There’s no one-size-fits-all yes or no. There’s only searching out enjoyment and values and self-care and prioritizing accordingly.
The funny thing about saying yes and no on purpose is that the dividends are far out of proportion to the choice. Every day I go to bed with wet hair, I feel grateful. I feel like I’m taking care of myself. I laugh in the morning when I see my ridiculous bed head, comb some water through it, and smile at my reflection.
I have quite literally done nothing, but that nothing is a victory. Because regardless of what I look like, I feel like I really know myself, and have given myself the biggest gift possible: a life lived on purpose.