I Choose Less (The Day I Realised All I Wanted Was Green Gables)

All my life I thought I wanted more, but what I really needed was the sweet, simple life of Green Gables. Here’s how I’ve chosen to go against cultural norms, stop climbing the ladder, and choose contentment.
All my life I thought I wanted more, but what I really needed was the sweet, simple life of Green Gables. #GreenGables #LivewithLess

Should I dream big, or settle for less?

I turned the question around in my mind, over and over again. The answer seems painfully obvious in our 21st-century, you-can-do-anything society.

Dream big, dummy!

Or…err…dream big, you special snowflake, you!

We’ve been told from childhood that we can do and be anything and everything we want. We’re encouraged this way because the world really does need innovators and inventors.

And hundreds of people have shown me that it’s possible to make big dreams, to achieve them, and to look awesome while doing it.

So I got a little dazzled.

I got swept up in the possibility of being Successful. I looked at what others were doing–acquaintances from my alma mater; up-and-coming entrepreneurs with trendy startups; and occasionally even the urban apartment-dwelling, high-powered, good-looking young professionals who populate the movies. I thought: I, too, could do all that. Because I, too, am a hard worker with good ideas who lives in a First World country.

I have Anne Shirley’s ambition and Diana Barry’s love of finer things, which together make a perfect storm for me: I need achievements and money to feel successful.

But not, as it turns out, to feel happy.

I’m not saying that I’ve had a taste of glorious acclaim and wealth and that they’ve left me disillusioned–because I haven’t tasted either. Rather, I think I’ve realised in the nick of time that those things won’t automatically bring fulfillment.

A few months ago I was skimming the bios of a speaker lineup for a high-profile online summit. All of the bios had a crisp, professional headshot and the text went something like this: Mr. Incredible is a best-selling author and a leader in the online world who grew his platform from 50 to 500,000 in 6 months. He continues to inspire thousands of people around the globe with his dynamic speaking tours, and has raised 5 million dollars for charity while building his Fortune 500 company and being a dad to his 2.5 children. In 2015, he was awarded a Gold Star and named “Young Entrepreneur of the Millennium.” He enjoys Scotch, training St. Bernard dogs, and relaxing in his home on Lake Tahoe.

As I read bio after bio that sounded exactly like this (with slightly different details), my eyes started to glaze over. But I knew how they all got there, more or less. They worked extremely hard. They worked overtime, then worked some more. They never stopped learning. They built connections with well-known gurus in their field. They always charged high, because someone was willing to pay what they asked. When the money started coming in, they reinvested it to build their team, level up their technology, create new products, re-brand and climb ahead to new heights.

waking up early

It actually sounded doable to me. But it also sounded costly. Not in terms of capital (although there would be that), but in investment of time, energy, emotions, and priorities.

Was Success worth it?

I weighed the cost for months. I talked with Eric about it. “I think I could make real money for us,” I said. “I know I have it in me, and wouldn’t it be wrong to squander my God-given talents?”

I kept working hard on my blog (which would be the vehicle–or at least the gas pedal–for achieving my dreams), while still giving my home, family, and my other side business the attention they needed.

I listened to webinars and signed up for free courses on How to Be Successful (as a writer, as an influencer, as a business mom…the list goes on). While I tuned in to the gurus I also listened to my friends.

The gurus told me I could do and have it all, but my friends told me to be cautious. My blogging friends who are further along the path towards Success confirmed that there is a dark underbelly to this journey. That it’s all too easy to become a workaholic. To get burned out emotionally, spiritually, physically. That everything you say “yes” to means saying “no” to something else–and that sometimes, your family gets more “nos” than anything.


That put up a red flag for me, but I still couldn’t let go of what was possible. Giving up my ambitions would be copping out. It would mean that fear and self-doubt were the real things holding me back from Success. It might mean that I was actually lazy. It might mean that I was settling.

After months of thinking–in the shower, on the lawn while I watched my baby play, in moments of abstraction while I did the dishes–I finally found clarity by speaking one thought aloud:

“All I really want is Green Gables.”

Mom and I were taking a walk down the gravel road that borders our lake, and Little Dude was strapped in the Boba at my chest.

I talked about how Matthew and Marilla worked hard–they certainly weren’t lazy or uninteresting people! They were rooted in their little community, and they created a flourishing, beautiful haven at Green Gables that Anne treasured despite all of her high ambitions, lofty ideals, and glimpses of the fancy world beyond Prince Edward Island.

Choosing less on purpose

In the sweet, simple pleasures of everyday life as a homemaker and mom, I’ve often felt that I already have my own Green Gables story. It certainly felt like it as I walked that afternoon with Little Dude hugged close.

There will be many more years of hard work as Eric and I build our home together and raise our family. There will be things to dream about together and plan for and wait for. We don’t even have a house of our own, yet.

But we’re ambitious.

We’re ambitious for a joyful, cozy home where our family feels safe and happy to be alive. Where we can cherish life’s simple abundance and learn the secret to being content because we know the source of all our blessings is God.

It’s a different kind of ambition than I thought I’d chase, but now I’m remembering that it’s what I always wanted.


No, we won’t have enough money to do all the things on our bucket lists, to go on all the trips we want to take, eat the trendy foods, or lavish our children with every meaningful experience we want to give them. I will probably never be a well-known name or keep a nation spellbound with my words.

I’m choosing less.

Instead of climbing high I’m choosing to go deep, to put down roots where I’m planted and help my small corner of the world to flourish. I’m at home with Simple, and settling there doesn’t feel like giving up my dreams…it feels like waking up to the beautiful life I already have.

Small things are beautiful, too! (I love this quote by Dwight L. Moody!)

Update 2/29/2020: Four years later, we’re continuing our “root work” with our simple life in the suburbs. You can read about it here.


  1. Wow Elsie, this is powerful. The eternal implications of your choice to go deep will resonate in eternity as clearly as any worldly glory or accomplishment could. God wants our faithfulness in the little things –in the life that He has given us and called us to –and He will bless it!

  2. Great post, Elsie! You’ve articulated well something that the Lord’s been impressing upon my heart over the past year – I don’t have to live a “big” story; the story that He’s writing for me is full and beautiful, and more than enough, no matter how it’s viewed by the world. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. “It’s a different kind of ambition than I thought I’d chase, but now I’m remembering that it’s what I always wanted.”

    This resonates with me so much. In fact, the whole post does. Thank you so much for writing this. For being humble and teachable, and then sharing it with us. And I love the Green Gables analogy. It has made me think more of what I already have, how rich I already am, and to consider more what I really want.

    In blogging terms, what does this mean for you? You will continue writing, just at a slower pace? I am interested because I can really relate. Actually, I wish I could take you out for coffee and chat about all of this. 😉

    1. Thank you, Lisa!(: I really wish we could go out for coffee, too! I would totally take you up on that if we lived closer! (I’m in Alabama, is that close?) My pace has already been pretty slow over the last couple years (about 1 blog post per week, and one newsletter). After the new year I might actually increase it to two posts per week, because I won’t be doing regular VA work anymore. I’m also dropping, or in the process of downsizing the following:

      – A contributor position
      – Time spent reading business/professional development books and eCourses
      – Time spent watching blogging webinars and summits
      – Facebook groups (I decided to just stay in a couple of personal masterminds and 2 blogger community groups)
      – Facebook in general (I found a way to kill my FB newsfeed on my laptop, so no distraction there!)
      – Email lists I’m subscribed to (just keeping a handful!)

      I decided to make my online time a little more regimented, with clearer boundaries. So instead of letting blogging and online work and business bleed into anywhere it flows, I’ll ONLY get out my laptop at certain times of day. Also, I’m treating blogging time like I do housework–one task each day. Monday I might spend my work hours scheduling Facebook, Tuesday responding to emails, Wednesday doing site maintenance and improvements, Thursday writing posts, etc. Not sure of the deats, yet, but something like that.

      I think I’ve gained a lot of great blogging knowledge in the last 5 years, and now I just need to tune out the constant chatter and new information and instead utilize what I’ve already learned, write posts that I think are interesting, and connect with readers and fellow bloggers in a fun, authentic way.

      But overall, blogging and online work has just taken up too much of my life’s pie, and I want to make it a smaller slice now. It’s not unimportant by any means, but I’m just so full of OTHER THINGS I want to do, and I know I can’t build Green Gables through a keyboard.

  4. Completely unrelated to anything else: you have my alarm clock!!

    Silly thing to notice and it’s not like I know a lot of people to the point of visiting their houses and seeing what they have for alarm clocks but I hadn’t ever run into another one like mine.

    Have had it for about 16 years now.

    (Excellent article otherwise.)

    1. Nice! Yep, I’ve had mine for about 16 years, too! It’s been all over the world with me, and in and out of classrooms with rowdy students…it’s still going strong! I love it!

  5. This is very good and totally my heart. We forget that, in the old days, people like Marilla worked hard in their homes and therefore, influenced the community {and, sometimes, the world}. If we’re not fully committed in our little sphere, we won’t be able to truly love our neighbours as ourselves {and literally, our neighbours}. Your family are so worth it.

    1. Well said! I just explored your blog and came across your “Daring to Live a Quiet Life” post. That one rang true for me, too–I can tell we’re on the same page!

  6. I just love this post! I found your blog by chance and I was immediately attracted to it. Thank you for putting online what is on your heart so that others can be inspired by it.

  7. Fabulous! I hope you get your Green Gables life. I’ve been on the same bio pages for the summits, and I agree– they make me a little crazy.

    Okay, a lot crazy. Thanks for the reminder to step away!

  8. This is EXACTLY why I follow your blog. I think I found you randomly through a Pinterest link and read about 4 sentences before my heart said “You resonate with this writing”. So thankful for this grounded perspective. My mind is so full as my newly married 22 year old self looks forward in life and anticipates what do I want and where is God leading and what does the future hold? And as I process, you’ve come alongside and helped through the way you write. I’m thankful for the ‘friendship’ I get to have with you through following your posts.

    1. Really? Thank you so much! Your comment made me tear up. I am so grateful to you for expressing this. I am 28 now, and have also been working through and processing these things since I was a newlywed at 21. It sounds like your heart’s desire resonates with mine–to live an examined life authentically and gracefully. As meandering as life can be (especially when we’re young and not fully “settled,”) isn’t it reassuring to be rooted in Christ? I can not imagine living intentionally without Him!

  9. Wonderful post. My story is a similar one. I pushed hard toward success in blogging for about 18 months until finally I burnt out and realized my husband and I weren’t even on the same page as far as goals. This past year has been one of me pulling back slowly. I’ve gone from pumping out 3 posts per week to 1-2 per month. I’ve even paused my weekly newsletter because I just need the space. Why isn’t average enough anymore? Why do we always seem to push for more? I for one want to live a simple, quiet life and hopefully encourage some people along the way. Thanks you for your wise and timely words.

  10. Hi Elsie,
    This post could not have come at a more perfect time in my life, it brought me to tears. Over the past 4 years I have been struggling with this. Like you so perfectly discussed, if you don’t live society’s version of a “big” life, it feels as if you are being lazy or not living up to your potential. I currently work part-time, but my main focus is as a SAHM. However, the pressures to be “more” can be overwhelming at times. Thank you for your beautiful, reassuring post!!

    1. You’re welcome, Sarah, and thank you so much for telling me! The pressures to do and be more might not ever go away, but we can daily make it a choice to embrace contentment and our own beautiful, “lesser” lives.

  11. Thank you for this perspective. It’s so easy to get googly eyes, but I too choose less. What’s funny is that when I think about it, it’s not less at all! I love the Green Gables analogy, by the way. 😊

  12. Hi Elsie – Found your website after typing “Are blogs old school?” into Google. I hung around your site for a while, feeling like I’d just made a new friend, and I stumbled upon your Green Gables blog. Yes, I feel this way too. I love this: “Instead of climbing high I’m choosing to go deep.” After much soul-searching, I have come to this conclusion as well. So nice to find another gentle soul. Blessings to you. Marilyn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *