T is for Tilting: A-Z of Simple Living

Tilting #simple #simplicity
{via Kate McGovern}

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?


Tilting isn’t normally seen as a good thing. It’s something strange and off-putting. It’s even something to be feared, because anything that’s tilting is surely unstable. Think the Tower of Pisa or a rickety bridge.

The reason we think tilting is bad is that we’ve been fed the myth of balance for too long. We think that to be in control means to be balanced across all areas. No leaning. No wavering. No tilting.

To me, and those of you who have read my book, ‘Destination: Simple’ have heard this already, tilting is a positive. And it’s definitely preferable to being balanced.

Essentially it’s denying the idea that everything needs to be perfectly balanced. That we need to perfectly manage the needs of everyone  and everything in our life, every day. And that anything less is a failure.

But What About Finding Balance?

If you look at balance as something you need to achieve every day – keeping the scales evenly weighted between your partner, your kids, your family, friends, yourself, your spirituality, health, keeping the home, your work – you simply won’t be able to do it. Because each day brings different challenges, different tasks and different needs from your life.

I am here to tell you that this balancing act is a complete myth. And you should forget about achieving it, because you won’t.

Instead, you need to learn to tilt. To willingly throw things out of balance. And, importantly, to be OK with that.

Actually, you need to embrace it.

A Definition of Tilting

‘Tilting’ is an idea I discovered on Sarah Wilson’s blog and it struck me as wholly sensible, simple, beautiful, flexible and forgiving.

A 2009 study by Marcus Birmingham asked the question “What are happy women doing differently?” And the response was not – as you may imagine – somehow striking the perfect balance between work/life/health/family/passions/spirituality.

“These happy women… realised that balance was impossible (and therefore stressful) to achieve, but also rather boring. Instead, they “tilted” towards activities and commitments they liked and found meaningful.

I love this idea. Tilting.

And here’s why: tilting doesn’t require putting the brakes on.

Braking constantly is exhausting. Saying “no” is exhausting and doing things for balance, rather than because it matters to you is, frankly, martyrish.

Tilting on the other hand is a positive flow forward, a moving “with” life.”


Sarah Wilson — sarahwilson.com.au

Essentially it’s about being aware of the changing pressures of life and being flexible.

Some days:

  • Your kids are happy to play independently – tilt towards catching up on tasks around the house.
  • Your kids are sick, or needy, or plain grumpy, meaning you can’t get anything done except the very basics. Tilt towards supporting the kids and being extra mindful of what’s going on for them.
  • Your partner is under added pressure at work. Tilt towards lessening the load on them at home.
  • You need to recharge. Tilt towards being kind to yourself and letting go of the things that don’t help with that.
  • You need to regain order at home. Tilt away from social engagements and towards time at home.
  • You have a busy time at work. Tilt towards simple meals, light home duties and simple rhythms.

See what I mean?

Tilting allows you to focus on what is important in the moment.

If this idea still makes you feel uncomfortably off-kilter, it can help to take a longer view of things. That is, instead of battling to find balance every day, it’s more important to create it over a month. Or a year.

How Do You Tilt?

It’s not a matter of learning a step-by-step approach. It’s more about adopting the mindset of tilting and keeping the idea in the back of your mind.

It’s about understanding – and accepting – the fact that you can not and will not ever achieve perfect balance. And what’s more, you probably wouldn’t want to.

Achieving and then maintaining a state of balanced perfection would be incredibly stressful and unfulfilling. Instead you need to understand that your time is limited and valuable.  And you can choose where to place your energies, depending upon where they need to be.

Ask yourself, what are your priorities in life?

  • caring for your kids, physically and emotionally?
  • supporting your partner?
  • being there for your family when they need you?
  • maintaining social relationships with friends?
  • working or creating to nourish yourself?
  • looking after your own health and well being?
  • finding contentment in life?
  • creating a home that is calm, warm and open to all those you love?

Then, one-by-one, think about how you have given each of those priorities time, effort and attention over the past six months.

Do they stack up? Do you feel confident that, over this period of time, you are giving them the attention they deserve? Are there any areas that don’t get enough from you? Can you see times where you consistently tilt the wrong way?

Keep in mind, you are the only one who can decide what this balance looks and feels like for you.

But if you keep your priorities in mind, you will find that tilting and adjusting your time and efforts will help you find a much better overall balance, than if you constantly battle to keep things even.


29 Responses to T is for Tilting: A-Z of Simple Living

  1. For someone who is supposedly about ‘simplifying’ why do you have to make things so darn complicated? Why can’t we all just live our lives without outside interference from people who think they know better ways of living than the rest of us? You don’t, and it is just pomposity to think any one knows best over another human being. We are all different and appreciate different things. Bossy people are never good for the soul and just serve to make people feel inferior.

    • Anon,
      There is nothing complicated about this.Are you being forced to read this? Perhaps you can simply unsubscribe. Negative people who attack anonymously are not good for the soul and your opinion of inferiority are of no concern to me.

    • I’m not entirely sure how this idea is complicating life. In fact, the entire point of it is to take away the pressure many of us feel to keep things perfectly in balance. I don’t think balance is a particularly positive goal to aim for, and in my life letting go of it has proven really beneficial and helped me simplify greatly. If that isn’t an issue in your life, then that’s wonderful, and perhaps this piece of advice won’t be helpful to you.

      As for your suggestions of my pomposity, arrogance and bossiness – I appreciate your point of view. I don’t agree with it, but I appreciate it nonetheless. You may have no need for insights or advice into simplifying your life, which is great. But there are many who are looking for strategies, suggestions and ideas on how to simplify theirs – a large number of them end up here on this blog. Nowhere do I say it is a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but I’m also not going to undermine my own experiences/insights by telling you why you or anyone else should ignore my advice.

      Of course everyone is free to live their lives “without outside interference from people who think they know better ways of living than the rest of us.” This post I wrote last week is all about just that, perhaps you missed it?


      Thanks, as always, for the comment. You’re right, we are all different, so a variety of opinions presented respectfully can only be a good thing.
      Brooke :)

    • “Your life, your way. My life, my way.”
      – Brooke McAlary

      I am responsible for my life and making the decisions that impact it. No one is telling me how to live my life through this blog, but rather, Brooke is sharing ideas which may be helpful, which may improve, and yes, simplify my life. I am more than capable of deciding if I want to implement these ideas or not. The idea of remaining flexible and adjusting to the requirements of life by “tilting” towards that which we enjoy is a healthy and valuable suggestion, which I will keep in mind. Perhaps Anon this idea is not for you, but personal attacks are unkind, unnecessary, and unacceptable.

    • Anon-
      Brooke isn’t making you or anyone else feel inferior. What you read on the internet, and how you feel about it is entirely up to you. Whatever it is in your life that is complicated, interfering, pompous or bossy, is almost certainly not at slowyourhome.com.

      I can’t tell you how refreshingly honest your perspective is.

  2. Reading this ‘idea’ of tilting puts a label onto what I have been doing. I used to be able to work every day and certain times and try to keep a schedule. Lately I have been just going with the flow and changing my priorities as they arise and it has kept me less stressed and more in tune with my family. I love that this post defines it.

  3. […] anything like me and struggle to find “balance” on a daily basis, then read this: ‘T’ is for Tilting: A-Z of Simple Living by Brooke McAlary. In short, Brooke discusses how “tilting” allows us to focus on what […]

  4. Hi Brooke,
    I just discovered your blog this evening and have spent some time reading several posts. Wonderful stuff! I’ve also got your book from amazon for my Kindle and am anxious to dig into it.

    I love this idea of tilting. I’m a snowboarder and it reminds me of how one must ride the snow. You are always tilting and moving the board around on the snow, reacting to conditions. You cannot ride “balanced” (that is, flat on the surface of the snow in a neutral position) or you will catch, slip or otherwise just tumble over.

    Anyway, I’m a graduate student, trying to figure out how to navigate my day-to-day life with very little (if any!) structure, and tilting makes so much sense. The trick is to figure out where to tilt when there are few outside / situational cues, like sick kids or a boss that needs a report run today. It’s hard to know if one day will be good for reading, or writing, or digging into research unless you try all those things. I’m going to think on it some more, but thanks for the food for thought!

  5. Brooke, I heard you on the “Beyond the To Do List” podcast and really love this idea of tilting in the flow of life. It is exhausting trying to balance – but tilting feels easier and more fluid. Thank you for your blog and for sharing your wisdom!

  6. Thank you! My new word!! Thank you for validating what I have been doing because I have no other choice and giving me a word and concept for it. It is definately the way to survive a busy life with many demands and interests . Tilting. Absolutely love it!

  7. I really appreciate the perspective provided in this article. It is interesting to hear how a word or construct can be so entirely subjective. For many people, it sounds like tilting is subjective, personalized balance. If the word balance makes someone feel constrained, tilting seems like a very practical alternative. To balance inherently requires being able to flow. The real culprit feels like it might be rigidity. When people view balance to mean a set, equal distribution of their time/energy/money, it seems like that is when struggle and resistance appear. Either way, either word (so long as it functions for you) it’s great to read a piece that provides you with a different framework and new language to better explore what works for each of us uniquely.