Creating space in the chaos, finding clarity of thought & coming back to center through simple living
Closets full of clothes, jam-packed work schedules, compulsive consumption, overwhelming social calendars…At second glance, what we call the pursuit of happiness, might just be the very root of our stress.
Simplicity is trending, and for good reason. Simple living doesn’t mean moving to a tiny homes, adopting minimalist design and owning one coat, nor does it require you to live like a hermit in a hillside hut. You can keep your book collection, your lunch dates and your shoes, if you have decided that they bring you value. If not, consider paring down.
Fast fashion, cheap goods and an obsession with ownership face a rebellion driven by a slice of society that instead values quality and sharing. There is no one lifestyle fits all, so the real question is, does your lifestyle fit you? Does it align with your values, bring you fulfillment or hamper your clarity?
Start by slowing your pace and paring down, you might be surprised by the benefits that trickle down into how you think, interact and feel.
1. Start with Stuff: Paring Down
For many of us, sorting through those boxes in the attic, that old makeup bag or a junk drawer has been on the to-do list for years. Deep down, we know it would feel good. From minimalism experts to fengshui gurus, there are plenty of sources out there to advise you on how to best pare down. More important than how, is when.
Start now. Look around your desk or in your purse, anywhere nearby. Do you have two staplers when you only need one? Is there a book you bought three years ago and still haven’t read? What about that old keyboard you’ve been meaning to donate or that pen you’ve never liked? Find one or two cardboard boxes and place them around the house. Whenever you find something that doesn’t bring you value, toss it. At the end of the week, throw away, recycle, donate or gift the items you’ve collected. Bring the box home and continue.
Observe how you feel. Simple living and minimalism have caught fire because the process of getting there feels good. Modern society driven by commercialism tells us that acquisition, consumption and ownership reflect success. We learn that new is better than old and more is better than less. Even now, you’ll find those words have strong negative and positive connotations.
Tackling physical challenges is an effective way to jumpstart an internal transformation. As our consumption becomes purposeful, so do our lives. As we surround ourselves with meaningful items, our lifestyle becomes less careless.
2. Stop the Rush: Slowing Down
Not all status symbols have to be physical possessions. Our schedules serve to convince ourselves and the world of our value. Being extremely busy, stressed and high strung is a sign of success in today’s world. People typing on their laptops in the airplane, talking on their phones in the waiting room or rushing around on the weekends, garner our admiration. They have full lives, they are accomplished, they are in demand.
Valuing downtime, alone time or free time does not mean you are lonely, unwanted or boring. What if we lived in a culture that didn’t encourage us to brag about how busy we are or how many tasks we’ve checked off the list? What if we measured our days by something else?
Just like paring down, slowing down is not easy, removing distractions never is. Budget in time for a lazy morning and, the bigger challenge, instead of feeling guilty, tell your friends about it. You won’t be able to start down the path toward simple living if you don’t face the biggest challenge of all: saying no. Lightening your schedule creates space for spontaneity, creativity and rejuvenation. Try it for a week, a month or forever. Learn to say no to friends, family and employers. You’ll be left with so much more to give.
3. Reap the Rewards of Simple Living: Calming Down
Nowadays, the pursuit of happiness resembles a frantic hunt for more. The accumulation of things and the cluttering of our physical space, keep us busy and distracted — cleaning and organizing at home, or searching and shopping outside. Running from one obligation to another has the same effect.
When we slow down to look around, we see that most members of society are doing the same, so we dive back into the race and keep going.
When was the last time you sat still and alone in an empty room? Rarely do we stop to bask in our own completeness — an inherent state impervious to how many hours we’ve put in on the social circuit lately or how snazzy our new winter wardrobes are. Paring down and slowing down help us let go of the low-level anxiety that often accompanies our days when we roll along in autopilot.
Stripping our lives down to what matters, choosing what to put in our homes and our agenda books is a gateway to acting purposefully. Simple living brings with it other side effects: clarity, awareness and resolve — not to mention the calmness that comes with the realization that you have the power of choice every single day.
As the designer of your own life, you set the pace and you determine what matters.
What are your thoughts on simple living? Please share any comments, experiences or tips below.
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