“Our lives are frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify.”
~Henry David Thoreau
The concept of simplification means different things to different people. It is an idea that asks you to take a constant inventory of all the areas of your life for the purpose of reducing the items that are non-essentials. Also known as voluntary simplicity, it can be summed up in thee idea of living in a way that rejects the mass consumption lifestyle that so many people in our culture choose to live. Letting go of what no longer serves you by living on less often means gaining more, in terms of quality of life and personal connections, both to friends and family and the natural world.
Many people who engage in voluntary simplicity are amazed to discover that ancient spiritual wisdom actually holds true in this regard, and that living a simple life is often a contributor towards greater happiness while reducing anxiety. Being simple in our needs and desires leads to less unnecessary consumption, and often predicates a more full and complete sense of being. Voluntary simplicity and living with less stuff in this consumption oriented society takes a serious effort, but the reward of peace of mind and a heightened sense of connection is worth it, for yourself, the people in your life, and the natural environment.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex … it takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
Making The Switch
In order to simplify your life in this way you need to allow yourself two things… First, slow and steady lifestyle shifts are the ones that tend to be more sustainable in the long run. Their opposite, the radical shift is no more than a fad decision that will have no lasting effect on you or the world. Next, being mindful of your possessions and over consuming tendencies will help you start down your path to understanding that ‘not wanting’ is often ‘better than having for the sake of having’. Listen to the voice that asks “Do I really need this?” and take action to reduce the clutter in your life when the answer is “No”.
“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
If you’re the kind of person that needs a few actionable tips to get started, the following are some quick and easy ways to get started today.
Simplify Your Clothing
Clothes that you never wear take up a lot of space, both in your closet, and (believe it or not) in your mind. Keeping a shirt that doesn’t fit just because you like the design adds workload to your brain that you really don’t have to have. Decide what clothes you’ll absolutely wear and if there’s any question, donate them.
Live in the moment as much as possible. You may find that you perceive your environment in a much different way. It can give you a new awareness of how your consumption affects others, and encourage you as you continue to choose to live simply.
Routines simplify many areas of your life because they help in the creation of habits. Decluttering habits can be formed by routinely tidying your house for 10 minutes every day when you get home from work. Don’t go overboard, but apply a few routines such as a morning and an evening routine to help you consistently simplify your life.
De-cluttering means to remove permanently. Are you constantly fighting a cabinet full of pots and pans that you rarely use? Let them go! See what it feels like to get by less. Is your garage full to the door with dusty boxes of stuff? Consider removing them, lightening your load and moving forward without all that whatever-it-is in your way…
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Simple Is Better
As you work to simplify your life, keep in mind that voluntary simplicity is both as much about removing material items as it is lightening the load on your spirit. You may find yourself saying “No” more often to engagements that may harm your divinely simple week. That’s a good thing. You’ll find more time to understand yourself, what you need to be comfortable, and what you don’t need to involve your mind in.