Life is inherently simple. It is we who are complicated. So many of us fill every available moment and square inch of space with doing, buying, and striving. Our physical and mental “stuff,” that we think will make us happy if we have more of it. But this addiction to busyness is killing us. Stress and overconsumption are contributing to the overwhelming abundance of disease and destruction affecting people and the Earth today. To find our way back to personal and collective health, it may be time to do less and to live simply.
Wherever you are in the world, whatever your work or family, you can simplify your life so that your energy and the Earth’s resources are less strained. This will allow more space for you to actually enjoy being alive.
This might be the key to living a simple life. Evaluate your work, hobbies, relationships, and home environment. Discover what actually matters to you, the activities and projects that feel meaningful to you. And let go of everything else. This could be as small as saying “no” to a soul-numbing social event, or as large as completely changing your profession. Find out what really matters to you, and focus on that.
Give It Away
Most people in industrialized nations have more stuff than we need. Look around your house, and place all your belongings in one of three mental categories: useful, beautiful, or unnecessary. If there are things in your home (and your car, workplace, etc.) that are neither useful to you nor pleasing to your eyes and heart, then give them away. Make space for space.
Think Before You Buy
Shopping for the sake of it is expensive for your wallet and the planet. Before you buy something new, be sure that you actually need it. Can you repair or refurbish something you already have, borrow it from a neighbor, or do without it? Will it contribute to your life in a meaningful and important way? Make everything you buy fit into one of the primary categories – useful for your life or nourishing for your soul.
Schedule Free Time
It’s crazy that we have to schedule free time, but for some people that is the only way to have moments of spaciousness and simplicity. Have at least one day a week in which you plan nothing and have no obligations beyond caring for yourself and your family (and get help to care for your children if possible). Be as spontaneous as possible that day. Bonus points for keeping the computer and phone turned off for at least part of this day.
Choose Distractions Carefully
We all love our little distractions and peculiar interests, and that is one of the joys of being human in this age. Just choose entertainment that is enriching and life-affirming, things that help you be happier and healthier. Let your distractions be as “unplugged” and engaging as possible, choosing a book over the Internet, or an outside sport instead of TV.
Cultivate Meaningful Friendships
At the end of life, most people measure their happiness by their loved ones and the depth of shared connection. You only have so much available energy and time. Spend it creating friendships that are mutually uplifting and truly contribute to your quality of life.
Make It Yourself
This goes along with the idea of buying less stuff. Whenever possible make the food you eat and the things you give and consume. The time invested in making something will help you slow down and enjoy life.
He who works harder does not necessarily accomplish more. Some of the most successful people in the world only work 6 to 20 hours a week at most. The key is to be more focused, innovative, and committed to your work, using the time you are working well so that you accomplish more with less effort.
Honor the Value of Your Attention
This is an issue of self-worth. It will be easier for you to simplify if you recognize that your attention is valuable and limited, and you should invest it wisely. This means being mindful of you read, watch, listen to, and with whom you spend time.
Perfectionism is the death of simplicity. Learn to accept yourself and your humanness, so you are less likely to complicate your life trying to improve yourself. Let it be okay if you make a mistake or forget to wash a dish so that you can put your time and energy into enjoying life.
The simple life is not always an easy thing to experience in our busy world. It may require a process of letting go and prioritizing. Start small, clearing out one cluttered drawer or giving yourself one free afternoon. Over time, become increasingly selective with what you bring into your home and life. Allow simplicity to become a guiding principle for life slowly and steadily, and remember the beauty of space.