5 Ways to Simplicity – The New Luxury.
“Simplifying was my first step to self actualization”
– from “You can buy happiness. (And it’s cheap.)”
As I pack more and more of my belongings to donate or throw away, I feel lighter and better.
Moving is often an opportunity to throw away trash that was once a treasure – worth spending money for.
I always loved the idea of simplicity, in the past even minimalism, yet at the same time I will be one of the first to admit: material things can contribute to our happiness if we enjoy them, if they give us something beyond just owning it. Desperate attachment to them – less so. But I also experienced that if I have too many of them, they take space even in my mind.
Overwhelm is a part of life. Sometimes we put too much on our plate to get ahead, to have a better life later. Example might be working and studying. But what if the overwhelm last years, lowers the quality of your life, leads to exhaustion on mental and physical level?
You may hear all the time now, people everywhere tell stories how they left corporate jobs, how they decided to focus more on what matters to them, how they earn much less (not all – some earn much more) and how they are happier. Much happier. They downsize, sometimes taking it to the extreme; shrinking their houses and wardrobes. While living with less and on less – they discovered what it means to be “really living”. That would suggests:
You invite meaning to your life each time you simplify it.
These days simplicity is the new luxury.
Everything that we may associate with simplicity, before we contemplate it, is not a part of it.
- There is nothing about deprivation. Simplicity brings a sense of liberation.
- It is not simplistic. Simplicity more often means: sophistication.
- It’s not about taking life to 19th century. Quality of life is a priority.
I don’t advocate reducing your belongings to fit into an overhead bin suitcase.
I need to make an important point here.
I think simplicity (just like medicine, diet, spirituality) needs to be custom adjusted to you, your values, needs, and life as it is now. It’s not always about downsizing. Simplifying can be upsizing to a home where everything finally has its place, it can be buying less plastic trash made in China, and more quality things that last.
One person may have a happily simple life in a 3000 sf home, while others may be excited AND liberated in a 130 sf home (yes, there are such. Ok.. so it may be a suitcase, after all…) One person may be happy doing project 333, while for others – including me – it would make life more difficult, and I know that quite few of you would feel absolutely deprived.
For me – simplifying is less about the quantity of things and more about how it makes us feel. We are aiming for LIGHT, GOOOOD, LIBERATING.
Action or no action. Where do we start?
When you find something new to do or something to give up – go by the feeling.
- Does it feel good or not?
- Light or heavy?
- Liberating or depriving?
- Does it make you feel guilty or free? (sometimes you may feel guilty about doing something good for yourself. It may go away with time)
Think of an area of life that is frustrating, overwhelming. This is where you may start applying small changes. I promise every single one will make a difference! Below I only give examples of things we can do, but don’t rely just on this. Only you can come up with a blend of actions that will make the biggest difference in your life.
1.TIME. Time Trading.
Free up your time. Your schedule is your life. Each hour that passes is traded for something. Ask yourself: is it worth it?
Immediate action – to do today: Is everything you put into your schedule worth your time? What can be delegated, cut down, or completely eliminated from your schedule?
- You may notice activities, projects that you have to manage, but they are not bringing in anything valuable.
- You may notice that you are taken for granted…
- One high maintenance person asks for help all the time (and it’s not your mother, so you can say: no) but you feel obligated as if you had a contract with them.
Here is my own example: I really don’t like volunteering. Yet, some time ago I decided this is something I should be doing to feel useful, and I invested 2.5 years into volunteering for children. The result was: I felt completely depleted of energy. And still I kept doing it because I promised. The promise was more important that instant gratification of freeing up my time. So there are choices we make because of our values, and we make the choices in our own time.
Immediate action / non action, to do now: Come back to “here and now”. Stop reading. Notice where you are, place awareness on your breath, close your eyes. Create those windows of time when you can come back to this moment. Because life consists of these moments. I’m not sure if we can live completely in here and now, (is it possible?), but we can always do a better job on coming back and remembering. This is simplicity and this will lead you to create simpler schedule.
Long term plan: How do you trade your life? How much and what do you get for each day you spend at work?
When you simplify, you trade your life for money in a meaningful way. (Is this idea completely out of question? Remember there were many people who did this before you. YOU WILL DO IT if the pain of staying in the job that’s “killing you” is greater than the following, combined: the discomfort of creating something new, the fear of the unknown, and the pain of stepping out of your comfort zone. And if you want to / have to stay in your job and crave something different: start doing even a little bit of that every week. The satisfaction and joy will help you survive the time at work you don’t like, until you make the decision to change it.
2. SPACE. Expand or shrink?
Remove excess. Organize what’s left.
If you ever suffocated in your own home – what did you o about it? When you remove from your space unnecessary items, it will bring a sense of calmness to you. (not if you have horror vacui, but then you are not reading the post). Eliminate all items that have no use and those you don’t like. This moment will show you your attachment to the material. No, it’s not a bad thing. Just see what those things mean to you.
Example: Moving across the ocean I took with me all letters I ever received. Some of them are over 20 years old. Recently I shrank that collection. I left only those from people I developed meaningful friendships with. If a letter didn’t bring warm feeling to my heart- it was gone.
There must be some thrift stores in your area that will sell your donated stuff, while supporting a good cause, like this one in Phoenix: Boxer Luv Rescue.
There are usually several items in our closets that we hope to wear one day, but the day never comes. (Fashion is cyclical, but will it come back just when we lost the 25 excess pounds? ) Donate, destroy.
Making space is also about allowing something fresh and new into our life.
It is always the downsizing that we need to force ourselves to, never upsizing. That is why there is no point saying that if you are cramped in 1 bedroom, you should buy a 3 bedroom apartment in a new york minute.
3. TECHNOLOGY. Trading real connections for time with a computer?
If you are a younger person you may not know this: long, long time ago humans worried what they will do with all the free time they will have once the technology is available to them… I know, right?! Of course it is helpful,but we’re skillful in finding ways to drain our time thru our hi-tech toys.
Even if you use them to grow your business, being active on all social media is impossible if you do it on your own. Do the research, find out what 3-4 will be the best for your type of business.
The most depressing thing people may do is to stare into TV (numbing, conditioning) or facebook couple hours a day.Why? Thru technology we try to fulfill our basic need for connection. It may work to some degree thru private conversations, but there is something else you can do instead, to feel really connected with others.
- One on one. It’s more time effective and will make you feel much better: call your friend, your sister, meet someone for coffee.
- Sometimes the only being available for you is your pet. Is technology taking away from you spending time with it? Are the walks shorter? See it from its perspective…
- If you haven’t – try the most nourishing connection – with nature.
Of all things on the list I think this one may be the most difficult for people to give up. If you used to have a TV in every room and on your outdoor patio, apparently you love it, so who am I to tell you to “try” something else.
4. SHOPPING. The Mindful Way.
Perhaps some of these questions might help you to simplify this passionate activity:
- What do the things really mean to you?
- Ask yourself before you reach for your wallet: “Why do I really want buy this?”, “Will it become my baggage or my asset?”, “Do I buy necessity or identity?”, “What would be a better use of these money?”, ” Will it be yet another thing I need to manage?”
- Can you free yourself from fashion a little?
- Do you shop consciously? Do you “vote with your dollar”? Do you care where the thing was made and is it cruelty free?
5. VALUES. Clear Life’s Direction.
When we know our values – many choices we need to make become simple.
- If you know your priorities it’s much easier to make a good decision under pressure, or in an emotionally difficult moment, when it’s hard to think straight.
- Unless you are a part of greek tragedy, you will save time agonizing over your choices.
- You won’t get into trouble as often.
Did you simplify your life or are you in the process? Tell us what have you learned so far.