Living the simple life is not so simple. Not at first.
It requires letting go. And if you’ve grown up in a consumer society, where everything is readily available and abundant…and convenient…this can be a real challenge.
Here’s a telling test. Sit in a quiet room. Alone. No distractions whatsoever. And sit there for 20 – 30 minutes. In. Complete. Silence. Think you can do it? If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable, then you won’t be able to simplify. At least not right away. You can ease your way into it by starting with a few minutes a day and then building from there.
Living the simple life is living life on your own terms for your own pursuit of happiness, no matter what anyone else says. But you can’t live a simple life if you’re unwilling to let go of what you’re used to.
Therein lies the conflict…releasing what you’ve learned in the past in order to embrace a new way of living for your future. It can be quite painful, but it’s the kind of pain that pushes one forward. Think of it as physical therapy for the soul.
There was a time when I tried to be everything to everyone. But all I got was exhaustion, emptiness, feelings of failure and sadness. My health declined. I suffered migraines. I hated my life. That’s when I took a vow of simplicity. I wised up and pared down. Instead of a life of constant busy-ness and rushing, I chose a life of contemplation, creation, and connection with nature, the people I love, and the activities I enjoy doing.
Does this mean I have no distractions or complications? No. But I have much less of them because I have reduced them to make space for the more important things.
If you’re feeling called to lead a simple life but are struggling with the idea of letting go, here are some reflections to help you process:
While letting go can be difficult, it will become easier if you start with a one-day or one-week challenge, upon which you can expand. Let go of something for the allotted time period and see whether you like it or not. Keep a record of your observations.
Decluttering your home and work space will declutter your mind. As you open up space in your environment, you free up your mind. Less time will be devoted to finding things once you establish an organizational system that works for you (you may have to train your family on your new system).
Waking early is a gift and gives you the time to go into your day unrushed. Use this time to read, write, meditate, and center yourself.
Let go of watching the news or programs that fill you with anxiety or fear. Negative energy breeds more negative energy. Also, get away from watching commercials that want you to buy things you don’t really need.
While social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are a great way to stay in touch and share with others, they can be a source of frustration and much pain for some people, especially when those people begin comparing what’s happening (or not) in their lives to what’s happening in the lives of others. Reducing your dependency on such sites opens up space for you to begin creating a better life for yourself.
Waiting for the right time to do something is wasting time. You have to make time, especially for what is important: time with your spouse, time with your kids, time for creating, time for exercise, time for nature, time for self.
Learning to say no gets easier. Reducing your number of commitments reduces your level of stress. Overcommitment is a cardinal sin against simple living. The less you agree to do the more time you will have for yourself. Choose the commitments that are most important to you.
You don’t need to change addresses or move deep into the backcountry to discover simplicity. You can create it right where you are. Simple living is all about self-reliance. It’s about taking your life out of the hands of others and into your own hands.
What will it take for you to live simply?