Choosing a life of simplicity does not mean you must live an austere life. No one is telling that by “buying into” simple living, that you have to sell all your possessions, shave your head and live out the rest of your life in the mountains of Nepal. You don’t have to give up modern day conveniences like internet, smart phones or flushing toilets. You don’t have to even wear second-hand clothes, if you don’t want to.
Simple living is conscious living. It requires shifting ourselves from a consumer mindset, to a citizen mindset. It requires critical thinking; looking past the messages we are exposed to everyday that we are not good enough, successful enough, smart enough, fashionable enough. As though buying the latest iPhone, or that sleek car will somehow make you everything you ever wanted to be. You know how the story goes though. As soon as you buy something, because everyone has it, the newest version comes out. You are once again no longer enough. There is a reason there are new trends every few months – preying on our deepest basic human desires to belong and to feel worthy is good for big businesses bottom line.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The past 60 years have seen us gain more material wealth, bigger houses and more money than at any other time in history, but our happiness levels have not increased. Rates of depression, anxiety and stress-related illness have, however. If we continue to look to consumer goods to meet or satisfy our needs, can we ever really find true and lasting happiness? As the wise Socrates once said (over two thousand years ago, at that), happiness cannot be found in seeking more, but in learning to enjoy less. When we recognize that our worth in society is not defined by what we have, but by our character and contributions, the acquisition of more begins to seem less and less necessary.
Choosing simplicity is not only good for the wallet, it’s good for the soul. Making a conscious decision to live outside what has become the current societal norm means that instead of falling for clever advertising and marketing ploys (“It was on sale!”), you can make rational, thoughtful decisions about what you choose to bring in your life. Living with less means that you have more time to appreciate and be grateful for what you already own. The possessions you acquire will serve you, rather than you being a slave to them. Your life satisfaction and happiness will no longer be measured by how many gadgets or shoes you have. You might find satisfaction, instead, in volunteering to help others less fortunate than you. Or, in reading a good book (borrowed from the library, of course!), that offers you new perspective and insight, helping you make positive changes in your life. In soul-nurturing quality time with good friends. In the ache in your legs after a gruelling hike, which was worth it to see the breath-taking views from the top of the mountain. Perhaps you may begin to realize that beyond a warm bed, food in your belly and quality relationships, you really don’t need much else in life.
Choosing to decrease the amount of things you bring into your home should not be looked upon has a restriction or limitation. Shift your perspective – think of the freedom that it can bring! Less time trying to organize, clean, maintain, find, what you own. Your financial resources can be freed up to realize your dreams, that until now have seemed impossible – to become debt-free, to travel, to work less, to spend more time with family and on leisurely pursuits, to retire earlier, to quit your job – the possibilities are simply endless.
As you further embrace the idea, and travel along your journey of living with less, maybe selling everything you own, and escaping to another part of the world might not seem so crazy after all.
Less stuff. More fun.
So tell me, have you tried embracing simple living in your life? What benefits have you seen? What were the challenges?