Living Simply: How to Get Started Living Intentionally
Part 1 of a 5-part series on living simply.
Do you find life overly complicated? I do.
Are the complications of life, a busy schedule, and just too much stuff stressing you out? Yup.
Would you rather roll over and pull the covers over your head when the alarm goes off? Far too often.
Have you ever thought about learning how to live simply?
Simple is not complicated.
Simple is not elaborate.
Simple is not cluttered.
In more positive terms,
Simple is easy to understand.
Simple is real.
Simple is calm.
How Did Life Get So Complicated in the First Place?
It’s not like you wake one morning and say to yourself, “I want to live in the middle of the chaos and stress caused by a complicated and cluttered, busy life.” It didn’t become that way overnight. Clutter comes at you by degrees. It grew into the chaotic mess it is today little bit by little bit each week.
Life seemed simple as you progressed through your high school years, but then you graduated. Adulthood became real when you left for college, got your first full-time job, or moved out on your own. Did you load up all your stuff and take it with you, or did Mom and Dad allow you to leave things you couldn’t part with at their home?
Maybe marriage followed, and you and your beloved combined your belongings into one home. After all, how could you throw out the blue ribbon-winning drawing that you did in high school art? How could you get rid of the yearbooks that everybody signed wishing you the best in the future? And that first couch that your spouse found at a garage sale? Yes, it was too big for the room, but the two of you made it work.
Children, if they entered your life, created the desire to collect special mementos as they grew. How could you throw away that abstract clay snowman or that display board from the science fair? Things found their way into drawers and boxes until one day there was no more room.
You began to collect items that you needed for work, for the activities you enjoy, and for the enjoyment of just collecting.
As a high school English/theater teacher, I collected novels and anthologies, items that could be used as props, and student supplies. I never knew when those extra pens or pencils would be needed, and when I retired from teaching, those items found storage in my basement.
Art and craft supplies, gardening equipment and pots, fishing tackle, and camping gear have gathered in my home and garage. Although the old should have been tossed years ago, it still has residency.
As a kid, I collected small banks. (I still have them.) My mother and grandmother collected glassware and china, collector spoons, and jewelry. (Yup, it all got passed down to me, and I still have it all.)
Instead of tossing things away, it became common practice to just move the stuff to a less prominent place. I’d have time to deal with it later, but later never arrived. If I invited family or friends over, I would deposit the stuff lying on the tables, counters, and couches into a box or tote and squirrel it away in a closet or the basement. I could go through it all later, but later never arrived. It never arrived because there were job changes, activities and responsibilities of being an adult and a parent, and the busyness of life.
And it is not just the possessions we own that complicate our lives, it is also the desire to be involved in our children’s and spouse’s lives. Yes, I’ll bake cookies for the bake sale. Yes, we can go to both your company’s summer picnic and the kid’s softball game on the same day. Yes, your relatives can stay here when they visit. And the list of yeses goes on and on and on.
If the chaos of a complicated life is causing you stress, maybe you need to consider the idea of living simply.
What Does It Mean to Live Simply?
Living simply is a catchphrase that is growing in popularity, but living simply means something different to each of us because each of us is unique.
At its basic concept, living simply is living mindfully and focusing intentionally on everything in YOUR life that YOU can control.
Living simply means living without the stuff and activities that cause you stress. Living without the latest, greatest gadgets. Consuming less. In other words, being present in the decisions you make.
It doesn’t necessarily mean living off-grid, growing your own food, and being self-sufficient. Although, to many people, simple living is just that.
Living simply requires you to focus on figuring out what YOU feel is necessary for your life. It requires YOU to ignore consumer advertising and celebrity hype about what is important to own or do.
Living simply means figuring out what is actually important to you and the difference between your needs and wants. It means figuring out why you want something you don’t necessarily need.
Living simply is not what you have or don’t have. Living simply requires you to figure out what you believe is important and what you want to give priority.
When we live simply, we put value in relationships and the time we spend with the people who are important to us rather than buying things for them that we might not be able to afford. We gain time we didn’t have before because saying no to something that will cause you stress is as valuable as saying yes to something that will bring you joy. We gain space within our home when we minimize our possessions. We save money when we only purchase what we need instead of what consumer advertising and celebrities tell us we should have. We gain energy because we are eliminating what causes us stress. We start to focus on what really matters in life.
Living simply is about keeping only the things that we value, and realizing that what we value can change over time. It allows us to keep things that bring joy or spark a memory. It’s about collecting memories rather than materialistic things. It’s about capturing the memories with our present mind rather than always capturing the memory in a photograph.
What about you?
How complicated is your life right this very minute? Is it time for you to start thinking about making your life a bit simpler? Please take a moment to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
Join me for the rest of the month as we explore how to live a simpler life.
Until next time . . .
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