“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I have always loved these words of Thoreau. I have not always lived by them, mind you, but I like the idea. Living in this media-filled age of information overload, it may not seem anywhere near realistic in practice, but I think we can all find ways to simplify our lives that work for us. We don’t necessarily have to reduce our lives to basic essentials (although some families do choose that as a lifestyle) but we can streamline, choose to focus on what’s most important, and let go of what’s not working or no longer serves us. For those of us who are challenged in knowing where to start, here are a few ideas:
- A simpler environment – i.e., less stuff – creates less need for maintenance of that environment. (Have you ever tried cleaning a room filled with lots of knickknacks?) Less maintenance creates more free time, maybe even time to watch a movie with your spouse tonight. Before you purchase another curio, you might want to consider that and ask yourself: Is it something I really love and must have? If it is something truly special that adds to your environment, go for it. But take a moment to pause before an automatic purchase and consider the question: Do I really need/want this? A clutter-free environment that reflects who you authentically are is likely to feel more pleasing and require less upkeep.
- The tried-and-true one in/one out rule. This works for lots of people and helps to keep your storage space streamlined. It works for shoes, clothing, kitchenware, toys – just about anything, and can help to keep your stuff from getting out of control.
- There is a saying – The outer is always a reflection of the inner. If you find yourself swimming in a sea of overload on a regular basis, it might be time to ask yourself what is really going on. If you are regularly over-committed, overworked or over-anything, it may be part of a larger pattern that needs to be addressed. An example might be difficulty saying no to others’ needs, or a need to keep up appearances. Do you really want to work long hours in order to preserve a style of life you no longer need or have outgrown? Do you really need another blue shirt?
This brings me to the next point.
- Ask yourself – What really brings me happiness? A simple answer to this question can yield enormous dividends because to live in alignment with what you really value can immediately help you sort out your priorities. Knowing what’s really important to you is the first step in simplifying your life.
Mr. Thoreau might be a bit shocked were he to drop in on us these days, but I’ll bet he would find a way to create a life that worked for him. You can, too.