I think summer is one of the best times to think about living simply, when a reduction in stress and commitments can translate directly to time spent outdoors or reading on the porch. In the summer, I feel more reluctant to run errands and tackle the non-essentials on my to do list, because I'm always acutely aware of what I'm missing. My friend Julie thinks and writes thoughtfully about living more simply on her blog, The Beauty in Simple. Today, she's sharing her thoughts on what it means and what it takes to work toward a slower, simpler daily pace.
Life can be messy. I'm married, raising three kids, and working outside of the home. I own a house that requires constant care, enjoy many hobbies, have a social life to conduct, and financial obligations to meet. It can be overwhelming, but by practicing simple living I breathe easier and live with more peace and happiness.
Simple living isn't a place you land on and stay forever - it's a journey to follow that requires constant attention to stay its course. The rewards are worth the diligence, as it can lead to a more joyful, meaningful, and fulfilling life. Although it means something different to everybody, there are a few simple living principles that I follow.
Solve problems through elimination.
I think it's a tendency in our culture to solve problems through complex means. When our time becomes over-scheduled we work to be more efficient or we set the alarm earlier to squeeze more out of a day. When there are financial pressures, we consider how to make more money. Social pressures are eased by buying bigger homes, newer cars, and larger wardrobes. I think a better way to handle life's pressures is through elimination. Drop unnecessary commitments, quit spending money, and show your value through your being, not your belongings.
Opt out of consumerism.
I've stepped away from a consumer society by following the old adage, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Some strategies I've taken to reduce the urge to consume is by unsubscribing from email and mailing lists, not watching TV, subscribing only to ad-free publications (like this one), buying nothing new, and fulfilling needs by making, repairing and repurposing.
Do it yourself.
I think the term "simple living" is a little confusing, because simple isn't synonymous with easy or convenient. I'm a big believer in doing it yourself. I clean my house with homemade cleaners, make my own health and beauty products, maintain my yard, cook from scratch, sew, and knit. On the surface that may seem more complicated and time consuming than the convenience of buying things ready-made or hiring work out, but by doing it myself I'm decreasing financial burdens, I'm eliminating the need to manage other people, I'm healthier because I'm controlling what I allow in my home and body, and I've developed the skills to take care of myself and my family.
Live with less.
It's no wonder many simple living advocates are minimalists. An important aspect of simple living is getting rid of the things that aren't useful or beautiful. I have fewer belongings now with a family of five then I did when I was a single mom with two kids. I don't miss anything I've let go and I'm happy that less of my time is spent cleaning, organizing, and maintaining my stuff.
I used to fill my calendar with dinner parties, play dates, special events, and more. I still value social gatherings, but they are less likely to be planned and more likely to be spontaneous, and I don't hesitate to say "no" when that time is better left unscheduled.
Adopt sustainable living habits.
Our culture constantly entices us to be consumers of goods and activities. Without a strong commitment to simple living, it's easy to slip back into a life of consumption. I continually reassess and adjust my life to stay in line with my goals and values.
Be patient, go slow.
Simple living shouldn't be rushed. A slow and steady pace will make for a pleasant and successful journey. Small steps lead to big change.
Rejoice in the freedom!
One of the biggest things gained from simple living is freedom. I'm spending less time and money on the things that don't matter, which gives me the freedom to pursue what does. I love the motto of my favorite simple living organization, "More fun, less stuff." That's what it’s all about.
How do you approach simplifying your life, or do you? I'd love to hear. Thank you for sharing, Julie!