January 13, 2017

Five Ways to Live More Simply.

My attraction to simple living arose in the wake of my brother’s death, nearly two decades ago.

As I plunged into my grief, my worldview rearranged itself.

I woke up to a cliché-like questioning of what was really important in this life, given my newfound realization that we could leave it without warning. Was this “American Dream”—working our tails off in jobs that are simply jobs so we can own nice things—just a construct?

I thought about the happiest home I’d ever encountered: a tiny, one-room cabin that I’d housesat.

There, I’d been surrounded by curving pine trees and a glimpse of the glittering sea through the windows, instead of my usual habitat of clothes, books, and strewn scraps of paper. Despite the inconvenience of trotting out to the outhouse to go to the bathroom, or hand-washing dishes instead of shoving them into the dishwasher, I felt creative, uncluttered, and inspired.

I dreamt of having a home that was simple enough to allow me to fully live the way I wanted to—leisurely, connected, free.

But over the years, I dozed off again. I wanted more—kids, and then a bigger car to fit the kids, and then a bigger home to fit the kids and the bigger car. I justified these choices at the time with the fact that many of our friends with kids were on the same track of upsizing their lives.

Choosing simplicity has been, at least for me, not something to do once and be done with. Rather, it’s a constant choice, and one that needs daily devotion in a hectic world that tells us we need to do more, buy more, and be more, that we must stuff our days and our homes to the gills in order to keep up.

And it’s something that often requires a steady stream of inspiration and support.

Here are five ways to stay inspired on your journey of simplifying:

1. Watch this movie on Netflix.

If you don’t have Netflix, yay! You’re already living simply. You can catch it here, instead. I’ve watched this inspiring documentary twice since it was released last month on Netflix, and I’ll probably watch it again soon. The movie, which centers around the story of two young men who radically changed their lives after spending their early 20s climbing the corporate and consumer ladder, is sprinkled with insightful, inspirational commentary from other minimalists and simple living enthusiasts, neuroscientists, architects, a journalist, and more.

2. Partner up.

Chances are, someone in your circle of friends, family or acquaintances is interested in simplifying, too. Get together. Talk about why you want your life to be different. Make a plan to support and be accountable to each other. If you can’t find someone in your group of friends, find an online group for inspiration and accountability.

3. Tune out.

One way to combat our cultural conditioning to mindlessly consume is to experiment with unplugging. I recently committed to not look at my phone first thing in the morning. Instead of instantly allowing the noise of social media and emails into my day—often before my feet even hit the floor in the morning—I set those tasks aside for later. I also removed Facebook from my phone. In taking these two simple steps, I start my day on my own terms, without the barrage of messaging from the rest of the world.

4. Tune in.

When you do use social media or technology, do so mindfully. Consider listening to podcasts that support simple living. I’ve been listening to these lately while I’m driving, doing housework, or decluttering. Besides being motivating, this type of media consumption helps counteract decades of societal programming. It reminds me that there are many lovely people out in the world who are, like me, committed to leading intentional, meaningful lives that are based on relationships, passion and experience instead of the overscheduled, materialistic way of living that most advertising promotes. Two of my favorites are The Minimalists and Slow Your Home.

5. Remember your why.

Why are you craving a more simple life? To improve your physical or mental health? Because you’ll have more time and money if you cut out the excess? Because it’s better for our planet? Because it might enable you to pursue your dream of writing or traveling or spending more time with your family? Reminding ourselves why we’re pursuing a different way of life will help us deal with the temptation of our old ways of consumerism or overscheduling.

I don’t know if I’ll ever reach a level of simplicity worthy of the cabin I loved—but I do know that by keeping my goal to simplify in mind, I can start walking in that direction.


Author: Lynn Shattuck

Image: Luca Bravo/Unsplash

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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