Simplifying our lives makes sense for so many reasons.
Reducing our impact on the environment is good for the planet. Buying less is good for our bank accounts. And living a more spacious life is, arguably, good for our souls.
For all of these reasons and more, I’ve recently recommitted to living a simpler life.
For inspiration to help me let go of things—a process that has always been challenging to my disorganized and sentimental nature—I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books, and even watching this compelling documentary, about minimalism.
But there’s one thing that worries me about the minimalist movement and how it might easily turn people off—myself included.
While the idea of living in a simple, uncluttered wood cabin is appealing to me, it’s not realistic at this stage of my life, with two young kids and a husband who doesn’t share that vision. Could it be done? Sure. But it’s not likely, nor is it necessarily what I want right now.
The truth is, I don’t actually strive to be a minimalist, though I admire people who have honed their lives down to that level of simplicity. I don’t envision myself, my husband and my two kids, living in a tiny home with a lone yellow flower as our décor.
But I do strive to not be such a damned maximalist.
The thing about simple living is that it’s a continuum, and one that’s accessible for everybody who wants it. Not just people without kids or young people or older people.
And all we have to do to access the benefits is to make our lives simpler than they currently are.
Maybe you have too much stuff (raising my hand wildly here). The clutter makes cleaning your home even less appealing, and it carries a psychic weight. It might even make us embarrassed for friends or family to come over, lest they see how we really live.
Or maybe your schedule—or your kids’ schedule—is all jacked up. You run around from morning to night, never getting the chance to sit and breathe, read a book, or pursue a passion.
Or maybe you’re worried—really, really worried—about our planet, and you wonder how your own patterns of consumption fit into the equation.
Or maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and you’re tired of it.
But the idea of living in a log cabin or a studio apartment or a yurt, or getting rid of all of your favorite books makes you start to hyperventilate, because that’s either not what you want, or it seems impossible given your current situation, or both.
The good news is, if we want a simpler life, we don’t have to do those things!
All we have to do is take one step.
Get rid of one old pair of socks today. Make a list of your commitments, then make a list of your most important values, and compare the two. Investigate working from home one day a week to reduce your commute time and your environmental impact. Take $10 and start an emergency fund.
Do one thing, and see how it feels.
Warning: It will probably feel good, and make you want to take another step to simplify your life.
The black and white thinking that tells us we have to take extreme measures right away to be successful at minimalizing is actually part of our maximalist culture. This is a lie, and in my experience, trying to make drastic changes makes change much less sustainable.
Committing to making slow, steady transformation is more achievable for most of us.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman