Simple living is a thing.
Whilst in the 20th century we were all about the “have more, buy more,” now we’re about the “have less, do less.”
Haven’t heard anything about this? Let me explain what simple living is all about and, if you switch, how it can potentially make you happier.
So I’m a simple liver. If you knew me, this might astonish you. I come from a history of frequent spending, owning lots of stuff, getting in debt to acquire it, wanting more stuff, and being out and about at dinners, events, and so on nearly every night of the week. I had to schedule in rest nights. Is this sounding familiar?
I had a big life in the big city and I loved it—until I didn’t. Until I was exhausted, run down, and asking myself why. If I had such a great life, why wasn’t I happy? I started searching around for the next “thing,” “place,” or “event” that I could go to to make me happy. Sometimes, it worked for a while. Often, it didn’t at all.
Alongside this physical consumption, I was an advertiser’s wet dream. I watched a lot of TV. I read a ton of magazines and newspapers. I read and watched things I didn’t really feel passionate about because it was “something to do.” Because that’s “what people do.” I felt harassed, over-marketed to, and anxious by the state of the world according to what I was told through all these avenues. Come on, seriously, how many good news stories do you see in mainstream media?
It came to a crossroads when I was seriously considering dropping out and living in a caravan at my mum and dad’s when I had to ask myself: Why?
Why was I wanting to do something so drastic? I had become overwhelmed by “modern life.” I felt that the expectations of a life in adherence with the societal norms we have come to accept just didn’t fit with me.
I started to look at alternative lifestyles and came across simple living as a concept. I wanted a life free of complex decisions, of mind noise, of stuff.
I realised there was another way: Get rid of your stuff. Clear the digital clutter. Only have what makes you happy. Revolutionary stuff, right?
To me, at the time, it was. What was all this? We accumulate; we don’t downsize until we’re officially retired. I had tons of debt thanks to my stuff. So, get rid of it all?
Live a life of simplicity, in which you’re not constantly in the thick of it, out somewhere new every night, or keeping up with the next new thing? How is that going to make me happy? I loved being in the thick of it. No way did I want to be feet up in the country waiting to die. I really couldn’t see the in-between.
Still, I put my faith in the crazy American duo, Josh and Ryan. I bought into their story and how light they seemed by it all. I started to clear my stuff. Bags were sent to charity shops. I hosted car boot sales. I participated in book swaps, and sent things to recycling centres, and gave things away to happy relatives. I would do a run through the house and get rid of boxes of stuff, take a rest, and then start again.
That physical declutter did something weird. It gave me space. Space to breath. Space to see what was around me.
No longer was I looking for the next thing. I took time to start enjoying experiences. Then, I realised I didn’t have to be somewhere every night. I started to be choosier. To really choose what I wanted to do and who I wanted to spend my time with—that was precious.
I found mindfulness. I spent time doing other stuff I loved. I got dogs. I spent time out in the big outdoors discovering the world. I stopped reading newspapers. I only read magazines and online media that I loved or that contributed positively to my life. I unsubscribed from emails that filled my inbox.
Fast forward, and here I am living in the country. Oh, the irony!
I live in a small house that would never have met my needs before, let alone have been big enough to hold all my stuff and that of my very significant other.
Okay, so sometimes I buy something frivolous. I still have too many apps on my phone that I don’t always use. I get emails that sit in my account for ages and clutter it up. Then, I remember the feeling I get from simplicity and I unsubscribe, uninstall, and declutter again.
So why is getting rid of our stuff and making a digital purge good for us?
>> Space. Space is important: The space to move about freely, the financial space to make good decisions, the mental space to relax and enjoy the small things. When life is a blur of physical and digital clutter, space is diminished.
>> Finances. You may have guessed this one, but when we reduce what we need—whether that’s experiences or material goods—we tend to spend less. What we do with this opens a world of new opportunities.
>> Freedom. We gain the freedom to choose to buy only what we love, to travel the world because we’ve not bought five designer handbags, or to live in a tiny home with only a cat for company. We’re not tied to what’s expected of us anymore.
Want to try it? I suggest taking one small step. It’s likely to lead to another and another.
Try clearing out your wardrobe of anything you’ve not worn in the last three months (unless it’s seasonal). Try removing all the apps you barely use. Try unsubscribing from all those shopping emails that make you impulse buy. Try only buying when you need or really, really want something. Make a list of love-to-have purchases and only buy from there. Give yourself a few nights a week to relax and rest.
I guarantee you’ll see a difference.
Author: Jo Holloway-Green
Image: Padurariu Alexandru/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson