Do you remember a simpler life, perhaps when you were a child? Or maybe your parents reminisce about what it was like when they were children. You’d wake up early on Saturday morning to turn on the only cartoons of the week, on the only channel that offered them. After pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, you’d put on your play clothes and decide whether or not you wanted to go to the park or the city beach for the day. Your mom headed to the only grocery store in town, or perhaps if you lived in a big city, she went to the various shops – butcher, green grocer, or the bakery. On Saturday night, your dad spread the stack of bills on the table and pulled out his check book. If there was any money left over, you’d all go for ice cream. Choices were limited, and perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing.
Life was a bit simpler… and the further back you go in history, the simpler life was. Think about your grandmother or great-grandmother born at the turn of the century. When she was thirsty, she drank a cup of water or perhaps milk. She didn’t have to peruse a hundred different products in the cooler at the gas station. Progress has brought us an overwhelming number of choices. With fifty different types of toothpaste and five-hundred television stations, we are faced with an insurmountable number of decisions every day. Closets full of clothes and homes stuffed with various devices to entertain us and make our lives easier, our more-is-better culture is bombarding us with trivial choices.
Simplification Reduces Stress
Along with the abundance of “stuff” in our lives, the stress of superfluous decision-making has helped cause the highest level of anxiety and depression in human history. All of those items that you thought would make you happier are actually weighing you down. You have to worry about keeping them safe, making sure they’re charged, paying the bill, or finding space in the closet.
The paradox is that the more you have, the more you want. You fill your home and your schedule with things and activities, but you still feel empty. Your wheels are spinning. You feel stressed and overbooked. Breaking this cycle will free you to enjoy the things that you truly cherish, and discard the things that simply add more burden to your already heavy load.
Think back to your last relaxing vacation. Did you go to a hotel on the beach? Or maybe you went camping or backpacking. What made that vacation restful? There were probably fewer decisions to make at any given moment, a clear schedule, less clutter. A hotel room and a tent are the epitome of simplicity. Declutter = Destress. It’s a simple equation.
How to Simplify Your Life
There is no magic formula for simplifying your life. Clearing away the clutter should be less like a program and more like a new state of being. Instead of focusing on quantity (of objects, events, or relationships), you must learn to base your choices on quality.
Why do you keep your grandmother’s old sewing table tucked behind boxes in your storage room? Sure, it might hold sentimental value, but what good is it doing if you hide it away? Perhaps it would be better to frame a black-and-white photo of the table (or of your grandmother) and hang it on your wall. The table is of no practical use to you, so it’s better to let it go. The same principle applies to your dad’s collection of ceramic containers or an old party gown in the back of the closet. Hold on to the memories, but let go of the objects that represent them.
Does the Shoe Even Fit Anymore?
When most of our parents were young, they had a pair of school shoes, church shoes, and play shoes. They had their Sunday best, their casual outfit, and the torn hand-me-downs they used to play in the creek. Now, our closets are overflowing with garments. Some of us have enough shoes to wear a different pair each week for a year. There are entire marketing campaigns dedicated to making sure that our daughters look like the latest teen starlet! Far from being necessary, this kind of excess is detrimental to our mental health.
So many of us are tempted to “get organized,” but I ask you this: Why are you organizing your junk? Instead, cleanse your closet. If you haven’t worn something in the past year, donate it to charity. Keep only your favorite items and get rid of the rest. It will be easier to dress in the morning, the laundry load will lighten, and your home will feel a little bit cleaner. You’ll be able to relax in your bedroom, sleep better, and live happier.
Are Your Controllers Controlling You?
How many times have you searched for the right controller and ended up with a pile of various black and silver clickers on your coffee table? One is for the TV, another for the DVD, Blueray, PS3, Xbox, Wii, radio, CD Player, and the VHS player that is out in the garage. Here’s the kicker, you keep them all don’t you? Do you throw away the controllers for electronics that you no longer own? Yeah, I thought so. Start by pitching those.
Now, do you really need all of those electronics? When you get ready to purge, focus on keeping the newest technology. Electronic devices, including computers and game systems, become outdated quickly. Keep the Blueray player and ditch the DVD. Keep only one gaming system. How many televisions do you have in your house? One or two? Five or six? If you have more televisions than family members (plus maybe one in the guest room), it’s overkill. What about computers? Clearing out the electronic devices will lead to a quieter, more peaceful home, and perhaps free up time for more meaningful endeavors like family games and long dinners with plenty of conversation.
How to Get Started
Are you ready to take the leap into a simpler life? Do you want to breathe a little easier? Would you like more time to focus on the things you love? These books will help you take the first steps into a more fulfilled, but less filled, way of living.
Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify, a very affordable Kindle e-book by Francine Jay. (Remember, e-books won’t clutter up your house!) In a practical, often humorous way, Ms. Jay explains the benefits of minimalism and gives you practical advice about how to simplify your life. From turning in your storage unit keys, to getting rid of your excess baggage one day at a time, this easy read is a sure-fire way to get you on the right track.
Simplify Your Life: How to De-clutter and De-stress Your Way to Happiness, by Sam Davidson, takes a slightly different approach. He actually denounces minimalism and instead focuses on simplicity and following your dreams. Davidson’s engaging and informative book is perfect for the person who is not quite ready to get rid of all their toys!
While there are many methods to achieving a simpler life, and many different ways to live in simplicity, the ultimate goal is to surround yourself with only the things that are treasured or necessary, and then let go of the rest. What do you treasure most in your life? What could you easily do without? Share your thoughts with us below.