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11.10.2011

simplicity is the key to successful living.


 "A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you. It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value. However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward." 
-Leo Babauta

Every couple of months, I find myself reflecting on my current life status. Am I happy? Do I feel fulfilled? Stressed? Anxious? Complacent? Desiring more? And every time, no matter how happy or unhappy I am with my relationship, friendships, job, fitness level, financial status, etc., it all comes back to one thing. I need to live more simply. As people in the year 2011, we are constantly bombarded with information via media. Commercials, billboards, news articles, the world wide web, facebook- you name it, we have access. We can gather based on this information, what sort of lives people near and far are living- the clothes they wear, their standard of living, their fitness routines, their financial status, their relationships, family lives, belongings, routines, habits. Too often, we get caught up in trying to duplicate the lives of the lavishly rich or famous, because well, they look like they are having so much fun riding in their fancy cars, wearing the latest fashions, jet setting into the sunset, and attending parties fit for a king. There is a wide spectrum, of course- Anywhere from just trying to keep up with the Jones', to honestly attempting to replicate some of the insanity we see on TV- but on a budget a thousand times smaller. So what gives?

The reality is we all need to live more simply. Credit card debt shouldn't exist in the insane ways it does today. Young girls starving themselves to look like the airbrushed photographs of their favorite actresses shouldn't exist. The notion of "needing" 15 pairs of jeans, or 45 pairs of shoes shouldn't exist. The earth's present environmental condition and resource drainage shouldn't exist. How did things get so crazy? Since when did the pressure to live our lives to a certain standard become so unbearably rigid? We spend so much time, energy, and money on things we truly don't need, despite the fact that the media tells us otherwise. As I reflect today on how I am guilty of buying, doing, and acting - in a particular manner- I ask myself how it is I can get back to the basics. So, with the world wide web at my fingertips, I came across Leo Babauta's website and his article "Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life." Here are some of my favorite of his ideas:

* * * * * * * *
Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss.  Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. Limit your buying habits. If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it. I was there, and although I haven’t escaped these things entirely, I feel much freer of it all. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, less freneticism. Free up time. Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do. Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else. Spend time with people you love. Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them (not necessarily in sexual ways). Spend time alone. Free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you. Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more. Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a try. Be present. These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity. Establish routines. The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines. Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity.  Make your house minimalist. A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes. More stuff. But when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a neverending cycle. Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough. And then stop when you get there. Eat healthy. It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term. We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots … you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly, over the long term. Exercise.This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it simplifies your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great. Find inner simplicity. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I have found that spending a little time with my inner self creates a peaceful simplicity rather than a chaotic confusion. This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time. Learn to decompress from stress. Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress (except in the case of the ultimate simplifier, death). So after you go through stress, find ways to decompress. Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less. Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing. Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life. Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time. Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated.

Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.
 

1 comments:

Ashley said...

I actually did this myself this morning. I saw as awesome opportunity and realized as much as it would be great if I got it, it would complicate a lot of things. Especially my end goals. So I said no and am SO happy I did especially after reading this.

Love this post!