“This culture that we live in has taken it too far. Excess has become the norm and it needs to change. Food has become an event instead of providing sustenance, our dwelling places are mansions instead of shelters against nature, and materialism has replaced necessity. In our eyes, and for what; so we can live in comfort? When did we decide that more is better but better is never enough? What happens when we cultivate moderation in every aspect of our lives; when we refuse these fleeting sources of gratification and pursue that which provides lasting joy? We reject that passive relationship based on technology and forget what society has prescribed as normal. We see what ultimately matters; true community, living out our passion, and embracing other human beings. We learn to not only survive but thrive with less.”Unknown reference
When I sat down at my computer this morning, coffee at the ready, glasses on, I took the time to reflect back on these past few months at home and everything that they have taught me. Firstly, they’ve taught me how to make the most of a difficult situation, but more importantly, they’ve really given me the chance to slow down and recognise my worth – not based on my productivity, but through the quality of my work. Slowly, I am beginning to learn that I am not defined by the number of crossed out items on my to-do list, not equal to the number of likes on my Instagram posts, nor the perfection of my writing.
Lately, I have learnt (and am still learning) that it doesn’t do well to beat myself up at the end of the day because I didn’t ‘finish my to-do list’ – everyday I set out with a long list of things I want to get done and more often than not, the workload I give myself is unrealistic and I don’t manage to get everything done. Slowly, I am learning to be rational about my workload and not dwell on what ‘doesn’t go according to plan’. And I am learning that all of this is okay. There’s no rush. I, we, have plenty of time. Lately, I’ve been making the most of my time at home and investing in practices that allow me to live more simply, work with greater intention, and reflect on what really matters to me.
This leads me on to the topic of this week’s blog post: simple living.
Simple living can be a lot of different things, and it’s definition looks different according to each individual depending on their personal values and views, and what is more important to them.
Simple living is small, personal, and specific.
Simple living is: learning how to take care of yourself; it is knowing that you can and will handle tomorrow and whatever it may bring with grace, and it means that you can live with less and on less and be happy about it (if not happier). Simple living is turning away from the systems of today and from societal consumerism and accepting that WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY THE THINGS THAT WE OWN. Simple living is being mindful about what you consume, what you eat – investing in eating and living according to what’s in season. Through living simply we can root ourselves in the seasons and connect with what is around us through each of those seasons, making the most of what is provided during those times.
We, as human beings, need to start slowing down enough to recognise that what we already have might be enough. Simple living provides us with the opportunity to do that, and to count our blessings and practice gratitude for what we already have.
To put it simply, simple living (to me) is a way of living that focuses on intention and leading a deliberate life. To me, simple living is the act of slowing down in a world that constantly tells us to hurry up; cultivating patience in a world that constantly tells us our dreams aren’t big enough, that someone else will get their first. Simple living is knowing your priorities and acting on them mindfully, focusing on the present rather than the future, and living content with what you have and within your means.
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not responsible, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occassions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common – this is my symphony.”William Henry Channing
Our world is constantly telling us that bigger is better. This is not always true and almost never necessary. Life improves dramatically when the pursuit of consumerism is removed. Today, we spend too much time caring for our things and not enough time caring for our people. We complain that we never have enough time, when the reality is that we simply just don’t make the time for the things that matter. CLUTTER eventually begins to eat up our time and our energy, and we fail to find the value in the most useful things.
As I have said, simple living is different for every person depending on their values. But something that we may share is the difficulty of knowing where to start. It’s all well and good to know what simple living is, but how do we start implementing these practices into our daily lives? For this, I have compiled a short list of the different ways that you can start to simplify your life, starting today. I am not all of these things, and I do not practice the entirety of this list every day. But, through gradual and incremental changes, we can strive to live more simply if we desire.
We can start by:
- Knowing our priorities
Once you realise what’s important to you, it’s easier to put those things first. We need to start committing to the things and the people that we truly value, including ourselves.
- Living within our means
My parents have taught me this my whole life. Just because you can afford something, doesn’t mean you have to have it. We don’t need a different wardrobe for each month of the year or flash cars or 50ft yachts that we’ll never use. Simple living focuses on the phrase ‘less is more’ and what we have is usually more than enough already.
- Working with our hands
When was the last time you used your hands to make something instead of a machine? Convenience overpowers every decision we make – making a cake, getting to the supermarket, doing our laundry. What would happen if we slowed down? Made our cakes with a bowl and spoon and not the food processor? Or walked to the supermarket (okay, this might be tricky with a full-weeks shop, but what if you only needed to grab a couple of things?). When was the last time you let your laundry dry in the breeze instead of using the drier? Start asking yourself these questions and see what you can simplify.
- Counting our blessings
“Blessed am I to wake up and make coffee.” This is my symphony, my motto, my phrase. Because once we start to feel grateful for the mundane and the everyday, we start to feel happier. “Blessed am I to wake up and make coffee.”
- Learning the point of pointlessness
“Rake the leaves – rake, weed, or sweep. You’ll never finish for good, but you’ll learn the point of pointlessness.” – Karen Maezen Miller.
- Finding joy in the smallest of things
The way the sunlight falls through your curtains in the morning, the smell of your favourite book, the sound of the coffee being poured into the mug. Once we find joy in the smallest of things, everything becomes more beautiful.
- Focusing on the task at hand
Getting the job done and getting the job done well. When was the last time you were solely focused on what was in front of you? The term ‘meditation’ is often linked to sitting on a cushion and taking a mudra. But meditation can be everyday things too – cooking dinner, folding laundry, gardening, reading a book, there’s something for everyone.
- Focusing more on the present and less on the future
Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda says, “today is a gift… that is why they call it the present.” If we aren’t in the moment and always worrying about the past or dreaming about the future, then we miss what’s right in front of us.
- Stop over committing
There is only so much that we can commit to. Often, when we over commit, we don’t meet other people’s or our own expectations. This can take a serious toll on your mental health. I’m not saying, “don’t commit to anything”, but perhaps we need to be more rational with what we expect from ourselves sometimes.
- Reading more books
- Watching less TV
- Eating dinner at the table (without our phones)
- Reducing our clutter
- Shopping and consuming less
- Spending more time outdoors
- Making the bed in the morning
- Waking with the sun
- Washing up our breakfast bowl
- Hanging the laundry on the line
“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage, or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink, or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”Andy Rooney
I hope that this post proved to be useful to you and I hope you’ve learnt something about what it is to live simply. I wanted to write about simple living in a way that voices my concern about the systems of today’s society and how toxic they can be to us. Hopefully, through this post, I was able to provide you with inspiration and strength in a world that tends to diminish our dreams.
There is worth in your work.
“Stop the glorification of busy.”