The Simple LifeLife is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius
Don’t you just love the excitement you feel after coming home with a new TV? Driving home in a new car? Opening the box on a new pair of shoes?
I sure do. But, from watching the behavior of myself and my friends I’ve found that the new quickly becomes just another item. The excitement of novelty passes quickly.
As we become wealthier, people seem to be adding more and more things to our homes. We then use our homes, and our treasures, to justify that we have won the game of life. Growing up in a family of pack-rats, I spent many years in my teens and early twenties accumulating stuff. During this time, much of my self-worth was unconsciously associated with the amount of stuff I owned; the brand names, and the latest trends. I spent a lot of money on clothes and stuff that made me feel ‘superior’. They gave me a sense of identity. If I just removed these things without awareness, my ego would have suffered. I had grown so attached to that definition of myself, that my loss would have been much deeper than just the cute sweater.
Not only did I not find myself in all this, I’ve also accumulated a lot of clutter in my living space and my inner space. Ironically, the piles of stuff actually held me back from understanding and inner peace with myself.
We are so eager to fill our homes, yet so disinterested in cleaning it out. As a result, we now require larger spaces, more storage space, and more clutter for the mind. Did you know that there are more self-storage facilities in North America than there are McDonald’s restaurants? We find it difficult to reduce the amount of stuff we own is due to our attachment to these things.
Is Less Really More?
The joy and art of having less while enjoying more of life can be summed up, as follows.
- The Zen of Space – There is beauty in space, but we fail to recognize it because we can’t see through the stuff we own. When we open up physical space in our environment, a tremendous feeling of peace can dwell within us. This is the principle behind Japanese style homes. Beauty in small spaces is the appreciation of minimalism, where less truly is more. We need to understand that space is to be enjoyed, not filled.
- Conserved Energy – Fewer belongings means we have fewer possessions to worry about. I once knew a wealthy young man, who had anything he dreamt of. He had so many expensive things, and he was so afraid of losing them. Much of his energy was devoted to protecting his possessions and trophies.
- Free Your Space – When we are reminded of something we own but never use, we can impose self-inflicted guilt for leaving it unused. For example, my mother owns a several exercise machines which are rarely used. Each time she sees them, she forces herself to feel guilty. Her guilt eats away at her inner, mental space. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. By cleaning out and simplifying our outer space, our inner space will open up like a flower.
- Appreciation - The less we have, the more attention we can give those things we own and truly need on a regular basis. Appreciation is the seed for abundance; abundance of the mind and the soul. It’s pretty amazing how little we actually need. When we clear our homes and our lives down to the essentials, we are able to better enjoy that which we do have.
Nothing external to us can give us permanent and true happiness. We actually have all we need to be truly happy within us.
The art of having less but enjoying our lives more, involves a few simple changes in perspective. First, we must understand where our true values lie and focus on them. Then, we must take time to enjoy the simple things, and slow down and see what’s right in front of us.
How to Have More With Less?
The following are suggestions and tips for incorporating the having less mentality into your life:
Doing One Thing At A Time – Avoid multi-tasking. When our attention is divided between multiple thoughts at the same time, we cannot excel in any of them. It’s best to place all focus on one task before moving on to another. I’ve learned the hard way that despite feeling productive, with multi-tasking, I rarely am. Whenever possible, remind yourself to focus on the Now, and fully immerse yourself in the subtle joys of this moment.
Slow down – It’s easy to speed through your day and not notice the little things. Slowing down is a vital part of simplifying your life and enjoying what you have. With focus, you can get the same tasks done without rushing. The key to being effective and productive is to work strategically, not blindly, by understanding why you are doing what you’re doing.
Be The Important – The only time we are guaranteed to have is this moment. I know this may sound a little mystical, but just think about it for a second. Life is so precious, yet we spend our most valuable resource, time, on things that are not important to us. In my life, this means that I will include time in my schedule to do what I truly want to be doing. Since the only time we have is right now, make sure you’re using your right now the way you truly want.
Clear the clutter – Clearing the clutter from your home and from your life is easier said than done. We are often emotionally attached to our posessions. This attachment goes beyond our need and we find it difficult to let go of nostalgia. When we are free of physical clutter, it frees our minds as well.
Control Your Spending – You’ve heard the saying “The best things in life are free.” Do you believe it? Spending time with family and friends, laughing, enjoying the antics of a pet, seeing a child smile, experiencing intimate and heart-felt moments with a loved one – these times are precious, and free. Money brings comfort, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that comfort. But it’s important to spend money on the things that matter to you and let go of spending that does not add value to your life. We spend on what we need, but we forget why we are doing what we’re doing, and the spending becomes a habit.
Enjoy What You Have – If you want to have more enjoyment in your life, enjoy what you have. It is said that in order to live the life you love, you have to love the life you have. We don’t have to seek beyond ourselves in order to find happiness. No one person has everything they want; but we all have some things worth enjoying. So focus on those things and enjoy them!
Be Gracious – Following the previous point. Take time to be grateful for what you already have, however much or little you own. Be content with all the small gifts in your life, things you might take for granted like your body, your home, your good health, the chair you’re sitting on, the computer you have, the respect of those you love most.
Think Simple – There are so many simple pleasures that we don’t always take time to enjoy. Have you taken time lately to be outdoors and watch the clouds? When was the last time you curled up on the couch with a good book? If you enjoy baths, when is the last time you took a bubble bath? Take some time to really focus on something simple – focus on your breathing, focus on drinking down a cold glass of water, focus on enjoying the simple things you do every day. We can find so much happiness in the small everything things. They are there if we seek them, and when we seek, we shall find.
What are some simple things that you enjoy? Share with it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and related topics.