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The Simple Life

Photo by etringita
Life 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 clutterClearing 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.


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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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144 thoughts on The Simple Life

  1. Interesting article again and so is the previous comment/conversation by Meridian & Tina. I’ve had a room similar to what Meridian had described. Shelfful of books, collectables, souvenirs, awards, trophies and the likes, all neatly stacked next to each other. I felt I had a lot and had achieved a lot every time when I look at these items.

    Attaching my sense of selfworth to these items I felt I was well educated when I see those books I owned, felt I’ve traveled when i see those collectables from different places, felt I’ve achieved when I see those awards and certifications. Until one day i saw a news report…

    A traumatised mother and daughter who had survived a devastating fire that destroyed everything in their 20-year house spoke about their ordeal, they’ve lost literally ALL of their belongings but one photograph they managed to grab on the way out. The mother said that she felt so grateful and happy that she and her most loved – her daughter, had survived the fire, when the reporter asked about that 1 single photo that she saved in comparison to everything they’ve lost, she just smiled and said that after almost losing your life, all the belongings they’ve once had were no longer as important.

    That was a huge wake up call for me. That very same day I looked at my room, imagined if there was a fire, I could hardly bring even a tiny portion of my items out of the room. Would I still feel I’m myself with the same level of confidence, if I had lost all of that?

    I used to move a lot, 6 or 7 times within a few years time. Each time I was surprised at how much stuff I actually have accumulated in the relatively small space I’ve had. When I moved again after I saw the fire survivor’s news I got rid of as much things as possible, and for those things I did have some level of attachment to, I stacked them in storage boxes, lined the boxes up against the wall in my garage.

    The shelves looked a lot more empty without those ‘items of pride’, instead my space was filled with a lot more clarity and I simply felt a lot ‘lighter’ than i once was.

    Those boxes have since been in my garage for a long time now, one of my goals for the first Q this year is to tidy up my garage (one of my hidden clutters) :-)

    Wyatt

  2. Galvin

    Hey this article/blog is RIGHT ON THE MONEY. It’s something the “better life” books and programs try to advertise but never get to the real point. SIMPLICITY.

    I was fortunate to realize this appreciative lifestyle when I started the poor college student life and have really appreciated little things like exercise and books instead of pure entertainment and spending money.

    I thank you for putting valuable information on the web and I know others do not think like us. I’m not saying we are better but that we have really got the goods in life by being simple.

  3. The core of the issue, IMO, isn’t about stuff you have or don’t have. I don’t think people spend enough time properly figuring out what they want from life. Then, use that as a razor to cut through all of the advertising and attempts to sell you stuff that don’t fit into line with what is ultimately really important to you.

    If you love to canoe, then buy an awesome canoe. You will love and appreciate it the whole time you have it. It advances what is truly important to you.

    Not a car fanatic? Don’t have a big family? Then don’t spend a lot on a vehicle – identify the one that will suffice a minimum set of requirements, and suck the least amount of money out of your pocket. This will allow you have more money for what you want to accomplish.

    Advertising is all about making you think you want stuff. Don’t let other people make that decision for you. And be ruthless about what you think you want.

    It’s been proven that consumerism will never make someone happy. Check out the “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt, and “The Paradox of Choice”.

  4. Matthew Bartleson

    Great article. I grew up with nearly nothing and always associated having more shit with wealth until my early 20’s. I didn’t realize how much unnecessary junk I really had until last year… it was appalling . Through a series of fortunate events, I had the opportunity to study in Europe for a year, so I gave away and sold everything I could not take with me.

    Honestly, it is the most liberating feeling being able to carry anything I value in my backpack. All the time I had spend acquiring and maintaining my possessions can now be spent developing myself and relationships with others, which I have found much more valuable.

  5. I enjoyed this article. It comprises some important points about how to improve one’s life. Sometimes it can be enough to take time and go out for a peaceful walk with somebody we love through a beautiful park or garden to realize how little we need in order to be happy.

  6. Koochy

    Tina, I couldn’t agree more with your article. Like other readers I also catch myself wanting something to buy, but if I consider the issue again later on, I know that I can do without it. The cause is that peaople are being influenced: The producers (and the government!) want us to buy, buy, buy! That’s the way to keep the world spinning. Out of money? Get another loan to spend and spend more; no matter how, just spend, otherwise the whole monetery system will slowly stop. Too bad the world is just so dependent on money… All the readers over here (already) know that spending won’t make one happy, but the majority is simply affected by the new and shiny iPod bill-posters. I don’t think this will ever change…

  7. to Luis, getting laid, definitely helps me rid of stress, too.

    On a serious note, if everybody felt this way, our society would be a much better place.

  8. ALEjandro Guerra

    Me gusta sacar una tortilla de la nevera, calentarla y ponerle encima una delgada rebanada de queso y comérmela despacito.

  9. This is a fantastic article of simple life style that we need follow, especially our planet is threatened by global warming..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/jan/21/environmental.debt1

    http://godsdirectcontact.com/topics/SOSGlobalWarming.html

    For the simple things I love to do:

    I enjoy carrying my pocket digital camera with me all the time so I can find some simple beauty around my daily life when I take a walk around my home or office everyday and share them on the internet without Photoshop enhancement.

  10. I enjoyed reading this article – quick and to the point. Easier said than done however…

    The Dividend Guy

  11. Ray

    I thoroughly like this article.

    The underlying principles you are revealing in this is similar to Buddha’s teachings to how our way of life should be.

  12. I came across “think simple now” today and couldn’t quit jumping from article to article. This helped me a lot. Shifting my recurrent negative emotions and escaping from the nightmare. Taking a deep breath of fresh and renewed mental air.

    Many thanks!

  13. I’m new here, but I can see this is a nice article to read. I believe leading a simple life is happier and more content than a materially rich one.

    thanks.

  14. ALEjandro Guerra

    Me gusta también agradecer a Dios por todo lo que tengo. Igualmente por lo que no tengo. Comienzo por la noche poco antes de dormir por inventar una lista e ir agradeciendo cada uno de los elementos de la lista.

  15. I can relate to this post. When I moved a great distance from where I grew up, it was a challenge to take only a few suitcases. I had accumulated dishes, book and other things I thought I would need in my life. Funny, with all my moving around, I didn’t accumulate furniture? The bottom line is that life experience has helped me realize “less is more.” We don’t actually ‘need’ what we have been conditioned to think we need. Some of us think about our parents and grandparents and wonder how they could’ve accumulated what they have? Its an opportunity to realize we all carry our own baggage and we all work through it at our own pace.

  16. Celeste

    Confucius never dealt with modern biology…

  17. joy

    I enjoy:

    Ice cubes in summer
    sunshine
    hot baths

  18. Sometimes less noise is better. Too many physical things around with many more things in the head just do not cut it.
    A good article. Less is more as many will put it!

  19. Grant

    All makes a lot of sense.

    While reading it an Advert on the side of the page was try to get me to buy (another!) Ipod! Made me chuckle. It’s no wonder we struggle to find inner peace when we are bombarded with messages every day of our lives telling us exactly the opposite of what this article is saying.

    Oh, but the Ipod touch looks sooooo sweet ;-)

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