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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. I always feel better after clearing out stuff. Problem is that I not only have to do it for myself, but for my kids, husband and home. Although I make it a conscious effort to live simply, clearly clutter is an activity that seems never ending….sigh…..

  2. Thanks for the info. Simple really is better.

  3. Trix

    Hi Tina,

    Good stuff!

    But just for a momment, imagine you stopped writing this blog..

    stopped doing stuff you really love to…

    and yet found peace…

    Graduation?

    ; )

  4. Yuu

    I really agree with your points.
    Multitasking was a trend word of late 90’s and especially in corporate world some people still think it’s something of a good thing.
    I respect doing one thing at the time.
    I also notice I’m more productive that way. We humans are not designed for multitasking but rather a serial processing.

  5. Stefan

    Excellent Article.

    A lot of the social ills we have today are the consequence of exactly the problems most people have mentioned in the article. I have always believed in a simple life. As an educator, I try to instill these ideas in the minds of my students. I always tell them it is better to distinguish yourself by your thoughts, dreams, personal relationships and personal achievements than by the accumulation of material possessions. That being said, I don’t believe that one should live a life devoid of possessions but, just as the article says, learn to appreciate what you have and maximize their utility. On a side note, I always prefer it if people to give me handmade or more unique gifts because I treasure them more. There is nothing like recieving a birthday card or a gift that a child has made of their own volition.

  6. Alice Bell

    I had a treadmill I rarely used because it was boring. Then I realized I live & work within 3 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and there is a trail that runs along close to it for miles & miles. Now I walk the trail for an hour each day, weather permitting. The hour on the trail seems like minutes, instead of the minutes on the treadmill that seem like hours. Bye, bye treadmill clutter.

  7. Donald R.

    Two of my most simple activities in life I love doing are praying, and walking. When I pray, I express myself as openly and honestly as I can to God and afterwards feel so much peace, harmony, and relief. Honesty is the best policy, especially to God who Knows Everything! Walking is also a key componet of my simplistic lifestyle. It requires a little motivation, and plenty of patience. Patience is perhaps my most important virtue. When I walk, they tends to be long and hard, which makes me feel so free and fearless like nothing is going to stop me from attaining my destiny! I also walk to accomplish a need like buying groceries and gifts and walking them back home. Sometimes, I will walk just to walk simply because it is enjoyable to me. I am absolutely thankful to be active in life by walking and active in my faith by praying. I walk with Jesus Christ everyday! Amen.

  8. Donald R.

    Honestly, my simplicity does that stop at praying and walking. The simple approach to living my life in meaning falls on what I will not do. I never have owned a car, a home, or a credit/debit card. With these “American Way” aspects out of my life, simplicty is attained and my life is thus meaningful. I live a comfortable life together with my family, which is another example of simplicity instead to separating myself far from family that our society encourages to develop independence. Honestly, I am independent, in thought! No one tells me to believe a certain way just because society wants to tease us with lies that, for example, using a credit card is easy and convenient when in truth, it is morally inexcusable and very INconvenient with all the fees and penalties attached to its use.

    No one ever said life was easy, but I say life is simple. My simple life requires much work and effort. In truth, anything easy requires no work or effort. So why do it? Work yourself and you will feel a whole lot better in the end. I absolutely cherish simplicity because it is the bridge between my life and my faith. With simplicity being the synapsis between life and faith, deep meaning to felt and life is thus manageable, stress-free, and peaceful. If you want to be at peace in life, then live by simplicity and you will carry greater meaning and hope for better life to come! Amen!

  9. Brian B.

    For most of us, ‘simple life’ simply means a life free of problems. So we look to avoid troubles instead of fix them as they come. ‘Better to have a petty problem than a real one’ it seems most of us think.

  10. Donald R.

    Interesting Brian, but here’s the problem, problems arise whether you like it or not. Life is anything but perfect. Most people, from your statement, seem to want a perfect world without “real” problems to handle. But that is completely unrealistic and foolish. I live in reality and reality states that problems were meant to arrise for each of us to be tested, as God Planned, so He can see how we handle them when they do arrive. I know how to handle “real” problems when they happen because I am experienced! I spread peace and calmness as problems arise and this works every time, especially since my peace and calmness come from Jesus Christ!

    If most people don’t know how to handle real problems when they come because they want to avoid them all, then how can they possibly grow in maturity and in experience from their problems to learn and understand their situation? In their ideal world, they will never grow to understand through experience how to manage their problems as they occur. What kind life on earth is that? No one goes through life without “real” problems. That is obvious to me.

    Experience is the second best teacher behind Jesus Christ, who had problems too from Roman soldiers torturing, hulmiliating, and later crucifing Him. All of us played a part in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ from our sins. But in the end, it was all worth it because all of us have a bright eternal future if we believe and trust in Him to confess our sins, be forgiven, and walk with Jesus through every “real” problem that each of us faces in life. This is beautiful and very meaningful.

    Also, “real” problems are signs of human suffering, which each of us faces to one degree or another. Jesus Christ suffered the most, and He Knew we would all suffer too through our earthy problems. That is why He redeemed all suffering and made it meaningful for all of us as children of God. Just lift up your problems and burdens to Jesus and He will carry them and help you greatly to live in peace and harmony. Peace Be With You Brian! Amen.

    Donald

  11. Brian B.

    Donald,

    I’m glad to hear all this from someone. It is quite true that problems come up whether we want/expect them. This is kinda my point. Most of the people I get really depressed if their favorite quarterback for their favorite football team does not throw a touchdown in every game. Or even worse, if they cant find their favorite pair of shoes in their favorite store in their size. You spoke of maturity. This is the level of maturity that I see in almost all humanity right now. This itself is a problem .. like you said. We do have the capability to rise from this yes .. But we dont want to even admit that we are this much denial.

    -BB

  12. Donald R.

    @Brian B.

    I’m glad to respond on this issue. The first example you used is fanaticalism. I use to be a hard-core Skins fan, but overtime, I have dramatically mellowed out. Now whether the Skins win or lose (or whether Campbell throws a touchdown in every game or not), does not get me emotionally charged as much anymore. And I love this new reality in my life because there is so much more to living in meaning than whether the Skins win or lose.

    The second example you mentioned sounds like envy, which is a mortal sin. I pick shoes that look nice, but I have no particular favorite shoes. They are my walking shoes. They eventually get old and are soon thrown away. Life goes on…

    Denial is a interesting word because I live by denying myself to The Lord, but at the same time, expressing myself as honestly as I can in prayer. I use to keep my feelings bottled up not willing to express the hurt and pain inside and being in denial of my realities in life. But that changed completely around roughly seven years ago. Today, I am very much in peace within Jesus Christ and within myself. I have no problem express myself now. This is one form of security I hold because by expressing my realities, I live content and at peace since there is nothing more important I need to speak about. The key is how I express myself that spreads peace and harmony to the those around me. Being very honest, as long as it is done out of respect, is important in life for anyone to live secure and disciplined. This, of course, is simple, but it takes a lot of work. Anything simple takes significant work and effort. However, it is well worth it in the end when they are at peace within Jesus and within themselves in life. Maturity then becomes a gradual growing process when boys become men, girls become women and immaturity becomes maturity for everyone who is respectfully honest in faithfulness. Amen.

    God Bless you, BB

    DonaldR

  13. I happened to catch a link to your site on Zen Habits and thought I would check you out. I am not disappointed. You have a wonderful blog, very informative and I can’t wait to dive deeper in your knowledge.

    Simple, FREE, pleasures;

    Letting the sun shine on your face, feeling the breeze upon your skin, the grass beneath your bare feet. The feeling of your pets fur between your fingers as you pet him/her, the beautiful song of a happy bird, watching a plant grow from seed knowing you assisted in it’s existence (and enjoying it’s fruits, if a fruit/vegetable plant). Meditation.

    We are provided so many excellent ways to enjoy life for free. Even if it’s a stroll through the park or sitting on a blanket allowing the sun to shine on us. Unfortunately we want things that make us unhappy, even if we don’t know it. The happiest day of my life was when we completed our last 15 minute session with decluttering our home. As the last box was taken from the home, I turned as looked back and sighed. The effects of visual stress was immediately known as it melted away. Since, there is not only less stress in my home but my husband and I argue less, and we never have to say “Where is …?”. Simple pleasures

  14. Donald R.

    Hi Katrina Wogoman,

    That was a beautiful message of living in simplicity. I have loved simplicity since I was born. I love walking outside whether the weather is sunny, snowing, or raining. I love de-stressing my life as much as I can within reason such as never using a personal credit/debit cards (saving money on penalties and silly fees), never using a personal car (saving money on gas, maintenance, and insurance), never using a personal cell phone (saving money on monthly bills, and avoiding possible health issues from radiation exposure), and being with my family daily without owning a home of my own. And of course, not taking out wasteful loans that means nothing to me, just like my credit rating, it means absolutely nothing! Of course, it is impossible to live truly stress-free. We need some measure of stress to be motivated in doing something. But I don’t believe in the American Way because, to me, The American Way is the Deficit Way by being under from all the loans society encourages its citizens to take out. I follow God’s Way and my way in my simplistic life and that is very beautiful and meaningful to me.

    Donald

  15. I can tell that you are “living it to give it” by your writing style. It is simple, to the point, and highly effective. I believe our physical space, along with our writing, is a direct reflection of our inner being. As a weight loss coach, I also believe that our physical bodies is a manifestation of our mental clarity, or lack thereof.

    Thanks for such a great post.

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