The word is full of promise and purity. It awakens images of clothes drying in dappled sunlight, fresh baked bread, and a rich expanse of unhurried breath.
For many of us, Simple Living is both an aspiration and a chore. We know we need more time, more margin, more enjoyment in our lives, but we can’t seem to shuffle off the heavy routines and responsibilities that weigh us down.
It’s easy to see that Simple Living (and all the other names it’s known by: Minimalism, Essentialism, Kondo-ing home and life) is having a moment. We seem to be collectively longing for the chance to truly savor our life.
But how exactly do we go about pursuing a more simple life? Is it really to be found in nothing but grey-and-black capsule wardrobes? Is keeping chickens and line-drying clothes the answer?
How do we by-pass all the conflicting “rules” about minimalism to build a life that actually lets us breathe?
In this first installment of the Simple Living Series, I’m going to walk you through what Simple Living is to me, what it is not, and how we’ll be using the term on this blog.
I’ll also give you a sneak peak as to where we’re headed in the rest of the series!
So what is Simple Living? And what is it not?
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts from it” – Joshua Becker
What is it you most value?
Time with family?
Time in nature?
Time to create? To serve? To look after the health of your body and spirit?
Minimalism at it’s core is not about a strict set of “rules” about how many things you should own, or what colors and shapes you should allow in your house.
(There is a minimalist design style that does follow such rules, but here we are talking more about the minimalist philosophy, or way of life.)
1) At it’s core, minimalism is about defining what your true values are, and then living intentionally in pursuit of those values.
It is not a race to own less stuff.
It is pursuing a meaningful way of life, instead of pursuing stuff.
Because you see, our default pursuit is stuff.
Stuff is easy. We can acquire it without thinking too much about it.
Our society is obsessed with productivity, and “stuff” is an easy yardstick to make you feel like you’re “getting things done”
Look at it this way:
Say you’re looking to redecorate your living room, but you’re short on time. You have an afternoon to yourself one day. What seems more productive:
Making some tea, sitting quietly in your living room with a notebook, and envisioning the purpose you want the room to serve, and the changes you can make to align this room to that purpose?
Or bopping out to T.J. Maxx and spending $100 on throw pillows, frames, and knick-knacks that, while cute, you may tire of in 6 months?
The former is more productive because it will actually move you closer to your goal. You are able to identify how you want your home to serve you, and what steps you need to get there.
But in the moment, buying the things feels more productive because you see an immediate change. It’s an easy yardstick.
2) Simple Living is slow living.
Simple Living means being ok with taking the time to think through pursuits before rushing into them. You know time is your most limited and precious resource, and you want to use it well.
In the example above, it is being wise enough to know that sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to reflect, instead of producing.
3) Simple Living means surrounding yourself with things that truly bring you joy, and no more.
In the words of William Morris: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.
Obviously we need kitchen tools, computers, cleaning supplies. These things may not bring us immediate joy, but upon reflecting on how they make our lives possible, they sure do!
We want to spend our time in ways that reflect our values, but we also want our environment to reflect our values.
Is it worth it to drop an entire paycheck on an impressive TV when I’m trying to limit my family’s screen time? The easy answer is no.
But if I’m paying more attention to what advertisements and sales flyers are telling me I need, than to how my values are telling me to live, I may unwittingly waste a lot of time and money.
4) Simple Living means living within (or below) your means, and being content with “enough”.
In the words of Ma Ingalls, “enough is as good as a feast”.
If you are regularly piling up debt to afford your lifestyle, you are not living simply, and you are not living true to yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s not “living simply” to work towards a better paying job. It means, if you don’t have that dream job and it’s dream salary, don’t pretend you do in your spending.
The bottom line is, the “rules” of Simple Living are pretty vague. It’s all about living with intention. So what is it not?
- Simple Living is not about impressing your friends (or the Internet) with how little you have.
- It is not necessarily about living “off the grid” with gardens, chickens, or solar power, although that is how some people cultivate their simple lifestyle.
- Simple Living is not about only wearing black, grey, and white, when you really love color and pattern.
- Simple Living does not mean a life of nothing but lentil stew.
- Simple Living does not ask that you smash your TV.
Do I hear a sigh of relief? Often, we look at other people’s minimalist lifestyles, and get confused. We don’t want to live with only one backpack of belongings. Does that mean we’re not minimalist?
Joshua Becker has a great response to this. He advocates finding a “rational minimalism” that works for you, based on your passions, pursuits, and values.
After all, if minimalism is the “promotion of what we most value”, then we’re not being minimalist if instead, we’re promoting what other people value, amiright?
So, if minimalism-simple living-essentialism is really this vague, then how do I go about creating a simpler lifestyle?
That’s what we’re going to cover in this series!
Next week, I’m going to walk you through my simple living journey- and that’s what it is: a journey!
We’re going to follow that up by exploring how you can cultivate simplicity in your clothing, your home, your eating habits, your schedule, and even your hobbies.
And at the end of this series, my hope is that you will walk away not only with inspiration, but with practical tips to help you live a little simpler and breathe a little easier.
I can’t wait to get started. But in the meantime, I would love to hear:
What area of your life gives you the most stress? If you were to simplify one thing, what would it be?
Let me know in the comments below, and I will try to find some help for you before this series is over!
Until next time!