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Some people envision a simple life as a primitive existence off the grid. In reality, simple living is found in a variety of ways. The commonality of these simple lives is encompassing what matters most while eliminating what holds little or no value.
Simple living means decluttering your home, mind, and schedule to allow room to relax and breathe. It’s about finding space to nurture relationships and gratitude for what you do have.
“A little simplicity would be the first step toward rational living, I think.”
A simple life focuses on the beauty of nature and the quality of an intentional moment. It breaks away from the trappings of society based on consumerism because it is not impressed with societal expectations.
The Beginning of a New Dream
My childhood dream centered around an old, classic, white house filled with love and peace. As an Army brat with divorced parents, there was a sense of having roots that I missed.
I wanted to feel grounded. I wanted a calm life in which tomorrow was predictable because stability was a given.
Instead I was blessed with an incredible ability to adapt to change. I was born in Texas, learned to walk in Germany, began talking in Georgia, attended first grade in Arkansas, got my first kiss in Tennessee, and danced at my senior prom in Virginia.
My youth included changing schools 9 times in 12 years. I became an excellent packer. The chaos of change ruled my world.
What never changed was my love for old, classic, white houses. I preferred the farmhouse version of that dream.
My View of Simple Living
A front porch offered a swing gently moving in the breeze of the old maple trees. The front door would open into crisp, white walls, time worn floors, and rugged blue jeans.
Wooden steps would lead to a charming attic with nooks and crannies to explore. There would be a farmhouse sink open to the view of the horses in the back pasture. Brisk, cold water would pump from the spring-fed well on hot, southern days.
Chickens would need to be fed and goats would need to be milked. Oh, the pure joy that dream stirred in me for years fed my soul.
Instead of chasing my dream, the chaos of change followed me into adulthood.
I pursued the American dream. A family, a big house, nice car, and challenging career were the measures of success. I obtained them and found that some brought joy and some did not.
Once my greatest joys (my children) were grown, I began a new journey towards simple living.
What’s the difference between minimalism and simple living?
Initially minimalism and simple living may appear to be the same. I’ve found they do have much in common, but there do appear to be distinct differences.
Minimalism focuses more on the physical possessions a person has. There is value placed on maintaining only what you need and reducing your footprint. This is often pictured as modern rooms with sleek surfaces and very little decor.
This focus is fabulous for allowing you to think clearly. By removing all the unnecessary distractions, the mind can rest and concentrate with greater ease.
“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.”
A simple life has a greater variation in how it appears. For some, it is simply reducing the monthly expenses (i.e., cable bill or fast food) to allow work hours to be cut. For others, it is a more involved process.
Simple living allows for each individual to determine what is of value in life. It goes beyond possessions to look at mindset, activities, people, and more that affect a person’s level of stress and happiness.
Both minimalism and simple living focus on making intentional choices based on what matters most. The difference appears to be focus.
Benefits of Simple Living
“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.”
Adapting a simple lifestyle can lead to many valuable benefits. This has led to a common phrase in the simple living community. Less is more. The less clutter you have, the more value you find in life.
Removing the stress of living paycheck to paycheck with mounting debt leads to increased happiness.
Buying into our consumerism-driven society can drain your bank account and your happiness. Simple living is about less consumerism and therefore, leads to more financial security.
In addition, having a firm grasp on what you value as an individual, rather than what society values, relieves you of the need for retail therapy or keeping up with the Jones’.
Less stress and increased rest can lead to improved mental and physical health. Decreased stress levels have been linked to drops in heart disease and obesity. Less clutter means less distractions and more peace of mind.
Clearing the clutter to find simplicity
“As we live and as we are, Simplicity — with a capital ‘S’ — is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple; a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
As mentioned, removing clutter allows the mind to focus. This leads to increased productivity as the brain is dealing with less stress. Increased productivity means less time to accomplish your task. Now you have more time to enjoy life.
Reducing the clutter in my closet has made an impact on my day to day living. It creates a much more pleasant start to my day. Courtney Carver offers an excellent plan for sorting through the clothes you own in her book, Project 333.
I found putting clothes out of my sight for 3 months helped clarify what I didn’t need to keep. Starting with this 3 month challenge, I soon realized our mild climate in Tennessee and my casual lifestyle afforded me the opportunity to live with 33 items year round.
If you find yourself struggling with clothing, I love this suggestion Gretchen Rubin makes in her book, Outer Order, Inner Calm. “When deciding whether to keep an article of clothing, ask yourself ‘If I ran into my ex on the street, would I be happy if I were wearing this'” I find that question is quite effective.
Simple Living in a Busy World
“Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.”
Linda Breen Pierce
Distractions, busyness, multi-tasking, and eating on the run are the norm in today’s busy world. Quit celebrating busyness. Focus on the one task at hand. Savor the moment and enjoy the accomplishment of each task.
Decluttering doesn’t just mean getting rid of physical stuff, but also applies to your schedule. Multi-tasking, sometimes referred to as task switching, is not an effective way to complete your to-do list. Take time to focus on one task and then move on to the next one.
Simpler meals made with local ingredients or food you grow for yourself can be rewarding. It leads to improved health and has psychological benefits. Growing your own food satisfies the need for self-sufficiency in some and the joy of watching a garden grow for others.
Learning to Simply Live
- Learning to say no: When you get clear about the things you want to do with your life, it becomes easier to say no to the rest. It’s important to remember ‘no’ is a complete sentence. You do not have to provide an explanation.
- Learning to be comfortable with a quiet environment: When you silence the digital noise and listen to your own thoughts, you discover who you are.
- Learning to do nothing: It’s important to take time to self-reflect. Give yourself the space to relax.
- Learning to create routines; A simple morning and evening routine ensures your day is intentionally lived without draining your brain’s energy.
Today, I am searching for my dream. I’m finding the calm that comes with a quiet, country life. I’m piecing together the classic farmhouse, the house full of love, and the stability of a simple life. I hope someday to look at the life I’ve created and see the simple life I imagined.
“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
I invite you to come along with me. Good friends are an important part of my dream.