Everyone has heard the phrase, seen the wooden signs and perhaps even read a book (or ten) on what simple living is all about. In a culture inundated with commercialism and stuff, simplicity is a refreshing concept at best.
Have you really arrived at true simplicity? Do you truly understand what it really is? That, my friend, is a very personal question. It’s one that holds different value for different people. My quest for simplicity has set me on a 20-year journey to a place I have not yet arrived!
A “stuff” overload
For me, it all began many, many years ago when I looked at a number of items around my home and thought, “Why do I have all this stuff?” I had collected frogs, moose and snowmen for many years leading up into my early 30’s. And while they were cute and conversational, they were also dust collectors.
I was beginning to find it hard to assign a home for all my “stuff.” People would kindly add to my collections throughout the year too. And while the gesture was much appreciated, I felt I was nearing a point of overload.
Making the decision to simplify
There’s one day that I remember very clearly. I made a decision — and just making the decision brought tremendous relief. The decision was that I would not longer collect. No frogs, no moose, no snowmen… nothing. That decision seemed relatively painless. I first shared it with my immediate family, letting them know that my collecting days were done. I asked if they could kindly refrain from purchasing any more collectible paraphernalia and that I would be ever so grateful.
This was met with mixed feelings. After all, I had given them a pretty easy in to birthday and holiday gifts for the last 15 years or so. Now they would have to regroup and really think about what types of gifts would suit me best. I made sure to tell them all that just spending time with them was enough of a gift for me.
Getting rid of my collections
The second decision was much harder. That was, to decide what to do with the boxes and boxes of moose, frogs and snowmen. Would I keep them, pack them away and let them collect dust in my attic? Would I give them away? Would I sell them?
In the end, I decided against keeping them. After all, in my pursuit of simplicity, an attic full of knick-knacks seemed counterintuitive. Even though I would not be able to see them, I felt they would still add weight to my life.
I had a huge yard sale and ended up selling my collections. It was a hard thing to do but a good thing that propelled me one step closer to living life simply.
The road to simplicity
The road to simplicity has been a bumpy one for me, but I keep moving closer to the mark. I still love home decor — not collections, just fun and funky decor. I have to be careful not to overload my relatively small home.
I also love outdoor plants… oh, I could buy plants anytime I am given the opportunity. However, I now take more time to use seeds and plant only things that I can divide, replant elsewhere and share. I have a slogan, “Annuals only when necessary!” When I take my kids plant shopping, they ask me, “Are those annuals or perennials?” They are careful not to allow “unnecessary purchases,” even in the garden.
Living simply in all aspects
Living simply for me has been about more than just reducing physical baggage. It has been about choices that I make in all areas of my life. This includes not overextending myself, learning how to say no and protecting my alone time. It also means making decisions that reflect living in the now, being present.
I am more engaged than ever with the richness of a life not cluttered with stuff. It frees up time to develop meaningful relationships, something I would much rather pursue and foster than the latest sale. It also allows me to help others more readily, something that is an integral part of who I am.
As you enjoy this Christmas season, take the time to reflect on what is really important in your life. And think about what kinds of things you hold on to. What does your garage or attic look like? Is it full of things that are not particularly useful or valuable, perhaps even things that you have forgotten about? If all your “stuff” were to disappear tomorrow, would you still be smiling? I hope so.
Share your stories of living the simple life with us below. We would love to hear them.
— Susan Patterson