my simple life: why I’m choosing a simple life

Two months ago I carried out a severe and deliberate culling. I donated three full garbage bags of clothing (socks included) to the local Salvos and distributed my hideously large magazine collection amongst various local op-shops and medical clinics.

via pinterest

I’ve also been living without 80% of my kitchen wares – they’re stored in the spare room of my house whilst we undertake a behemoth renovation. And I’ve culled my bathroom accessories down to half a tiny shelf (this has happened over time - as things ran out I didn’t replace them).

It all may sound insignificant but actually the extrusion of said objects from my life has given me an inordinate level of happiness.

Perhaps it’s because I no longer stand in front of a bursting wardrobe flabbergasted as what to wear each morning – now I have 5 outfits that I mix and match throughout the week. Or maybe it’s simply because I haven’t spent a second of my time shopping to replace things I got rid of (okay, expect for three pairs of underwear). Regardless, it’s been two months and I’m experiencing what many seasoned minimalists have been spruiking since paring back became a Thing – new and unmistakable feelings of happiness, elegance and calm.

Why so? Common sense will tell you that less stuff creates space and that this space can’t just be seen by the eye, it can be felt, like the loosening of a tight grip around your chest. This is true.

For me it’s also about the freedom gained when you realise you don’t actually need a lot of stuff. Suddenly your productivity, cooking ability, dress sense or self-confidence isn’t chained to material objects. You feel lighter (and grateful) for not having to drag them around like a massive lead ball.

Basic human psychology will tell you that having fewer material possessions or external stimuli to focus on allows for more focus on internal thoughts and intentions. Instead of shopping, you dig around in the garden at home, or catch up with friends over a healthy bush walk, or start writing that book you always wanted to write...

A study in the 70s found that people who had won millions in the lottery were no happier than the control group who had only enough to meet their basic needs. We humans can get locked into a cycle in which we strive to achieve long-term happiness through the constant purchase of material goods. We make said purchases and experience a short-lived buzz, but that quickly dissipates. If we’re not savvy, we’ll keep making purchases only to perpetuate the vicious cycle.

Further, paring back on stuff can free up money for experiences, and these, research shows, are what really make us happy in the long term. If you think back to all the things you’ve spent your money on and have derived true joy out of in the past, they’re probably things like that time you hit the dance floor with a bunch of crazy Cubans in Havana, or the memory of the invigoration you felt watching the fog roll through the mountain during your the trek to Machu Picchu. You know, rather than the $8 alpaca booties you bought off one of the locals.

Perhaps most importantly though, deliberately paring back and committing to not buying more stuff can help boost your self esteem. Studies have shown that low self esteem is linked to materialism. I think it’s embedded in what I mention above – when you pare back and live with less stuff, you realise your personality, quirks, ability etc are still there, waiting in the sidelines to be made more use of. And now you have the space and time to make more use of them.

Which brings me to my final musing – choosing to live a simple life, with few material possessions, is about making space for things that matter. Simplicity isn’t an end, it’s a means to an end, the end being a life filled with relationships and experiences that make you feel like the sun’s shining on both your face and your back. You know those kind of relationships? Like Dave Bruno, the 100T Challenge guru, says:


“Simplicity will not fill our souls any more than consumerism. But living a life of simplicity will help us discern what truly does fill up our souls.” 


9 comments:

  1. i'm right with you

    and of course there are wider systemic and ethical reasons why less is best, which i think you've mentioned before

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  2. Thank you, this post came at the perfect time. I have been trying to bring my life back to basic including cleaning and beauty and food and have been for a while now. However I keep telling myself I NEED more clothes and shoes. I buy a new item and then I'm looking for the next. I will print your post and stick it on the cupboard door as a reminder.

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    Replies
    1. Honoured to have my post on your cupboard door!

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  3. Great post - thank you!
    I hadn't thought much before about the link between consumerism and self-esteem ~ you're right :)
    Anna

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  4. Just what I needed to hear!! I've been trying to pare back on clothing and STUFF, there is a definite feeling of liberation when I finish up something and decide not to replace it.
    To help me streamline my wardrobe I'd love to hear what clothing items you've kept in yours - do share :)

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    1. I was ruthless! I kept 4 pants (including one pair of jeans, cargos, red pants and trackies),a couple of leggings, 3 long sleeved jersey tops, 3 jumpers, 2 woolly cardigans, a vest and a couple of shirts. 3 jackets/coats. That's about the sum total of my winter gear. It's amazing how many outfits you can get out of mixing those items up. Ruthless compared to what I had!

      Be honest about how often you wear all the clothing in your wardrobe and just cut ruthlessly. I found keeping the more basic items a good idea. Good luck!

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  5. I'm delighted to have found your blog! I'm going through a period of downshifting myself (left NYC for the country, quit my stressful corporate job to go to school to be a teacher, became a vegan, etc), it's great to read about your experiences. I'm picking up so much from your posts. Thank you!

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  6. Inspiring post! And I love the quote. I've just moved house and felt mentally weighed down by all the crap we had to pack and unpack. I think I will attack my wardrobe tomorrow and give away all the stuff I no longer use. Thanks for the motivation.

    http://selfhealthenvironment.blogspot.com.au/

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  7. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Your site is like a bible for me in nature-friendly, slow and simple way of life! Please keep doing the good things that you are doing now.

    Good luck!

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