Lately, all of the posts I’ve been planning in my head have been… well, downers. First, I wanted to write about the evils of television, then I wanted to write about how chaos can overtake your entire life, and then I wanted to write about the American ideals of disposability. But then I realized that everyone here knows the pitfalls of an unsimplified life; in fact, that is probably why you are here.
I am not here to be a cynic and dissect all the things that are wrong with the world. I am here to sing the praises of simplicity and give you some tips that have worked well for me. So, in order to put my recent downer thoughts to good use, I’m going to list all the wonderful outcomes that simplifying your life can have. You’ll be amazed how far into your life they reach.
Simplify your things. I started with this. (Hint: it’s the easiest one!) First, I threw away one thing, and then I threw away another. When I finished with the garbage, I donated one thing, then I donated another. Outcomes: less anxiety. more space. save money. enjoy what you have.
Simplify your schedule. Every time something new starts: a new semester, a new job, new church commitments, I sit down with a sheet of paper and draw up a schedule. I know a lot of people love to fill up their schedules so that their “free time” is a 30 minute gap that involves driving to their next activity, and that is encouraged in our society, but realistically, how long can you keep up that level of energy and stimulation before you start to crack? My schedule has lots and lots of down time, and that is the time I feel is truly well spent. Outcomes: time to breathe and enjoy what you are doing, while you are doing it. the gift of purpose. also, the gift of choice.
Simplify your media (aka filter!) However, now that you’ve cleared your schedule, a warning. Some very sad statistics indicate that most Americans spend their free time doing two things: watching television and shopping. This is no accident. Television and media have been the vehicle by which the American “ideals” of consumerism and disposability have reached the masses. I won’t be on my soap box for long, but please consider how much different your life would be without television. Outcomes: time to read good books. time to sit and have a conversation with your family. no background noise during meals. time to start and finish projects that you care about. no more wondering if the next thing you buy really would make your life perfect.
Simplify your kids. So, you caught me. No, I don’t have kids yet. And I’m not going to pretend to be an expert; trust me, I’ve tried before and it did not end well. But I’ve read some great parenting books and they, fortunately, have had children. One thing I have gleaned is that kids do not, I repeat, do not need all the stuff we think they do. You are not neglecting your child if you don’t buy them an Xbox for Christmas. You are also not dooming them to a life of mediocrity if you make them choose between ballet and soccer and violin lessons and horseback riding and …. you get the picture. Kids need limits, just like adults, or they get overwhelmed. Outcomes: a calmer home. fewer tantrums (believe it or not!). never step on a broken action figure again. they will actually help you with chores (really). moments like the one pictured at the top: of your family just being together (on Mars, no less).
Simplify your mind. This last one is probably the hardest because it goes against everything we’ve been taught. We’re taught from a very young age to constantly be stimulated: from television, to video games, to the internet, to the toys we play with, to the food we eat–everything is designed to grab our attention and keep us at a heightened state of awareness. There is one major problem with this that eventually catches up to us: it is exhausting. Simplifying your mind involves slowing down, filtering out the things that vie for our attention, becoming calm, not just externally, but internally as well, allowing room for quiet in our life. But these are also the wonderful outcomes that stay with us always. Outcomes: quiet. calm. peace.
Aren’t those words something you want to aspire to?