Firstly, let me apologise for the ‘x’. It turns out it’s insanely difficult to come up with a word beginning with ‘x’ that made sense for the Simple Living series (xylophone? x-ray?) If you can think of a good one, let me know in the comments and I will include it in the upcoming ‘A-Z of Simple Living’ book.
‘X’ is for eXperiment
Fear holds us back in our efforts to simplify – don’t you think?
- “What if I need this one day?”
- “What if I offend someone by getting rid of their gift?”
- “What if people judge me for wearing the same clothes regularly?”
- “What if someone doesn’t like me after I say no to a committment?”
I am as guilty as anyone of these fear-based responses. But in the search for a simpler life, I think we should begin to ask, “Why not experiment?”
If we approach change as an experiment, rather than a permanent lifestyle shift, there is really nothing to lose by trying something new.
[n. ik-sper-uh-muhnt; v. ek-sper-uh-ment]
1. a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act for the purpose of discovering something unknown or testing a principle.
a chemical experiment; a teaching experiment; an experiment in living.
This entire lifestyle of simplicity may turn out to be a fruitless experiment. We may find ourselves in two years time lamenting all our extra space and our lack of clutter. We may regret decluttering our useless knock-knacks. We may miss the cupboards full of stuff we no longer looked at.
It’s a possibility. But I doubt it.
The key is that we need to be willing to try new things. Because if nothing changes, then… nothing changes. We will still feel trapped, weighed down and stressed. Simplifying may not be the answer, but we won’t know until we try.
Start With a No-Lose Experiment
Just nudge yourself out of your comfort zone by experimenting with a small change, and ensure you can undo the experiment if it turns out not to work for you.
Some no-lose experiments:
- Follow the minimalist wardrobe challenge, Project 333. Courtney asks you to live for three months with only 33 items of clothing. Whatever extra clothes you own are put into storage while you see how far a minimal wardrobe can stretch.
- Choose a flat surface in your home – a shelf, the top of a chest of drawers, a coffee table or the kitchen benchtop – and clear it of everything. All the stuff that was previously there can be packed away in a box. Then just live with the empty space for a month. See if you enjoy having somewhere empty to rest your eyes and the calming feeling of a decluttered space.
- If you use a smartphone, try removing your email app from it for a week. Use your desktop/laptop for email instead and see how you feel when you’re not constantly on-call.
Try a Low-Risk Experiment
If you’ve already tried a no-risk experiment and would prefer to push the boundaries just a little more, perhaps you could try a low-risk experiment instead:
- Say no. If you really don’t think you should join another committee or spend another night babysitting, then simply say no. You may be surprised to see the world continues to turn and your friends do not disown you. The small risk, of course, is putting noses out of joint.
- Box up all that beautiful but unused glassware, silverware or home decor. (Weddings gifts, hand-me-downs from family and out-dated items are ripe with this kind of clutter). If it all remains in the box for six months and you do not miss it, commit to selling or donating it.
- Scan all your old photos and store them on an external hard-drive or on the cloud. Place all the physical photos back in their box and commit to getting rid of the box in 6 months time if you haven’t needed to look at the contents. The small risk is a catastrophic tech fail, where all data is lost and your images can’t be retrieved. Not likely to happen, particularly if you store your images in two separate places.
Or, if you’re looking to dive head-first out of your comfort zone, you could try a huge, life-altering experiment like my friend Dan Garner, who has just sold or given away the vast majority of his belongings to live full-time in an RV.
In Dan’s case, he has minimised and simplified over a long time, so the risk wasn’t as terrifying as for someone just starting out, but it is still an experiment. The key is he didn’t let fear hold him back from trying.
And neither should we.
If you want to embrace a simpler life, but are afraid of what might happen, then start experimenting. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
What could you experiment with right now? What would push you ever-so-slightly out of your comfort zone? Or would you prefer to jump into a new way of living whole-heartedly?