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Z is for Zero: A-Z of Simple Living

Z is for Zero: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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Zero. We equate it with nought, nothing, emptiness.

But in the final installment of the A-Z of Simple Living series (we made it!) zero has two other, far more positive implications.

First, Zero Impact

First, we want to leave zero impact on those who come after us (or as close as possible to it). We want to minimise the burden for our kids, our grandkids and their grandkids. Simplicity is many things to many people. But one of the common factors in simplifying is our desire to not leave the earth worse than we found it.

Yes, that definitely includes environmental impact, but it doesn’t stop there.

We can ensure, through creating a simpler life, that our zero impact stretches out to include:

  • Debt – we do not want to keep spending more than we earn – both as individuals and countries. It’s not sustainable and it’s not fair to expect those who come after us to pay for our lack of foresight.
  • Stuff – our legacy reaches far beyond the values and memories we leave behind. It includes the house full of stuff, the storage unit, the clutter, the crap, the heirlooms and the keepsakes. Do we want our legacy to include our loved ones sifting through our belongings for weeks after we’re gone?
  • Self-worth – if we spend our days disengaged from family and friends, what does that say to them? It tells them they aren’t as important as our smartphone/email/Twitter/more important people. If we really engage – or, at the risk of sounding cliched, be present – in our interactions with people, we will leave them feeling important. That they matter.
  • Environment – excess consumption, mindless buying, keeping up with the Joneses and buying food that has travelled thousands of kilometres to get to your kitchen – these all add up to impact greatly on our environment. Some view simplifying as having the world at their fingertips by way of streamlining, but I disagree.

These four areas of life sum up so much of what simple living is about. Living sustainably, living simply, living mindfully and living responsibly.

Second, Zero In on What Matters

Creating a life of simplicity is complicated. This we know.

But what we need to do, to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the task of simplifying life, is zero in on what’s important.

Find your why, and keep it at the forefront of your mind as you work through life. Remember, simplifying is a step-by-step process. But if you know what is important from the beginning, then you can make your choices based on those priorities.

Ask yourself to list the following things in order of importance:

  • friends
  • partner/spouse
  • family
  • spirituality
  • health
  • work
  • leisure

Add to the list any other priorities you may have, and use these – along with the idea of zero impact – to guide you through the process of simplifying.

There’s almost as much head-work involved as physical work, but as someone who is finally starting to reap the benefits of a simpler life, I can tell you it is absolutely worthwhile.

It’s one of the biggest and best changes I’ve made to my life.

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Well, that’s it. The final instalment of the A-Z of Simple Living. I hope you enjoyed it! If you missed any of the posts, you can find all of them here.

Regular posts will begin again shortly, as I’m now back from a restful holiday with my family. Really looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings each of us, on the road to a simpler, slower life.

 

 

Y is for Yes: A-Z of Simple Living

Y is for Yes: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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Embracing simple living feels like saying no a lot.

  • No, I won’t buy that dress.
  • No, I don’t need to fill that space.
  • No, I won’t overcommit my time.
  • No, I won’t buy into the drama.

And quite often, we need to say no.

But simple living isn’t about withholding pleasures, going without joy or embracing a life of scarcity. It’s about setting yourself free. Specifically, setting yourself free to say yes more often, yes to the things that are important, yes to actually living life.

We can be free to say yes to:

  • space – both mental and physical
  • your kids when they ask you to play
  • engaging more
  • enjoying a cup of coffee with your partner – even if there is still work to be done
  • finding your passions
  • peace and quiet – sitting in the stillness is OK
  • spontaneous adventures and travel
  • getting up earlier

Some of these things you may be already doing, and some you may have no interest in doing. The difference here is choice. We’re making room in our lives – by simplifying – to say yes to more of the things we want to, when we want to.

What do you want to say yes to?

 

X is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

X is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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(Firstly, let me apologise for the ‘x’. Turns out it’s difficult to come up with a word beginning with ‘x’ that made sense for this series (xylophone? x-ray?) If you can think of a good one,  let me know in the comments!)

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 commitment?”

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?”

Why not try?Why not see how this goes? Why not experiment?

ex·per·i·ment

[n. ik-sper-uh-muhnt; v. ek-sper-uh-ment]

noun

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.

If we approach change as an experiment rather than a permanent lifestyle shift, there is really nothing to lose by trying something new.

But the key is to actually try something new. Because if nothing changes, then… nothing changes. 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.

  • 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. At the end of the three months, you’ve lost nothing and gained a whole new understanding of what clothes you really need, and what you can let go of.
  • 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. Live with the empty space for a month and see if you enjoy having somewhere empty to rest your eyes and the calming feeling of a decluttered space. After the month is up you can choose to keep the contents of the box or donate it.
  • 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. You lose nothing except time, stress and anxiety.

Try a Low-Risk Experiment

  • 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 3 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 and/or on the cloud. Place all the physical photos back in their box and commit to getting rid of the box in a 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.
  • Choose one room in your home, or one category of stuff (toys, sporting gear, collectables, books) and hold a packing party. Put all of it away in boxes and only pull items out as needed. Then, after a set amount of time, commit to donating the stuff still in boxes.

Of course you could also opt to go all-in and give away your possessions, move to a tiny home, go travelling for a year or shift your family from the city to a rural property. (Sounds fun!) But in the interests of making steady, small changes, the no-risk and low-risk experiments would be a good place to start. 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? 

 

W is for Wonderment: A-Z of Simple Living

W is for Wonder: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
                                                                                                               — W.B. Yeats

Simple living is many things. It’s:

But it’s also beauty and wonder and joy. Because if not for beauty; for unexpected moments of joy or delight; creativity and wonderment, then what are we working for?

It goes against the grain of our ‘efficiency and productivity at all costs’ society, but taking time to wonder and making space for wonder is one of the keys to a simpler, happier, more satisfied life.

Wonder of Curiosity

Take time to think and question, to be curious and to ask how? Why? Who?

Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” And it’s when we stop questioning that we lose the beauty of discovery.

If we didn’t question, we would not have the opportunity to marvel at exactly why the sky is blue, or how a bird’s skeleton is hollow, or the fact that children laugh over 300 times a day while adults manage around 15 giggles.

These things, and the world around us, hold such incredible beauty and wonder. If we stop being curious though, we miss out.

The Wonder of Tiny Moments

Dewdrops on a spiderweb, the rise and fall of a sleeping child’s chest, the lacework of shadows on the lawn, the way you and your partner can share a joke and just feel love, the plant flowering in the middle of a 4-lane freeway, the sky’s precise shade of lavender as the sun sets, the ridges and peaks of a knuckle, the warmth of your breath as it passes out your nose.

Take time to notice them.

The Wonder of Enormous Ideas

The sheer size of the night sky, the way music can bring an arena of ten thousand people together, the ocean, unconditional love, the way the least fortunate among us can be the most giving, Earth’s rotation, forgiveness from a child, wisdom.

Let your mind go there.

 

Wonder brings awareness. It brings gratitude for what we have and where we are right now. It allows us to bask in a very real beauty, even just for a moment. And best of all – it’s not reliant on how much you earn, where you live, what you wear or how many friends you have. Wonder and beauty are everywhere.

And the fact that you can find it in Tel Aviv, Chicago, Bangkok or Wellington is one of the greatest levellers there is. We all have capacity for wonder.

V is for Value: A-Z of Simple Living

V is for Value: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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V is for Value.

But in this case I’m not talking about things of monetary value (although that could be part of it) and I’m not talking about moral and ethical values. Instead, I’m asking what regular, everyday things do you value? What people, relationships, experiences, feelings, rituals and belongings do you hold dear?

Or put another way, if you removed everything that didn’t matter – the clutter, the complications, the drama, the ‘shoulds’, the guilt – to get to the very core of what is essential to you, what would remain?

Perhaps, like me, you value:

  • chatting over a coffee with your partner?
  • quality time spent with your kids – as opposed to ‘busy’ time?
  • reading good books?
  • travelling – locally and abroad?
  • listening to good music?
  • afternoon naps?
  • work that satisfies you?
  • helping people?
  • the din of a house full of family and friends?
  • time spent on your health?
  • time spent alone?

Whatever your answers, I want you to know that these things matter.

Yes, they may seem trivial when viewed as part of the Big Picture. Frivolous. Selfish even. And I can tell you they certainly don’t make up the majority of my day. That privilege goes to…housework.

But I think these little sparkles are the jewels in life.

  • Embracing afternoon naps will not change the world – but will change your day.
  • Listening to music will not stop climate change – but it does refill your creative fuel tank.
  • Travelling does not cure disease – but it opens your mind and heart.

If we’re simplifying in order to find a better way of life, don’t you think we should try and include more of these things we value? What are we doing it for if not to have at least the opportunity for more of these moments?

Life is, after all, for living.

 

 

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