10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Live a Simple Life

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life."  10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Embrace Simplicity

 

Three years ago I suffered a breakdown.

I was done. I had nothing left to give. I drove to my parents’ house completely exhausted, my young daughter in the back, my pregnant belly pushing against the steering wheel, tears streaming down my face.

How did I get here? I tried to be everything to everyone. A loving stay at home mum, a supportive wife, a successful business-owner.

But instead of being accomplished, successful, important, what did I get?

Exhaustion. Guilt. Emptiness. Feelings of failure, sadness and overwhelm. I couldn’t sleep and constantly suffered headaches. I was doing nothing well.

The Turning Point

I’d like to tell you the moment I pulled into my parents’ driveway proved the turning point. Unfortunately, life had other plans. The closure of my business was swiftly followed by the birth of our baby boy. His arrival was even more swiftly followed by depression, anxiety and frighteningly dark thoughts.

Somehow, out of the darkness I was able to whisper to my husband the hardest words I’ve ever uttered, “Help me.”

The first weeks and months of treatment were incredibly difficult. I wasn’t crazy, I didn’t want to be prescribed anti-depressants, I certainly didn’t want to sit in a room with a stranger for two hours a week discussing my feelings. I just wanted to feel normal again. Actually, I just wanted to feel again.

The real turning point wasn’t uncovered in my psychiatrist’s office. It wasn’t even talking with my husband. It was online and completely by accident. The digital rabbithole lead me to Zen Habits and there I discovered the simple living movement.

Living with less stuff, less debt, less clutter meant living with more freedom, more time, more joy. I was certain this was the change I needed to make in my life.

Up to this point my life had been about more. Being more successful, more efficient, more adept, more available, more, more, more… This attitude of more brought overwhelm, exhaustion and constant feelings of failure. I had become a victim of a modern-day epidemic – more at all costs.

What I needed now was less, of that I was certain.

Slow, Intentional Change

The last three years have seen me mindfully, slowly and sometimes painfully creating a life of simplicity. I am happier, healthier, more joyful, more relaxed, more prone to laughter and dancing, more engaged with my kids, more in touch with my emotions, more loving towards my husband, more interested and more interesting.

In short, I had my life affirmed by embracing simplicity.

Now I want to share 10 reasons why you stand to gain more from living a life of less.

 

10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Live a Simple Life

Acceptance:

As you simplify your life, you get closer to the core – the essence – of who you are. You can see in greater detail the faults, the flaws, the strengths and the beauty of your authentic self. It’s no longer hidden beneath layers of junk, clutter and distraction. Don’t get me wrong – this can be scary – we hide behind these things for a reason. But the more you simplify, the easier these layers can be peeled back.

Clarity:

You begin to see who and what is really important. You know what you want, what you need – and you have the time and space to explore those things further.

Clutter-Free:

In a physical sense your home, your bedroom, your studio become a haven from the busyness of life. A place where you can unplug and relax, surrounded by a limited number of things that are beautiful and useful.

Gratitude:

Recent studies show that practicing gratitude daily helps improve health and well-being. Embracing simplicity strips away the inessentials so you can see just how much of what surrounds you is worthy of your gratitude.

Health:

Almost universally, those who pursue a simpler life will become physically healthier. You become more mindful of what you eat, how much you eat, how you move your body and how you care for yourself. The awareness and simplification of your surroundings bring awareness and simplification of your body. Less junk, less inactivity, more whole food, more vitality, more movement, more health.

Presence:

You will no longer float through the days caught in your past or your future. The present will be your reality and you will be capable of living there, soaking it in, learning and participating. You will be present playing with your kids, loving your partner, talking with you friends, the work you do.

Relationships:

When you’re no longer weighed down with past, future, stuff, shoulds, worries and guilt, you have the time, energy and space to devote to relationships. They will bloom under the extra love.

Sex:

See above. It gets better the simpler life is.

Generosity:

As you realise you need less than you have, you have more to give. Initially your stuff, then your time and your money. You have so many resources that can help others. And embracing simplicity means you can give widely.

Joy:

There is so much more joy to be had when living a simpler life. The important things bring joy – the improved relationships and connections – the little things – a beautiful sunset, a child’s giggle, a bird in flight, the warmth of a room full of friends. You will have the time and energy to feel these.

This life is yours for the taking. Embrace it by embracing a life of simplicity. And while how to do that is another post for another day, I can give you one tip right now:

Start now and start small.

It’s simply a matter of small actions and time.

 

This post first appeared in April 2013, but is probably more relevant now than ever. Enjoy!

 

{ Base image via swamibu on Flickr. Creative Commons. Graphics by me. }

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27 Responses to 10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Live a Simple Life

  1. Rebecca says:

    Awesome post and I totally agree that starting small and moving on to bigger and better things brings better things into your life.

    Thank you for sharing your insight and journey.

  2. I love this post. I am not striving towards a minimalist lifestyle or anything but am looking to always simplify. These are great reasons to keep going!

    :)

  3. EcoCatLady says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too suffered a bit of a societally induced breakdown, but mine came in college. I was so miserable, in fact, that I tried to kill myself… though it wasn’t a very serious attempt.

    But it all triggered a bit of an epiphany for me. If trying to live up to everything that the world expected of me was making me so unhappy that I’d rather be dead, then I had nothing to lose. So I set out to find a different path.

    This was nearly 25 years ago… long before terms like “simplicity” and “minimalism” were in vogue. I didn’t really know where I was headed, I only knew that I wasn’t playing the game any more!

    Anyhow, if you’d like to read more about my crazy journey, here’s a link:

    http://ecocatlady.blogspot.com/2011/07/one-snowy-night-that-changed-everything.html

    Congratulations on having the courage to change your life!

  4. KarinD says:

    Thank you for sharing yor story!
    It has many similarities with my own, only I’m still searching for my path to a simpler and happier life. Your blog is a source of inspiration.

  5. Vic says:

    Thank you for this post.. I am slowly on this journey, and love your posts. Reading this today, the thing that jumped out at me was reducing debt. Something we’ve been trying to do, but really we are swamped by an enormous mortgage, all as a result of trying to turn simple into ‘bigger and better’, which as we’ve discovered is not always the case! With more space comes more debt, more room for the stuff to spread and more to clean. And more stress. We have a wonderful home with lots of space for the kids, but I sadly find myself dreaming of a simpler smaller space, with a much lower mortgage so we have money to take holidays, do yoga, enrich the kids lives w experiences instead of stuff…. I will keep on little by little.. Thanks again x

  6. Jon says:

    Great post. Thanks.

    What I’ve learnt recently is that divorcing my iPhone has provided me with more space and a more clutter-free existence.

  7. Hi Brooke, I popped over to link to your decluttering post and found this new one up! I can relate. It was 4-years ago when the sense of being totally overwhelmed hit me. Having recently lost a close member of the family and just having my second child I knew things needed to change.
    A book on general life-simplification which I’d grabbed from the local library along with a book on dealing with grief!, lead me to Zen Habits also. And that’s where my story ends and starts.
    So excited to see you’ve been featured in the daily telegraph – I’ll be checking it out later. Jo

  8. Rain says:

    The simplicity movement is a breath of fresh air. I feel my whole being relax just reading about it! I too discovered it via the Zen Habit’s blog about 2 years ago. Yet I knew about FlyLady who teaches about decluttering many years before that. It’s a continual creative journey implementing the ideas I choose for my customized lifestyle.

  9. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE this post. Thank you for sharing xxDani

  10. [...] 10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Embrace Simplicity | Slow Your Home by Brooke McAlary.  Living with less stuff, less debt, less clutter meant living with more freedom, more time, more joy. [...]

  11. Linn says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I had my breakdown one year ago, and that led me onto the same path towards awareness, simplified living, gratitude, mindfulness… It still feels new and unexplored, yet so much have already changed. I know I’m on the right track, and reading this makes me even more convinced.

  12. [...] Avery. This week Nicole shared her personal journey to simplicity and the reasons behind it in 10 Life-Affirming Reasons to Embrace Simplicity. In this post Nicole conveys the experience of overwhelm faced by a young Mum with too much on her [...]

  13. [...] • 10 motivi validi per volere rendere la propria vita… più semplice (qui) [...]

  14. Sean Anderson says:

    I went through the same breakdown and still 8 years later still feel angry, depressed, and have a whole lot of health issues. My issue is I do not have the money to simplify…. unless I tell me creditors tuff, I dont feel good your not getting yours. I do hold onto the hope that one day this will be over I hope it is before I lose time and seeing my son grow up, he’s 3/12 I’m 43. I started late cause I was trying to conquer the world. Heres to trying.

  15. This is a beautiful post. I came to simple living after having my first child, and the second child made it a point of no return. I’m still working through the clutter, but every day is better and better.

  16. AngelJem says:

    Thank you. I’m struggling under pressure at the moment, worrying about the future and feeling overwhelmed by a house of stuff. A good reminder that I need to focus and without focus my life will keep on spinning.

  17. […] it’s important to pare back your belongings. And there are so many good reasons for doing so. But stuff isn’t important. Not really. And it doesn’t deserve our full […]

  18. Lara says:

    I love your refreshing honesty and transparency. You are brave and fabulous in every way. I beat depression a few years ago and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…but necessary to be where I am now. No where to go but up!
    I’ve so enjoyed following your journey! Keep putting your wonderful message out into the world. We need your words.

  19. José Lorenzut says:

    Firstly, forgive my poor English. I really loved have read this post, because it goes along with my decision to simplify my life.
    I know it is a slow process, but I see myself in the future, raising chikens at a small piece of land, here in Brazil, having time to enjoy the litle things,that I can’t see now, due to so many things to do every hour!
    ” If you have the food and clothing for today, be happy”. Said Jesus Christ.
    So, let’s just be happy .God bless you, the author of this post and all of us.

  20. Mariel says:

    Very moving. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m at a very different point in my life than you, but our journey for simplicity is the same. It’s humbling to know someone else out there isn’t the only one who has struggled and is determined to be a better person and live a life of happiness.

  21. I love this post!Acceptance is always the first step if we want to change something in our lives.

  22. Jen says:

    Great post. I feel numb sometimes, detached and robotic. My insides stale. I just want to feel alive again.
    Living simply is the key to a lot of great things.

    • I hope you’re OK, Jen. Send me an email if you want to talk, because I know that feeling and it’s awful. You’re right, simplifying does lessen the weight we carry, and so does talking to someone. xxx

  23. Magda Rozmyslowicz says:

    I had a nervous/mental breakdown after I too undertook way to many tasks in addition to the 4 children I was already homeschooling. I ran 3 weekend programs which left me with no sleep and without eating meals during those weekends. Not to mention I had then recently found out that I was expecting #5. I had a major breakdown and real bad thoughts had crossed my mind too and so I needed to quickly strip down everything that weighed heavily on me, all of the programs, even the simplest of tasks as physically and mentally I wasn’t able to do anymore ! It was scary. But now thinking about it I am so grateful for having experienced that. I had to simplify to get by…and soon after I miscarried… I had to be literally spoon fed as I lay in bed, unable to get up except for the washroom while I passed everything related to a miscarriage. After that though I, being a Muslim, started to read the Qur’aan on a daily basis… I had allowed myself to become so distracted and I knew that simplicity was always there in Islaam. I had turned to a simple life at the moment of accepting Islaam except that it wasn’t just simplicity but it was things useful, and at the same time grateful for. Simplicity just never is the same unless there is a sense of gratefulness to it and turning my life around to that of a sober life taught me how to care for myself to a whole new level. How to connect with my family, who before Islaam I never cared to connect with, and form strong bonds I have to this day. Anyway, I do believe just as in Islaam we learn that every person is born upon the natural inclination to a natural state that God (Allah in Arabic) had created them and that as they grow they are influenced by the societies they live in perverting that natural inclination. Many of what we see in society is leading to a dead end and people upon realizing that try to find alternative paths but not quite back to their natural inclination that they were born with and that is with an intact belief. The simplicity that is lived by still many in the world is by far different from what this trend is becoming in some ways, yet they both share many of the same elements. Many times as I was reading into my books in Islaam, all the messenger/prophet (peace be upon them all such as Jesus, Abraham, Noah and Muhammad) were ascetics, not to an extreme degree as other people but as Muslim they were moderate and balanced in everything. Also from the righteous in history and the scholars within Islaam were all ascetics to some degrees. Even traveling and having Muslim neighbors here in America I see so much simplicity. Simplicity is not only in less material but in purposeful material and mostly a deep faith, strong communications/connections that are touching to the heart such that every sister I see on the street greet me though she does not who I am as is the practice. So reading into simplicity from other view points brought so much that we already have in Islaam but in Islaam it goes further and to a deeper level not dictated by some new author or trendsetter, confined to some lists. We humans do complicate and easily become distracted even if you have nothing in your home and there is nothing simple about our inner selves, it really does reflect in what we belief, the actions of our limbs and the utterance of our tongue. It is all beautifully explained in Islaam. I see my parents who are not Muslim and though we kids have all grown and moved out, they are still very much pre-occupied that it’s sad but worst of all is being pre-occupied with that which does not benefit in this life and the hereafter, as though we were created for nothing..for the simplists or other. Glory be to Him for surely He is above that.

  24. miatta manobah says:

    Thank u so much for sharing ur story. I was born out of a simple family but when I realized myself, I want everything right in favor of me.I work hard to live a luxurious life but things aren’t working. That’s why I want ti make it simple without being simplicity.

  25. Patrick says:

    Your post shows a lot of wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

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