What does simple living mean to you?

What does simple living mean to me?

Ask 10 people and you will get 10 different answers to the question: “What does simple living mean to you?”

In fact, ask me 10 times and you will get 10 different answers.

Not because I’m flaky, but because simplicity can be kinda complicated. What we need it to be will change depending upon circumstance, seasons in life and who it applies to. And that’s OK.

Recently a friend asked me to describe simple living. And while it was easy enough to give the expected answers:

  • cutting away the excess in life
  • getting back to what is truly important
  • decluttering
  • saying no to things that we didn’t need or didn’t need to do
  • taking time to do nothing
  • looking for contentment
  • practising gratitude
  • living an environmentally conscious life…

what I found myself thinking about were the benefits. What the actual day-to-day nuts and bolts of life look like now that we have embraced simplicity. Instead of focusing on the what, my mind was drawn to the why – to the things we’ve gained simply because of living a simpler life.

My answers weren’t about living in a clutter-free home (although that is so lovely) or having only clothes that I wear in my wardrobe (even though it makes getting dressed in the morning infinitely easier) or cleaning our home with natural cleaners (although I appreciate the impact of this).

Instead, I focused on the time I got to spend in the garden. The tiny beauties I now notice and appreciate. The giggles of our kids. The joy of a lazy Sunday afternoon. The sunlight in the trees.

And I know these are cliched answers, but that doesn’t make them any less real. If we hadn’t taken the time, and worked for years to create a simpler life, I wouldn’t have been around to notice these things. If I hadn’t suffered a crushing breakdown and closed my business, I’d still be working all hours, I’d be falling further and further behind at home, I’d be barely present in my kids lives and I would be missing out on the tiny (and yet massive) joys of the sun on my face, the dirt on our hands and the hugs of our kids.

That’s what simplicity means to me.

It’s not a destination. I don’t think I will ever look around me, brush my hands together and say, “Well, that’s it. I’m done.”

I believe that our ideas of enough and simple and freedom will continue to change over time, as our perspectives and seasons of life change.

Simplicity is a mindset, but it’s not the point in and of itself. The way we live, and the life we live - this is the point. The sun, the dirt, the travel, the laughter, the memories. These are the point. Noticing them and carving a life from these tiny moments – that is the point.

The decluttering helps us to get there. Learning to say no helps us to get there. Letting go of constant busyness helps us to get there. But those aren’t the point.

So what does simple living mean to me?

Living. Simply.

In October this year, a group of simplicity advocates and enthusiasts will gather in Minneapolis to share their ideas on living a simple, intentional life. You have the opportunity to join them and join the ever-growing movement towards a simpler, slower way of life.

SimpleREV

The first-ever SimpleREV is being held at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis on October 3-4, and shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking to slow down, simplify and get real in a world of hyper-consumerism and endless busy-ness.

Those who do attend will work closely with workshop leaders and keynote speakers such as Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist), Joel Zaslofsky (Value of Simple) and Dan Hayes (Simple Life Together), as well as an entire community of people who value a simple life just as much as you do.

This event is for anyone interested in living a simple life – whether you’ve sold 90% of your belongings and live in a campervan, or if you’re merely dipping your toe into the pool that is simplicity.  There will be encouraging keynote speeches to uplift you, while intimate workshops will help you craft a more intentional, simple life. At SimpleREV, there is something for everyone. (And can I tell you, the line-up of workshops and presentations makes it sting even more that I can’t attend. Unfortunately, living on the other side of the planet has its downsides and I can’t swing it this year.)

Grab your ticket today, or visit the SimpleREV website to discover more about the event, the founders and what you can expect during the first weekend of October.

 

Wake Up. Come Home. Fill Up. Be Simple.

 

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

The world doesn't owe you a room with a view

Reading the travel section of the Sunday paper is one of my favourite little pleasures. It’s relaxing and inspiring and the perfect amount of fuel for my wanderlust fire.

Not last week though.

Last Sunday I came across a brief interview with a high-profile Australian fashion designer, where she was asked for her best travel tips, experiences and recommendations. And, frankly, it pissed me off.

Having travelled a bit during my 32 years, I understand we all have different ideas on what makes a good holiday (camping, resort, tropics or adventure?), how best to travel (car, bus, plane or boat?) and what constitutes a necessity (hair straightener, running water, French champagne or a comfortable hammock?)

We’re all different, I get that. But in this interview, the respondent gave an answer that irked me beyond a mere difference of opinions. In fact, it made me despair.

She was asked: “What’s your best tip for getting the most out of a holiday?”

Immediately I could think of a hundred ways to answer:

  • Be open to new experiences
  • Stay in the one place for a while and live like locals
  • Pack your sense of humour, sunglasses and a good book
  • Eat local foods
  • Avoid souvenir shops
  • Wander
  • Get off the tourist trail occasionally
  • Stay in locally owned/operated accommodation
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put the camera down

But her response? (Paraphrased, as the paper got recycled and I can’t find the interview online):

“Act like a first-class person. Walk in to the hotel and make them believe that you are, in fact, worthy of special treatment. Even if the accommodation you are given is perfectly acceptable, act a little disappointed. Suggest that the room you saw online was a little bigger, or had a balcony, or enjoyed a better view. More often than not you will be upgraded or moved to a better room.”

This entitled point of view is one of the things I believe to be wrong with the world.

This person is privileged enough to be travelling to far-off, beautiful places, but that is not enough. She has decided that, as a “first-class person” (what does that even mean?!) she deserves more. The hotel room is not enough. She deserves a bigger one. The plane seat is not enough. She deserves a first-class one. The experience of travel or relaxation or pampering or adventure is not enough. She deserves BETTER. Merely because she is there and she is important, dammit.

I don’t have an issue with asking politely for a change – particularly if it’s warranted.  But pretending that what you’re offered is not good enough (even if it’s perfectly amazing) simply to see if you can get better? Yeah, I have a problem with that.

So let’s say this person is granted their Special Snowflake Status and upgraded to the Presidential Suite (nothing less than the best, naturally)… what then? Suddenly they believe they really are a First Class Person. After that, they want more. They want better. They believe that simply because an upgrade was granted this time, they’re entitled to the same treatment always and forever.

Suddenly, things that used to be perfectly acceptable become less-than. And the merry-go-round of better and more and new and shiny spins ever faster. Perhaps the experiences stop mattering as much as the status. Because really, when you’re looking for more or better or nicer or shinier, how can you really appreciate anything at all? You’re obsessed with bettering your situation. And for what? The status of saying you did?

Gee. Sounds like fun.

Now let’s say this person is not granted their Special Snowflake Status and cannot be accommodated in the Presidential Suite (on account of the President in situ). The mere fact that they believe themselves worthy of special treatment means they will likely be offended at the rejection. So now, not only do they not get the First Class Person treatment, but they are also dissatisfied with the original accommodation. Nothing is good enough now, because they’ve been jilted.

How is this relaxing? How is this getting the most out of your travel experiences?

And what’s more, how is this attitude of entitlement allowing any of us to experience the most of life? The most of what is happening right in front of us?

If we’re constantly comparing lives with others, how can we feel content with our own?

If we’re relentlessly pursuing more, better, shinier, newer, how can we be grateful for what we do have?

If we make the mistake of believing our needs are more important than those of others, how can we live with compassion and generosity and equality?

If we believe we should be treated as First Class People, how can we explain to our children that we are no better than someone else?

We can’t.

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Soak up the experiences. And if you see someone else swanning about, believing the universe owes them a room with a bigger bathroom and newer sheets? Let them have at it. A worldview of entitlement is its own reward.

Instead, allow your world to become an altogether more beautiful, generous, rewarding place by simply being grateful, present and conscious. I believe that to be its own reward too.

 

Can a Change-Up be Good Enough?

Can a change-up be good enough?

 

This is a post from guest contributor Saida Rashid of A Breath of Simplicity. Enjoy, and learn more about Saida at the end of this post.

 

When we moved, I was adamant about getting rid of our four poster bed.

It’s a nice bed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Still. I didn’t want it in my new home. We were down-sizing and it didn’t sit well with my journey in “less is more.”

The bed is BIG. You can never just flop down on it. It’s too high. You have to climb onto it. By far, the biggest nuisance was having to clean the dust that gathered on top of the wood canopy.

The final case in point: The master bedroom in our new home is a third of the size of our old room – I was convinced the bed would take up the entire room!

I tried, really, really hard to sell the bed online, but there were no serious buyers. So I watched as it got dismantled, loaded onto the moving truck and transported to our new home.

I relented, but in my mind it was a temporary arrangement.

When my husband reassembled the bed, I requested that he omit the wood canopy. And now? It’s been almost a year since we moved. We still have the bed and, what’s more, I like it.

Funnily enough, it doesn’t occupy the whole room like I feared, and removing the canopy made a HUGE difference. The bed used to make me feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t anymore. It’s good enough, after all.

A few years ago, I would have insisted on a new bed and donated the old one. And we’d be out of pocket a few hundred dollars. But life is full of opportunities for a change-up. I’ve come to recognise that I experience these moments quite frequently.

It’s not easy to ‘fess up and it’s unfortunate, but the truth is I have a tendency to fixate on things I feel I must have – sometimes the feeling is SO profound it interferes with my sense of inner peace.

In the past couple of years I’ve been learning to wait rather than jump in at the deep end (i.e. spend money). The process of waiting has helped me recognise that new is NOT always better.

When I make myself wait I’m more likely to try a change-up. This often leads to a moment of good enough. Sometimes I forget to wait, but I’m learning and getting better at it every day.

I was recently convinced that I needed something for our kitchen sill. It looked SO bare. But I waited. Then I tried a change-up. The kitchen sill is now good enough and I didn’t have to spend any money.

The next time you feel the urge to spend money; try a change-up first.

• Think your kids need better toys? Try re-organising and displaying the toys you already have differently.
• Think your kitchen is too small? Try de-cluttering and re-arranging your kitchen stuff.
• Think you need a new bedside table? How about a coat of paint on that small coffee table sitting in the basement?

You get the picture.

I bet more often than not, you’ll find that the stuff you already own is good enough.

You can check out Saida’s tips on simple living and learn about her journey towards eliminating processed foods on her blog abreathofsimplicity.com.

(Image courtesy of Allison)

Delight

True delight is in the finding out rather than the knowing.

Bushwalks are one of our favourite activities on the weekend.

We pack bags full of the essentials - water, snacks and suncream, dinosaurs, hand-drawn maps and chocolate – and head out to the national park.

What I love most about these excursions – even more than the exercise and the appreciation of nature we’re getting – is the tiny moments of delight they afford us.

We notice the bugs skimming across the lagoon surface, the pink algae and the birdsong. We spot flowers and rock formations and animal tracks. Things that are always there but rarely seen simply because we’re moving too fast.

Finding delight

When we go on a bushwalk we try to make it leisurely. We stop (a lot). And while sometimes I miss the feeling of getting my blood up and hiking fast up the inclines, it seems that we’ve become pioneers of the Slow (Walking) Movement.

And really? It’s a delightful way to view the world. You don’t need to be bushwalking or exploring or doing anything out of the ordinary at all, because delightful moments surround us everywhere, if we’re willing to slow down for a moment and look for them.

  • a water droplet on the bus window
  • street art
  • a flower growing through a crack in the footpath
  • the swoop of a bird high in the sky
  • clouds
  • a young couple holding hands
  • a reflection of sunset in an office building’s windows
  • a brief sniff of the ocean air
  • a snowflake
  • a cat curled up in your lap
  • the first leaves of a seedling pushing through the soil
  • the smell of rain on the dirt
  • a sleeping child’s breath
  • fingerprints
  • a mushroom growing out of leaf litter

Some people think of delight in the same way they think of love. If you go actively looking for it, it will elude you. I disagree wholeheartedly.

If you are open to beauty, if you are open to the possibility of delight, if you go searching for it, you will discover that it actually surrounds us at every moment. It may not look like you’d expected. It may not feel the way you imagined. It may not be the cookie cutter version of delight or joy or beauty. But it will be there. Just allow yourself to be included and you will find it.

Organised (Enough) – Slow Home Essentials

Organised (Enough) - Slow Home Essentials

Often we mistake organisation for simplicity.

The logic goes: in order to be living a truly simple life, you need to have a whole host of systems in place that will organise every aspect of your day.

And it’s true that you can schedule your hours, organise your wardrobe, catalogue your paperwork, arrange your kitchen utensils, reconfigure your garage to hold more stuff and roster your down-time. But creating a slow home means many of those systems are simply unnecessary. If you strip away what you don’t need, you’ll find that life doesn’t require nearly as much organising as the storage solution stores and home decor magazines will have you believe.

Many of us cling to organisation because we believe it helps us get through the day without losing our sanity. And this is true to a point.

But it’s also a way to procrastinate while still feeling productive. Organising means you avoid recognising:

  • those uncomfortable heels were a waste of money
  • your kids have more toys than they can possibly play with
  • years worth of paperwork are largely unnecessary
  • your gym clothes have remained unworn for months
  • you’re no longer interested in knitting/fencing/snowboarding/oil painting

Organising means you avoid facing your fears and regrets.

Of course life is busy, and some organisation helps corral that busy-ness into a semblance of order. So I’m not telling you to do away with your diary, bill paying system or ironing baskets. If they really help you in creating a less stressful day, then that is wonderful.

But at some point “organising” and “simplifying” become different sides of the same coin.

You need to leave space for life to happen. And life is messy. Life is uncertain. Life is spontaneous. Life is not organised. 

You are reading this because you want to create a slow home and a simpler way of life. And while being organised – to a point – means you have time and space for life to unfold peacefully, over-doing it means you run the very real risk of sucking the joy from your days.

And that’s our end goal isn’t it? To rediscover the joy. The zing of doing something spontaneous. The flash of excitement when you realise, “Why the hell not? I’d love to go to the beach/play in the sun/have a nap.”

If you over-do the organising, if you schedule the guts out of your days, weeks, months and school terms, you risk losing one of the biggest joys in life – spontaneity.

So my tip:

Be as organised as you need to be. No more.

Organise what you really need. But don’t turn to organisation simply to store more junk in your space or cram more into your days. The key is to take away what isn’t necessary and good. There you will find your simpler life.

 

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