Simplicity to me is spending my time, energy and resources in line with my priorities and responsibilities. It’s about doing and owning what I need and love but not more. Simplifying is removing the excess.
The three main benefits of simplifying for me:
1. Day-to-day life runs more smoothly. Having fewer possessions makes it easier to tidy up and to access items we use frequently. With a pared-down calendar we are less rushed and transitions are calmer.
2. A focus on quality over quantity. Buying and owning less means we can afford better quality food, clothes and tools. Fewer commitments means we have more time to spend with loved ones and on activities that bring us the most joy.
3. Better mental health. I am someone who is easily overwhelmed. Less clutter and commitments has freed time and space for quiet reflection, reading, creative projects and meditating.
Simplifying isn’t easy. Over the last 100 years we have gone from a culture of scarcity to a culture of excess. We are bombarded thousands of times a day by advertising messages designed to make us feel we need more. Resisting the culture of consumption is hard.
Letting go of possessions we already own is also uncomfortable. Owning more than we need, however, comes with a cost. The cost to maintain, to clean, to store, of not having space to grow into, of crowding out our truly special items, and the cost of using, wearing or eating something that doesn’t make us feel our best.
Saying no to invitations and commitments can also be uncomfortable. We’re social beings. We want people to like us and saying ‘yes’ can make us feel we belong. BUT our energy and time are finite . We are always making a trade off. Saying yes to something is always saying no to something else. Internalising this has helped me dedicate my time to things that are most meaningful for me. ‘We can do anything but not everything’.
Ten strategies/tools i’ve found helpful to simplify
1. Taking stock & shopping lists: assessing what we already own before shopping has had a huge impact on my purchasing habits. I make a list of what we’re missing and attempt to only buy items on my list. It has also surprised me how often we can use something we already have.
2. Defining a space: we aim to create a dedicated space for each category of items (eight toy baskets, one shelf for crafts, one basket for gifts etc) and try not to expand the space without careful consideration.
3. Creating a shrine: I read about this concept in Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home and borrowed it immediately. We’ve created shrines to special collections (cookbooks, travel memorabilia, photo albums…). If something doesn’t feel special enough for a shrine and isn’t actively being used it’s probably a good indication it can be let go.
4. A ‘Purgatory’ basket: We have one basket dedicated to items that are ‘on probation’ for the next year. If they’re not used or re-purposed they are given away.
5. Freecycle & charity stores: I like framing a donation of a valuable item (that we are no longer using) as a gift to our community. If we do need it again in the future we can look to borrow one, rent one or replace it if 100% necessary.
6. ‘Would I replace this?’ test: Buying or keeping things ‘just in case’ is tempting but if I wouldn’t replace an item i almost always donate it.
7. Time budgeting & boundaries: wanting to spend time with my young daughters has and put pressure on my calendar in a new way. The blessing has been that i have had to implement strict boundaries around my work time and prioritise my most precious personal activities.
8. ‘Can i get back to you’: so many opportunities and invitations sound amazing (and are amazing!) but this phrase gives me time to assess how it fits into the whole of my life. By saying yes what would i be sacrificing?
9. Focus on my own possessions & calendar: I can’t declutter for another adult. BUT I can
10. Ask for what i need: i’ve learned it’s ok to ask for space to be created if i am feeling overwhelmed. I crave simplicity and white space where my husband craves abundance. Balancing these differences has been a challenge for our marriage but something we are continually finding creative solutions for (defined spaces, creating shrines and purgatory have all helped!)
How to talk about simplifying is also on my mind. I know that too strongly espousing the benefits can feel alienating for both parties. I can’t truly know how anyone else is emotionally impacted by their possessions and I realise it’s hypocritical too because i still own more than 90% of global citizens. I can continue to live my life in a way that feels true to my nature and if asked, let people know my reasons for wanting to simplify.
Buying less also has the benefit of reducing our impact on the environment. But managing our carbon footprint is a whole other topic!
Links & Resources
* Slow Your Home website & podcast
* Edit Your Life podcast & Minimalist Parenting book
* Simplicity Parenting book
* Stuffication Podcast: James Wallman