Why Simple Living is Not the Easy Choice (but it's still worth it)
“I can’t take it anymore. All of this stuff is driving me crazy!” Those two sentences, or something close to that, are what started me on this journey towards more simple living.
My spouse was relieved.
Before we lived together he happily could fit everything he owned into his tiny car (and not just because he was a bachelor). I, on the other hand, came with multiple car loads. Boxes and plastic bins filled the car with strategically placed plants (my first babies) and reusable cloth bags filled with squishable stuff ensured that every empty space got filled. I lugged with me:
Keepsakes dating back to my early childhood.
Four seasons of clothes in 3 sizes (because early adulthood along with health issues lead to a lot of weight fluctuation).
So. Much. Stationery.
Knick knacks and decorations collected over years, which meant that they were awfully mismatched (and not in the cool interior designer way).
Kitchenware that I had been collecting since I was a teenager.
Side note: Although this sounds practical, it’s really not. Styles change, electronics improve, and what you need depends on what you cook. A better approach would have been to save the money and buy it when I actually needed it.
Towels… and more towels… and face cloths…
and more… and more.
When those words escaped my mouth I knew there was no going back. I knew that all of the stuff was weighing on me. I knew that all of the spaces I had loved were simply and intentionally decorated - the bed & breakfasts, the friends’ homes, the Pinterest rabbit hole of searching “interior design”, the magazine spreads.
Little did I know just how hard it would be to live simply.
Yup. I said it. Living simply is hard. No sugar coating over here.
I know. You’ve watched shows on minimalism, or tiny house living, or building a capsule wardrobe, or keeping things that only bring you joy. You’ve probably sat there thinking, “Wow! This looks great! Look at how happy these people are. How free they feel. They must save so much money.” I’m not denying that all of that is real. It’s true for me that simplifying my living space and my calendar have left more space for moments of happiness and freedom, let alone saving money from not buying more stuff. However, it’s not all rainbows and roses. On the path towards simple living is the real work of
defining your values,
setting your life priorities,
working through each room and keeping only what you need
curbing spending, which sometimes means returning items that you bought on a whim or telling the teller at the last moment “I changed my mind, I won’t be taking these items”.
It also means potentially moving through feelings of scarcity. If you’re anything like me, then the fact that you can buy something and that you do buy something not only provides a hit of dopamine (hello, “happy” hormones”), but it also gives a momentary feeling of abundance. I mean, let’s be honest - having the means to buy something even if it’s not technically your money (e.g. on credit) makes you feel like you have financial abundance in your life, right?
Unfortunately this is dangerous thinking.
Because abundance is not about the stuff that you own.
Nope. I said it. Let me say it again: Abundance is not about the stuff that you own.
Phew! Cat’s out of the bag.
That feels so much better. Let me explain.
When we try to create a feeling of abundance by surrounding ourselves with stuff, what we’re actually doing is cluttering our physical space (obviously) and our mental + emotional space (ooooh…).
Buying “stuff” is a great distraction for doing the real work that leads to a feeling of abundance throughout all areas of your life: stripping away the physical, mental and emotional clutter so that you can truly notice and enjoy what you already have.
You might be thinking that this sounds a little woo-woo, especially if you’re new to me and my writing. You’re right. It is. However, regardless of whether this idea stretches you out of your comfort zone it’s pretty hard to deny the feeling of bliss the moment the sun bursts up from the horizon on a cool summer’s day and fills the sky with a dance of colours. Or the near immediate relaxation felt as you step into a forest on a cool Autumn morning and breathe in the dew sitting on the evergreens. Or the feeling of making eye contact with someone you truly love after a long time apart and getting that first hug (or kiss, or handshake).
Sure, finances are a part of that. I won’t deny that money brings happiness, but only to a certain point. Once the fundamentals for living are covered, money doesn’t add much for additional feelings of happiness. In fact, too much (and too soon) can do the opposite - just do a quick Google search for the flip side of winning the lottery.
When you make the shift towards simple living it means that you begin working through deep ceded beliefs about abundance and scarcity. You begin stripping away the clutter, which may mean that literal or figurative “stuff” that you’ve buried begins to surface. It might feel uncomfortable. Good. This is the muck - the messy bit in the middle. This might be that piece that you’ve been (un)knowingly avoiding all along. Sit with it. Work through it. Call on a friend, or a counsellor. Ask for help. Move through it. Once you’ve waded through the river and get to the other side you’ll look back and say, “thank goodness I did the work”. You might even wonder why on Earth you didn’t do it sooner. Please don’t feel ashamed or guilty. You didn’t lose or waste time. You did it when you were good and ready. That’s empowering. Now keep on going.
So as you can see, simple living isn’t an easy answer and it’s not necessarily as glamourous as some of the TV shows and magazine spreads make it out to be. It means getting really real with yourself. It means being honest with what you need. It means asking yourself why you want something and then having the strength to acknowledge that “want” for all its glorious reasons and then walking away.
Is it worth it?