‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
For almost 9 years now, I’ve been learning to live a simple life.
A life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, and left with space for what really matters. A life that isn’t constant busy-ness and rushing, but contemplation and creation, connection with people I love and time for nature and activity.
That doesn’t mean I have zero clutter and zero complications: I’m a part of the world, not a secluded monk. I have possessions, electronics, distractions, and occasional busy-ness. I just have reduced it to make space.
Today I’ve been reflecting on this simple life, and thought I’d share some of those reflections.
Some things I’ve learned about living the simple life:
- Decluttering your home and work space can lead to a less cluttered mind. These visual distractions pull on us in more ways than we realize.
- A quiet un-rushed morning is a thing to treasure. I wake early so that I have some quiet time to read, write, meditate.
- You can’t have a simple life if you’re unwilling to let go of what you’re used to.
- Letting go can be difficult, but is easier if you do a one-month challenge. Let go of something for a month and see whether you like it or not.
- Letting go of cable TV was one of the best things we did early on — no more constant television in my home, no more ads for crappy things we don’t need.
- Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s a waste of time and money.
- If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.
- Simple, whole, healthy food is not only much healthier than junk food: it’s a pleasure.
- You have to make time for what’s important: time with your kids, time with your spouse, time for creating, time for exercise. Push everything else aside to make time.
- Overcommitting is the biggest sin against simple living most people make. I painfully cut out a huge number of commitments to simplify my life, and I’m glad I did. I do this every year or so because I keep forgetting.
- I keep my days mostly unstructured and unscheduled so that I have room for the little things that are so important: reading with my child, going for a walk, taking a nap.
- I have certain activities I do almost every day, though not on a schedule: writing, reading, eating healthy meals, doing a workout or playing with the kids outdoors, processing my email inbox, reading with the kids.
- It’s easy to fill up our lives because there are so many things that sound amazing. We hear about what others are doing and instantly want to add that to our lives. But it’s harder to remember that by adding so many things to our lives, we are subtracting space. And that space is important.
- By saying no to things that sound really cool, I’m saying yes to what’s truly important to me.
- Distractions are both more tempting and more destructive than we realize.
- It’s tempting to fill in every little minute of the day with productivity or distractions. Don’t. Leave some emptiness.
- We put too much emphasis on excitement. It’s temporary, and not important.
- We overemphasize productivity. Focus, priorities and effectiveness are more important. So is a nice walk with a loved one.
- If you can’t learn to sit in a quiet room alone with no distractions, you won’t be able to simplify.
- Buying things doesn’t solve our problems. Neither does food.
- It’s not how few things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count.
- It’s better to have six books on your shelf that you’re really going to read than a hundred you never get around to.
- When you travel lightly, you’re freer, less burdened, less tired. This applies to life, not just travel.
- Your attention is your most valuable possession. Give it as a gift to the people you love most, not a bunch of clowns on the Internet. Give it to the work that matters most, not distractions.
- Sometimes distractions are nice.