Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Boredom is the pre-cursor to most unnecessary consumption. Or maybe it's not boredom. It may be anxiety for some of us. Or the fear of not being accepted. Whatever the root for our over consumption, it must be identified and eradicated if we are to successfully lead a minimalist lifestyle. So, what exactly is over consumption? It is the need to shop and attain the latest and greatest when it's not truly needed. I love nice things. I do. I love shopping. Most definitely. I have what my husband usually notes as "champagne taste on a beer budget." I know this. I get this. I recognize this. I don't go shopping all the time, but when I do, I go big. I buy quality and quality costs mucho dinero $$$$. Is there anything wrong with buying quality and expensive? I don't think so. They key is, however, the intentions behind the consumption.
If we are out and about, are we going shopping for entertainment purposes? If that's the case, then that's a problem. Entering the world of non-over consumption is all about shopping with a purpose and doing it at a cost that will not add a huge burden on Mother Earth. My argument for buying an expensive, quality bag? It will last forever and I don't have to go through 10 cheap bags in a matter of a year, when I can have one quality bag that is a classic staple and will last me 20+ years (while accumulating value in the meantime). Now, maybe I don't neeeeeed to carry a bag at all, you say? I know. I know. But, I'm honestly not there yet. I have a child. I carry snacks, wipes, keys, lipstick, a wallet and a phone. I do not want to carry all that in my bare hands while chasing after a kiddo. So, as of right now... I need a bag. Sorry. This is all a process and a journey.
Moral of this story? Intention. We should ask ourselves the why behind every transaction. Why am I buying this? If the intention behind the action is one that satisfies a valid purpose in our lives and we can do so responsibly, ethically and as least wastefully as possible, I say, let's do it. Truth is, once we start asking ourselves the why and the question of whether or not we really need the item, I guarantee we will start to buy much, much less and acquire very little. It's ultimately all a matter of prioritizing the important in our lives. Once we do that, we will have less desire to go out and waste precious time and money "window" shopping. Instead, we'll spend our time volunteering, laughing with family, riding a bike, walking outside, chasing after the dog and just plain ole' enjoying life.
Monday, March 28, 2016
So... coming off the Easter weekend I spent a lot of time with family and a lot of time contemplating and thinking about the Word of God and His son, Jesus Christ. As you may or may not know, I am a proud Christian and honestly have never understood why anyone would be ashamed or embarrassed admitting that. It's who I am and it's what I believe. So, if a post about Jesus will offend you, please come back Wednesday. Otherwise, thanks for being open minded and awesome and welcome!
As I gave thought to Jesus' teachings during his short life walking among us, I realized that all of his teachings stem from a minimalist frame of mind. He taught us to love others, be giving and not attach or identify ourselves and our lives by our stuff, but rather by our faith in Him. His teachings and his life were so simple and beautiful, yet powerful. And, isn't that what living a minimalist life is all about? Finding the beauty in simplicity? Less is more? Gaining from living, rather than attaining?
His life began humbly through a young virgin and a carpenter. They raised him simply and without much. He then came forward to preach the Word of His Father and did so without wearing the latest fashions, sporting the coolest donkey and donning the shiniest gold jewelry. Instead, he brought power through his actions and, most of all, through his LOVE.
So, if you were to take just ONE day to follow in Jesus' footsteps and take the "What Would Jesus Do" (W.W.J.D) as your guide for the entire day, how would your day look? Hey, listen... whether you believe in Him as being the Messiah or not, you gotta admit... He had some pretty common sense teachings. I mean... be loving, be kind, be grateful, be humble, don't strive for stuff that will decay in this world, form a relationship with God and man, be nice, be giving and don't be full of yourself. Pretty good advice if you ask me. So, today, whether you're a believer or not, take some time to live your day as Jesus would have taught us to and see how little stuff you will attain, but how much love you will put forward. I can guarantee you that it will turn out to be a beautiful day.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Kids are small and don't take up much room... at least not until they're adolescents. But, their stuff is a whole other story. Babies have a myriad of supplies that one needs to keep in stock on the daily. From diapers to wipes to baby food to jumpers, bouncy chairs, high chairs, swings, diaper changing table, rocking chair, Boppys and on and on. As they go into the the toddler years there no longer exists the need to buy diapers, but suddenly they're these little people with big, independent minds that have all these needs and desires. They want toys upon toys upon toys upon books and more books. If one isn't careful, the mounting kid clutter can accumulate very quickly. The number of toys and kid stuff around the house can feel overwhelming if there isn't a "system" in place.
Now, everyone will develop a system that works for them and their families, of course. It's all a matter of family dynamics and what's important to that particular family. For us, it's imperative that we teach our little one to be a giver. We, very regularly, go through her toys and give things away. Asking a toddler to give away a toy can sometimes be a challenge. It's like the old toy they've neglected for over a year is all of a sudden the very best thing since sliced bread. "No!!! I LOVE this toy!!!!" Yep. I've heard that one dozens of times. But, don't fret and don't quit. I haven't let those desperate attempts at hanging on to clutter stop me from de-cluttering the toys around the house on the regular. Now I've seen a shift in our little one to where she'll say, "We should give this to a child who doesn't have one Mom," as she simply sets it aside. It's a wonderful thing to see and hear as a parent. It's also a terrific quality to instill in our children. If they grow up with a minimalist mentality they won't see it as a challenge in their adult years. It will just be the "way things are," and that's a great thing.
Aside from giving things away on the reg, we also have an organizing system in our home that works wonders. If someone were to walk into the house, they actually would have a very difficult time deciphering whether or not we have kids. Why? Well, because aside from her art work that we hang in our kitchen and on our fridge, all of her toys are neatly stored away. We use a system of baskets. We have a basket in our kitchen filled with toys and a small box in our TV cabinet filled with drawing supplies. That's it. Anything else is in her bedroom/playroom. Since it's always been this way, she doesn't know any different. It's just automatic for her to know that toys aren't left scattered all over the house. A place for everything, and everything in its place. It's simply a matter of routine and persistence with children. Once they see that we aren't changing our minds, they will follow along. What better way to teach these minimalist principles than to live them day in and day out?
P.S. As far as spending money on toys? We are pretty enviromentally friendly in this endeavor since we only buy consignment throughout the year. New toys are only bought for special occasions (Christmas and birthdays). What's your system? Have you instituted one? I'd love to know and get some ideas!
Monday, March 21, 2016
I dare say that most people reading this post fulfill a myriad of roles on a day to day basis. We wake up being parents and head on off to work to be professionals or mentors. We then come home to be the housekeeper, cook, laundry service, dog walker and on and on... Each of us can certainly fill in the blanks. Out of all these roles, how many of us out there have one that is strictly about US. Just US. Just ME. Just YOU. Something we do that doesn't put us in a role where we are serving someone else's needs. What fulfills you? Are you doing it?
One of the many benefits of simplifying our lives is that it opens up time. Suddenly we find ourselves with extra time to do some things we want to do. What do you want to do? Yeah... you right there! Is it to write? Journal. Is it to be out in nature? Hike, run, walk, sit outside! Is it to sing? Join a community choir! It it to act? Become part of a community theater group! Is it just to sit and read? Pick up a good book and snuggle up. Whatever it is that will make us better people to those around us, let's do it. Let's nurture the person we always forget about... ourselves. We are often so busy making everyone else happy that we forget about what we want. What will make us happy? Let's do that.
Friday, March 18, 2016
You know that opportunity? The ship that passed us by, but we're still mourning? The career, relationship, friendship, place, chance that we could have had, but didn't (or couldn't) jump on when it was right there in front of us? Yes. We've all had that experience, haven't we? We truly wanted something, we could have had it, we watched it pass us by, and we never really, truly, got over it. For me, it was moving to and living in New York City. This was a dream that started for me from a very, very young age. I would say as early as 9 or 10 years old. It was a dream that was solidified at age 15 when my parents first took us to Manhattan for Christmas. I honestly thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. It was my soul mate city. I felt like I could move there and be so incredibly happy.
Then, years later, the opportunity presented itself... until, it didn't. I was applying to law schools and made St. John's my number one choice. I was working for J.P. Morgan Chase in Tampa at the time and it would have been an easy transition. St. John's had a part-time law program and if accepted, I could have easily moved there and transferred to a J.P. Morgan Chase in the NYC area. I would have been set. I wasn't in a relationship. Had no kids or responsibilities tying me to Tampa. I was free to go wherever, whenever. I waited and waited and waited for that acceptance letter from St. John's that never came. I got into Loyola, F.S.U., and Stetson though. When I got the Stetson acceptance it seemed like the right choice because it had a terrific reputation for trial advocacy law and that's what I wanted to focus on. So, since I never did hear from St. John's, I paid the acceptance fee of $500 and sent Stetson my commitment acceptance letter. Boom. I was in.
A couple of weeks later I received a letter from St. John's telling me that they'd given my spot to someone else because I never responded to my acceptance letter. "Wait, what????? WHAT acceptance letter!?!?!?!?!" I never got one! Ahhhhh!!! I cried and cried and cried. It was a tough pill to swallow, that's for sure. It still, sometimes, is. But...
I look at my life today and it makes sense as to why that opportunity never came to pass. Yes. It was something I really wanted. But, it was not what God wanted for my life. Sometimes God's plan does not align with ours and it's really hard to accept in the moment, until a few years pass and you realize why it couldn't happen.
I look at my husband and daughter and students now and it's all very clear. God definitely had a better plan. I graduated from law school, but didn't like it at all. In fact, I hated it and longed to return to the classroom ( I was a teacher first). I also can't imagine my life far away from my parents. Tampa Bay is where God wanted me to build my life. I met my husband here without whom I wouldn't have our beautiful child. I get to work in a school where I get to minister to students through the Gospel. I get to make a significant impact each and everyday and feel so very blessed to do so. Would I have had that same opportunity in NYC? I don't know.
What I do know is that everything happens (or doesn't happen) for a reason. Life doesn't make sense sometimes. It feels like we missed out on something or that we weren't given something we thought we deserved. But, the truth of the matter is that we are part of someone else's puzzle. There is a grand plan that we are all a part of and without us it can't be fulfilled. It's not all about us. Perhaps when that "ship has sailed," it just means that what was meant to happen did.
Let's accept the "missed opportunities" and be grateful for the opportunities we did get to have because we missed the others. Life is exactly as it should be. It's how we view it that makes all the difference. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Time. We all get the very same 24 hours in the day. So, how come others seem to be beating us out in creating the life they want? What are they doing that we aren't? This is a question of priorities. That which we spend most of our time and energy on is what's most important to us... whether we agree with it or not. One may say they hate their job. But, if they're there 60+ hours a week... well then... it's their priority. It may be because money is a need. But, then one must ask... why does money have this type of control over our lives? Is it because we have filled ourselves with costly items and activities that are, literally, sucking the money and life out of us?
The answer and analysis to this will differ for each of us. Some people actually love their jobs and gladly spend 60+ hours a week at it. And that's actually okay. If that's their passion and love, then they should go for it! Nothing wrong with that. But, if it's not... and they find themselves dreaming of other things they'd rather be doing... then perhaps it's time for an honest and sincere evaluation on life. I would encourage all of us today to evaluate our schedules. What are we spending the most time doing? Is it what we want to be spending the most time doing? If not, what can we change about our lives to give more time to what's important?
Monday, March 14, 2016
We've all been there, right? Life's troubles. Life's worries. Life's stress. Yep. I know it well. We've all had those sleepless nights where all we could do was worry about something going on in our lives. Perhaps we were out of a job and were wondering how we were going to pay those bills. Maybe we got our heart broken and it felt like we'd be alone for the rest of our lives. Who knows? Whatever it might have been, the road back to the light seemed bleak and very, very dark. Some of you reading this may be in that tunnel in this very moment. But, those of us who have been there and made it out are here to assure you that there is a light waiting for you. There absolutely is.
2008-2010 were the toughest two years of my life. I lost my job and I slowly began losing everything else as well. By 2010 I'd lost my house, both cars and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, while also losing almost all sight in my left eye. I had no health insurance and truly felt like my life had completely fallen apart. However, instead of focusing on all the negatives going on in my life (and trust me, there were way more negatives than positives), I put absolutely alllllll of my energy into ONLY the positives. Bill and I got married in the middle of my storm back in 2009. He was in a storm of his own, having lost his job in 2008 as well. We were both hit with enough stress to ruin any kind of relationship. Instead, we held on to each other for dear life and made the best of the cards we'd been dealt. Our positive outlook of "It will get better! It has to get better! We have God on our side!" got us through this hard time more than anything else. Worrying wasn't going to fix anything, that's for sure! So, we chose to be positive instead of worry warts. We prayed a lot. We completely gave it to God and knew that through Christ we could get through anything at all. A few months after my diagnosis, my eyesight unexplainably returned while I drove to work with "one" eye and I went back for yet another MRI. I received the crazy, happy news that my scans were clean! NO M.S.!!! The Neurologist, in awe and almost speechless, said "It's a miracle. It's all I can say."
Positive thinking, not dwelling on the negative, holding on to our loved ones, letting go of the material things and, most of all, clinging on to God, is what got both of us through those horrible two years. Now, here we are, 6 years later and happier than ever. God restored all that we'd lost and then some. We have been blessed beyond measure and the lesson learned is that at the end of the day, stuff is just stuff. What truly matters is relationship. Relationship with God, with our loved ones and with ourselves. Remain in the positive, no matter how small it may be. Eventually, it wins out.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Last week I got to take a few of my students all over Tampa Bay to discover restaurants of different cuisines. We called it "The Taste of Tampa." We definitely ate quite well and had a terrific time trying out new foods. But, the true joy of the week came from discovering our city. The kids were in awe of how incredibly diverse and multi-cultural Tampa Bay truly is. What was the take away of the week for me? I'll tell you...
We romanticize other places so much sometimes that we fail to see what's right in front of us. I began traveling early on. My first trip was when I was 6 months old and I've travelled extensively since. Mostly because my parents were immigrants and so I travelled back to Nicaragua every summer to visit my grandparents throughout my childhood. As I got older, the travel bug had definitely been a part of my life since birth, and so I continued to make travel a big part of my life. I still do. No, I don't take fancy, shmancy trips to the islands, but I do make trips to see family and friends and such. One thing I always found myself doing, and I think most of us do... is thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Think about how many times we've been in a new city or a new country and we've said the words, "I want to live here! This place is great! I feel 'at home' here!" I've definitely whispered this to myself many, many times. Especially that one summer I visited Savannah, GA. I thought "I could die here and die a happy woman." Seriously. It was like I'd found my mother ship. No lie. The times I went to Europe, I thought the same thing. Every time I go to Chicago or New York City, I find myself having dreams of living in a brownstone and walking everywhere. Yep. I'm sure some of you have had this very same thing happen.
Then, I started exploring my own backyard. Long before I took my students out to explore, I began to appreciate the city in which I live. The city that educated me, gave me shelter, friends, family, love. I began looking around and falling in love with my very own town. I discovered that I've got it pretty good here. Tampa Bay is beautiful. It's friendly. It's a tight knit community in a large tri-city area (Tampa, Clearwater, St. Pete). And let's not forget our neighbors in New Port Richey, Lutz, Lakeland, Land-o-Lakes, Largo, so on and so forth. It's actually a huge area with incredible people and fabulous diversity.
A simple life is about looking at what's right in front of us and appreciating our blessings. Let's stop taking our blessings for granted. Let's appreciate where we are for the time we are given there and make the very best of it. Let's go out into our towns and cities this weekend and explore our very own backyard. Whether we are in our home town or a new town we've just moved to, let's discover. Discover the people, the neighborhoods, the diversity, the food. It will be as if we took a trip out of town, I promise. Let's just give our town a chance to prove itself. I don't think we'll be disappointed.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
One of the many benefits of simplifying our lives is the carving out of more free time. By saying "no" to the activities that don't matter, we say yes to more time in our days to do the things that do matter and that bring us into alignment with our top three life priorities. Something that is, at times, looked down upon is saying "no" to hanging out with friends or to being social. I am definitely all for having a close group of friends and interacting with others. However, I also believe that part of what makes us a better friend, wife, mother, sister, daughter, employee, etc... is taking care of ourselves. Spending time alone can be a very intimidating thing for some of us. After all, if we don't have any distractions or conversations going on we only have one thing to think about... us. Our life. Our fears. Our worries. Our anxieties. Right? Perhaps. But, how can we work through those demons if we don't take the time to do so? Alone time gives each of us an opportunity to get to know who we are. I fear most of us spend so much time avoiding ourselves that we actually don't even know who we are. That's why it's so difficult for us to deal with criticism from others. We don't agree with them most of the time, right? Well... maybe the reason we don't see what they're seeing is that we actually don't know ourselves. We've spent so much time avoiding that we missed out on a "me relationship".
Spending time alone isn't only healthy... it's essential. Let's go for a walk... alone. Let's sit at home with a cup of coffee... alone. Let's journal. Let's get to know the one person with whom we will always be (from birth to death)... us. We may discover that there are some things we need to work on. On the flip side, we may actually learn to truly love ourselves and appreciate who God made us to be. We may laugh at ourselves! Goodness knows I definitely do this often! We may discover new talents and skills. We may unearth unhealthy relationships. We may identify unhealthy habits. We may just find courage to make much needed life changes.
In the end, only positive can come of it. Yes. It will be daunting, scary, perhaps even... boring, to some of us when we begin to incorporate alone time into our lives. But, I dare say, it will be life changing. A positive life change. Let's take 10 minutes out of our day today and spend it with the person we're with constantly... ourself.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Living a minimalist life oftentimes gets an eye roll from most people out in mainstream society. "You only live once!" they say. "I don't want to feel deprived!" they note. There's this misconception that being a minimalist means being "cheap" or "frugal." While frugality certainly plays a part in minimalism, it is not in the way most people would assume. It really is more about intentionality than it is about being "cheap."
A minimalist lifestyle is about being "choosy." We will choose what we will expose ourselves to. If we spend countless hours watching television, we will undoubtedly be told time and time again that the things we have and the life we lead just "isn't good enough." "It could be better!" "You could look like this!" "You could be this happy!" and so on and so forth. Companies make money off of convincing us that what we have already acquired is not the best thing for us and that if we don't have the newest and latest gadget we somehow fall into the "rejects" category of society. The sad thing is, most of us buy into the lie. We do look at that shiny new car and say to ourselves, "You know what? I deserve it!" Goodness knows I've told myself this very thing time and time again over the years. In my experience, all the "I deserve its" just got me into a major financial mess in my twenties that truly looked like a long dark tunnel with no end in sight. At some point we all realize (and if you haven't, you will eventually) that accumulating more stuff isn't the key to bringing more joy into our lives. In the end, stuff is just that... stuff. Nothing more, nothing less. It's the appreciation we give to it that makes all the difference. If we don't give it any value, then it loses its glitz and glamour.
Let's make an effort today to look around us at all that we are already blessed with and be grateful. If we have a home, let's appreciate it for what it is and stop looking over the fence wishing our house was as big as so and so's. If we have a perfectly good vehicle, let's quit glancing over at the luxury car across the street and thinking that we are somehow deprived of nice things because we don't have x, y, z. Let's appreciate what we have and let's stop thinking that what we don't have somehow brings us deprivation. Remember that the choice to live a minimalist life is just that... a choice. It is a life filled with intentionality. In our family, we choose a smaller home because it creates smaller bills. By creating smaller bills we have greater freedom in doing the work we love. Yes. We don't really go out to eat or take fancy, romantic trips to the caribbean together, but, I don't look at that as being deprived. No way. If being able to do those things means I must work more hours or have a job I don't enjoy so that I could rake in enough cash to do so, then I can definitely do without. We are not deprived, we are blessed to not be attached to the life mainstream society thinks we should live. We are free to make a choice about what's right for us. Make a choice today. It's a beautiful thing.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Identifying what is going on on the inside, causing us to surround ourselves with stuff, is the very first step in the attempt to simplify our lives. Clearing out the clutter is what will naturally follow on our minimalist path. But, where does one begin? I believe this will actually differ for every person and for every family. There are so many diverse family and life dynamics that will come into play, that there really is no "one size fits all" plan to de-clutter and clear out space. But, that being said, there are some tried and true steps that everyone can take to at least get the process started. Once we can take that first step, the rest will naturally come to each of us in the way that it should. Some will end up with 100 things, while others will still have a house, a car (or two) and a living room set. But, the "stuff" is not the identifying factor in whether or not one is a "minimalist" or living out the "simple life." It's the meaning behind the stuff. The why of it. Why do we keep it? What purpose is it serving? And lastly, does it serve us or are we serving it?
I began practicing "Voluntary Simplicity" back in 2005 when I discovered a little book by Elaine St. James titled Living the Simple Life. The book was mind blowing to me. Having grown up with parents who were ultra consumers and who valued people by what and how much they owned, the idea of valuing time and relationships over stuff was completely alien to me. All I grew up doing was going to the mall with my mom and shopping, shopping, shopping. It's how I learned to validate who I was. Coming across St. James' book was very liberating to me. It taught me something fresh. Something new. Hey, I could actually find validation in the non-material. In relationships. In time. In giving back. Once I read one book about the voluntary simplicity movement I continued to search for more. I wanted to know everything there was to know about it. I started de-cluttering one room at a time, gave up TV for a year, became a vegetarian and started to thoroughly enjoy life a lot more. Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I never looked back. But, that just isn't true. The truth is, simplifying and minimalism is a situation of one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes, ten steps back. That's definitely what happened to me. In the past ten years, since first discovering the simple life, I have gone into it full force and then gotten out of it completely. Some may look down on that and say, "Well then, who are you to tell me how to simplify my life?" My answer? I'm a normal person who's been through this, tried it, failed at it, tried it again, succeeded, learned from it and am now here to share my experiences with you. What worked and what didn't.
So, here we go. What didn't work?
- I got rid of all the clutter FIRST , before figuring out what was going on on the inside that caused my compulsive shopping or accumulating.
- I cleared it all out and then decided that I actually really liked xyz later on and so I went out and replaced it. If you love it don't get rid of it. Plain and simple.
- I honestly wasn't ready to take the step into a simple life. I thought I was. I really wanted it. I did. But, I was not ready. It truly takes a level of maturity and commitment that I honestly did not have.
What has worked?
- For me? Doing it slowly. I know that for others a packing party or something more drastic is what they need to catapult themselves into a simpler life. It did not work for me until I became intentional about it. I need time to digest change, process it, understand it, welcome it, receive it and love it. Once it has been properly processed, I am way more likely to stick to it and not go back to past habits.
- I figured out that I was keeping stuff out of "obligation" to others. Somehow, I felt guilty letting some things go because I thought it would offend those who had given them to me. I also had a hard time letting go of things that represented happy memories from the past.
- I started with one room at a time, as opposed to overwhelming myself with the entire house. Kitchen first, Restrooms second. Closet third. And so on and so forth.
- I asked questions. "Why am I keeping this? Am I getting any value from it? Does it serve to make my life simpler? Can I let go of it and still cherish the memory it represents?"
- I kept, donated, sold, and tossed.
- I chunked it into daily tasks and visited Salvation Army or Goodwill once a day, every single day.
- I looked forward to it. I enjoyed it. I reminisced about the past with certain items and then felt the incredible joy of letting it go.
- I cried. Yes. I did.
- I was honest with myself. Nope. I will never fit into those size 2 Abercrombie and Fitch ripped jeans that still have a tag on them. Besides, who wears those? Ick.
- I kept myself accountable by sharing my journey with others.
- I didn't go to places that could make me fall back into a shopping compulsion again, a.k.a. the mall.
- I volunteered at the Humane Society and spent my time advocating for animals.
- I adopted new passions and hobbies that kept my mind on other things besides accumulating stuff.
Have I gone back and forth since 2005? Absolutely. Life happens. However, every time I fall off the bandwagon, my fall is less and less. I've gotten myself to the point where what is in our house is what we use, love and value. Do we still have excess? We have a growing child, so in some things, yes (children's toys and such). But, I have made it a habit of re-visiting the de-cluttering process in the spring and summer. Twice a year, every year, I start with one room and go from there. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I am finished. I have given things away to those who could use it. Our house ends up looking spacious and peaceful. It boosts everyone's mood to walk into a house that is clean and open. It increases the quality of our life and our marriage. Less really is more.
Start with the very first space today... your mind. Once you've worked on that, move on to the physical part of minimalism and give it a go. Be kind to yourself. If you fall, get back up and try again. Don't quit. Over time, it will be the very best life change you will ever make.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Simplicity. Such a beautiful word with incredible meaning. It is a word that exudes confidence, peace, joy, and a calm energy all in 10 little letters... S-I-M-P-L-I-C-I-T-Y. Many of us crave simplicity in many areas of our daily lives. We wish our job was less chaotic. We wish our house wasn't such a mess. We wish our relationships weren't so complicated. Heck... we wish our phone screens didn't stress us out with its 50 different icons and the annoying red dot telling us we have 150 unread e-mails! We wish. Most of us wish it our entire lives, and yet, we never do anything about it. All we end up doing is getting frustrated, tired, sick of the mess and entangled in even more chaotic situations. We make the mess bigger, instead of working to downsize it and simplify it. Why do we do this to ourselves? I don't know. Is it because it's comfortable? It's all we know? We are afraid to venture into something new or walk away from the "tried and true"? Perhaps. But, what if we had a plan to at least start with something? Maybe then it wouldn't feel so incredibly overwhelming. Okay. So, how do we begin? For starters, let's ask ourselves some simple questions.
- What do we actually, really, truly care about?
- If we could narrow the above into only 3, what would be our top 3?
- How much time do we currently devote to those 3 priorities as compared to the things that are not as big of a deal? For example... how much time do we spend with family versus how much time we spend at work?
Okay. Now, everyone is going to answer these differently, of course. Thus, everyone's "roadmap" to creating a simple life will differ. There is no "one size fits all." However, the "steps," if you will, are essentially the same for us all.
We are going to take a look at those 3 top priorities. We are then going to brainstorm into a notebook and WRITE DOWN (yes, I yelled in all caps) all of those activities, people, and commitments in our lives that are preventing us from fulfilling our top 3 priorities.
This list could be never ending and overwhelming for many of us. It could, of course, be work (we have to pay bills, right?). It could be outside of work commitments. It could be watching TV, going online, checking Twitter 500 times a day, reading about everyone else's life on Facebook, while ours passes us by. Whatever it is, we've now identified these little time suckers. We should think of them as these scary little trolls that just sweep into our pretty little lives to mess things up, frustrate us and keep us away from the things that truly matter. None of us want these time suckers around. What we do want is more time to devote to our top 3 priorities. So, our next step is:
Cutting things out. What activities can we stop committing to? Which time suckers can we walk away from? Where can we carve out time, space, or money to do those things that truly matter. For only by chipping away can we make room for more meaningful experiences. Do we have to go to every.single.bake.sale? Must we go to every event we are invited to? Do we have to go out to eat every stinkin' Friday night? Could we, instead, opt for something less complicated? Let's just put our phones away, shut down our laptops and stay off social media for an entire 24 hours. Let's just try it and observe how our top 3 priorities are suddenly at the forefront of our day.
Perhaps our problem isn't activities, but it's stuff. Oh boy. The dreaded word: clutter. My least favorite word: knick knacks. Ick. Souvenirs. Double ick. Stay tuned for Friday's post, where I will do part II of this series and we will be addressing the issue of clutter and how to begin the process of letting the physical stuff go. For now, however, I'd like for us to take the time to focus on the experiences that clutter our lives, as opposed to the stuff. For the physical clutter is usually just a visual representation of the clutter going on inside of us. So, let's clear out our insides before we focus on the outside. Let's.
I'd love to know how you are doing with this and what results you saw at the end of your brainstorm. You can either comment here, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a quick Twitter or Facebook message. We are all in this journey together, because none of us is alone in this struggle. We all over commit. We all want simpler lives. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this and I wouldn't be writing it. Let's support one another.