I grew up enjoying the simple things and then as a type one driven adult, I was caught in the rat race of earning degrees, making money, trying to get more things for my family, trying to make sure I was contributing more, trying to create a prettier home, and burning myself out. I recently started working with toddlers. They are little, but so wise. They are so simple. They just want to be comfortable, play, get some hugs, have some yummy food, make a few awesome messes, laugh real hard, and repeat. I don’t want to be in task mode so much that I don’t pause and see each child in front of me and appreciate who they are and have meaningful interactions. I could try to make sure every toy was off the floor as soon as it was abandoned, but I hope I can balance that with being present for these little ones. Life is about enjoying little moments.
Learning to embrace simplicity is difficult for many people in our culture. How many of you get up while it is still dark, take care of pets,get kids ready, go to work, meet unreasonable expectations at work all day, pick up kids, run errands, take kids to practices,check on aging parents, make dinner, clean the house, make sure the little ones have a bath, a story, snuggle time, and then maybe have 30 minutes to yourself before you pass out from exhaustion? Being exhausted sometimes may be part of having small children or being a caregiver of aging parents or having a high stress job. If you are doing meaningful stuff you will be tired. Having work to do increases our longevity (our ability to live longer), but toxic stress literally kills us. You want to have “flow” which is what I would define as a level of stress where you are feeling challenged but able to stay on top of it. Toxic stress causes the chronic illnesses and disease.
This means that if it is our goal to live a long life, we should try to remove the stuff that is unnecessary and unfulfilling. In other words, be busy with stuff that matters to you and give yourself a break sometimes.
As a coach, I help people sort out the the first step of knowing what matters to clients. What are your highest regarded values? What are your dreams? What are your goals? Who are your most important people? Those are just some of the things I help people get clear on so they can commit to make changes that will lead to a better life.
The time of your life should be mindfully budgeted. You only get to spend it once.
I know that culture tends to encourage people to buy more stuff, do more stuff, and experience more stuff. There is nothing wrong with this if the things you are adding into your life are making your life better, more fulfilling and are in-line with your values. I am a minimalist but not everyone would live their best life as a minimalist. Your definition of simplicity will be unique to you. Simplicity is something that can help increase your chances of a longer life and chances of a healthier life free of chronic illnesses caused by toxic stress.
Below is a “Simplicity Check-List” I created to help you take a quick inventory of where you could let go and apply some more simplicity.
- Are there social events that are on your calendar that will not add value to your life or the life of your loved ones?
- Do you own things that require more work than the enjoyment they give you?
- Could you save time by writing a list and shopping on-line or shopping less-frequently?
- Could you prepare meals in a way that are healthy, less expensive, and less time consuming to make?
- Could you do a work out that is convenient, requiring little or no travel time?
- Are there things on your to do list that can wait until later?
- Do your extra-curricular/ volunteer efforts reflect the best use of your gifts, talents, passions, and personal mission?
- Does your time on social media, phone, e-mail, texting, etc. reflect your values in communication priorities?
- Do your hobbies truly require more equipment, fees, or supplies or will the additional purchases yield stress from the expenditure and stress from extra clutter?
- Is there anything that would give you more joy to give away than to keep?
This is just a starter check-list. For me simplicity has been a key factor in creating a life that feels more free. Let me know if you let some things go and how your life is impacted by increased simplicity. I love to hear people’s stories. Without a doubt if you start removing some of the extra stuff that takes your time and energy, you will have more time for the people and things that truly light you up.