Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thoughts on Simplicity

Written by Damien

Slowing down. Simplifying. Minimizing. Unplugging. These are the mantras many of us hear echoing throughout our Internet worlds.

Life can be busy, complicated, and stressful. We all know this and we don't like it. We don't want to be trapped in a flow that is heading straight for a cliff. We see scaling back and simplifying as a way to push back against the tide of "too much". Unplugging with family one day a week is just one of the many ways we reclaim some of what we feel is missing in our lives.

What do you reclaim by simplifying your life?

If you think that you are reclaiming "time", then you might be surprised to discover - as we did - that it doesn't quite work the way you think. You no doubt have heard the saying: "Good food takes time to prepare". That sentiment goes for pretty much anything in life; quality living takes time and effort. A simpler life doesn't give you more time, it just distributes the time differently. You spend more time doing fewer things, hopefully the things that really matter. For us this equates to more time spent together as a family in the outdoors.

If you think that you are reclaiming "money", again you may be surprised. Simplifying your life ultimately means being contented with less. For some this will equate to a shift away from debt - a very good thing. It may also mean a shift towards quality. If you have fewer things, one tends to hold quality and aesthetic in higher regard - both of which tend to cost more. A simpler life doesn't give you more money, it just distributes it differently. It gives you more financial and personal freedom. For us this equates to spending less money in other areas so we can afford the clothing and gear we need for spending time in the outdoors.

What we have begun to reclaim is quality. Quality time, quality relationships, quality food... Instead of rushing to meet all of our obligations in a half-assed fashion and winding up completely spent, we are better able to spend the time we need for the things that are important to us. Things start to become sustainable.

A couple of years ago when I was on the phone with a friend. We were trying to sync our schedules for getting together but we were having problems finding a date we could agree on. The date my friend wanted was in direct conflict with our family hiking day. He was surprised that our schedule was so booked despite the fact that we were trying to simplify our lives.

This is where I came to a realization: yes, we have simplified our lives but instead of doing too much, we are spending more time doing less. This has meant guarding our precious resources (time and money) and rather than saying yes to everything (despite how good it might be) we end up saying no to a lot as well. Sometimes it feels like we say no more often than we say yes.

I am not a gardener, but I can appreciate a good garden. They are beautiful, wholesome, and are a good representation of what we see as a life well lived. Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening can tell you that reaping the fruits of a fertile garden doesn't come easy. It is a lot of work. It is a process that requires years to learn and regular tending to develop.

I would say that living a simple, wholesome, quality life is the same way. It is hard work. It is really easy for the weeds to take over if you aren't careful. But if you persevere with the process the fruits are more than worth it.

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