In an age where there’s the constant hustle and bustle and demands of professional and family life I’ve like many of you have found myself yearning for the simplicity and to simplify my life. It’s this nudging of my heart that says “find joy in the ordinary”. Simplify life, go back to the basics and find joy in the everyday simple and sometimes mundane things, activities or doings.
How do we simplify our lives? First we let go of the notion that more is necessarily better. More money, more power, more prestige. It is not necessarily better. More material items, more time off, more this, more that. Let’s begin.
More money for many will bring about more comforts. Surely a person who makes 20,000 a year will find a better quality of life if they are able to increase that income to say 40,000 a year. However a person making 120,000 a year will not see such a difference making 140,000 a year as their basic needs can be met at the 120,000 dollar income level. Therefore more money is contingent on the personal’s lifestyle and livelihood. More money for sure can open up better opportunities but if we make our focus just on money then we miss out on the simple less monetary joys of life.
More power and prestige usually comes at the cost of more responsibility or obligation. It requires more demands and self discipline. More power does not necessarily equate with more freedom. More prestige does not equate more respect. The greatest power we can have is that of self control and that of being able to influence those in our circle of influence. If we make power and prestige our guiding light then we lose sight of the joy of simply being and influencing those that may mean most to us and who in fact can still make a difference and a ripple affect in society.
More material items won’t bring us joy. To the contrary, we may end up feeling overwhelmed by harboring and holding onto so many items in our lives, in our homes and in our offices. Often times we buy things for the sake of having them and never truly using them or using them and them boring of them and disposing them.
More time off. This for sure is a lovely appeal and not one that I want to dismiss. More time off means more time to do the things we love, whether it’s reading, writing, biking, hiking, painting etc. More time off can mean more excursions, more time with friends and family, more time to ponder the matters of the heart. The caveat is that let’s not prioritize time off and rather focus on implementing this joyful doings and occasions into our daily if possible. Let’s plan for a neighborhood stroll after work or dive into our favorite novel 30 minutes before bed. Let’s climb that hill and hike on a Wednesday evening, let’s bike to the library rather than drive there.
By implementing simple ordinary joys into our lives we are better able to break up our long work weeks and have something to look forward to. A new adventure to be had.
A Summer or so ago I found myself making lists of everything I wanted to do over the Summer, picnic at the lake, kayaking on the river, strolling through the city. I also looked at my weekends and realized there was no way I’d be able to get everything done on the weekends I had free as I had other family obligations or events planned. I also saw how long the work week was and how I would start Monday just waiting for the week to fly by so I could enjoy the weekend. It was awful. I decided to pack a change of clothes and beach chairs and snacks in my car. This way I could change at work, pick up my children and head to the lake to have a picnic like dinner or head to the city to grab a bite to eat and stroll along Charles river on a Wednesday. Sure we’d get in bed a little later than usual but it broke up the week and brought excitement, spontaneity and rejuvenation into our lives, if even just for the small time being.
Living simply lately has meant spending more times outdoors in nature with a backpack filled with sunscreen, a bottle of water, a few snacks, a book and sneakers on my feet. It has meant lingering at the library for a few moments extra to find novels by my favorite authors. It has meant subscribing to thought provoking informative podcasts while unsubscribing from the digital overload of garbage.
It’s required me to take a look at what I was consuming and why I felt my life was inadequate and retailoring my thoughts to those of simple likeminded people.
I felt my life was so dull in comparison to acquaintances and family on social media. While they vacationed five times a year I was only able to afford so once a year. While they went out to fancy dinners and lounges a few times a week I was only able to do so once a month if that. While they redecorated their homes with cedar wood flooring and marble countertops I was looking at the bedroom furniture I once loved and started despising it. The comparison and feeling lack of became a toxic everyday nudging at me. I realized that it was doing me no good and took the vital steps to eliminate a good amount of of my life first which began with the elimination of what I was consuming through social media as well as the conversations and interactions I was having.
I injected simple joys into my everyday. Rather than my lunch regarding staying in the office and further discussing office matters I decided to start carrying sneakers everyday and used my lunch break to take a quick 30 minute walk to and from the library or to and from the coffee shop. I would use the time to pray or listen to a podcast or just be observant.
I stopped telling myself that life will be better once I got a promotion and rather started to recognize the positives of my current position and wanting to do my best work in a given day for my clients so I could go home knowing I did my best. I stopped coming home and sitting on my sofa overwhelmed by what “needed” to be done and rather put a load to wash or dry, cleaned the kitchen and just kept moving.
I stopped telling myself everything had to be done to maximize my time in the morning and rather allowed myself to wake up in the morning going I to prayer first and reading for maybe 15-30 minutes after. I stopped forcing myself to read things that would bore me just for the sake of reading them and spent time cultivating the lovely by divulging in what was simple and yet enjoyable.
Living life simply is self love and self care. It turns the ordinary into joyful and makes anything a little beyond that as an extra treat. I don’t have to live grand on a daily or weekly basis. I can make a latte at home and enjoy the luxury of simply enjoying it while looking out to my backyard and all the trees and colors of the sky. I can enjoy sitting on the patio and seeing the flowers while reading my book. I can even enjoy cleaning and homemaking while listening to a podcast or streaming an uplifting YouTube video.
Simplicity is the elegance of life. Find your simplicity and reclaim your life. Joy is awaiting you.