Poet, philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau had definite ideas about how to live a better life.
They can all be summed up in one word: simplify.
Thoreau is quoted as having said, “Simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real.”
Sounds good. How?
According to Thoreau, “carry as little as possible.”
So we can take him literally and leave the house with less.
It was a sad day when I retired my trusty Palm Pilot but I was thrilled to migrate to a smart phone that let me leave home with only one device instead of two.
We can also take him figuratively and reduce our possessions and consumption across the board.
I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life and reduce the things I need to feel safe, secure, and comfortable in the world.
A thing may be beautiful, it may be expensive or a bargain, but the biggest question is always: do I really need it?
A quick inventory of my life makes the answer pretty clear.
I start with my physical body: is it healthy? Am I hungry? Am I clean?
Do I have clean clothes to wear?
Do I have a roof over my head right now—am I warm or cool and dry?
Do I have a place to rest when I get tired?
Do I have love in my life and do I have a way of giving love to others?
After that, the rest is cake.
Here’s another trick for you.
Take the above inventory then scan your home or office.
Identify everything you own that isn’t fully functioning.
Now add up all the time it’s going to take you to get everything working again.
The pants that need to be hemmed.
The appliance that needs to be repaired.
The online purchases that need to be returned.
In the moment of acquisition, the math makes sense because you only do the fun math—how much you’re going to enjoy this new thing and how much better it’s going to make your life.
Remember your inventory—how much better does your life need to be for you to be happy?
The costs of responsibility never get factored into whether you should bring something home or not.
Adding it all up, you’re robbing yourself of a year or more of your life by being disorganized and having too much stuff.
I love many of the western conveniences we enjoy in the US but none of them are worth a year of my life.
Thoreau’s solution was to live a stripped down life in a cabin on a lake.
You might not need to go that far to find simplicity, but be clear about this.
Every single thing you bring into your life that you can’t consume is one more thing you’re responsible for and possibly cramming between you and your happiness.
Tell me again, how important is that thing?
When you’re complaining about how busy you are and how much you have to do … how much of it is real and how much of it is about maintaining your lifestyle?
Mindfulness married to consumption is the perfect solution to set yourself free from clutter, disorganization and debt every day.
Set a timer for 60 seconds and settle into your breath. Then find one thing that no longer serves you—that only complicates your life—and take it the front door of your home or office to remove today. Tweet out your intention: hashtag #unstuffyourlife #simplicity #freedom
Read more about simplicity here.