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The Simple Life

Is it even possible?

Is it even possible?

Is it even possible, given the velocity that life careens through the cosmos these days, to live a simple life? A life that gives you room to breathe, to live on your own terms.

Not necessarily a life as the result of ditching everything and living off-grid in a self-hewed cabin in the wilderness of northern Ontario, but a life regardless of where you are, that is simple.

How many of us are desperately seeking this kind of quiet change? A bump along the road in our quest to fulfill this "quiet change" is the pilgrimage to “simple.” This is pretty much polar opposite in the way the world we exist in today, chugs along.

This comes as no huge shock, but we live in a crazy, perhaps insanely busy time. What defies logic is, although we bemoan and complain, ad nauseam, about how insane it all is, we flip the coin over and do what? We glorify busy! We extoll with our friends and colleagues on how many hours we can work. All of which goes hand in hand with how little sleep we need. At the expense of friends, family and relationships in general, we glue our noses to computer screens or our smartphones, each precious second we can find, addicted to the "likes" and "comments" trying to inject constant validation into what can be a somewhat superficial and sad commentary of our affairs.

Like sitting around a poker table, we raise the stakes higher and higher. We take on more commitments. Our jobs demand way more and to produce greater outputs, meaning longer hours and even more commitments. Many of us are driven to work more, do more, buy more, abuse ourselves with drugs and/or alcohol in an out of control attempt to distract ourselves from the insaneness until we are anesthetized into la-la land and stressed beyond human comprehension.

Okay, that might be a stretch for some, but it certainly is the reality for many.

And it is tough. Most of us fell out of environments where achievement and the pursuit of wanting more is hard-wired into our DNA. So, there is never enough. There is always more to be had. We acquire more stuff; push harder to get further ahead. And for so many of us, it is never enough; we still want more—to be better than last year, to get further ahead, a better and more prestigious title at work, whatever it might be. Always lurking out there somewhere, like a northern pike circling the shallows for his next meal, is the lure of more money. We “believe” this to be the answer. Why? Look at all the stuff you can buy with it.

What might happen though, if we decided to take a bit of side-step? To strategically work at leaving the craziness and insanity behind, and to go for a life that was much simpler in its complexity?

Is it even possible?

Let's make the assumption that it is. If so, what might a less simple existence, even look like?

Again, I’m not suggesting or promoting heading off to a northern Ontario wood-lot deep in the boreal forests anywhere north of Manitouwadge and hand whacking a tiny cabin together with nothing more than an axe, grit and determination. Although, if that's what you think it takes, more power to you!

Like I do, most of us live in the real world and have real-world commitments. It is those commitments that require us to live in the real world. The one we see each day when we open the front door to our houses or step out into our apartment building hallway.

How can we be in this world (the crazy and insanely hectic one), but move towards a way to live more simply in it? How to get out of the "race" and step away from the busyness, whether self-imposed or not. How can I/we slow things down, while fulfilling my purpose, doing great work and living a wonderful life?

Creating and living a much simpler life is all about breathing.

Establishing space through cutting or scaling back gives you space to breathe. Doing more and having more doesn't lead to happiness and fulfillment. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s about finding joy in the simple things, and being content with solitude, quiet, contemplation and savouring the moment.

Here are a few things to kind in mind.

We are our own worst enemy.

Everything.

All of the stress, the irritations, the dissatisfaction, and disappointments—all the craziness and rushing around—we created all of it. So, whether you like it or not, we are our own worst enemy. Every one of those things, we created in our own minds. We made those decisions and we created these with attachments in our heads. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.

Clutter and Complexity

Get rid of "stuff."

When we can get rid of "stuff" and not be so attached to "stuff" two things happen. First, if you can sell some of the "tangible stuff," you'll have a bit of cash in your hand. Second, and most significantly getting rid of clutter can result in these benefits:

  • Creates a sense of confidence: I have only "X" amount of space, so what goes and what stays?
  • Decluttering is energizing: Relates to the first point, puts you in the get things done mode.
  • Reduces anxiety: Most of us prefer order as compared to chaos. Decluttering creates order and order reduces anxiety.
  • Helps our mind to wander: Decluttering can allow our minds to wander when doing the job. Ease the stress our minds deal with for a time.
  • Creates more time: Not overwhelmed now with the time that WAS needed to clean and tidy. Creates time for other things or to do nothing.

When we can do something like getting rid of the clutter around us, our lives start to become simpler.

Social Media

Might as well blurt it out there—social media the scourge of today. Okay, it might not be "the scourge of today," but it rates right up there. There is no getting around it, we are addicted to those little electronic devices. Our phone, iPads, computers and all that they deliver—we can never get enough. We check our FB feeds, how many likes did that get, post our dinner on Instagram and update our life on Twitter. Each time we "just check for a second" a wee tiny blast of dopamine let's loose in our brains. We become more and more addicted. For too many of us, it’s insanely hard to stop.

In search of making our lives simpler, cutting back on social media time is an excellent element in our quest. Checking to see who’s doing what and who said what, we waste time and energy and sadly we get stuck in a trap of comparing ourselves with "influencers" and others on social media, which over time can erode our confidence to some degree and takes away the power we have within us as individuals.

Less screen time equates to more breathing time and space.

A Few Simple Things

I think many feel that their lives and activities need to be complex. In that, complex equates and means better. Often, that includes a cycle of "more complex and better" as time moves along. Yesterday's complex and better doesn't cut it today. Thus, the ongoing cycle for “more complex and better."

Striving towards a life that is simpler means looking inside of us, deep inside of us to discover those simple joys and activities in life.

For me, those include writing/blogging, reading and discovering new things, as well as the outdoors  including hiking and walking. Most importantly, spending time with Lynn, while she captures all of this with her photography skills and passion.

When we downsized our home after our daughter left for college, we gave more stuff away than I can remember. And when I mean downsize, I mean down to a 700 square ft. two bedroom home.

When our lives become focused on the simple things you love doing, life suddenly becomes simpler.

Less clutter, less stuff, less worry.

No is not a bad word.

Most of us are not very clear about what we want. How many of us see a post on social media of something really neat or exciting and we become obsessed about doing whatever that was. Next thing you know, we find ourselves heading in new and totally different direction.

When someone invites us to an event or to take on something, we instantly say yes. Why? Because we're "yes people" or another way to see it is we're "people pleasers." We simply cannot say no.

Because we can never say no, our lives and schedules get stretched to the breaking point. There’s never enough time left for the things that are most important to us.

No is not a bad word.

What if we worked really hard and diligently on those things in our existence that held the most and dearest value to us. Saying, "yes" to those things and "no" to the other stuff.

If we knew what we wanted to create, the direction we want our lives to head in, we could say yes to these things, and no to everything else.

Saying no to more things would simplify our lives. No is not a bad word.

Do nothing—practice it till you get REAL GOOD at it.

Have you ever just sat back and did nothing (nada, zilcho, stay in your jammies) for a day? Just hang loose and do NOTHING. No need to feel that the day has been wasted if something has not been accomplished.

We all need idle time. Time built in to sit and watch the clouds drift by on a warm summer's afternoon. A time that is free to do nothing.

Many people feel the need to have every waking moment filled with activities and the need to accomplish so much, each and every day. The reality is we need that “down time” to rejuvenate ourselves, to meditate, to think, to reflect.

Why? Having that time to do nothing and just "be" helps to foster and create contentment with life.  

Get in alignment.

When working towards achieving a simpler life, at some point along the way it will become clear to you which things in your life are no longer in alignment with your values, and the direction you're headed in.

Part of living more simply will help you identify those unnecessary aspects of your daily life. It might be less FB and social media time or it might be areas in your life that need significant review and thought. This could be your job, friendships, where you live, belongings (getting rid of things) or anything else that just doesn’t line up with a simpler existence.

So, is it even possible?

Yes, it is possible and like much of life, it comes down to a decision. We are the only ones who can decide if we want our lives to be less hectic and more simple in existence.

It doesn’t mean packing up and living in a tiny cabin out in the hinterlands cut off from everything. It’s about making priorities, figuring out what we want our lives to look like and be and then acting on those things to accomplish it.

Something tells me that as time marches on, life will become more and more complex, with greater demands on our time. Perhaps now is our moment to re-evaluate where we are and where we’re headed. Let’s start now, simplify your life to create something that gives you room to breathe, room to live!

Thanks for reading and stopping by.

Read next: Food as Therapy
Glen McKenzie
Glen McKenzie

"Thoughts From The Wilderness" examines how nature and the outdoors intersect with our daily struggles and presents ways we can move forward and triumph over tough issues hindering us from leading the lives we were meant to lead.

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