I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the
wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit.
Henry David Thoreau
For most of us, life these days is anything but simple. We live in a world where being busy is considered a badge of honor. We’re drowning in information as we’re trying to manage the endless flow of it from our multiple devices. We’re urged to buy more stuff, get more done in a shorter amount of time, and do it all while being bombarded with messages from the media that are designed to scare us into complicating our lives even more by trying to protect ourselves against every possible calamity that might befall us. Many of us are stressed, overwhelmed and frightened.
It’s enough to make you wish for simpler times, perhaps even to run away and find our own personal Walden. But I’m not sure it’s really possible anymore to find the simple life that Thoreau lived for a year, even if we wanted to. How many of us could really live for 24 hours, let alone a whole year, without our smartphones?
While we may not be able to recreate the idyllic equivalent of Thoreau’s Walden, it is possible, even in this day and age, to create a life of simplicity.
Simplicity is not a destination. It’s a journey, and it’s a daily practice. It’s not about decluttering your home and your life once, and expecting it to magically remain that way. Life happens. An email or a phone call may disrupt your carefully planned quiet day. You will buy more stuff, or receive gifts from family or friends that you won’t know what to do with.
Instead of completely giving up on simplifying your life, make simplicity a daily practice. Rather than feeling anxious about never “getting there,” be mindful about the process. You may be surprised how much more peaceful your life can be.
Focus on what matters
Think about what’s really important to you. What do you really want to do? Who do you want to spend your time with? Being clear about your priorities will help you make decisions more quickly.
Do a little less every day
Don’t fill up every available minute on your schedule. You’ll just end up rushing from one agenda item to the next, and most likely, you’ll never get everything done. Keep your priorities in mind when you schedule your day. Don’t schedule back to back appointments; leave periods of free time throughout the day. Not only will this allow you to breathe, it will also help when unexpected emergencies come up – and they always will.
Studies have proven that multi-tasking is actually less efficient because your mind takes time to switch gears in between tasks.
Be mindful and slow down
Be mindful of everything you do, whether it’s brushing your teeth, driving to your office, or working on a project. Be in the moment.
Make time for yourself
Make time for solitude every day. Having time to yourself is vital for your mental health. Make sure your day contains some simple pleasures, whether it’s a 10 minute walk around the block, a bouquet of fresh flowers for your desk, or lunch at your favorite restaurant.
By thinking about simplicity as a practice rather than a destination, you can start small and and measure your success in the small, peaceful moments that will come from making even small changes.
When all else fails, look to your cats for inspiration. They don’t seem to have a problem with keeping life simple. Granted, they don’t have to bring home the bacon (although they most definitely like it when we do!), but their unfailing ability to revel in the small moments in life can serve as encouragement for us to be a little more like a cat.