The Truth About Living A Simple Life (And It’s Not What You Think)
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I made the decision to start living simply because I wanted fewer complications in my life.
Complications that revolved around:
- constantly agonizing over what to do with an overflowing wardrobe that was filled with impulse buys.
- an unhealthy relationship with food, which in turn, was destroying my relationship with my body.
- guilt from having a refrigerator that was always stuffed with expired food that I knew I had to eventually chuck into the bin.
- relationships that were bringing more drama and pain than love and support into my life.
- work that left me feeling numb and was becoming increasingly unfulfilling.
The combination of all these ‘excesses’ and unresolved dissatisfaction weighed heavily on my shoulders.
My life was starting to feel like a delicate plant whose branches were struggling to stay strong and upright amidst a storm that was threatening to snap every single one of them in half.
I wanted out of the storm, and into the calm. I wanted to feel lighter physically, mentally and emotionally.
I took questions that I’d been asking politicians, CEOs and celebrities as a journalist for years, and turned them on myself: Who did I want to become? What changes did I want to make to my life? Why did I really want to make them? When was the right time to make them? Where would I go?
But I had no answers, only more questions.
So I decided to get the ball rolling by simplifying my life, freeing one weighed-down branch at a time, starting with my physical self. Exercising. Eating better. Then gradually, I moved on to my wardrobe, finances, and finally, the two most delicate branches of all: The relationships in my life, and my work.
SIMPLIFYING IS SIMPLE, BUT IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, AND IT ISN’T EASY.
While my path to living a simpler life and letting go of everything that wasn’t right for me helped bring more peace into my days, it also brought with it the pain of loss.
The loss of friendships, communities, and belief in both myself and others. There were times when I doubted myself for choosing the path that I did, when everyone else seemed to be scrambling to get ahead in the opposite direction.
While no one is a stranger to loss, I want to approach this conversation from a different angle: That loss isn’t always a bad thing, and the truth is, simplifying your life isn’t about shunning people, consumerism, money or material things. It’s simply (pun intended) about embracing them in a more conscious, intentional way.
Well, at least for me it is, and you may decide to approach it differently with your own set of truths.
Some people call this way of living minimalism. I call it simple living.
But either way, if you’re thinking of venturing down this still largely-unbeaten path, here are some ideas that I encourage you to consider folding into your practice, before you begin:
1. ALIGN YOUR ACTIONS WITH YOUR VALUES.
We may have goals that we want to achieve and values that we claim to live by, but often, our day-to-day actions fail to reflect them. But until your words, thoughts and actions align with each other, the values that you want to embody will remain dissociated from your reality as mere thoughts in your head.
2. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.
If you have a tendency to people-please like I do, it’s all too easy to say “yes” when you really mean “no” or more specifically, “I don’t want to”. This can save the feelings of others from being hurt, but saying things you don’t mean one too many times can eventually make you come across as inauthentic, and your trustworthiness, go *poof* in an instant.
3. PRIORITIZE MEANING OVER DOING.
You know the drill: Wake up, get dressed, go to work, have dinner, go to bed, repeat. Or on a macro level: Get born, go to school, go to college, get a boring job you hate but pays the bills, retire with regrets and then die. For many more, reality is much, much more terrifying and heartbreaking. If you’re willing and able, why not choose yourself so that you don’t have to live unconsciously on autopilot or in pain?
4. EAT FOODS YOU LOVE, BUT SET BOUNDARIES WITH THEM.
For years, I struggled with emotional eating and because of it, my weight. And after trying to ‘fix’ these imbalances with over-exercising and restrictive dieting—neither of which worked—I realized that the only way to find my way back to ‘normal’ eating was to heal my relationship with the food. My starting point? Figuring out why I was compulsively overeating, the triggers that led to it, and breaking the chain that led one to the other. With constant practice, I was able to eat the foods I love without going overboard, and in the process, lose all the extra weight I’d been carrying around for over two decades.
5. BE LESS IMPULSIVE AND MORE INTENTIONAL.
We’re bombarded with thousands of ads every single day that encourage us to act impulsively on urges that bring us little to no real benefit. “Feeling down? We’ve got the perfect outfit pick-me-up!”. Or, “That color looks AMAZING on you. You should really get it before it runs out”. And I bought into them, over and over again until I realized that I was drowning in stuff that I never used, and a body weight that crushed my self-esteem.
6. BE LESS REACTIVE AND MORE RESPONSIVE.
Everyone has an ego, and most of us start out in life not knowing how to keep it in check. So we throw tantrums. We yell. We bully. We make sure that we always have the last word. We make damn sure they know who’s boss. We make sure that we’re always right. Because we ARE right. Right? Not if you’re intentionally hurting someone else or chipping away at your personal and professional relationships, one ego trip at a time.
7. VALUE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES MORE THAN THINGS.
Having nice things is well, nice. But ultimately, the people who truly care about you don’t care about the things you have. All they care about is that you’re happy, and that you’re able to spend time with them. And the people you’re trying to impress with the nice things? They couldn’t care less about whether you’re happy or miserable, so why not choose to invest your time, energy and money in making beautiful memories with the ones who do matter, and knowledge that will help enrich your relationships with them?
The more experiences I have in life, the clearer it becomes to me that to be happy, the more discerning I need to be with how I spend my time, energy and money.
How do I do this? My gut always points me back to the same answer: Living a simple life.
If you’re wondering if living a simple life is for you, here are 5 helpful resources that have made the biggest impact on my simple-living journey—resources that distill the true essence of living a meaningful, intentional life better than I ever could:
1. Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
If you’re a brand-new to minimalism, this documentary is the perfect way to start off your journey. It takes you inside the minimalist worlds of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known collectively as The Minimalists, the painful circumstances that led them to this way of life, and the inspiring lives of others from different backgrounds who are doing the same.
2. The More Of Less: Finding The Life You Want Under Everything You Own, Joshua Becker
Feeling intimidated by the thought of becoming a ‘minimalist’? Joshua Becker unpacks the concept for you, one bit-sized idea at a time, helping you create a personal approach to getting rid of the clutter in your life to make room for what you truly want. This read isn’t just about how get rid of overwhelm by living with fewer things, it’s also about how to live your best life.
3. Soulful Simplicity: How Living With Less Can Lead To So Much More, Courtney Carver
Living a simple, minimalist life doesn’t revolve around throwing out all your stuff or decluttering your home, and Courney Carver makes this refreshingly clear in her heart-centered memoir/how-to. In it, she encourages you to first figure out why you’re considering simplifying your life, starting with a deeply touching account of how she discovered her own ‘big why’s’ and the health crisis that led up to it.
4. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life, Héctor García and Francesc Miralles
This isn’t a book that addresses simple living explicitly, but its goal, using the Japanese concept of ikigai (which when translated, means ‘reason for being’), is the same: To achieve a happier, healthier and meaningful life. The inspiring setting that the authors use to demonstrate the principles they teach in this book? Okinawa, where the highest concentration of centenarians in the world live.
5. The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing, Marie Kondo
If you’ve got stuff in your life, you need to read this book. Chapter by chapter, Marie Kondo teaches you how to whittle your belongings down to the items that bring you joy, as well as organize them in a way that honors their purpose in your life and keeps your home clutter-free.
If you haven’t yet started simplifying your life, or just started to, know this: Living a simple life doesn’t have to be about depriving yourself of things that bring you fulfillment and joy.
In fact, it’s up to you to define what fulfilment and joy mean to you.
Once you do, it’s time to lighten the heavy branches of your life, one leaf at a time.
DISCOVER THE JOYS OF LIVING A SIMPLE LIFE.
Want to start simplifying your life but don’t know where to start? Get clarity and your first steps to creating a richer, uncluttered and more meaningful life with a FREE copy of The Simple Living Guide. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.