It’s that time of year when you wonder why the hell you didn’t keep up last year’s resolutions, and whether it’s worth bothering again at all in 2015. The pessimists won’t bother and the procrastinators might wait a little longer, but I thought I’d get going. In order not to set myself up for failure, I only put one item on my list – This year I am to Simplify.
Well now, that is vague enough to be able to convince myself in December 2015 I can look back at the fact that I stuck to my resolution and I can feel good about myself. Or perhaps I’m just kidding myself: simplifying life is a rather complicated affair, when you think about it! You need to be Braveheart to pull it off. Let me explain…
We start our lives as naked beings that only need sustenance, warmth and love. That’s pretty much as simple as it gets, and then it’s downhill from there (or rather ‘uphill’) as we climb the progressive ladder of achievement and personal growth, accumulating wealth and ‘stuff’ along the way, until we are living in a world where unless I have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, in-car guidance system and a vacuum cleaner that navigates itself around our living room, I feel there is something missing. I need MORE! Perhaps I’ll buy myself that cool activity tracker for Christmas; I’ve always thought I wanted one of those – it even syncs with all of the above (even the vacuum cleaner!). Guilty as charged.
Our living existence is the same. Markets and economies driven by choice and greed have ruined our existence. You can’t go for a pizza nowadays without being tempted with the option of 99 different toppings. Or even buy a coffee that can’t be described in less than 5 words. “I’ll have a double-shot-semi-skimmed-Latte-with-caramel-syrup-and-chocolate-on-top, and make it a grande…” “Would you like any one of our 7 types of muffins with that sir?”
And what about the clutter in our homes? I could certainly live with less than all the stuff I own, clogging up the arteries of our hallways and wardrobes. Honestly, how many running shoes do I actually need? Three for road (short, long and ‘barefoot), trail (hard packed and soft), one with added support, one neutral, extra cushioning…. oh yes, and waterproof ones, in case it rains in Malta; and don’t even get me started on cycling kit… Last spring I decided to have a clear out, and sent half my wardrobe to the charity shop. I’ve still only worn half of the remaining stuff since.
Clutter clogs your state of mind as it does your house. Clearing up your home is a metaphor for the other. You convince yourself that you don’t really need all that stuff in your house, your inbox and your life, and you’re more likely to sort out the clutter in your head. Get rid off stuff and you won’t even remember its missing. I bet you my wife could walk into my home office and take random stuff off the shelves and I’d notice a year later, if at all. It’s the same with our technology; you don’t need to subscribe to 101 newsletters to get the news on the latest car you can’t afford, special offer on restaurants don’t have time to go to, or stocks you’ll never invest in, adding 101 emails to your already-cluttered inbox. You don’t need to have 3 different apps on your phone for news, 3 for weather and another 3 for star gazing, all of which send you notifications every 5 seconds! You don’t need to have 3 different email addresses either.
I’ve decided that life needs to go back to simple. The dark ages, but with modern medicine and Netflix, seems very appealing at this point of reflection.
So how can you live without skinny latte with caramel and chocolate topping, and depend solely on espresso? How do I run in the rain without the latest Goretex waterproof uppers and special traction rubber soles on my running shoes, and only use the same good pair for ‘running’, irrespective of the weather? Are you actually suggesting I should use a paper map instead of the latest 3D screen GPS car navigation device that speaks to me? It might take some getting used to, but believe me, you’ll be better for it.
The multitude of benefits resulting from simplifying your life would require a mammoth blogpost, so let me just skim through a few;
Thinking Time – answering 101 less emails (or deleting them even) will create enough free time to actually read an interesting self improvement article (like my blog, for example 😉 ) that will make a difference to you in the long run. You can get many more extra minutes of time by spending less of it choosing which of your 50 ties (or shoes, ladies) to wear for work. You will save time by not checking every ‘ping’ your phone makes, to remind you that you can observe Mars rising over the north hemisphere if you’re awake at 3am tomorrow morning, or that you haven’t logged your breakfast calories yet. Add all these minutes up and you have all of a sudden got time to actually go for a run, meditate, or practice that musical instrument. Next time you take a break you’ve been telling yourself you deserve, leave your phone behind. Or if you can’t bring yourself to, simplify and go camping, so you can’t recharge it. Then go and watch a sunset and hold hands with someone you love. You might actually want to have a conversation, not on Facebook…
Saving Money – If I count up the amount of money that I have spent over the past years on stuff I haven’t used, and I cry. All we technically need is food, water, shelter and basic supplies to survive. Simply add up your yearly salary since you’ve been working, deduct the cost you’ve spent of the roof on your head and you’ll be blown away by how much food and water cost you… yeah right. I’m not suggesting that you live in poverty, but by being frugal and making do with regular TV and Internet instead of 200 Channels and a Super Fast Fibre connection would have covered a family holiday to the Maldives by now.
Actually, I don’t even need to go on. Saving Time & Money are argument enough to simplify my existence. The drama of choosing which of my 5 bank accounts and 3 credit cards to deposit my savings in (currently all empty, by the way) should be trouble enough. That’s the irony and perpetuity of the way we live and behave. I need to put a stop to it. Forget January Sales, and don’t judge me for wearing the same pair of jeans for the past year – they are clean and keep my legs warm.
Some other things I’ll do besides getting rid of home stuff and wardrobe clutter is reduce my email traffic by unsubscribing, declutter my calendar by saying ‘no’ to unproductive meetings, choose camping over hotels, avoid sales shopping and stop buying gadget mags that could tempt me to buy more stuff (the actual magazine is called Stuff, if there was no better hint!)
I will aslo take ‘sporadic’ simplification on things that I generally need but could do without from time to time. Run without my Garmin, take my watch off for a day, eat ‘paleo’ for a week, switch the phone off from time to time, read a book instead of a kindle, and such like.
If all of us were a little bit more frugal, more aware of the waste we create, and more conscientious of those who have less; we’d have more to give and share. We’d find greater meaning in a solitary run or sunrise walk, uninterrupted by emails or calls, or learn to play an instrument or a language we’ve wanted to since childhood. We’d save enough money to take our kids on the holiday we always were to busy to have. We’d realise that happiness is not about stuff, but about ‘time’. For if there is one thing that no money can buy, more time to spend with loved ones on this Earth. Enjoy it. Simple.
I hope I have got the guts to…? Have you?