Simplify: Why and Why Not?
As much as I’ve simplified my life in the past ten years, I still crave more simplicity. It feels like I can’t simplify enough. At certain points though I realized I was overdoing it. Unknowingly, in simplifying certain activities I caused myself more pain.
Before we start simplifying, it’s best to look at both sides of the decision to ensure we’re okay with not only the advantages but the difficulties that may come with our choice.
The upside of simplicity
The following are the advantages I’ve experienced so far.
Peace of mind
When you reduce your possessions, you’ll have less stuff that needs to be fixed and maintained. Less worry means more peace.
When we simplify, we let go of the excess, and focus on fewer things. We become satisfied with the life, and the things, we have. We learn to let go of compulsive wanting and the never-ending cycle of buying and accumulating.
What’s more valuable than feeling free from worry, excessive wanting and longing, or the need to compare and have more?
When we simplify physical possessions, activities and commitments, and even our thought process, we free ourselves to just be—light, focused, and at peace.
To simplify is to look at our lives with purpose and intention. We examine the troublesome areas and face reality. We step out of avoidance and distractions, and make conscious choices.
With less stuff and simpler choices, we can easily focus on what matters and give it our best effort.
Simpler living leaves lots of empty space for life’s beauty to shine through.
Imagine you have a masterpiece painting, but it’s hanging with countless other paintings and prints on the wall, with hardly any room. How’s that masterpiece going to stand out?
If you have an empty wall with just one painting, or a few, you’ll have more space for that painting to be seen and enjoyed.
The less we own, the more we use what we have. And the more we value and appreciate these things as we get to know them intimately.
Choosing less stuff, not wanting to buy new stuff, or not engaging in ego activities will keep more money in our pockets.
All of the above benefits can be a strong motivation to choose simplicity. But before making a decision, we need to examine the perceived costs that come with simplifying.
The downside of simplicity
Every choice we make has potential risks and drawbacks. In most situations, they won’t be a big deal. But they’re worth taking into consideration before making a final decision.
Doing a few things over and over, or using the same things, might get boring after a while.
There are two underlying reasons for boredom. The first is our choice may not be aligned with our desires and truth. The second is a mental attitude (or habit) of getting bored with anything and everything.
Boredom is manageable. We can change our choices. And more importantly, we can learn to be okay with feeling bored. The feeling creates space for life to inspire us.
Having fewer things, or doing fewer activities may deprive the ego of its needed validation.
Simplicity can be tough on the ego. We don’t have things to brag about, and we’re not doing exotic stuff that attracts attention.
So we may experience flares of insecurity and doubt when we strip down the nonessentials the ego considers image boosting.
Others around you may not understand your choices and may judge you harshly. This is true for most things in life that are worth doing.
In certain situations, limiting our choices might appear inefficient and more time consuming.
Washing dishes by hand is simpler and we won’t worry about the dishwasher leaking or needing repair. But it also takes longer, and requires more effort.
If we get too attached to the idea of less, we can end up limiting ourselves from experiencing life. It can become a hindering excuse not to do different things.
To simplify or not to simplify? How to make a decision?
Other than saving money, the other advantages and disadvantages cannot be quantified and measured. So they’ll mostly depend on your personal preferences and perspective.
So where how do we begin?
Start with feelings.
This may not be the most conventional advice. But how we feel drives most of our lives. So let’s start there.
How are you feeling in general? If it’s good? What areas of life are most satisfying?
If you feel stressed or distracted, what areas of your life come to mind as the main cause of feeling this way?
This is the area you need to start with.
Assess interest and skill level.
Is this area something you’re good at, or something you barely tolerate, or somewhere in the middle? If you can delegate the whole thing, would you do it?
For example, I have a fairly reasonable level of competence and interest in finance and investing. I want to continue to do it myself, not delegate it. I can focus on how I can do it in a manner that’s simple and most helpful to me. (BTW this is where things got complicated because I decided to delegate what’s really important to me and created more complexity for myself).
But if someone is not interested in finance or doesn’t have the skills, they can simply give all the information to an accountant or, money manager, and let them handle it.
Consider common areas.
There are common areas that we all share: personal belongings, clothing, online browsing and social networks, home space, hobbies, and daily chores.
All of the above areas can benefit from simplifying in a way that’s helpful to you.
For each common area, answer the following questions:
- What do you really want?
- Why do you want it (the upside)?
- What’s the downside?
- Is it worth it?
- If yes, when can you get to it? If no, can you let it go?
These five questions can be helpful in making a decision. After a while, we can change course, or stop something all together if it’s not what we aimed for.
There are no hard and fast rules about simplifying your life. What you choose to simplify is personal, based on your circumstances, skill set, experience, interests, and preferences.
So it’s completely up to you, and that’s the beauty of a process that works for you any way you want.
As long as you’re aware of your reasons and potential challenges, you’ll be on your way to a simpler and more meaningful living.