“Don’t get me wrong, I admire elegance and have an appreciation of the finer things in life. But to me, beauty lies in simplicity.” –Mark Hyman
“Simplicity is the glory of expression.” –Walt Whitman
“I continue to be drawn to clarity and simplicity. ‘Less is more’ remains my mantra.” –Stephane Rolland
When I was growing up, we didn’t have lots of luxuries. I can’t say I missed them. We had plenty to eat and roofs over our heads. (We moved a lot.) My parents didn’t dabble in the Stock Market. They were just making a living to support us. Life was pretty simple. I didn’t know anything different. I was comfortable. That’s all that mattered.
During college, I took theatre classes. Celia Schall, one of my mentors, always said to her actors, “Less is more.” As an actor, I understood what that meant, but not so much in living. I wanted to have the big house, the nice car and financial freedom. However, when Barry and I got married, even though we both worked, we struggled. We struggled to keep up with everyone else.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized, we struggled because first, we set our sights on having all the stuff the advertisers said we needed, and second, we thought that’s what we were supposed to do. We thought we needed to have certain “things” to make us happy. Boy were we wrong. Happiness grows out of choosing to be happy, and for being grateful for what you have. It has nothing to do with owning the prescribed number of possessions.
At some point, we chose to live a simplified life. Barry and I decided not to go for all the trappings for which everyone was pining. Some of the choice to live simply was made for us, because we didn’t have a six-figure income, but another part of our decision had more to do with not wanting to hop on the merry-go-round of acquiring so many things to take care of and protect. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot more things than we’d like. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of accumulating stuff.
Most of the time, we don’t think the way we live affects other people, so I was surprised when my in-laws said, “We admire the simple life you two have chosen to lead.” Wow. I didn’t think anyone had noticed. That made me want to continue to put value in intangibles rather than in material things.
Our version of living simply is to cook at home most of the time, drive hybrid cars, recycle as much stuff as we can, to refrain from buying all the latest gadgets, and to pay for the minimum channels on the TV. We’re not big consumers. I think those ads where women have to check their shopping site every morning, or have shopping competitions are ludicrous. Capitalism is on it’s way out. We’ve got to come up with a new economic model.
To help create a new personal economic model, and become financially independent, we’re paying off all our credit card debt, which means we live within our means. Using things until they are worn out instead of getting the latest fad item. Soon we’ll make changes to our home to make it more energy efficient so the utility company can pay us, instead of the other way around. But the biggest lesson of all is that gratitude is a powerful tool toward living a happy and fulfilling life. No matter the amount of things I stockpile, they can’t make me feel better about myself.
I wonder where we got the idea that external things are the key to happiness?
About a week ago, a friend of mine pointed out in a response to a post that Americans consume most of the world’s resources. She’s right. We do. That’s not good. Perhaps the economic downturn of the last few years has helped us wake up to the fact that we can do with a lot fewer possessions. I mean we can’t take them with us. It’s not the possessions that make life worth living anyway. It’s what we give of ourselves, it’s the connections we make, the love we share. It’s the lovely moments with friends and family. It’s the moments of helping others that we take with us.
Here’s a link to an article, “Living cheap is the new green,” that will help you get started if you want to live more cheaply and simply.
I’m grateful that I’ve chosen to live a simple life. Now I’ve got to go clear out some more clutter.