During the past three years of simplifying life, decluttering belongings, reducing purchases and more, I’ve realized there seems to be a pattern of belief or thought among simple living folks that make them effective at living a simpler lifestyle.
It is easy to start out with good intentions of simplifying life, cutting clutter or reducing commitments, but without the underlying change in personal motivation and habits, it can be a difficult lifestyle to sustain in our culture that tells us the opposite, more is better.
As I have adopted these patterns of belief in the context of simplicity and turned them into habits I can act on, simple living has become even more beneficial and enjoyable, as well as sustainable. Read on and discover whether you have already created these habits, or would like to, and reap the benefits they bring.
Accept imperfection. Simplicity does not have to be perfect to be effective, in fact there is no such thing as perfect in life. When I first started simplifying, I thought I had to be just like the greats, Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta or Courtney Carver with her 33 pieces of clothing.
Simple living looks different for everyone and will take you along your own path and to your own destination. Don’t compare yourself to other’s versions of what minimalism or simplicity looks like, accept yourself where you are, with your imperfections and just keep moving forward.
Live in the present moment. Enjoying today, this moment, the five minutes you spend washing the dishes, driving the kids to school or folding laundry is a habit worth incorporating into your life.
No one is promised the future, and as you learn to appreciate the present moment you are in, regardless of what you are doing or feeling, your gratitude and appreciation for life in general will increase. This doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the future, but it does mean making sure you are fulfilled by your present.
Recognize that consuming and ownership does not bring happiness. In our culture today, we are told the opposite message through TV commercials, celebrities, family and even reinforced by the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality in our own neighborhoods.
Step back and look at what possessions really are. Generally, they are items that make life easier, but do not provide happiness. Even sentimental items don’t bring true happiness, they may bring back memories, and the memories may make you happy, but that isn’t the item itself. Realizing this and making it a habit to intentionally purchase items as a means to making life easier will help reduce the feeling to own the newest gadget or keep up with your friend’s new toys.
Value making the world a better place for the present and the future. This shift in thinking helps us create habits that not only benefit us now, but will also benefit others when we are gone. Reaching out to others is one of the hallmark habits it seems of those who espouse simple living ideals, and naturally that extends to wanting the world to be a better place because you were in it.
For myself, that means reusing items and buying recycled clothing, paper and any other items I can find that won’t cost the planet new resources or us. It also means that I say ‘hi’ more often to strangers and reach out of my comfort zone to help and connect with others.
Recognize the limitations of continually chasing after more money. After basic needs are met, money does little to contribute to happiness. We are taught to think that if we just had more money, we could travel more often, be more philanthropic and provide more experiences for our children. We could buy a nicer home; have a nicer car or any amount of nicer ‘stuff’.
When you take a closer look at this train of thought, you’ll realize we are trying to buy happiness, and it’s just not possible. There will always be more you can purchase, so learning to be content with what you have and realizing the limitations of money to provide happiness is an essential habit of thought to cultivate.
Reducing the number of possessions you own increases freedom and lessens stress. How much time do we spend taking care of our stuff? Whether it is dusting off books, washing 10 loads of laundry or learning how to use our newest electronic device, ownership requires time, and time=life.
Free yourself from time spent organizing all the stuff in the garage or the guilt you have every time you see the treadmill that you paid a lot of money for, but don’t use. Get rid of possessions that eat up your time and life energy, and aren’t proving to be beneficial. It’s okay to admit it was a mistake to buy something, but don’t continue that mistake by keeping it around.
Make the wellbeing of those you love a priority. This habit seems to develop naturally as you create the other thought habits listed above. Reducing physical and mental clutter makes room for you to focus on what is really important, and for the majority of us, it is those we love.
Whether it is spending more time chatting at dinner with your spouse or children, calling a loved one or taking the dog for an evening walk, making those we care about a priority should be, a priority. But, just because something should be a certain way doesn’t mean it really is, so take the time to cultivate this train of thought by simplifying other areas of life to make room for it.