Monday, August 29, 2011

The Art of Simplifying Life

Simplicity, as Leonardo da Vinci wrote, is the ultimate sophistication.  Simplicity frees us from the artificial burdens, leaving us with energy to re-infuse into the world. 

It seems that when I take time to throw away material things, a simultaneous liberation goes on inside all of me.  The more stuff that I have to deal with, the more unrest there is inside of me. 

We don't have to look very far to see a growing number of unmet needs these days, ranging from caring for our elderly to helping educate our young people who are being left behind in the crowded classrooms.  When we're so smothered by our own decaying infrastructure, there's no time for us to contribute ourselves to the purposeful needs waiting to be met. 

Volumes have been written on how we can simplify.  They boil down to two things.....identifying what means the most to us......and getting rid of everything else.

Well, that's easier said than done, for me anyway.  In order for me to buckle down and get rid of stuff, I need a plan.  I'm one who needs a map to get where I'm going.  The more I see on paper, the easier it is.  Here again I go with this business of making lists.

1.  What 5 things do you want to do in your life?  Take a good look at what's going on in your life, what is giving your life value and what isn't. 
2.  It may be necessary to redesign your day.  It's senseless to devote precious time to work that just doesn't get us anywhere.  Identify the essential work and eliminate the rest.
3.  Anytime we can eliminate or delegate, let's do it.
4.  One major key to simplifying is learning how to say no when someone else wants our time.  Taking on too much is a problem we place on ourselves, and, therefore, have no right to complain or fret about it.  Since I retired, my goal is to "stay under the radar" and involve myself minimally in organizations that place me in the line of fire.  At this stage of the ballgame, I don't need that in my life, and I won't bring it on myself anymore.
5.  Do the one-room-at-a time evaluation.  Get rid of everything taking up space and making you crazy.  Even a piece of furniture can bug a person.  The last living room set we had was patterned, and the color literally drove me nuts every single day.  Then I snapped.  Either we replace it, or I would have to set it on fire.  Needless to say, the problem was eliminated, my nerves calmed, and life is good again.
6. Closets and drawers are awful places to visit.  The way I decide if I should get rid of a piece of clothing is by asking myself if I would wear it today.  It's obvious that if it's not good enough for me to wear it today, it isn't ever going to be worn.  In the bag it goes.
7.  Some people aren't comfortable spending time in solitude, but it has been proven that quiet time gives us time to hear our inner voice.  When we spend time alone, a channel opens for the Great Spirit to hand over helpful hints to get us through our journey.  He knows our path, and He knows what we need to walk it.
8.  Create systems.  One system that I've managed to simplify is the paperwork that trickles onto the kitchen counter every time we get the mail.  If paperwork isn't managed properly, it piles up and it's easy for us to be late in paying bills or being lax with routine matters, like insurance, investments, things like that.
9.  If we could program ourselves to want less, we would buy less.  Impulse buying brings more junk into our homes than anything else. 
10.  How much is enough?  If there isn't room for it, let's not buy it.  When I buy something and drag it home, I see to it that I discard something else.  Migod, if we don't do that, the pile takes on a life of its own and controls us.
11.  Getting rid of and simplifying the "busy-work" that we make for ourselves, will give us time to find a creative outlet.  We all need some form of self-expression, whether it be writing, drawing, or making strawberry jam.  There lives a cavity in each one of us that needs to be filled with our individual creative talents.  Creativity is critical to contentment.

Since I retired in 2006, I've taught myself how to live differently.  I've intentionally detached myself from situations and people that may cause me anxiety.  There's no way our heart and soul can be quiet and content if we're running in fifty directions dealing with this, that, and the other unnecessary thing. I've successfully reprogrammed myself to make and take time for me.  Even the Lord took a day of rest after working six.  His example should be a stern lesson from which we learn.  Why should we avoid enjoying simple pleasures because of silly man-made guilt?  Pleasure is as critical to our well-being as water is to flowers.  Give yourself space.  Enough space so you can spin and twirl freely if you wish.   Why make life harder than it needs to be.  

"We have grown literally afraid to be poor.  We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life.  If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spirtless and lacking in ambition."  -William James