There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years both on the internet and off about “simplifying.” Some seem to have embraced the idea with an almost religious fervor, and appear to practice simplicity as a modern form of asceticism. Being an Epicurean in temperament if not practice myself, I’m wary of extreme self-denial for its own sake or as some sort of moral barometer, and am always seeking the middle ground.
Duchesse penned another thoughtful post last week exploring what it might mean to live a “simple” life, how it differs from minimalism, and some of the traps that keep us caught up in consumption mode. Her post helped some of my own random thoughts about simplicity to gel. I want to first back up a minute, and look at the bigger picture. To me, it seems that simplicity isn’t an end in itself, but rather a means to achieving greater balance and a higher quality of life. What that means to each of us may be very different. For example, time is my most precious commodity right now. While some might find painting the living room themselves or making their own granola to be ways of simplifying (and economizing), to me these would be stress-inducing time hogs. They wouldn’t feel like “simplifying” at all, but rather adding to a long list of To-Do’s already clamoring for my attention.
So one person’s “simple” may be another’s “are you &*#^ing kidding me?!?” and visa versa. If you feel you should pare down your wardrobe, but even just thinking about trying to get by with some arbitrary number of pieces is making you break out in hives, or if variety is the spice of your life, then for you this may not be “simplifying,” at least not at this time. If you love and enjoy every second of your 30-minute makeup routine (and the results) then by all means don’t feel pressured into cutting back unless it’s otherwise a detriment to you life (making you late for work? tying up the only bathroom in the house?). When it’s truly “excess,” getting rid of it should generate relief. (We’ll bypass the subject of bona-fide hoarders; that’s beyond the scope of this discussion and something I’m not qualified to address.)
I’ve come to believe that the key to unlocking a better quality of life can be found in being mindful, being conscious of how we use our resources, spend out money, occupy our time. Life can clutter up all around us when we go unconscious, and this is true for activities and relationships as well as physical posessions. As another example, after I discovered the sweater hanging trick I shared last Monday, I went through and re-hung and re-organized all of my sweaters. And it became painfully obvious that I overbuy sweaters. I love my sweaters, I wear my sweaters, but I certainly don’t need more sweaters. I can now look at my nice orderly rack of knitwear, actually see what I have and be reminded that more won’t add to the quality of my wardrobe or my life.
Where I think we can all benefit is in becoming conscious of and reducing mindless consumption that may provide a temporary high but adds nothing to the quality of our lives. And save our resources (whether they be time, money or emotional energy) for the things, people and experiences that truly enrich our lives and replenish us. In coming weeks I’ll share some strategies and pitfalls I’ve encountered in my journey (and yes, it’s still in progress) to simplify my wardrobe.
How do you view simplicity? Is it a tool for you, or an end in itself? What are some things that simplify and add quality to your life?