Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living Simply

Freedom, Miracles And Prosperity...

Simplify and fly high!
Through Simple Living

I didn't plan it, but last week turned into a theme week, all about decluttering personal space as a means for spiritual growth and generating a prosperous environment.  This reminded me of a book I read many years ago about simple living. Beginning with several small changes, I was able to discover the personal freedom and spiritual growth that comes from simplifying.  Room is made for experiences and miracles because not only is physical clutter removed, the actions and thoughts that clutter our time are also removed.

I was first introduced to the idea of simple living back in 1996 when I received the book Living the Simple Life, by Elaine St. James, as a book club selection. I was in my mid twenties, living in the Metro Detroit area and felt like my life was slipping through my fingers. I was working, doing everything a responsible adult is supposed to do, but I felt like something else was running my life, not me.

I'm sure many of you can relate to this.  Secretly, I had been fantasizing about moving to the country, building my own house, growing my own food and leaving the intense pace of the city behind, along with the demands to "be something" and "do something". When I stopped to browse through the selections for the book club I'd recently joined, Living the Simple Life jumped off the page. The title resonated with me and I quickly ordered the book.

Fifteen years later, this concept is mentioned right along with the Green movement.  Simple living fits in perfectly with living a more sustainable lifestyle.  Unfortunately, in 1996, everyone I knew seemed to be perfectly happy going to work to make money for the sole purpose of acquiring possessions. Alone in my frustration, I eagerly awaited the book's arrival and when it came my eyes were opened to a philosophy of living that did not necessarily involve segregating myself from the rest of the world.

Living The Simple Life

According to St. James, simplifying one's life involves taking the steps necessary to reduce the daily stress that our culture convinces us to be necessary. It could mean finding another career path, finding a smaller place to live, minimizing an intense work schedule or relocating to another part of the country.

Unfortunately, with the current economy negatively affecting so many of us, these suggestions may be out of our grasp at the moment.  The reality is that many people are unable to make the large career or residential changes that would immediately facilitate a simpler life. Life is complicated and changes like these are easier said than done. Finding the balance between career needs and family can be quite challenging, but by addressing the little things that consume our time on a daily basis the goal of simplification can be achieved.

The concept of simplifying may seem absurd, even impossible in this day and age. Start by determining what living simply means to you. St. James suggests focusing on a time when you felt truly happy. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What changes can you make right now to start working toward your goal? Remember that this is a personal choice. What is simple for someone else may not be simple for you. Determine what you can change or eliminate in your life to get back to that happy feeling.

Some Tips To Help Get You Started
  • Be receptive to the idea of modifying the way you have always done things. It is possible to change your ways, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.  Begin by determining what is complicating your life right now. Then determine what you need to do to simplify things in that area. If it is impossible to leave a demanding job, find ways to cut back on your work day. Learn to delegate your tasks to others, or discuss working different hours with your employer.
  • Set your own standard when it comes to the state of your home by not falling prey to what advertisers say your home should look like. Companies like Bristol Meyers and S.C. Johnson spend exorbitant amounts of money every year to impose an unrealistic ideal on our society. Unless you can afford a maid, look for the things you do daily that aren't really necessary and eliminate them.
  • "Change gears". Create family time in the morning by getting up earlier and eating breakfast together. 
  • Walk to work or simply take a different route. 
  • Do your grocery shopping early in the morning to avoid crowds. 
  • Skip housecleaning for a day or two and spend the time with your children.  
  • Downsize your belongings. Ask yourself "Does this simplify my life?" as you look at belongings you aren't sure about. Don't fall into the trap of holding on to things "just in case" you need them.

The most difficult thing about changing to a simpler lifestyle is the reaction of the people who surround you. Even with all of the information available about sustainability and economic responsibility, you may find that many people just don't understand the motivation behind your new life choices. They may feel you are making these changes for a negative reason, because a simple lifestyle goes against the established American culture. It can be confusing to those who define themselves by "having it all," when you choose to only have a little. In the end, the personal freedom and spiritual growth that comes from having the courage to go against the grain and simplify, will more than make up for any short term challenges.

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