Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Posted by Meeta K. Wolff
"Be the change that you want to see in the world".-Mahatma Gandhi
Have you ever woken up and felt exhausted just thinking of the long day ahead? For many of us, our lives are a three-ring circus, balancing work and family, hobbies and social commitments, trying to keep up with the relentless pace of life in the twenty-first century. In the face of this reality, certain trends are pointing in the other direction. They can be described by a variety of words- voluntary simplicity, downsizing, downshifting and simple living. Each of these terms means different things to different people, and I find that I have started to make some positive changes in my own life by thinking of what these terms mean for me.
The concept of voluntary simplicity or downsizing is not about depriving oneself. In fact, it is the very opposite. To many people, it symbolizes the ability to work less and live more. To spend less time doing things you *have* to do and more time doing things you *want* to do. I find this concept to be a very powerful one. We live in an age where people are often defined by their occupation, the clothes they wear, the car they drive, the books they read. We feel obliged to do and buy certain things in order to conform to what is expected of us. To me, voluntary simplicity is about liberation; giving yourself the freedom to make your own choices about what you keep in your life and what you want to throw out. It means spending some time to identify what brings me joy, determining what my own priorities in life are, and what other things are there just for the sake of tradition or because "everyone else has it/is doing it". Downsizing is something that people often do at retirement age. But if you can do live a simpler and less stressful life in your younger years, why should that be a bad thing?
Simplicity can be achieved in the simplest and most mundane choices, and can extend to hard-core simplicity, such as taking the decision to get rid of one's cars and phones. Here is an example of a *very* simple choice that did make my life unexpectedly easier: In our previous home in another city, we needed to stock up on some glasses. We bought a set of red wine glasses and white wine glasses. Then realized that we needed champagne flutes for those special occasions and beer mugs and juice glasses as well. Pretty much our home was overflowing with glassware of all shapes and sizes. Plus, when friends came over, I spent all my time making sure that the dog's wagging tail did not knock down delicate stemmed glasses set on the coffee table (he managed to destroy most of them anyway). When we moved to St. Louis, I had had enough of the doggone glassware. We bought a set of what are called "European wine glasses" (no stems!). I use the same glasses for serving everything- water, juice, smoothies, wine and champagne. That's that. I have a lot more space, lot less worry and believe it or not, not having the right glassware for the right drink has not destroyed our social life. To anyone who is appalled because I did not serve the right drink in the right glass, all I can say is that there are bigger things in this world worth getting appalled about. I now have given myself permission to cut out anything from my life that is stressing me out and adding to unnecessary work. I don't buy anything that is high-maintenance. No clothes that need dry cleaning. We read newspapers online and don't have to deal with the mountains of newsprint (with more fliers and ads than actual news). I stopped subscribing to magazines and buying books- I just get them from the library and don't have to worry about storing them. I own just one pair of formal shoes and one good handbag, and wear them everywhere. This might be unthinkable for most people but I love the way it takes me 30 seconds to dress up.
For those looking for ways to simplify their own lives, there are many blogs, books and websites that offer good advice. I have come across a little book called "Simplify Your Life" by Elaine St. James that gives 100 suggestions for doing so: everything from "reduce the clutter in your life" to "clean up your relationships". But mostly, simplification requires some introspection, asking oneself the hard questions, "What am I really trying to get out of life?"
Simplifying one's life also has the desirable side-effect of less waste, less materialism and less consumerism, all contributing to a better planet. If we want a world that is more in touch with itself, we truly must start with our own lives.
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This post was contributed by Nupur from One Hot Stove