Simplify (Part II): 7 reasons to simplify your life.
Living simply isn’t about just ridding yourself of stuff. That wouldn’t be very practical for the 45-year-old mother of 3 who lives in the suburbs. Living simply is about eliminating the excess so that you can live a meaningful life. If certain things bring a sense of meaning, comfort or delight to your life, by all means, enjoy them! But don’t make the subtle mistake of building your life around them. Busy-bodies, clutter, complexities - they all have the illusion of good things but in reality, detract from our lives.
I can empathize with the pain of letting go of sentimental knick-knacks; I can empathize with the sacrifice of giving; I can empathize with the awkwardness of moving past your comfort zones; I can empathize with the fear that petrifies you when you take that first step toward your dream. The results, however, are nothing short of incredible. As Leonardo de Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Simplicity fosters clarity.
Do you remember those little McDonald's toys that came in the Happy Meals that was a spy decoder? The way it worked was the encoded message was a tangled web of red lines with the secret message written in blue lettering underneath. It was difficult to see the blue words due to the chaos of the red swiggles. Included in the toy was a little decoding tool - it was a piece of translucent, red plastic. You would hold the decoder over the hidden message and the red plastic would blend with the red swiggles causing them to disappear, revealing your secret message! Oh, what devious joy that little toy brought us.
Blocking out life's distracting slight-of-hand, as a though part of a magic trick, sets us up for the great reveal! With a flourish and a gasp, the meaningful message is uncovered.
Simplicity fosters gratitude.
Excess is often praised; the amount of wealth one has is a shining symbol of their success. This vain philosophy has led to an interesting and rather ironic event. In this practice of accumulation the focus shifts away from the actual things that are being accumulated and toward the act of accumulating. Suddenly, though one has every resource at their disposal - though they are drowning in things - they have forgotten the very things which they have in pursuit of the things they don't have.
"I really want to upgrade to this year's model."
"You know... this year's model is just... faster and smaller and stuff. I don't know..."
When you stop playing the game and your attention is not consumed by the unquenchable desire for more, you are able to give your attention to that which actually matters: enjoying the moment instead of seeking to create a better one; investing in people instead of impressing them; loving people instead of being jealous of them; living with people instead of competing against them.
Simplicity fosters giving.
To take the last point a step further, when you stop playing the game and start playing another one - one concerned with giving rather than accumulating - you see an even greater shift in your perspective and attitude toward stuff. As we actively pursue ways to give away what we own in order to bless another, the value of our things become less and less. Suddenly, we're looking at a pair of shoes in our closet and wondering if there might be someone who could benefit from them more. Or we look at a $900 camera that we never use because we have an iPhone and think of how many people we could bless with that money if we sold the camera. Simplicity shifts value away from name brands and social status toward functionality and meeting needs.
Simplicity fosters productivity.
Time is often lost on worthless things that are shiny, new and offer promises of rewards. In reality, the shine wears off, the new becomes old and the rewards are empty and hollow. These things are widely available to us in the form of media, people, gossip, and possessions, all of which shout in our faces and demand our attention and time. Eventually, excuses such as, "I wish I could, only, I have no time." begin to surface. Excuses like this are often used and perhaps, more devastating, often believed. Our day is stolen away, minutes at a time, by the pointless debate on a Facebook status or the ping of an email notification. If only we could limit these distractions, we might find that we have plenty of time, but it tends to disappear in the complexity of our time-budget. We have the same hours in a day as the brilliant minds of our time - what are we choosing to do with ours?
With fewer distractions or maybe even fewer opportunities, we force ourselves, by default, to give our time to fewer things which can then captivate our full attention.
Simplicity fosters intentionality.
Living with excess becomes the obstacle to intentional living. Life, measured in fleeting seconds, is too short to spend sifting through the meaningless in search of meaning. It wastes the very substance that defines our life - time. Time is finite as each second passes and is lost forever. Living, therefore, in such a way as to minimize such wasteful activities would restore a host of life's most simple pleasures.
Simplicity fosters will.
Having too many options often bears the unitended consequence of impeding our ability to choose. In a counter-intuitive fashion, it is easier for us to make a choice between two options than between two-hundred options - by limiting our choices, we advance action.
Rather than spending a sizable sum of time trying to avoid the obstacles in our path, choosing instead to adapt ourselves to the situation, endure and/or overcome the hardship and persist to our end, forces action, advancing your individual story and your will.
Simplicity fosters freedom.
The pastor of the Church that I attended while in college would often encourage our congregation to keep their passports updated and their savings accounts full so that should God call them anywhere at any time, they are ready. How beautiful are the feet of those who are prepared for the work God would have for them. Where we are in our lives might be exactly where God wants us to be - I certainly hope this is the case - but a month or a year from now, He might call us to shift our lifestyle in some way. Wouldn't it be heartbreaking if we tell God no because our lives are too cluttered, too tied down to move? Simplicity doesn't require us to burn bridges and cut ties, it just makes it easier to do so should the time come.
I want to be prepared to jump when God says, "jump!"