Lately I have found myself consumed with the idea of living simply. And by lately, I mean the past 3 years or so.
In 2008 I released a song with these lyrics: "I have my days, when I just wish that I could have it easy. But SIMPLICITY is what I really need. Because the older I get, the more the world offers it's distractions. But the more life I live, I ask myself, Does it really matter?"
And thus that was the beginning of my journey. But it wasn't until later when I found out I was going to be a mother, did I begin to sharply question many things in my life, and how I was living it.
The first thing I did in response to my desire for transformation, was to throw myself back my Christian Faith. This decision is very personal so I wont expound on it, but it has dramatically changed the trajectory of my life and my thought process. Which brings me to the idea of Living Simply.
I found an amazing website and community, The Simplicity Collective, which says this: "Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer culture and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life,’ or ‘downshifting.’ The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them."
My heart stopped when I first read these words. This one statement put into words everything I had been feeling since having my child. I have felt so compelled in the past few years to "downshift" without even knowing the name for it. I started to realize things about my life, how I spent my time and money, and felt that much change was needed to be able to adequately raise and inform my offspring.
Here are a few things I'm doing to start "downshifting":
1.Stop Using Shopping as a Hobby. The glow from buying more "stuff" (especially brand spankin' new stuff) wears off fast and hard. The only way to sustain it is to buy more and more. Or we can reject the "high" we get from buying new stuff and seek it somewhere else (reading, learning, cultivating relationships, excersizing, spirituality and so on) If we decide we truly need or want something, shopping at second hand shops, garage sales, or online community stores is a great option. It takes more time and energy to find exactly what you're looking for, but the thrill you get when you find it is a much longer lasting satisfaction. Plus, once I understood where all this "stuff" I was buying came from, how it was produced and what it cost (not me, but everyone else) I was pretty disheartened.
2. Cancelled Cable: I love TV, movies and pop culture. I don't think I will ever be able to completely get rid of my TV. But dramatically reducing the time I watch it and taking in the crap that's on it, has helped a lot. I now listen to music or podcasts instead of mindlessly surfing the channels. I've also re-arranged the furniture in my living room so that it is not all facing the screen. Rather my couch faces the windows and my child's play area instead. I have to crane my neck to watch TV at all ;)
3. Living Within My Means: We closed a few credit cards and got ourselves down to 2 incredibly low limit cards, (and I mean REALLY low limit) mostly for in case of emergencies. We no longer can afford to spend money we don't have! I have been amazed that we have actually been able to sustain our comfort level that we had before, and be spending much less. You just have to be creative about how/where you buy something. I've also learned the value of saying "No, I don't really need this".
I will briefly name a few more: Turning off all lights when we leave house or letting natural sunlight light our home before we turn on lights, taking the bus, starting a garden, shopping at local farmers market, and more.
We still have so much more we could be doing and we are striving to get there.
Here's where I should clarify why I am pursuing this lifestyle and why I think it is good.
First of all, I'm not doing this just so I can pat myself on the back or feel special. I believe it is in alignment with my Faith. I won't go into details about that, but I believe I am correct in believing this.
Secondly, I know a few people who say this initiative is too "save the planet" or "tree-hugger friendly" for their tastes. While it's true many people do this because they want to save the planet, I actually believe the better reason to do this is to preserve our humanity and nourish our well-being. There has been much research that suggests that accumulating material possessions and wealth does NOT contribute to happiness or over all well-being. Ravi Zacharias is fond of saying, "Man does not grow weary from pain, but from pleasure". The fact that living simply also has a happy outcome for our earth is a bonus for me. But, it does make sense to take care of the place we call and our children call home.
I realize this way of living is a no-brainer for many people. I know a lot of people who have been living this way their whole lives and I applaud them. I have to say it is counter-intuitive to how I have lived most of my life to this point. However I have been persuaded by the evidence presented and by my own short experience, and thus I must make a radical change in my life to follow suit.
I have barely scratched the surface on what Simpler Living can be. Check out this website for more in-depth research on the topic. I think you will enjoy it. http://simplicitycollective.com/start-here/invitationincitation
As Samuel Alexander says so brilliantly "We must be the poets of our own lives and of a new generation. Let us, then, be Pioneers once more".