Simplicity – what does it mean to a life of simplicity?

Webster describes it as: the quality of being easy to understand or use: the state or quality of being plain or not fancy or complicated: something that is simple or ordinary but enjoyable.

This concept really hit home last year when a family member passed away. He could have been on an episode of the TV show “Hoarders” – one that would make you shake your head and wonder how people can live like that. As I began reflecting on the life that lived in a trap of “things,” I wondered what really brought him joy or satisfaction. I cannot comprehend how someone can live in simplicity with all that stuff and small pathways carved out to get around the house, and I wondered how happy he was in life.

It was difficult to clean up the house because of the realization that someone in my family had lived like that. A sadness swept over me as I realized this must have been a battle of some sort, one that either by choice, by obsession, or by illness led them into chaos. I wonder if there were some emotional attachment issues that somewhere got out of whack?

It caused me do some soul searching over the past year, and I’ve asked myself some tough questions. All of the stuff I have – is it important? How important is it? What does it prevent me from doing? (You’ve heard the saying, right? The more stuff you have, the more it has you – maintaining it and so on.) What does it mean to live a simple life? How would I adapt?

As I think about living more simply what does that look like for me?

  • Deal with possessions, dig deep and understand what really is sentimental and can be passed down, and what really doesn’t matter. Stop buying needless things, and donate things that can be used by others.
  • Spend time with the people that matter. Have coffee, invite folks over for dinner, go for walks. A couple of my friends and I enjoy walking around Lake Calhoun on Saturday mornings – it is free, and we get to talk. Simple, yet meaningful.

  • Understand finances, get them in control, and plan for retirement. You may wonder why this made the list, but living simply should include understanding how you should be spending your money. If you have a lot of debt (even if you are able to make all the payments and extra), you are trapped into needing a set amount of money. You have more ability to live simply when you do not have debt and more freedom deciding when you want to retire rather than when you can retire. Best advice I received when I was in my 20’s.

  • Have fun! Laughing and enjoying the small moments can turn into big moments. When you walk down memory lane, what do you remember? Times of laughing until your stomach hurt. A meaningful conversation with a family member or friend. Ice skating. Reading comic books. Lying in the sun on the floor when it is too cold to go outside. Bike rides. Playing tennis against the garage door and so on.

  • Simply worship. Romans 8:5 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”  When we focus on the goodness of God and His faithfulness, we are able to simply be and that is liberating.

I am sure there are many more ideas that I could have listed and they are not intended to be in any order of importance, but anymore on the list and the list would not be simple. Since I have started on this journey I have found myself more at peace. I have found I have more time –  time to focus on activities that fill me with peace, not drain it. I want to simplify life – what that means for me will be different for others.

If there was one area of your life that brings you stress, what can you do to simplify it? Keeping up with anyone (the Jones’) is a ridiculous concept in my mind. I want to keep the balance and peace in my heart and then the other stuff just isn’t important.

Out of this family death has come new life for me. I am grateful for what this has  accomplished.