My husband Thom and I began living a more simple and sustainable life over ten years ago. In the beginning, the practice felt a bit awkward and required our conscious focus and intention to make the necessary changes. Gradually our actions became fluid and felt more natural. Most excuses and resistance simply faded away. Finally, after all these years I believe that our path to simple living is so deeply ingrained in us that it has become a habit that adds value to our lives every single day. Are we experts? Not hardly. But if we can do it, anyone can. So what if you’re just starting on the journey? My advice is to make the practice a habit as quickly as possible.
Here are three critical steps I believe are necessary:
1. Focus more on the “why” you are doing it than the “how.”
If you have been paying attention, you know that dozens of books, websites, blogs and even movies are currently focused on ways to “unclutter” your life. And while many of those outlets offer great information about how to go about sifting through your stuff, unless you have a strong “why” you, will likely return to your former habits after a while.
I think many of us are first drawn to simple living because we previously pursued a life in ways we thought would make us happy only to discover how empty that can be. Often our first thoughts are examining the details of our life, the over-stuffed clutter that takes more work to manage than expected and feel the need to sweep it all away. Instead, I recommend that we dig deep inside—that and talk it over intimately with our loved ones—and come to the clear understanding that all that stuff and clutter is not the happiness or satisfaction we really crave.
The basis of simple living or minimalism is the recognition that true happiness and peace of mind lie with an awareness of what really matters to us—and that seldom has anything to do with our accumulation of stuff. In fact, all those hours that we force ourselves to go to jobs we dislike just to pay bills often leads us to buy stuff just to medicate ourselves from the life dissatisfaction we’ve created. Instead, by stripping away all the clutter and distractions we’ve accumulated to dull our unhappiness, we uncover the satisfied, contented and rewarding life we desire.
Once most of you in the household (it might take some family members a while) catch on, you can then begin taking some of the actions. Plus, once you are clear on your “why” it will be far easier to explain it to anyone in the house that might continue to resist. Remember, if you’ve had your life ladder leaning against the wrong wall for years, it will require a significant change to move it to a wall that fits your new understanding. But bit-by-bit, even the most reluctant among you will begin to realize all the wonderful benefits such a transformation can bring about.