Late last year I decided it was about time I started simplifying my everyday life. It began with objects shortly after I returned from emptying my parent’s apartment in France. I became fully aware that 90% of our “stuff” ends up in the bin at some point.
So why not start emptying now, and spare me the pain of accumulating? Surely I’ll make my life easier in the process.
Around the same time, a friend of mine had the wonderful idea to lend me a book. The book was “The life-changing magic of tidying” by Marie Kondo. Coincidence? Not sure. I devoured the book page after page. I was inspired. Drawer after drawer, cabinet after cabinet, I got rid of most of the unwanted, useless “stuff”. Stuff that was contributing to my general feeling of uneasiness. A full skip bin later and Bon Voyage!
Over the summer break, the family and I took a holiday to the Outback. In a small town near Cobar, we stopped for coffee and I asked for my usual: an almond milk decaf cappuccino. The waitress looked confused. Almost like I had just asked her to fly up to the moon to bring my coffee back, all wrapped up in her prettiest wrapping paper with a golden bow.
Please. She had no clue what I was talking about, and kindly suggested black coffee, with or without milk. So I ordered the coffee with milk feeling a little disappointed. But when I tasted the coffee, it reminded me of the Spanish Cafe con leche I love so much. I enjoyed every sip of it. As we left she waved us goodbye from the other side of the room, like old friends do. We then stocked up on food and water to last us for a week in the desert even though we were only there for three days.
Because of a lack of communication on my part with the NSW Department of Parks and Wildlife Service, there was the possibility that we would be spending New Year’s Eve in the car, and maybe more, under the beautiful stars; which I thought could be memorable albeit slightly uncomfortable. Having enough food and water we left sealed roads for red dirt roads, surrounded by emus, kangaroos, galahs, eagles, lizards, scorpions, spiders and who knows what other creatures lurking.
New Year’s Eve was under the stars (and not in the car) with virtually no human contact and no reception. My teenage daughter can testify that it IS possible to survive three days without reception and STILL have a good time. We explored, walked, talked, read, made up bad jokes, laughed, cooked, lived, and bathed in the magic of Lake Mungo.
As I woke up on January 1st to see the first light, I realised the real meaning of simplification. Or rather, I realised there are many layers to it.
Having less unwanted objects and more of the ones we love and use is for sure a major aspect of simplification. But having fewer options in our daily life in terms of what to drink, eat, or buy is also a big part of it. Buying only what you know you will eat during the week is yet another layer. Since the amount of food we could store was dictated by the amount of space we had left in the boot and how long our ice could last, I didn’t have dozens of items to choose from and meals were straightforward, simple, and always pleasurable.
So here it is. The common denominator for all aspects of simplification is quantity. We consume and create too much of everything, from material objects to thoughts, activities…It’s as though we were terrified of empty space, feeling the need to fill every minute of our day, every drawer and cupboard with “stuff”. We even literally stuff ourselves with food our body does not need, either in quality or quantity, and often both. We desperately try to fill a gap for something we’re not even aware of. We keep accumulating, stuffing and cluttering!
When you limit things, whether it’s options, grocery shopping or mailing lists you subscribe to, there is less congestion in your field of vision, less clutter in your mind, more time to just BE. It leads to more efficient and straightforward daily logistics, and a lighter, more joyful way of being. Of course, it’s much easier to do in the middle of the desert than in the “civilised” world where we have to use our best judgement and constantly push away the unnecessary.
It’s a constant practice, but like with everything we get better at it with time.
Cutting back gives you the space to breathe more comfortably, to think more clearly, to be more present with yourself and others. To feel lighter and more spacious with your body and mind. The accumulated tension in your body starts to melt away, slowly.
So really, for me the keyword for simplification is reduction. And time and time again reminding myself that “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”. (Confucius)