I was one of those people who put too much emphasis on work and career and material possessions, and it took its toll on all my relationships, on my physical health, my emotional and mental health.
~ Tony Shalhoub
We don’t ever really need much to be comfortable in life. Yet if you look at the barrage of advertising around us, you’ll be uncertain if that’s true. There are so many products and services competing for our attention, and shopping has become a national pastime.
Much of our stress is created by consumerism, and the debt we often incur to fuel that steady stream of purchases. The media constantly reinforces the idea that ‘stuff’ makes us happy, and that success is having a gigantic house, filled with gadgets, appliances, expensive furniture and toys.
But is that really true?
How much do you really need? And how much of what you already have do you actually use?
Haven’t you ever known happiness with just the barest of possessions?
A few years ago I joined my husband in Palau, a small island nation in Micronesia. I took one suitcase with me, and I lived out of a hotel room for six months. The room was comfortable, but by no means palatial. There was a tiny bar fridge and an electric jug, a simple bathroom, a bed, television, cupboard, desk and two chairs. The big luxury was air conditioning!
I got used to having one bowl, one plate, one cup. I had a place for my computer, a few books, some simple toiletries, and a small assortment of clothes. But it wasn’t a hardship. In fact, there was something very liberating about having so few possessions, and an uncluttered schedule.
When I finally came home to Australia, I wandered around my home for months afterwards, wondering how I’d managed to accumulate so much stuff. In fact, I’m still influenced by that period in my life. Anywhere I can simplify now, I do.
I’m not advocating that you get rid of all your belongings. I’m advocating simplicity. And I’m suggesting that it is better to have one thing that you love, than twenty things to which you are indifferent. It’s better to be happy living an authentic life that gives you gratification, where you’re following a path that makes your heart sing, than to do something purely for the money, and then using that money to buy stuff you hope might make you happy.
Work out what your priorities are. (This post can help you do that.)
Declutter. Not just your house, your life! Unsubscribe, free up some time, let go of some responsibilities or get help to complete things you haven’t done and need to. Getting rid of clutter frees up our creative and emotional energy. (More ideas on that here)
Simplify. Use the Rule of Three. If you haven’t used it, worn it or remembered you even own it in the last three years, get rid of it. Some people are more ruthless than that, and use a Rule of Two or even One! Of course you need to exercise some common sense here, but almost everyone I know has accumulated things they know longer want or need. You can give it away, throw it out or sell it to make some spare cash.
Reconnect. With family, friends, your lover, yourself. On your deathbed it’s never the giant plasma screen tv or the ferrari you’re wanting, it’s a loved one to hold your hand.
The one thing most of us complain we don’t have enough of is time. By simplifying our lives, we can usually reduce stress and free up time to gift back to ourselves. Love, time, freedom, pursuing things important to us, reducing financial pressure – all of these are good for your soul, and they’ll give you a sense of fulfilment that material things never can.
There are some more great resources to get you thinking here: