A few years ago, I decided that I was through with having things, and that I needed to begin to downsize and simplify my life in a major way. I’ve always lived fairly minimally, but after following some other folks’ journeys and reading the book, The Big Tiny, I realized there were literally thousands of people out there who put my idea of minimalism to shame. There were SO many ways I began to purge my life, and not just of material items.
About a year prior to deciding to downsize, I had started a regular yoga practice. Through it, I had attained the tools I needed to re-evaluate my life and take inventory of the things I surrounded myself with and allowed in to my body and personal space. I started to really take a good look at the relationships I had maintained for too long out of guilt or nostalgia or obligation. I completely changed my entire diet. I got rid of any possession I had that wasn’t enriching my life or bringing me joy. I started to dread every birthday, every major event, and every holiday, because these “special times” meant more cards, more gifts, more JUNK that would eventually become a burden on me, my personal space, and my freedom.
I decided our primary mission as a family would be to invest our money in things that would get us and the kids outdoors. We bought more camping gear, got the kids a trampoline, asked for bikes for them for Christmas, got rid of a ton of toys that had too many parts, canceled cable, and sold what was left of our more expensive baby gear items that we were holding on to “just in case”. Ironically, we were gifted a 65″ flat screen TV right when we decided to ditch cable, (which, don’t get me wrong, we have enjoyed having around for our Star Wars marathons on the days when life requires some vegging out) but basically, we decided to drop an 80s bomb on our house and try to give our kids the closest version of childhood that we had as possible, (which I have blogged about before, here).
I grew up watching Swiss Family Robinson, Gilligan’s Island, and Little House on the Prairie. I was obsessed with the forest, the wildness of the mountains, and the idea of living off the land with minimal possessions. I have yet to see my dream of the simple life come to fruition in my adult life, but until I am able to reach that goal, I have made some major changes in the way I go about navigating the city life. These changes have drastically improved my quality of life.
HOW TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
STEP 1: TAKE A BREATH, AND TAKE INVENTORY
(Breathe. You can do this.) Try to remove yourself and detach yourself from your possessions, and yes, the people in your life. Take a BIG step back and take a good, hard look at the big picture. Are the things taking up space in your home, in your mind, and in your heart, adding value to your life? Are they bringing you joy? Are they allowing you to live a fuller, healthier, and more fulfilled life? Do they enrich your mind, your spirit, your body and your energy levels? If the answer to any of those questions is no, ask yourself why. Who and what can you walk away from RIGHT NOW that would eliminate drama, clutter, pain, or any other kind of burden in your life? Any unfulfilling or unnecessary relationships or items that you can immediately list by name have got to go. Then, prepare yourself for step two.
STEP TWO: MASS ELIMINATION
I GET IT. This is easier said than done. And some things take longer than others. If you can fill a few trash bags right out of the gate, while you’re mulling over the deeper, more complicated items or relationships that need to be removed, you’re off to a good start. I’m not suggesting you run out and ditch your whole crew for a new tribe, but I AM saying that the people you surround yourself with will either drain you or uplift you. You have to decide for yourself who you allow in your life and who has your best interests at heart. Take your time. It took me almost three years to get to where I’m at now. I still have a long way to go, and part of that is getting to the point where “downsizing” wont feel like losing my possessions or my friends, but shrinking the amount of indoor space that I occupy, and living a more authentic, and fulfilled life.
STEP THREE: DO NOT APOLOGIZE
Repeat after me: “I do not owe anything to anyone for any reason”.
YOU are the captain of your life. YOU get to decide what happiness looks like to you, not what happiness looks like by society’s standards. If material possessions don’t make you happy, you are under no obligation to keep anything that you currently own, regardless of who bought it for you, who made it for you, for what occasion, or how long you have owned it. Ever. You are not required to keep in touch with your Great Aunt Rose who constantly belittles you, attacks your parenting style, tells you that you need to lose weight, blames you for her problems or ANYONE else who does not add value to your life, for ANY reason. Ever. If you encounter backlash, just keep pressing upward, knowing that you are doing what’s best for you, reaching toward the light and growing beyond others’ limitations.
Let’s try it again: “I do not owe anything to anyone for any reason”.
(See! you’re doing it! This is easy, right?)
STEP FOUR: DONT FORGET YOUR ROOTS
One of the best ways to simplify and really get in touch with your authentic self and remember what it is in life that truly brings you joy, is to look back on the times in your life that were more simple – particularly before the introduction of the internet, smartphones, social media, etc., etc., etc. What is it at your core that you cannot imagine living life without? For me, nature has always been my happy place. I cannot imagine living anywhere that didn’t provide access to the untouched beauty that freely flows from our earth. Yes, I currently live in a city that is growing more and more crowded by the second, but I am close enough to the tap that I can fill my cup whenever I want and not feel like I am dead inside. The runners-up are physical books, and music. When was the last time you put on an old CD or vinyl record, threw on some headphones and read the lyrics to your favorite album that wasn’t being played on your phone? You are never too old to be the person you know you are inside. Remember who you are.
STEP FIVE: DO MORE OF THE THING
After you’ve eliminated all of the things that DON’T make you happy, you have suddenly created more room for all of the things that DO! Do that. Be that. Go, and do, and be. Climb the mountain, read the book, be the friend, take the trip, write the story.
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