“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~Lao-Tze
So said Lao-Tze, perhaps one of the greatest teachers the human kind has ever had.
When I committed myself to the most important journey of my life (of course I’m talking about the spiritual one), I was focused on gaining patience. I worked hard to free my mind and soul from all clutter and emotional charge.
There was one aspect I kept ignoring: getting rid of the clutter. When one of my closest friends was in my room, she didn’t wait too long before noticing: “You have too much stuff all around.”
What stuff? I had no idea I was living in a mess. I even had a name for it: creative chaos.
You know how everything seems to fall into place at certain periods of time? It was that very same day when I encountered Lao-Tze’s quote. It just popped up on my Facebook feed.
At that moment, I realized: I was focusing on gaining patience and compassion, but I was forgetting about a really important part of the journey: simplicity. And I knew my friend was right: you can’t declutter your mind if you don’t simplify your life.
I didn’t limit that change to material possessions; I expanded it beyond that aspect of living. This was part of my journey, and I can’t find the right words to express the relief I felt as soon as I started making my life simpler. Hopefully, my experience will help you make that change, so I decided to share a few steps that will lead you to the bliss of living simply.
Understand what possessions are. Get rid of them!
Do you own too many things? That’s not a real problem if you need them. If, however, you’re collecting a pile of stuff you never use, then you have a real problem.
This was the mindset I adopted: “I own these things. But they also own me!” You’ve probably heard the same advice many times before: don’t allow stuff to possess you.
You need a car? I understand that. But would you go completely crazy over a scratch?
Our material possessions drain our energy, because we have to take care for them. As soon as you get rid of the attachment, you’ll discover some true values.
Simplify your work.
If you have too many tasks on your daily schedule and you try hard to achieve them all, you’ll end up in a complete chaos by the end of the day. I know. I’ve been there.
Start your day by making a list of five important tasks you have to do. Which one of them has priority? Do it first!
Then, continue working through your list of priorities. If you have space for any minor tasks, you’ll cover them. With time, you’ll realize you’re becoming much more effective in your work, but you’ve also simplified the way you cover daily obligations.
Oh, here’s another thing that complicates your life: multitasking. You can’t check what’s trending on Twitter when you’re in the middle of writing a report. Go through your list of tasks in a really simple way: step by step.
Make your relations more positive and sincere.
If you really want to change your life, you need to think about the people you’re surrounded with. Do they drain your energy?
There’s a friend I really love, but I started getting headaches every time we met. She was going on and on talking about a boyfriend she broke up with years ago. She wasn’t sharing her burden because she needed advice; she was just living in her own past and she felt the need to go through the same memories every time we talked.
Let’s make it clear: We should never have a problem with people who want to express their emotional pain. When our closest friends need advice, we should listen and try to help them in any possible way.
If, however, it turns into constant complaints about superficial things and unwillingness to accept any help, it won’t work. I realized that instead of transferring my positive energy to her, she was sucking my enthusiasm away and we both ended up being miserable afterward.
So, I decided to change the course of our relations. Instead of talking to her over the phone, I started inviting her to walks and lunches. I introduced her to a large circle of friends and I did my best to make our friendship more positive. It worked.
You should definitely offer your shoulder to people who need it. If you have a friend in trouble and you feel really bad about the stuff they are going through, listen to them. Then, try to make things a bit more optimistic. You know, get them out of bed, eat tons of ice cream, watch movies and meet new people.
Declutter your mind.
In other words, learn to meditate. That was the most important lesson I learned in my life. When I started, I had some doubts about the effects meditation can have. But I can’t even describe the difference my teacher made in my life. Within a couple of weeks, after I learned the basics and started to practice daily, I felt a profound sense of calmness and relief.
Meditation can also help you release resentment, hate, jealousy, and other emotions that drain you and complicate your life and your relationships. Negativity is completely natural, but the key is not let it control you. Meditation helps with this, since it enables you to create space between your thoughts and emotions and your reaction to them.
When you notice negative thoughts emerging while meditating, observe them without attaching to them. Don’t try to suppress them and don’t allow yourself to get carried away. It’s like watching your thoughts on a TV screen. You don’t influence them in any way and they eventually pass.
When you declutter the negative thoughts in your mind, you’ll leave space for greatness.
You don’t need to complicate communication.
I’m a writer, so I’m used to communicating in the simplest way possible: through words. However, people somehow find a way to make communication more complex than necessary. We write emails, we follow each other on social media, and we send snaps of our daily existence. Instead of having real conversations, we express ourselves through gifs and memes.
Here’s what I decided to do: I started calling my friends and meeting them in person more often. I almost forgot how that felt.
The old-school methods are usually simpler, but more effective, too. Try not to rely on your Messenger when you have a really important conversation to make, and you’ll see what I mean. Social networking is great, but your social life shouldn’t be limited to it.
Simplify your RSS feeds.
Have you seen the list of pages you currently follow on Facebook? You realize you’re not even interested in what most of them have to offer right? Why don’t you try getting rid of most of them?
You’ll come back to a cleaner, more interesting feed that doesn’t encourage you to scroll down without paying attention to the posts.
Make sure to get rid of all “news” pages that don’t deliver reliable information. Stick to relevant, reputable sources of information you can trust.
Don’t be a spendthrift.
Before buying something new, ask yourself: “Do I need this? I want it, but do I need it?”
Shopaholism leads to attachment to material possessions. The sole act of buying things we don’t need defies one of the main purposes of the journey to self-awareness: detachment.
“What should I make for dinner? What dessert should I treat myself with? I like cheesecake, but I ate that yesterday.”
Why do we let food to bring so much thinking, problem-solving, and questions in our life? Why can’t we just eat something for the sake of filling our tummies? Actually, we can.
For me, simplifying my eating habits meant eating as much raw foods as I could. I started spending less time in the kitchen, and I finally found the time to take swimming lessons. See? I decluttered, and then I filled that space with something meaningful.
Declutter your surroundings.
I always liked Japanese minimalism, but my room was the complete opposite: paper and manuscripts, pens and notebooks all over the place.
After that important visit and advice from my friend, I did a spring cleaning. I bought a nice cabinet and I organized the papers I needed there. I organized them by color, so I can easily find whatever I need.
I can’t even tell you how much stuff I threw away that week (yes, I needed a week to clean that space up). The feeling of accomplishment was priceless.
Simplify your goals.
Is everything on your to-do list achievable? If that’s not the case, you’ll have to get rid of some goals, no matter how hard that is for you.
When you simplify your goals, you’ll find more joy in work because you’ll have greater confidence in yourself. You’ll know that you can complete every task you start.
Limit the consumption of resources.
Our materialistic nature makes us buy more things that consume valuable resources, such as gas, water, and electricity. All those laptops, tablets, smartphones, TVs, dryers, deodorants, diamonds, and cosmetics cost us our planet.
Getting things you don’t need, which you certainly think you need, has a name: consumerism. Such attitude gets you attached to the things you buy and you’re constantly finding new gaps to fill and more things to gain. Free your mind from come-and-go desires, always take time before you make your final decision and be mindful of the planet you are living on!
A Simple Future for Everyone!
We don’t need all the stuff we have. We don’t need to buy more. We don’t need the mess in our heads.
Try making simplicity part of every aspect of your life, and you’ll reach new heights of self-accomplishment.