I have gradually realized that the simplicity we are finding here is less linked to our setting than to our direction – our spiritual commitment to live more simply, our determination to make simplifying choices, and our willingness to clarify and stand by certain goals and priorities.
A Place Called Simplicty
The longer I have walked down the road of simplicity, the more convinced I have become that there is no “destination”. I think by nature people who are seeking to simplify are people who will always be seeking to simplify. I don’t think we ever “arrive”. Life is always changing and so we have to always be open to rethinking our journey towards simplicity. David and I have achieved a higher level of simplicity compared to most people we know, but if we moved, had a baby or our work situation changed, we would have to reevaluate a lot of aspects of our simplicity in light of our new life situation.
So I don’t think we will ever arrive. But I do think it is important to remember and celebrate the choices we have made that have brought us to where we are right now.
Here’s a list of ways we have simplified over the past several years:
Getting out of debt
This is by far the most important thing we did. We have no debt other than our mortgage. Being out of debt has given us freedom in so many ways.
Increasing our savings
It’s a funny thing. Once you get out of debt it is a lot easier to save money. Go figure. Maybe increasing our savings doesn’t sound like a typical “simplicity” idea. But anything that increases your peace of mind qualifies in my book as simplicity.
Buying less house than we could “afford”
We have chosen to live beneath our means. The bank would have given us a loan for about two and a half times what we borrowed. And we probably could have made those payments. But we didn’t want to.
Not having a public cell phone
We purchased a cell phone in 1997 when I was teaching and was going to be commuting long distances each day. We only carry it around for emergencies and it is never turned on unless one of us goes somewhere without the other. No one has the number and we don’t use it for work. We do not want to be that accessible.
Decluttering our home
I am a neat person and I’m also very good at neatly storing things (read: not letting go of stuff). I read Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett and it freed me from the “hanging on to stuff that is still good just in case” syndrome. It also freed me from the”I can’t give this away – it was a gift from my students/friend/parents/etc.” syndrome. We have gotten rid of so much stuff.
Putting our TV on a cart and keeping it in a closet
We do not have our TV out in the living room. We keep it on a rolling cart we bought at Target and it is stored in the closet. When we want to watch something we have to get it out of the closet, hook up the cable and then turn it on. We have purposely made it difficult to watch TV.
Developing a well-stocked pantry
We purchased a large upright freezer when we moved into our house and set up a bunch of pantry shelves in the basement. We could go quite a while without shopping and we could go even longer if we just shopped for the basics (milk, eggs, etc.). In fact, the past couple of months while I have been recuperating we have found out just how great it is to have a well-stocked pantry.
Not automatically upgrading and making things last
We don’t rush out for the latest stuff. We like to see how long we can keep something before we have to replace it. We take care of our “stuff” so it will last as long as possible. We never upgraded our cell phone until this year. (Yep, that’s EIGHT years on the same phone.) We didn’t buy a new TV until the one we had (a hand me down) died. Same thing for the answering machine, cordless phone, etc. We don’t upgrade our computer software for the business until we have to. We drive older cars (11 and 8 years respectively) and for eight months a few years ago only had one car. (It worked out fine.) Choices like these will save us tens of thousands of dollars over the years.
Working at home
It is amazing how working at home in our own business has simplified our lives. I know this might not be true for everyone, but it has been amazing how much it has done for us.
Those are just a few of the things we have done. Most of them aren’t really all that monumental on their own, but the cumulative affect of them year after year becomes quite profound.
I mentioned in a previous entry about the list of questions I developed when teaching about these topics. Here are a few more relevant questions from that list:
Am I drowning in clutter in my home?
How many clothing items in my closet have I not worn in over a year?
Does my calendar really reflect the things that I say are most important to me?
What kind of clutter is piled under my bed? In the garage? In the basement? On my desk? In my filing cabinet?
What financial decision could I make that would bring more peace to my life?
Are there 25 things in my home I could take to Goodwill? 50? 100? 200? 500?
Will I ever truly get down to that weight again? And if I did, would I still want to wear those clothes I can’t get rid of?
Are my children too focused on the things of this world?