With the current shift in consciousness for Americans, they are at last figuring out that less is more… or, it can be. People are scaling back their possessions to include only what they need (or at least a lot less than they used to have). Not only are they less weighed down by debt, they might become happier.
Getting back to basics, it turns out, helps you to emphasize what’s really important, and allows you to cast off the rest. If this is your current state of mind, try these four tactics for simplifying your life – with tips on how you can scale back – and improve your state of mind in the process.
1. Enjoy your life
People who take the time to explore life’s possibilities and increase their self-understanding report feeling more fulfilled. The trouble is, when you’re saddled with 20 places to be every day and more responsibilities than you can realistically handle, there is little time for self-exploration or interpersonal enjoyment. Instead, we get caught up in the hamster wheel and life passes us by – more and more quickly each year.
By cutting back on your commitments (one of the basic tenets of simpler living) you create room for more quality time in your life. Whether that means doing things with the people you love or hanging out with yourself (probably a little bit of both), you’ll find that by eliminating the unnecessary time drains in your day you’ll feel less fried and more fulfilled. You may think you need dozens of applications on your iPhone (especially if you use your phone for work), but wouldn’t your Saturday be better if you left the devices at home and spent some old-fashioned “free” time at the beach with your family?
2. Increase your focus
Living a simple life has different meanings for different people, and if you want to cut back on your commitments, you have to start by figuring out what’s important to you, so you can determine how and where to focus your time and energy. Define what your simple life would look like, and then consider your list of current commitments. How does each one contribute toward living the life you just described?
If you’re having trouble telling the difference between commitments you need to keep and those that you can cut, remember that not everything in life will be heart-stoppingly satisfying… at first. The key to getting started is to nix those things that offer little or no reward… like too much reality TV, or hours spent web surfing. If you say you want to get out of the rat race, maybe it’s that extra job you need to get rid of – even if it means you have to reduce your expenses.
3. Don’t live to work
These days too many of us have to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week or more just to stay afloat. It’s the price of our overconsumption, and while there may be little we can do about debts we’ve already incurred, cutting costs down to a minimum from here on out can help us to escape the cycle of living to work – so we can begin actually enjoying our lives.
Instead of staying with the status quo, take inventory of your expenses. What of those costs is actually necessary? Do you need 500 channels on cable? A new pair of shoes every paycheck? Believe it or not, every couple doesn’t need to “upgrade” to an SUV as soon as they have a child… that’s just something the car companies told us.
Look back at your definition of a simple life. Make sure you’re not spending money (or energy) on anything that complicates it. If eating healthy is a priority, consider planting a garden – or look for the closest food co-op (where healthy, home-grown foods are far less expensive than at your local supermarket). If you want to spend more time in natural surroundings, consider riding a bike or going for a run instead of spending time and money at the gym. These may seem like tiny adjustments, but the best part about scaling back is that you can begin simply… and, little by little, reinvigorate your soul.
4. Feel free
It’s a funny thing – most of us spend our lives working to attain financial freedom. We acquire possessions in pursuit of happiness, and yet we wind up feeling overrun by clutter, and tied to the debts we’ve piled up in the process of acquisition. Instead of reaching for that credit card the next time you think you “have to have” the latest thing, ask yourself: “what do I really need to be happy?” Food, water, love, companionship, sex… Basic human needs are just that – basic. Try fulfilling those first, and you may be surprised by the happiness you find.
Use this shift in economic consciousness to focus on how you can attain happiness inwardly, by becoming actively engaged in satisfying your simplest desires. What you’ll likely discover, according to those who have discovered how to simply live in the moment, is that you can often find true, lasting fulfillment by living with a whole lot less.
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