The simple life
Life seems to be too complicated now, when I was a kid life was simple, no bills to pay, house to maintain, computers to backup, food to buy and prepare, retirement to plan for. Then as I got older complexity gradually seeped into my life, I acquired more stuff, more aspirations, more worries, more children and especially as the kids got older my attention was gradually drawn away from the simple joys of living.
I’ve been particularly concious of the joys of simplicity three times in my life. The first time when I left home to go to University, suddenly all the complex cruft that had built up in my life was cast aside and I was in a worry free environment designed to allow me to concentrate on nothing more than my social and study life, it was great. Then many years later Debbie and I and our two eldest two children (the younger 2 not having been born) relocated to the other side of the country. We left 90% of our possessions in the house we owned and rented a lovely attic ‘holiday’ flat with sea views (only just). I loved the time we spent there, no responsibilities for maintenance, not much space to keep clean, everything in its place. Then finally in preparation for Christmas this year I did a major tidy up at home and came to the stark conclusion that not only did I already own everything I needed, but I had many spares, we had a whole wardrobe full of unwanted presents, a whole loft full of things that might come in useful, a workshop that I hated going in because it had turned into a store room. I really didn’t need to buy anything for myself for a long time.
In the background of my mind I’d already been thinking that my life was too complicated, I’d become fed up with painting the house, repairing rotten wood, dealing with leaks, maintaining computers, backing up data, tidying up the mess that accumulates when there’s not enough space to put things away. The psychic weight that’s attached to too much stuff was wearing me down. I’d started to look longingly at smaller houses, building materials that improved over time, invisible storage solutions, cloud computing, clothes that last for a decade, quality not quantity.
So for this year I decided to make the first real change in the direction of simplification. I decided to stop buying anything that wasn’t a household necessity, food or experience, I’m 72 days into that experiment now and it’s been liberating. I no longer browse the web looking for things to buy, torment myself with ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ gadget lust, deal with the paradox of too much choice, endlessly researching alternatives. I’m intrigued how long I will last, and how much more money I will have to plough into experiences and retirement savings.
The next major step will probably come as the kids leave home, it will be a time of radical simplification. As all their clutter dissipates, space opens up for living, so much stuff that used to go wrong becomes there problem, don’t even ask how many computers and power supplies we have!
The final step will be when we retire in a few years, such a big opportunity to downsize and simplify, to reduce our fixed costs, increase our flexibility to travel, live a more mindful life. I’m already starting to experiment with simple holiday destinations to see how we cope, it’s an exciting time to be alive!