Living With Less. What Really Matters?
Have you ever thought of living with less? Have you ever wished you could do more of the things you love? How is this even possible with the demands of our busy lives?
Let’s begin with the way 2019 started for me. I chose a word to guide my efforts this year. That word is intention. The choices I make must serve my intention, which is to live more simply with less.
Why is this coming up now? Well, I am getting older, I have been acquiring for years and it is now time to live in a different way. Relatives and friends have become ill or disabled. People close to me have died.
I have felt the weight of helping others declutter. Often decluttering is to get rid of things that have been kept because of the guilt and shame they have been bathed in. It belonged to Great Aunt Bethany… it cost a lot of money… it is very valuable…what if they found out you got rid of it? I would like to think that I have not given gifts with the intention that they must be kept forever. I want the recipient to enjoy the gift. If they do not it is OK to let it go. All I want is for them to be happy.
I have come to understand that the younger generations do not want our stuff (much of it anyway), and I have too much stuff. I have also come to realize that the things we have been told are valuable, may or may not be. There is a cost to keeping everything, your job is to decide if you are willing to pay the cost: time, space, energy, and money.
Being a professional organizer, I can tell you that this is not only true for me, but also in the experience of many of my colleagues around the country. The NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) discussion boards frequently visit this topic. What to do with all these “valuable” artifacts of lives well lived. In truth, many in the younger generations are choosing life experiences over stuff. Living more simply and experiencing more of the world around them is perfect. The things that they do buy are not too expensive and can be changed when they are worn or outdated without a boatload of guilt.
I have been working on shedding some of my over 60+ years of accumulation. To be completely honest, it is even more than that. I have family treasures from both sides of our family as well, many of these items were collected long before my birth. Many were given to us when we were first married and had very little of our own. The gifts were given with love and have been part of our family landscape ever since. Some will always be treasured and kept, but not all.
A new reality has come on the horizon. We are changing, we are aging, we want to travel more and spend more time with family and friends. We can pick up and go when we want. Taking care of stuff does not align with that vision.
So, what are we to do? Well, I can tell you only what I am doing. My friend and mentor, Barbara Hemphill would say, “It is not what should you do, it is what will you do?” I decided, for me that means living with less. That means, less to clean, less to organize, less to store, less to worry about. I have decided that I want to have all our affairs in order so no matter what lies ahead, no one will have to try to figure out or assume what I wanted. My stuff is for the most part, stuff that is only meaningful to me. When I am gone it will have served its purpose and no guilt will be required of anyone who will see my stuff on to its next life, wherever that may be. Those who loved me will have memories of laughter, meals shared, holidays, walking in the woods, by the ocean, trips we shared and more. The things I leave may have meaning to them, but if they do not it will take nothing away from those memories.
This process is ongoing and has really helped determine what is important.
I consider myself a lifelong learner and I find it interesting the universe has aligned to bring me books, podcasts and webinars that are in sync with my intention of living more simply with less. They remind me of the saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”. Here is how it happened related to the topic of living with less… I follow a tech trainer Steve Dotto on YouTube; he recently hosted a webinar with Amy Porterfield about affiliate programs which added me to Amy’s email list. This led to an email Amy sent linking to her podcast with Michael Hyatt titled, “Total Productivity.” I listened to the podcast where Amy and Michael discussed his new book, Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less (intention). Also, during the interview, he and Amy discussed how they have changed how they work in the last year. Michael mentioned Cal Newport’s newest book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. (intention)
I also came across The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders. Cait, at the time of this shopping ban was a 29-year-old who found herself in $30,000 of credit card debt. When she realized she was maxed out with only $100 of credit balance left on her cards she decided to make a change. She decided to institute a one-year shopping ban. During that year she could only buy consumables like food, toiletries, and a few planned items she had written on an approved shopping list(intention).
During her one year ban she began erasing her $30,000 credit debt (she completed paying it off in year two); she decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70% of her belongings and managed to add to her savings account regularly (hint – pay yourself first). During that year she managed to save $13,300. IN ONE YEAR! (INTENTION)
Most interesting to me was the connection that she made to her emotional well being and her over shopping, over eating and alcohol consumption. She came away with the realization that the less she consumed the better she felt. She kept copious notes about how she did each month: amount saved; amount of possessions donated, and she estimated the percentage of likelihood of completing the shopping ban. It was fascinating stuff (to me anyway). It really showed me the power of intention and planning. I like to tell clients that “prior planning produces powerful productivity…” (intention) I think that is something worth striving for.
So, as I continue to move forward this year I will stay focused on what all these books, webinars and podcasts have been affirming…Intention. Choosing what to focus on, why, and when. I hope this inspires you to add more intention to your life too. Whether that is eating better, getting more exercise, spending more time with friends, reading more, doing hobbies that you love, spending time in meditation and prayer. What is your intention?