The joys of simple living
A new year has dawned, bringing with it the opportunity to make a new beginning. To learn from past mistakes. Even make a course correction if necessary. Many have made resolutions of all kinds, and I’ve made one too.
As with most of us on the planet, my life has been getting more rushed, more stressful with each passing year. My goal for 2017 therefore is to simplify my life, and in the process, discover the joys of simple living. Want to enjoy your life? Keep it simple. That’s what my inner voice is urging me to do.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius had said this, centuries ago. Albert Einstein too had endorsed simple living saying: I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind. Unfortunately, lots of people fail to understand the wisdom in living simply. For many, acquiring status symbols and impressing others with their expensive possessions has become more important than living happily.
So, have I decided to live like a hermit? No, I’m not contemplating retreating to a cave in the Himalayas or anything as drastic. Here’s how I intend to bring order into the chaos. You could too, if you want to adopt simple living for the rest of your life.
Smarter time management
Without realising it I’ve somehow got into the habit of sitting glued to my laptop working on my writing assignments for ridiculously long hours each day. In the bargain, I have to struggle to make time for the stuff that matters. Like enjoying the company of family and friends, taking a stroll outdoors, listening to music… and other things I love doing like planning handmade gifts for loved ones. I had caught this habit from my mother who loved to gift cushion covers and pillow cases hand-embroidered in lazy-daisy and chain stitches.
Eleanor Roosevelt, a personality I greatly admire had said: The more we simplify our material needs, the more we are free to think of other things. And that’s exactly what I’ve decided to do.
I’ve now set a time schedule for myself. No more working till 2 am or later every night. I’m going to restrict late nights to just three a week to begin with. I’ll wake up fresh as a daisy and use the extra time in the morning for light exercise and working on my first book, a project that keeps getting pushed to the back burner ever since I dashed off the opening chapters in a burst of enthusiasm five years ago. More changes will follow. But for now, poking at my laptop for almost all of my waking hours is going to stop.
It’s funny how we don’t realise that we’re living hectic lives out of choice. Rather, let us prioritise the things we want to spend time on, and live every moment of the present to the fullest.
Making time for rest and relaxation
As denizens of a consumerist world, we tend to forget the importance of leisure activities. That making time for simple pleasures like smelling the roses or revelling in the beauty of nature or a starry night sky is good for our physical health as well as our mental well-being.
Remember the lines from the Simon and Garfunkel number ‘Feeling Groovy’?
Slow down, you’re moving too fast
You’ve got to make the morning last…
Ironically, many of us today turn to scrolling through social networking websites as a leisure activity, often losing track of time when we do this. Have loads of free time? Why not spend it with near and dear ones, outdoors, or else in pursuing a hobby like gardening? Since retirement, my husband and I are rediscovering the joys of urban gardening. We have planted lemon grass, butter lilies (sontakka), shoe flowers (jaswandi), vinca (sadafuli), and chillies in our balcony. But watching just these few plants grow gives us immense satisfaction. As do our feathered visitors like sparrows, bulbuls, mynas, sunbirds, and the rarer ones like scaly-breasted munias.
Had I been living in the countryside or close to a park I guess I could have kicked off my shoes and stretched out on the grass or at least strolled outdoors to get some fresh air in the midst of nature. Living in a concrete jungle calls for improvisation. So I’ve decided to take short breaks away from my laptop by stepping into the balcony for a while or at least looking out of my window when it’s still bright, and spending a few minutes gazing up at the night sky later in the day.
Sadly, many of us even deny ourselves the opportunities for relaxation available at our doorstep. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets go largely unnoticed because millions of us have our noses buried in work or assorted distractions and responsibilities.
The merits of rest and relaxation have been amply documented. It has been proved that relaxation is the antidote to stress. It gives our brain the necessary downtime it needs, slows down the heart rate, reduces muscle tension, lowers blood pressure, enhances our concentration, and puts us in a better mood. A simpler life and the elimination of stress and anxiety in turn leads to a better quality of life.
Decluttering with a vengeance
A few years ago, helping clear out my mother’s house after she passed away, brought home to me the truth in the saying Less is more. While my Mum was alive I had often helped her give away stuff she no longer needed or used. But obviously, there was lots more she had forgotten she still had, gathering dust on her loft or lying unused in her cupboards and cabinets.
I’m therefore determined to go on a ruthless downsizing spree before I accumulate mountains of possessions that will end up as clutter. Not to mention, be a pain for others to get rid of when I’m gone.
I’ve planned a two-pronged decluttering operation. Except for a few items that hold sweet memories for me or make my home look beautiful and welcoming, everything else I can do without or have not used for the last three years will go. On the other hand, impulsive buying will also get the boot. I will only buy things I absolutely need to survive, and as in the past, pick stuff based on quality, not on snob value.
Consider the many enticing advantages of reducing household clutter. A tidier home, less stuff to dust and maintain, less time required for neatening up messy rooms, and consequently, more free space and free time to enjoy. Besides, by resisting extravagant buys, you’ll have more money in the bank or for donating to good causes. So, if there’s anything you no longer use – either recycle it, or else give it away. If it’s beyond being of use to anyone, just discard it.
In addition to slowing down, a simpler life also implies being tolerant and less rigid. I remember the days when my kids were in primary school. During the rainy season, when my older son came home splattered from head to toe with muddy water after chasing guppies in the rainwater drains in our housing society along with his friends, my first instinct would be to give him a good whack. But then I would see the sheer joy on his face, and without much ado, ask him to run off and have a bath.
Similarly, my younger son would often waste a lot of time waiting down our building till I came home from work and gave him the money he wanted to buy biscuits for the pariah dogs in our colony. Asked why he wasn’t at home studying, he would say, “But look how hungry they are, mummy.” The earnestness in his voice would touch a chord in my heart and I would leave it at that.
I didn’t want to spoil such joyful or tender moments for my sons. I wanted these experiences to be beautiful childhood memories for them in future. Now I wonder where that side of me has gone. I don’t seem to empathise as much as I should. And so, I’m determined to loosen up and be more understanding again.
Recently, someone I know who is good at home improvements and repairs happened to mention how instead of appreciating the way he knocked himself out to get things working, his wife would be more concerned about people dropping in and finding his tools all over the place and the house in a mess.
Why get uptight over the house looking not-so-perfect sometimes? Why be obsessed with your house being spic and span to the extent it doesn’t even look lived in. If you ask me, it’s OK to hang laundry in the balcony, or to let some things stay on the kitchen counter because it makes more sense to leave them there, even if scenes like this don’t figure in interior decoration glossies.
Fast-paced lifestyles and pressures of work tend to make us lose our cool more easily. Make us rock the boat as it were, sometimes over trivial matters. Simple living however calls for giving more importance to relationships, doing away with false vanity, and maintaining domestic peace through mutual understanding. It could help us stay calm in a stressed-out world. What do you think? Do share your thoughts.
To sum up, life is short. To live happily, keep the living simple.
Credits for some images: Pixabay