defining simplicity

14 October 2013

When I think about living simply, I picture myself living in a suburb in the desert with beautiful mountains cutting through the horizon and gorgeous sunsets, expansive desert trails to hike and soak in the never ending views… or in a small fishing town on one of the coasts with adorable cottages and majestic pine forests to go exploring and camping… I imagine a lower cost of living, with me being able to afford a one or two bedroom place. I’d create a good place for me to write, or maybe convert the extra bedroom into a study. All the clutter from my home would be gone — my things would be nicely displayed, my closet would be organized, and I’d have a dishwasher.

However, any sort of non-major city living would mean I’d need a car. Even if I was fortunate enough to find a very walkable living area, I’d need something to bring me back to my family in Indiana or if there’s some sort of issue. And a car is an added expense, and an extra thing to take care of and maintain. And a new city, a new state? It’d mean leaving my family, leaving my friends, my doctor… everything that’s familiar to me. Deserts have things like snakes and scorpions and tarantulas, and I’m not so sure my cats would be keen on the heat. The waterside towns I picture might be beautiful, but also ones with either terrible winters or apt to get thrashed by terrible storms. Or both. Not to mention an unfamiliar job market in either place to try to break into.

For a lot of people, simplicity is equated with a lack of things. Minimalism. However, that’s just not quite right. For some, yes, reducing the amount of things does result in a more simplified life. But it’s not just about things. Nor is it just about reducing your obligations and learning to say no. Simplicity is about finding a balance to suit your life at your particular stage of life. “[The life of simplicity] is a commitment to live a liberated life, freed from constant distraction … This can, and will, take many forms, depending upon our priorities, insights, needs, and life stages.” – Philip Gulley, Living the Quaker Way.

I haven’t figured out what simplicity looks like for this part of my life. I feel like I’m teetering on a transition, so it’s hard to make too many assessments. But in looking at the life I want to build, I do see less clutter in my life. I see a life without all the excess there is now. I see a life with a kitchen that doesn’t make me want to smash all my dishes because it’s so frustrating to work in. I see a life where I can wake up and write, go out an be an active part of my community, and have opportunities to go outside of the city and into nature. I picture a life were I feel centered, connected, and vibrant.

But as I look towards this idealistic vision of my simplified life, I remind myself that I can indeed accomplish some of these things now. That when I think of a life of simplicity, I need to think beyond just a pretty place to live.

Steep Ravine cabins in Stinson Beach, California. By Lacey Bediz
photo by Lacey Bediz
*I highly recommend following Lacey. She’s an amazing photographer — one that generally gives me massive wanderlust.

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