I live my life in accordance with a set of core values. I selected these value words after a lot of introspection; they are Adventure, Impermanence, Unity, Discipline, Simplicity, and Efficiency. I think of my core values as tools, tools that I use to steer my boat toward my life goals. Today I want to focus on one of my core values: Simplicity. As a core value simplicity relates more to my sense of lifestyle than any of my other value words. This value supports my minimalist journey.
Around the time I graduated college, I began to have anxiety about my future. I’d been living in the same place for a long time, and had accumulated a lot of things. My space felt claustrophobic. When your environment is cluttered, your mind can become cluttered as well. I chose to value simplicity in my life to try to cut back on the clutter in my space and my mind. I try to incorporate simplicity into every aspect of my life, but it comes up the most when I am looking at something I own, or something that I’m designing. My definition of Simplicity is characteristically to the point.
Simplicity – Only what brings Value
I throw around the word value often. Here it’s making an appearance in a definition of one of my values. What do I mean by Value? Value to me is anything that is a positive contribution to my life. If we are talking about things I own, value is anything I find useful or beautiful. If we are talking about a project I’m working on, value is any detail that adds necessary information or aesthetic touches. If we are talking about life in general, value is people, thoughts, or things that make my life better in some way. I value simplicity to help me let go of the things that do not make my life better.
Sometimes it is hard to remove something, either a sentimental item, a negative person, or an intrusive thought pattern. The purpose of this value is to help me let go of those things that aren’t positive. For example, I have a literal closet of papers from college. I don’t ever look at them. I don’t ever use them. They just take up the limited space in my house and look awful. When I go through the papers, I ask myself, “does this bring value to my life?” and if the answer is no, I recycle it. Sometimes I feel guilty getting rid of something, a gift from my grandmother or similar. I just ask myself “does this bring value to my life?” When I still find myself struggling with getting rid of something, I like to start thinking like the item in question. “Is this gift happy in this drawer all alone?” “Wouldn’t it be happier if it was being used by someone who enjoyed it?” I find that helps me let things go when I’m clinging to sentimentality.
Simplicity affects more than just things. Some people are not good fits for our lives. Whether they are a friend or a family member, it is important to minimize the negative contribution these people have in your life and space. It can be difficult, but you need to take a step back from the relationship, and ask yourself, does this relationship add value to my life? If the answer is no, you need to figure out how to minimize that person’s influence and effect on your life. Maybe you just un-follow them on Facebook, maybe you have to cut them out completely. The answer depends on who they are and how negatively they affect your life.
I find the hardest thing to simplify in my life is intrusive thoughts. These are thoughts that are negative or unhelpful. When I realize I’ve entered a negative thought loop, I try to take a few deep breaths, and re-frame the thoughts as positive. For example, when I find myself being especially self-critical, I stop, take three deep breaths, and say something nice about myself. Does this work every time, absolutely not, but the important part is I’m slowly changing the dialogue from something negative that doesn’t bring value to my life to something positive.
Simplicity guides me towards my goals of minimalism, but also helps me eliminate negative, so I can focus more on the positive. It is important to create a comfortable, safe place for you to flourish. Whether you need to eliminate clutter, negative people, or intrusive thoughts, simplicity can be a good methodology. Only let the things that bring value to your life into your life, and let the rest of the things go.
Have you struggled with letting go of something in the past? What did you do?