December 3, 2010
The Art of Living Simply: Making More of Less
“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Jesus
“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
Rules for a simpler lifestyle cannot be universal rules. We are responsible for their imagination and situation. Nor is a simpler lifestyle a panacea for what ails. But, a simpler lifestyle can be an act of faith as a matter of personal integrity and commitment to a more just distribution of the world’s scarce resources. It can be a resolution against a mindset that calls for overconsumption.
Jesus called his disciples to become simpler like a child. Withdrawal from the often neurotic pressure of our materialistic society can be a response to that call. It can be an act of solidarity with the vast majority of humanity which lacks the range for choices we enjoy.
A simpler lifestyle can be a way to share with those who have less and a way of returning to them what is usurped by unjust social and economic structures. Assuming a stance of under-consumption can be provocative invitation to others into a conversation about affluence, poverty and social justice.
Our faith is not about authority or rules. It’s about service and relationship. We are asked to bring about the kingdom here and now. Simpler can be a way of anticipating that kingdom when God’s justice will right power relationships and resource allocation. A simpler lifestyle can be an act of advocacy for legal changes that will right corrupted patterns of production that disregard the earth and its creatures and over-consumption by a fraction of the population.
Simplifying our demands can align with our needs, redirecting production from Madison Avenue-inspired wants toward goods and services that will satisfy genuine needs.
Do I believe that if I adopt a simpler lifestyle I am going to end poverty and that my actions are going to directly benefit the dispossessed? Maybe yes, maybe no. But any demand for proof of effectiveness only plays into the myth that the poor are the problem and that the rich have the solution.
Ways to Simplify Your Life:
- Decide what’s most important to you. What do you value most?
- List your current commitments and evaluate them in light of these values. What do you want to be doing with your precious time?
- Simplify work tasks. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.
- Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive.
- Sort through your stuff. Pick a room or a closet or a work area and do a thorough purging. Separate into three piles: keep, give away, and trash.
- Simplify your wardrobe. Give away things you haven’t worn in the past year.
- Limit your purchases. Buy less stuff. Ask yourself if you really need this and if you really need to own this before purchasing it.
- Have a place for everything.
- Limit your communications. Decide when and how much time you will devote to email, IM, phone calls, etc.
- Eat slowly. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.
- Exercise. It helps burn off stress and makes you feel better.
- Spend time with the people you love.
- Spend time alone. Learn to meditate.
- Slow down. Live life more deliberately.
Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.