Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sam Spurlin of The Simpler Life.
What Qualifies As Living Simply?
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to argue that simplicity looks and feels different for everyone. I consider my lifestyle to be pretty simple, yet Henry David Thoreau would scoff at the amount of things I own and how I spend my money. Living in a cabin down by the river (or a van for that matter) may be simple but it doesn’t simplify my life. It’s up to each of us to pick and choose what advice, tips, and philosophy we follow when it comes to our own lives. There are obviously tons of blogs in this particular niche, so how do you know what advice to take and what advice to leave by the wayside?
The Power of Values
My definition of what constitutes living simply is, “Any action taken to align your life with your values.” That’s it. My values, my deepest held convictions and beliefs, are what guide me through my day. Unfortunately, in the world today my values are often muddled and hidden behind layers upon layers of complexity. Focusing on simplicity allows my values to come to the foreground and gain clarity.
Take a moment and think about some of the decisions you have made lately. What was the driving force behind your choice? For many people advertisements, peer pressure, tradition and other external factors are what make the decisions in their lives. It’s impossible to completely erase these factors from your life, but the more we live in accordance with what we believe, our values, the simpler our lives become.
If you agree with my definition, then the first step is to figure out what your values are. That topic alone is enough to fill an entire blog but Steve Pavlina’s take on finding values is top-notch. What it comes down to is figuring out what drives you as a person. For me, a few important values are Growth, Family, and Teaching. These concepts are ever present in my mind as I go about my day and I try, to the greatest extent possible, to live my life as closely aligned to them as possible.
Building the Essentials
Once you’ve figured out your values you need to determine what must be done to bring them into focus. Decluttering your mind and space, learning to develop concentration and focus, cultivating a sense of gratitude and selflessness — these are the essentials you want to learn and the qualities you want to develop. There are as many ways to do this as there are people who are reading this article; that is why blogs like Becoming Minimalist have become so popular. There is a nearly infinite amount of advice to be given on how to simplify your life and it’s up to you to pick and choose the ideas, advice, and actions that will let your values become your decision-making mechanism.
There is no ultimate and ideal Simple Life that exists as some perfect standard. There is only The Simpler Life that we make for ourselves — one decision at a time.
Sam Spurlin writes about simplicity, values, and living a conscious life at thesimplerlife.net. He recently released his first ebook, Living the Simpler Life: 8 Essentials to Practice Everyday. He brings the perspective of a recent college graduate, teacher, and college hockey coach to the questions that puzzle him on a daily basis. He’s been known to tweet occasionally, respond to email promptly, and write like it’s going out of style.