To live simply – a journey from a goal to values

To live simply is a value not a goal. This became evident when John and I moved to an apartment half the size of our previous house. I wrote about this here.

Like many other older people, we based our decision to downsize on practicalities. Arthritis made gardening seem like a chore. Rooms not used or under-used needed cleaning. We paid for maintenance we once did ourselves. We drove our cars to shops, church and the doctor. The list went on.

We worried in case we made the wrong decision because we didn’t know if we were ready to change our lifestyle so dramatically. What tipped the scale towards the move came as the knowledge that we could make the decision, rather than have other people later make it for us.

To live simply began as a goal

When we began our journey, I thought our plan to live simply meant that we’d declutter and move on. We had a goal (an endpoint) to work towards.

We anticipated a painful experience. How could we part with our beautiful objects, the contents of our shed and a full linen room, as well as the kitchen gadgets and clutter, without pain? How would we live without our ‘treasures?’

However, downsizing was far easier than expected. It brought a measure of joy, also, as we let things go to people who needed or loved our treasures. We worked out what was hoarded rubbish and happily discarded that as well.

We moved into the apartment with fewer things than I imagined possible. We’d done what we set out to do. Our new home worked well. It looked lovely. We needed nothing more. Goal indeed achieved!

To live simply became a new value

A few months after the big move, I noticed a disconcerting change in how I thought and felt about the way we live. It seems that we’d achieved the goal to downsize and, at the same time, created a shift in what we valued.

As well as that, I noticed a strong desire to continue to live simply because of the benefits I experienced and continue to enjoy.

Dr Russ Harris, in his book, The Happiness Trap, says that values are

Our heart’s deepest desires: how we want to be, what we want to stand for and how we want to relate to the world around us.

Leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life.

What does it mean in practice?

To live simply means, for me, to live a life of abundance and tranquility. With fewer things in my life, choices are simplified. Here are some examples:

  • My wardrobe contains clothes I like. They fit me and go together. I can see what I have in the wardrobe at a glance so that dressing is simple and I seem to have clothes for every occasion.
  • We use the best china and cutlery every day.
  • Pots, pans and serving dishes fit neatly into cupboards and I can easily see what I need.
  • The linen has been reduced so much that every sheet, towel, pillowcase or tea-towel is one of my favourites.
  • Less space to stockpile means that grocery shopping takes less time and energy and my cooking has improved.
  • Fewer knicknacks, vases and books ensure that dusting takes a few minutes.
  • Best of all, our whole apartment looks tranquil and welcoming. I love to open the door and see the beautiful spaces that we call home.

Now that I’ve begun the journey to live simply, I look forward to whatever the next steps will be. I have an image of a neater computer, more streamlined budgeting and even more space, abundance and tranquillity.

7 replies on “To live simply – a journey from a goal to values”

  1. Maureen I really like this entry as it echoes my recent experiences. My husband and I are going travelling for at least 2 years in our caravan in the near future. While I have downsized over the last few years, this change will really test the principle of creating a home that is meaningful to us both in the caravan and we settle back into a permanent structure.

    Keep up the affirming words please.


    1. Hello, Jan. Thank you for your comment. How wonderful for you and your husband to be travelling in a caravan. I can only imagine how that will test your ability to downsize and live simply. Good luck with your exciting venture.

  2. Only the other day we visited friends who have an acre with a running creek, a two storey home and a huge garden with a vast spread of lawn. Plus chooks and a great free-range fenced off area for them!
    The husband is 75 and she’s much younger. They’ve transformed the property in less than 18 months.
    My husband was envious, though mainly of the running creek. I couldn’t imagine all the work involved.
    My counter remark to his was my dream. A prisitne apartment with minimalist furniture even though I love where we live. Maybe we’ll have my dream one day and with it I’d ‘lock and leave’ and travel!
    I know we’ve talked on this often.
    Who knows what the future holds. Each to their own.

    1. Susan, I think it is a matter of to each their own. I guess I go on a bit about how wonderful I’m finding living simply can be as an older, rather arthritic woman. Sometimes I wish I’d experienced a big block, chooks, a bush garden and a formal garden. My parents lived in Lesmurdie with a creek running through the garden. My kids and my nieces and nephews loved it. We used to let them play in and around it, but life was much simpler all those years ago. Mum had a mass of daffodils and other bulbs that had naturalised on the banks. Wild mint also grew there. The kids caught tadpoles and fell in and spent their time visiting their grandparents building dams. We all loved it. I think I might have tried to live simply in that context too. Who knows what we would have done, had things been different.

      But for now, I’m happy with the simplicity, peace and tranquillity that we’ve created. Other people might think our apartment very ordinary.

      Thank you for your comment. It quite transported me to lovely memories!

  3. I didn’t need six bedrooms, three sitting rooms and a dining room. So I downsized in an odd way by building extensions and selling part of it to my eldest daughter and family.

    I moved to one side of the house, claimed two bedrooms, a new kitchen and sitting room and the best views. I miss my storage, but do I actually need it? My son who was between partners and homes moved back in with me and for us this has worked well.

  4. Excellent Maureen Helen…simple living with lots of novelty is a perfect combination. Somehow I think that if we live simply we will be more able to embrace ‘novelty’ as there will be space for the new things in our lives and we won’t be burdened by clutter.

    1. Great comment, Tricia. I hadn’t thought about combining simple living and novelty in an article, but of course that’s what makes living simply such a great lifestyle. Even changing a cushion cover or moving furniture a bit makes such a difference to the spaces we live in when we live without clutter. Thank you.

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