How Simple is Living Simply?

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”

– Confucius

This is a question I ask myself often.  In the chaos of living in a city, and just living in this modern world, you hear the word “simple” being tossed around without really knowing what it means, and you tell other people you want to live a “simple life” without really knowing how to live that way.

A while back, I was talking to a friend, and we both agreed that those who commit their whole lives to “living simply” such as Monks, perhaps find it easier to do so primarily because it is their responsibility to do so.  This is not to undermine the strength and sacrifice that these Monks have gone through in order to achieve such a feat, but there is a truth to the thought that if it is your job to live a certain way, it makes it that much easier.  On the contrast, if you were a business man/woman living in New York, London, Tokyo or any bustling city, and ask them to try and live a simple life where one meditates every morning, has time for tea and further meditation in the afternoon, and living only with the bare necessities of life, it becomes a different story.  The business man/woman will find that he/she can’t always fit in meditation in the morning, might not always have time to have tea by himself/herself and might often find themselves being called up to a meeting at a last minute notice, and also find themselves unconsciously spending money for things they know they don’t really need, but need it at the time because they forgot to pack it in their suitcase.  This latter story is something that if you live in the modern world, you will be able to relate to.

Recently you see it more and more on social media with videos on how to live a minimalist life and living simply.  It’s become a dream that everyone strives towards, and yet there is one huge barrier that is in the way, which I think is why it’s so hard to achieve this “simple life”.  One word. Money.

I honestly believe that materialism and the simple life (minimalism) cannot go hand in hand.  So long as you are looking at money as something you need to buy things that you presume you need, the concept of simple living is not being fully understood.  Naturally, we no longer live in a hunter-gatherer world, we no longer go to the forrest to forage fruit and vegetables, and instead most of us (bar a lucky few who might own farms or have vegetable patches) have to go to supermarkets to buy food.  So yes, money is necessary to buy food.  So in that sense it does become a necessity.  I would also agree that money is necessary to live as part of the society for we all need to pay taxes and bills.  But then I’ll raise this question.  Setting aside the things that you definitely do need to pay for in order not to starve, or be sent to jail or to have a basic functional life, is this all you spend your money on?  The answer, probably, if you live in the modern world, is no.  At some point in time, you would have spent it on clothing, furniture, stationary, makeup, shoes, travel, kitchen good, honestly the list goes on.  And yet, while we spend our days in stores looking for something that we think we need  when in actual fact they are only things we want, we go around telling people about the dream to live a simple life.  Starting to understand this conundrum?

Living simply is not necessarily about living in a white walled terraced house, with plants and kitchen tiles made of marble.  It’s not necessarily about living in a wooden cottage that is surrounded by windows and has a “simple but homely feel”.  In other words, the concept of living simply has, much like everything else, been distorted.  Living simply, in actuality, may seem dirty, may seem extreme and it most certainly takes a lot more effort than setting up the furniture in the most picturesque way, because I believe that living simply is not just about how it looks, but more importantly, it is about a state of mind.

De-cluttering your room can help you feel a little more refreshed and clear-headed, but its also possible to be stressed and under pressure when living in an open space.  Why? Because your state of mind hasn’t been trained to think simply.  For this, it takes practice, because like the quote above, the mind likes to complicate things, when much of the problems we face have simple solutions.  Practicing the mind seems like such an odd concept, but it has really simple consequences.  It means that you no longer have to isolate yourself or move houses to try and live a simple life, you don’t need to completely refurbish your apartment, you don’t have to seclude yourself.  What you do need to do however, is to make time (even if its only 10 minutes of the day) to get in touch with yourself, and see the state you are in.  What you do need to be, is to be disciplined about it.  For those of us who are working in cities, it’s unrealistic to try and lead the quiet yoga-filled lifestyle of the Buddhist monks, and it’s just as unrealistic to try and lead the amazingly photogenic yogi lifestyle of some instagram accounts, just purely based on the fact that we have shit to do.

Yet despite this, I think this is the very beauty of life, that no matter how complicated the matter may seem, the answer is always very simple; you do or you don’t.  I’m trying my best to have a different perspective on money and material goods, and trying to de-clutter my mind before I de-clutter my space.  That way, the goals is not only arguably more achievable, but also more (hopefully) more sustainable.

Take some time, and jot down things you need, and things you want.  And think how you can help yourself think simply, and how you can then start to realistically change your lifestyle to be a little more simple.


Have a good weekend everyone x.


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