As we continue to take steps to simplify life here at the urban homestead, I catch myself feeling increasingly satisfied about our choices. Author Duane Elgin describes simplicity as living in a way that is “outwardly simple and inwardly rich,” and I feel like we’re beginning to glimpse what he means. Here are some examples:
1. Less Debt Equals More Peace
Paying down and paying off debt is just a great feeling. With each payment the interest expenses get smaller, which frees up more money to save or accelerate the paydown. The debt snowball method is one popular and potentially useful method of independently paying off debt. Take a look at this article to see how it works.
The Bible describes debt as a millstone around your neck, and anyone who has ever been seriously in debt can no doubt relate to that analogy. Reducing debt and committing to save money puts you back in control of your finances instead of your finances controlling you, and debt-free living means a better night’s sleep and a whole lot less stress. We’re not completely debt free yet, but I can tell you that each payment we make feels mighty fine.
2. Healthy Eating is More Satisfying
Who doesn’t love good food? At our house, gradually reducing and eliminating processed foods and stocking more natural or organic ingredients has been relatively painless, and I find we’re enjoying our meals more because we’re eating fresh, healthy food. It might be my imagination, but I swear I can taste the preservatives and additives now when I eat something processed.
On the flip side, fresh wholesome food tastes great, nourishes the body with natural vitamins and minerals, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. When you can find sources for local, seasonal produce it’s usually fresher than imported, and buying locally grown food supports independent producers and keeps money in communities. I never would have predicted this a few years ago, but now one of our favorite family outings is a trip to the farmers’ market to pick out fresh produce.
3. Less Stuff is Better Than More Stuff
“When we started getting rid of things, it was kind of addictive,” says Béa Johnson, whose family was profiled in Sunset magazine last month in one of my favorite articles of all time, The Zero Waste Home. “In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite. The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down.” Anyone who has ever cleaned out a home after a relative passed away, or despaired at the amount of Stuff in the garage can probably appreciate this statement.
I once heard an organizing expert say, “Why do people leave their $30,000 car out in the driveway because their garage is jammed with $1000 worth of Christmas ornaments and sports equipment?” We still have a long way to go and the process takes both commitment and consistency, but we are making progress in reducing stuff and clearing out clutter. Every inch of space we gain feels like breathing room, and I love it.
4. Sustainability Feels 100 Times Better Than Reckless Consumption
Making eco friendly choices just feels better all around. It begins in the morning, when I pour a cup of coffee and feel good about the fact that it’s organic, shade-grown and fair trade. I used to give the coffee mug a quick rinse with water before I filled it, because I was worried about chemical residue from the “spot-free” rinse we used. No more. We use non-toxic, biodegradable, hypo-allergenic dish soap in recyclable packaging, and it’s not only healthier for our family, I’m saving water by skipping the extra rinse. The sum of dozens of little sustainable choices — from using programmable thermostats and CFLs to using all-natural toothpaste and sleeping on organic cotton sheets — reduces our carbon imprint and creates a healthier environment for our family, and it just feels right.
5. A Simple Life Frees Up Time for the Things That Matter
According to the most recent research, having time matters more than money for most of us. I’m not claiming to have this all figured out, but I’ve noticed that setting my intention to live more fully in the moment has caused me to be more thoughtful about my priorities and how I spend my time. Art Buchwald said, “The best things in life aren’t things,” and I bet most of us would agree with that sentiment. So why is it sometimes so tempting to overspend on things like new electronics and automobiles and home furnishings, when we know deep down that those expensive choices may chain us to debt, long work hours, and less time for the things that really matter? I’m living proof of this paradox; when I worked a high pressure job I used to pine away for more time with my family, even as I spent money on status items like designer purses and luxury cars.
The good news is that a commitment to a simpler lifestyle provides a lens through which those decisions can be more carefully considered. I don’t spend my hard-earned money on Impressive Stuff any more, and the trade-off of increased time and flexibility is a gazillion times more valuable.
How about you: do you think simple living equals happy living? If you’ve been putting some of these ideals into practice, are you starting to enjoy the payoff? You know we’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.