Please join me at;
Please join me at;
There are certain images that I come across that take me back to either my early years in a small Texas town, a great ride I took with friends or some old school car or bike I built. Each of these represent a simple point in my life or a time when I had wrench in hand and was in my most basic element. A point of blissful simplicity.
In talking to a friend recently, who has also been on this path to un-cluttering and un-complicating their life, we determined that responsibility plays a strong factor. It for this reason I tell young people, “travel light through this life.”Once you have a mortgage, kids, cars and other typical trappings of life, major changes become much harder. The addition of all these things comes with both the enjoyment of them and the responsibility of their upkeep.
This is not to say that one should not work toward what is most common for all of us, family, roots and stability. That is what we equate these things with: stability, safety, security. However, if you come to the point in life where I am and you want to simplify, you find that there is far more to it than just getting rid of stuff. While that represents a great first step, you must look at all of the things you are now responsible for and chart a path to manage these elements in a way that lends itself to a simple life.
You note I did not say you shed yourself of responsibility. I have known far too many people who have tried to do this and ruined their lives. They equate responsibility with baggage. Wife baggage, kid baggage, financial baggage and they look for the easy way out – just walk away from it all.
Yes, baggage can be heavy and difficult to carry, but it can also hold our most valuable possessions. Have you ever tried to carry too much with the aid of something to consolidate it into so that you can simply grab a handle? Next time you are at the market, skip the cart and the bags and see how much you end up taking out to your car.
No, we have traded the honor of being responsible for the lives we create for a concept of freedom that is often just the next level of responsibility we were too short sighted to recognize. This is not to say that there are some, possibly many, situations that require a shedding of the baggage we carry to get out from under a crushing weight. This can take a level of strength and courage that can be very hard to find. To those it is an imperative and one I do not mean to minimize in any way.
My point is that the difference between thinning out stuff and simplifying one’s life can be quite profound.
As I began working through the the division of the things in my life that I was thankful for and that which could be thinned from out of it, I ran headlong into the complication of simplification.
You will find that it is quite easy to shed yourself of stuff, but quite another matter to truly simplify your life. The reason for this is that I am finding, is that quite a lot in our life is made up of the intangible. Either from the digitization of our world or simply from the aspect that much of what we are responsible for has little or no actual substance, we find ourselves responsible for a lot of smoke. So much so I now realize I am choking upon it.
I found when I began truly taking stock of everything that in this intangible world I am responsible for a huge amount of stuff! Accounts for so many things that hold value or hold debt. Accounts for so many things that I must keep track of and thus require that I log into them to check that I must keep yet another account for a product that keeps track of all my other accounts. I have four email accounts for various aspects of my life. My household holds twelve computers for four people, each of which while tangible, hold vast amounts of the intangible. Much of which has little to no value, but we must maintain it and back it up and never lose it!
When you really stop and look at it deeply, it is really quite mad.
Thus, I realize that the first step in this is to go back to my first thought. What of it all am I thankful for? What, when I move beyond the thinning of the tangible am I thankful for and holds value to me in this intangible world that has grown so wildly out of control?
I believe this, coupled with putting a name to those things which I hold most dear and provide most value in my life, is where true simplification can come.
Thus, I have now moved from the idea that I have to put my life on a diet to the concept that what it truly needs most is an enema!
After writing last week’s piece I was reading “The Lessons of St. Francis” by John Michael Talbot, one of my favorite books on St. Francis. In the chapter on “Simplicity” he noted, “Living your life engrossed in the cares and chaos of the world is not only bad for you, it’s bad for others as well.” He went on to add, “Although North Americans make up only a small percentage of the world’s population, we consume a large amount of the world’s limited resources. Ours is a world in which few possess much, while many don’t have enough to meet even their most basic needs. This chasm of disparity calls out for a compassionate response, and part of that response can be found in simple living.”
This gave me pause in the continually chaotic state I feel that I have been living my life. I took a number of extended moments this week to really consider this. To put it into perspective of my life and what I hold as important. Or maybe a better way to say it, what I hold as important right now and how I have complicated my life with stuff.
I witness the impact of the entitlement that has become so much the norm from the exception. My parent’s generation, those who made it through the Great Depression did not approach life this way. However, in a generation we Baby Boomers have created in corporate environments and with our children a level of entitlement that is in no way sustainable.
I worked hard for everything I have, and I have far too much! I justified it as a way to relieve the stress generated by my job and my lifestyle. Focused far too much on acquisition than truly building into the world that which is most direly needed for us all to survive. I am ashamed and humbled by these thoughts.
We are a me, me, me society. I believe this is why so many outside the US see us the way they do as arrogant, rude and wasteful.
Because, face it, we are!
So I have begun a process of the first two steps in what I think is going to be my personal survival guide.
I need to first take a bit to really give thanks for all that I have. I have been incredibly blessed. I have a long and strong marriage to a woman that puts up with my vast array of ills. I have two kids on the cusp of heading out into this world with both good heads on their shoulders and the skills to make it. Add to that the joy and pride I receive from comments from others about what good people both my kids are. Maybe we did something right. God has seen fit to give us good health and a more than good living. Truly my cup runneth over.
We do not live extravagantly; however, we have a lot! Much we have accumulated over the years, and I especially have accumulated being the gearhead I am in the way of vehicles and parts. Our closets and our storage runneth over. In reality you do not have to be extravagant to accumulate a lot. There are so many things we have that, I am sure, have not been touched in years. My garage alone is a cornucopia of tools and the stuff a man who is handy tends to accumulate. I have tools that I have not used more than a handful of times but I just had to have them at the time!
So, step one will be to reduce. I am beginning a thinning process that will do two things. Gain me a little extra cash that I plan to put into a special account to give back to the world in some way. Additionally, I want to begin to let go of the entitlement I have to stuff and the headache that comes from being tied to all of it.
So step 1 in my Personal Survival Guide (PSG Rule #1) – Thanks & Thinning
Consider it a life diet.