The Amish fascinate us. Why do they choose this lifestyle? What is it like? How do they manage each day? There are tours you can take to see their life and seeing an Amish buggy on the road is a thrill. So what about it fascinates us? Although realistically most of us would not give up our modern conveniences, there is something about that simple life that appeals to us and draws us in. I hear so many people today wanting to buy land and raise chickens. There are little houses, simple life movements, and people who get paid to throw out other people’s clutter. Our world has become so fast paced and frantic, we are drawn to a simpler life. Laundry hanging on the line, children playing ball in the front yard, the family all working together. It seems so … peaceful.
We spent a week in a home just south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Every day, buggies clopped by on the street in front of our home. We drove into Lancaster and visited the oldest farmer’s market in America on two occasions and spoke to the Amish vendors about their berries, their quilt squares, and their soaps. The home we stayed in was a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800’s later converted to a family home. There was so much history all around us. And it was….quiet. Rolling hills, bubbling streams, limited traffic. It all seemed so simple.
We are a consumer society. A society collecting things, possessions, gadgets. But what we should be collecting are stories, memories, and experiences. We become tied down but all the “stuff” we have. Much of it we don’t even need and never use. How many of you have boxes from prior moves that you haven’t unpacked in years? But we still keep them. What are we holding on too?
Simplifying our life sounds appealing, but actually doing it can be scary. We hang on to what is comfortable. Our house may be cluttered with things we don’t need, but we don’t know how to let go. Our schedule is overbooked but everything seems so important. Our entertainment is…well, entertaining, so how do we turn it off? Finding space is what is key. Physical space, emotional space, mental space, and personal space. Once we have space, we can breathe and consider what to do next.
‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’
~Henry David Thoreau
I, like the majority of the population, loved the movie Greatest Showman and the soundtrack that goes with it. And the message is to look at what is important. Look at the person inside the “sideshow freak;” look at your family. Do not lose sight in the glamour and the glitz of what matters. The song performed in the movie by Jenny Lind is a testament to our current society and there is a deep sadness in the lyrics of that song:
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
-“Never Enough” by Loren Allred
How many of us are living our life unconsciously singing this song? The song of “never enough.” And more importantly, are we teaching our children the refrain of “never enough.” By giving them everything they want and all the fancy new gadgets of the day, what do we teach them? What I hear from children in my office is the desire for more and more. Pulling back to the simple life. A life where children played in the dirt making mud pies and created entire kingdoms in sandboxes is something we should consider. Decluttering, unscheduling, sitting in the quiet.
Consider the feeling you have when you finally clean out that junk drawer or a closet, or the garage. It seems overwhelming and daunting at the start. It is so much easier to just close the door and not look at it. But when you finally tackle it, throw half of it out, organize it, and simplify it….it feels amazing. You feel accomplished, successful and….lighter! Getting rid of our clutter leaves us emotionally lighter.
Psychologically, we hang on to clutter for multiple reasons. And that physical clutter becomes emotional clutter. Emotional baggage! We hang on to our skinny pants in the hope that one day they will fit again. We hang on to stacks of books and magazines in the hope we will someday read them. We hang on to knick-knacks and doo-dads because we might “need them someday.” Or, a favorite joke in our house, we hang on to items because Grandma sat on it. Don’t get me wrong, family heirlooms are important but you had four grandmothers, you can’t keep everything! But the skinny pants, the unread books, the piles of projects we hope to get to one day, the dried flowers from our first boyfriend – all of this junk creates emotional junk. It’s time to let it go!!
We hang onto far more objects than we need, and, instead of motivating us, they become talismans of guilt and shame. – June Saruwatari, author of Behind the Clutter
What do you do next? There is a funny meme floating around but there is also truth in it.
‘I tried the Japanese method of decluttering where you old every object that you own and if it does not bring you joy, you throw it away. So far I have thrown out all of the vegetables, my bra, the electric bill, the scale, a mirror, and my treadmill.’
Start with one item, one drawer, one closet, one room. Look at the emotions behind what you are keeping and do not ask yourself if you “need” this thing, ask, “Can I live without it?” Saruwatari encourages her clients to consider four concrete questions: Do I honestly need this item? Do I love it? Does it have some sort of significance in my life? Does it serve a purpose? Research has shown that simply touching an item increases our emotional attachment to it. This is why Apple stores have all their gadgets on display for you to play with; it is why car lots want you to test drive the car. There is an emotional component to getting rid of things in our life and we must honor that while we also release it. Researchers at Yale discovered the part of our brain that lights up when we let go of items is the same part of the brain associated with physical pain. It pains us to let it go. The types of clutter we have can also say something about us emotionally, but that is an issue for a future blog.
To start today moving toward that simpler life, here are a few tips. It is important to ease in with one step at a time, but do not let procrastination or emotional baggage keep you from starting:
- Turn off your television. So many families leave the television on in the background all day long and this creates a mental clutter you do not need.
- Clean out one drawer, one closet, one room at a time. Hire an organizer or get a friend to help you if you need too. It is always easier to throw away someone else’s stuff.
- Sit in nature. Tree hugging sounds silly but it actually is based in scientific fact of the impact nature has on your brain. It is grounding, it calms the chaos, and it helps you move to the next step. Essential oils with grounding properties can create this effect too.
- Create a “safe” zone for your emotions as you let go of physical belongings and emotional baggage that has been holding you back. I have a friend who learned to let go of emotional baggage and lost 100 pounds. She used personalized essential oil recipes of feeling worthy, beautiful, strong, and safe as she did so. You can create similar blends for yourself as you move through the steps of simplifying your life.
- Give it time. Letting go can create a sense of physical pain. If you need to take it slow, put that item in a bin and leave it for a week or two. If after that time you still remember what is in there and want to keep it, find a place for it. If not, let it go.
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Where do you desire to simplify your life?