A Practical Guide to Achieving Simplicity

Removing the barriers to a simpler life can uncover memories and make life more meaningful. Start the new year with a plan to simplify.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The action required to simplify is anything but simple. Simplification is time-consuming and often emotionally draining.

Weeding through years of accumulated articles is a daunting project. Piles of items kept out of sentimentality or stashed aside as potentially useful.

The utilitarian in us hangs on to every extra piece of hardware, wire, or fabric. We tell ourselves that there is nothing wrong with this perfectly good cable or shelf bracket.

Why would I throw away this extra button or nail when it could come in handy someday?

Someday … the ever allusive someday.

The reality becomes coffee cans and drawers full of disorganized remnants. The sought after screw or wire impossible to find in the random array of hardware accumulated over time and frantic bouts of panic cleaning.

Clothes frayed and battle-scarred from the repetitious cycle of washing and wearing. Other garments demoted from the wardrobe lineup, the casualties of changing waistlines.

We rationalize our inability to let go of clothing still hanging there in the dark corners of the closet or taking up space in dresser drawers.

I could use those as work clothes. If I lose weight, this dress will fit again.

Maybe you have a favorite sweater that you can’t bear to toss out. Your letter jacket from high school or the blouse you wore on the first date with your husband.

How can I part with something that was present at a special time in my life?

Christmas cards from years past, concert ticket stubs, a playbill, toys from childhood, old grade cards. The list could go on and on of nostalgic paraphernalia in a box, a closet or a storage room.

We all fall victim to this practice of emotional attachment to physical objects. It’s human nature to hold on to what is dearest to us. We have a deeply rooted survival instinct to stash away items that could be of use one day.

Will the memories of life be erased by disposing of these tangible materials hidden in boxes and stashed away in closets and attics?

The irony is that overabundance of possessions is more likely to hide nostalgic treasures from view instead of honoring those items near and dear. Memories unseen will fade into forgotten oblivion.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Whether labeled as removing clutter, downsizing or simplifying, the condition of simplicity is difficult to accomplish.

Even for a self-proclaimed semi-pro organizer such as myself, this task is overwhelming. The key is to stop looking at the project in its entirety.

Narrow the endeavor down. One closet or one box at a time is the best way to avoid hyperventilating and giving up.

“Make room for things that matter by removing everything that doesn’t. “— Brian Gardner

I can tell you from experience the process is worth the anguish. Cleansing your world of the excess baggage weighing you down is liberating.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

My Downsizing Story

Moving from a traditional big house in the suburbs to a modern condo in a refurbished downtown warehouse was a leap of faith for us. Pros and cons were discussed many times before the decision was reached to drastically change our lives.

Once the papers were signed, downsizing had to happen. Scrutinizing each object and assigning its true functional and sentimental value was now a major priority.

No more time for procrastinating. The hard choices had to be made.

Simplifying our lives was tough, but the benefits were worth the effort. Learning the art of cutting ties with inanimate objects has freed us from the siren call of materialism.

The simplification process is not a one and done activity. Simplicity is a lifestyle choice.

We give pause to purchases to determine the true value each item will have to our lives. The practice of evaluating the contents of drawers and cabinets is performed frequently at our house.

The result of living with a philosophy of simplicity is peacefulness and clarity.

The most meaningful objects remain with us, front and center in our smaller, clutter-free space. Fewer knickknacks to move around is a welcome time saver for maintaining cleanliness.

Less attention is now given to objects, leaving more time for enjoying people and experiences. Our priorities have shifted to creating a more functional space and more time for memorable adventures.

A pervasive sense of calm fills the space vacated by clutter. I breathe easier as our living space is relieved of the weight of unnecessary objects. Life is more tranquil and more meaningful than ever before.

The Balance Between Now and Then

Removing all sentimentality from your life is not necessary or recommended. Nostalgia plays a useful role in connecting you to your heritage and should absolutely not be eradicated from your existence.

On the contrary, fond memories should be celebrated not packed away in a box. Favorite times should not be forgotten and lost in the dark corners of our minds and no longer felt in our hearts.

Mom’s Valentine box from Dad in 1958— Photo by author

When recently assisting my Mom with an organizing adventure, we discovered a wonderful sentimental treasure from her past. An old, heart-shaped Valentine candy box.

The color was faded, the edges were worn down, the ribbon crumpled, dusty and no longer attached. Time spent crammed into a box of miscellaneous memories had taken its toll.

Dad gave this heart-shaped candy box to Mom in 1958. The first Valentine gift he gave her during the 59½ years they were together.

Life’s clutter has now been brushed away from this lost memory.

This special treasure is now taking its rightful place on display. A gentle reminder of the lifetime shared with the love of her life. Fond memories once lost have been given a new purpose.

Thinning out possessions can lead to uncovering items that speak to your heritage. Reminders of people, places and times imprinted on your soul.

Keep a reminder of special moments not all reminders of a special moment. A singular keepsake is the only key necessary to unlock the door to a memory.

You might be surprised by the treasures found and the emotions unlocked when you eliminate the messiness from life. Removing the chaos surrounding meaningful artifacts frees the heart and mind to reconnect to days gone by.

No matter the time of year or the chapter of life, the rewards of simplicity far outweigh the complexity of achieving a life simplified.