Everything in life is a choice. Every path you take, the words you say, jobs you accept and the money you spend all goes back to one simple choice – one decision to choose between two things. How you live each day goes back to one decision followed by a succession of others. Yet the sad fact remains, of all the choices we make, we rarely make the choice to live a simple life.
It’s baffling to me that day after day, so many of us make the conscious decision to live outside our means and choose debt as a way of life. Myself included. Why did I choose this path? I’ve been on that train for many years. I fell asleep and missed my stop to get off.
For the record, I baffle myself on a regular basis. You too? Glad I’m not alone. You never really are alone and I always feel such peace when I find out someone else is rowing in the same boat with me.
Looking back, it’s a conscious decision I made. You become affected by your environment, by your salary, it becomes easier to blend in than stand out. Because standing out would throw you back to grade school when some little shit would make fun of your mother’s choice in clothes, or get you in a headlock at recess and threaten to jam your head into a brick wall all because you were the quiet one who sat peacefully in the classroom. You were different. You stood out, so you were taught by others to conform.
After being squeezed into submission both literally and figuratively, your brain finally says, it’s easier to fit in than stand out. I don’t like being physically hurt, emotionally wounded or slammed against the rocks any longer.
So we conform. It becomes normal to not say, “Dad, I don’t want to go to college. Or, I want to take music and I don’t care if there isn’t a career in it. I could teach after all.” Instead, we hold it all in, fighting what our gut tells us, conforming to what we are shown is the ideal succession in life. We go to school, graduate with debt, get a poorly paying job, get married, work our way up the ladder so we can try to afford a house, a car and 2.5 kids. This cycle continues and before long you have a meltdown, a mid life crisis, you question everything. It is at this point that a choice comes, to change or continue on working, retire, then die.
If you continue on, you bust your butt and strive for bigger salaries, bigger houses, more cars, and more notoriety and once you have it, you only want more. The cup is never full. A lavish lifestyle, as I’ve found does not fill the emotional void. There is no happiness in that type of more.
In my 40 years on this planet, I’ve followed what I was shown life should look like. Grow up, go to college, get amazing grades, be perfect, get married, buy a house, buy a nice car, try to have kids, then find an even better job and keep working. Every aspect of your life dictated by someone in history that you never knew.
And now, the next choice is one that I’m jumping wholeheartedly into; that’s the choice to start living a simple life. Or in my words, classy yet simple. Classy, to me, means to live with purpose, manners and elegance. It’s how you carry yourself, treat others well and with respect, and in turn, how you help others.
How I’m learning to live a simple life
Declutter and sell all my stuff.
Decluttering your home is a slow and gradual process. I’ve learned that it’s not something that happens overnight. Last year, I started the process of purging unnecessary items from my life. I removed about 50% of it; this is the last step in the process. I’ve taken the stance that any item that gives me no joy, or is non-essential to life goes. This means my wardrobe will become a small, yet functional capsule style wardrobe. I’m carefully going through what I have and removing what no longer works, and selling it on eBay. Such as: most of my corporate work wardrobe, items that don’t fit, and items that no longer match my personal style. I’m keeping a few work essentials just in case but otherwise, all gone! All those collectibles I have, selling those. Anything I can sell will be sold; otherwise it’s donated or garbage.
Earn a comfortable living.
Most of us have lived life under the assumption that there’s an imaginary ladder to climb and we must keep earning more money. While there’s nothing wrong with earning more, it has to be done for the right reasons. Like the saying goes, sometimes less is more. Lifestyle inflation from a higher income doesn’t always bring joy. For me, earning a comfortable living means creating my own job. We’ve discussed this a bit in last week’s post but I want to make just enough to survive. Sure, more would be great as it allows more wiggle room but for now, the goal is to earn a decent income to pay down debt, buy groceries and pay rent.
Clear the debt.
Debt keeps life complicated, clearing it removes mental clutter, stress, and anxiety. Unfortunately I still have debt. Losing your job puts a small damper on paying down your debt. I’m doing my best at present to minimize any extra debt I accumulate. This may become difficult to avoid depending on how quickly I can bring in more income. I require a minimum of $1500 after taxes for the basics.
Rent a small living space.
The key here is small. I’d like a place of my own where I can separate at least my bedroom from my office and to have some semblance of quiet. Being able to not have my office in my bedroom would give me so much joy; I don’t think I can begin to explain what it would feel like. I live in 150 sq. ft. of a 1500 sq. ft. home. I have access to kitchen, bathroom and laundry but otherwise I’m generally locked working in a small room that houses my office, bedroom and living room all in one area.
Living a simple life has a different meaning for each of us. For me, it doesn’t mean living in a stark barren all white room with nothing. What is does mean is eliminating the chaos I had become so accustomed to while working a corporate job. I want to spend my time doing what’s important, spending more time with loved ones and helping others on the same journey to simplicity.
I’ve made the choice to live a simple life. I’ve chosen the path with less. There’s no going back, I’m all in and it feels right.