There’s a whole lot of information out there about how to lead a simpler life, but most of it is decidedly understated and anecdotal, from individuals who’ve found a simpler way, found reward in that, and then decided to share their experience via a modest blog (like this one) or website. Few ads are evident on these sites. Compare this with say, one of the thousands of sites on “How to Invest in…”or that most popular of search targets, “How to Make Money Online!” These sites are stout, multi-layered destinations with guest bloggers, vast archives, and scads of ads. Go figure.
That’s the thing about a simpler lifestyle. There’s no money in it. It essentially comes about as a result of a less vigorous pursuit of the omnipotent dollar. And therefore the commercial interests which drive the digital revolution are not so drawn to probing the pecuniary habits of simpler lifestylers. People seeking a less complicated life are not those sleeping outside Apple stores in fevered anticipation of holding the latest gadget in their hands.
No, you’re pretty much on your own in pursuing a simpler life. Neither the media, nor corporate power, nor for that matter most of the cultural industries will be there to support you. But technology will be, at least parts of it will be. It’s perfectly possible to embrace a simpler way of life and cherry-pick the best of modern technology, the means which enhance but do not encumber our lives, leaving the rest of the tech clamor behind.
There are two basic ways to simplify your life that are immediately accessible to us all: 1) possess less stuff, and 2) disconnect regularly.
The first is to practice anti-consumerism. Buy something only when you truly need it, i.e. when you will use it regularly, and it either provides a new and valuable service to you, or replaces a valued item which no longer works for you. Some folks suggest that if you haven’t used something in the last six months, including an article of clothing, you don’t need it. This seems a tad severe even to me, but if you haven’t used it in the last year, I’d have to agree. Dispose of it.
Do not possess more than one of the same basic item or tool. Do not hoard; this is to live in fear. Do not keep things you don’t need because they possess sentimental value (the way to avoid this is to not keep things you don’t need long enough for them to accrue sentimental value). Shop in second-hand stores; this is not only less expensive; it prevents the need for a new thing to be manufactured, thus adding to the global accumulation of stuff. Unless your home is able to expand concomitant with each new acquired item, more stuff equals more stress; it’s that simple.
There are two axioms to bear in mind when contemplating the growing buildup of stuff in your life (and everyone should watch George Carlin’s marvelous routine on us and our stuff; it’s here on Youtube). One of these adages you’ve already heard, but the second, it seems to me, many of us don’t quite grasp while we’re still above ground: 1) you can’t take it with you, and 2) nobody wants it when you’re gone. Space, like time, is of ever-augmenting value in today’s world, and very few of us wish to allot precious space to accommodate the material goods of others, even if those others were loved ones.
The second path to a simpler life—disconnecting regularly—is where we can discriminate among the onslaught of new technology coming at us in waves. The internet? Absolutely, for the information alone. A camera? If it releases your muse, go for it. A portable computer? Sure; it’s great to be able to sit on the couch and send an email, but do you really need to take it with you when you leave the house? For my money, no one needs to be personally connected to the internet at every moment. In fact, it’s not good for you.
As I’ve gone on about elsewhere in this blog, the stress of accelerated change comes in large part because we fall prey to the craving to connect immediately, not later. No one needs to be always abreast of the latest news, whether it’s international, national, local, or from your friends. Very few messages merit an instant reply. Control the stress in your life by controlling the pace of your communication. And for those who experience anxiety when they forget their smart phone at home, I have unfortunate news for you. You’re experiencing an addiction, like any other. You need to know this, but not instantly.
Unplug. Get outside. Go for a walk at least once a day, while the sun’s up. It’s proven to be good for your mental as well as your physical health. And don’t take your phone.