Friday, May 2, 2014

How Not To Live Simply

If you're interested in reading more posts about simple living, check out posts with the "simple living" tag.  

I want to live simply, to spend less and have less and think less about stuff.  I don’t like clutter and I don’t embrace an identity as a consumer.  I check Simplicity Parenting and other simple-living books out of the library at least once a year and re-re-renew my desire to live simply. 

And yet.  You’d not quite believe my commitment to simple living if you wandered through my house.  My dreams of my house looking like a Real Simple 2-page spread have not quite been realized.  And as the stuff piles up around me, my mind feels more and more cluttered and scattered. 

I’ve been mulling this over recently and have identified a few (okay, seven) of the areas that constantly trip me up, and I thought I’d share them with you.  I came across this blog post by Katie that inspired my list.  So here they are, my 7 Tips for NOT Living a Simple Life:

1.      After you’re finished borrowing something from a friend, hang it in a plastic bag by the back door. 
Because, you know, maybe my friend will just happen to conveniently drop by the house and I’ll just happen to remember that I have her stuff and hand it over.  And in the meantime, what is lovelier than the sight of colorful plastic bags littering the entryway?  

2.      Hang on to lotion bottles (and shampoo, hairspray, detangler, cleaning supplies, deodorant, etc.) that have a little bit left in the bottom that you can’t quite get out. 
I do this because I don’t want to be wasteful, but it’s ridiculous.  Instead of spending the extra 10 seconds on unscrewing the pump tube lid to smack some lotion in my hand, I buy a full one and jam our bathroom shelves with almost-empty bottles. 

3.      Keep every single piece of artwork or coloring that your prolific children/artists create.
When I say prolific, man do I mean it.  I am currently sorting piles that go back years.  I am afraid to get rid of things because each one is special to the artist and most of them are special to me, too.  

But you know what happens when too many creations are deemed special?  None of them get treated as such.  So, I’m working towards sorting and choosing our favorites, and then storing some of them so they are easily found and reviewed.  Others will be displayed around the house, properly framed and treated as special.   

4.      Store clothes in 5 different locations in your house.
Am I the only one that does this?  Somehow we’ve ended up with a makeshift closet in the basement by the washer and dryer, which consists of a pvc pipe for hanging clothes and 2 laundry baskets for folded clothes.  And then we have our real closets upstairs which end up with fewer clothes in them than the fakey closet.  And then there’s the dressers and the tubs of off-season clothes stored in the bedroom.  And finally, there are the piles of sort-of-clean-but-sort-of-dirty clothes in the bathroom. 

The result?  I never really know what I have, and it looks like I have far less than I actually do. 

5.      Sort the kids’ toys and put the extras in the basement. 
I was inspired by Simplicity Parenting to reduce the number of toys my kids have access to by 50%.  And it really has made a difference.  With far fewer options, they play much longer with a toy and engage with it much more.  The days of grabbing and dumping without playing are over. 

The trouble is, the extra toys never quite made it out of the house.  I put them in the basement, with the idea that I would be one of those super organized parents who rotates toys upstairs and down, so the kids get the benefit of many toys without the overcrowded, stressful environment.  But, lo and behold, the kids go in the basement, and find the extra toys, and grab and dump, and occasionally drag something upstairs.  And the cycle begins again.  I am not one of those super organized rotating toy parents, so it’s time for the toys to be evicted. 

6.      Keep every single piece of important mail in a “to file” pile. 
I have “to file” piles that were shoved in folders and transferred to our new house when we moved.  Two years ago.  My kitchen command center reveals that my filing skills haven’t gotten much better. 

7.      Once you’ve sorted your stuff and selected what’s going in the giveaway pile (congratulations!!), put the bags and boxes in the basement, the back of your van, or the garage.  Trust that they will miraculously transport themselves where they need to go.

It can be hard to actually, finally, get RID of the stuff.  Our attachments to things, our hopes of making a buck off of them, our fears about not having enough in the future…all of those feelings and more keep us bound to things.  I’ve heard (and experienced a little) that it can be immensely freeing to get rid of bunches of excess.

I’m learning that it takes a lot of work and intentionality to create and MAINTAIN a simple environment.  If I do nothing, the stuff just pours in the door and accumulates everywhere.  If I want my environment, mind, and spirit to be free of stuff, then my hands have to do some constant work.

I have a few specific goals for my “Summer of Simplicity” that I’ll share in some upcoming posts.  Feel free to stay tuned and join with me!  What are some of your best strategies for NOT living a simple life?  


jessica said...

I could relate to EVERY SINGLE ONE of these! My worst one is feeling I need to use every drop of something before tossing/recycling the bottle in the desire to not be wasteful. I feel defeated every time someone gives me lotion as a gift!

Jamie said...

Yes! I'm convinced that they intentionally design bottles so that it's nearly impossible to get the last bit out! Someone needs to invent some sort of bottom-of-the-bottle lotion scraper thingy. :)