Tool #1: Limits
I find it strange that I can wake up in the morning so full of gratitude. There is food in the pantry, a roof over my head, water, heat, and clothes waiting for me after I shower. I live in a comfortable home with security and love. All my needs are met. Then, I go to buy some winter boots (you know, not utilitarian, but trendy) and find a beautiful, faux-leather jacket, a blouse, and a pair of Pjs that look and feel oh, so comfortable. Where did all that contentment go? Suddenly, I experience the lack of things that I didn’t know existed this morning.
Many of us, myself included, confuse our needs with wants. I submit to you that it is the pursuit of unquenchable desires, rather than our basic needs, that sabotages our happiness. Needs are finite and few. For survival, we need air, water, food, shelter, heat/temperature regulation, and security. Any decent survival guide can teach you this.
Our wants are boundless, limitless, and striving after something that can have no end results in never feeling satisfied.
I’m not saying that everyone should eschew trendy boots or that faux-leather jacket. There are useful and beautiful things that can bring joy (until they fall apart). I am saying that I believe we could all benefit from focusing first on our needs, and then putting some kind of cap on our wants. Minimalists use this trick all the time. The exact practice of limits will vary from person to person. Two pairs of pants can feel meager – unless you’re living out of a back pack. A two-story home with a book habit might benefit from limiting books to one shelf.
The lesson here is that we can all be masters of our limitations and see how putting a self-imposed cap on accumulation can free us to experience not lack but plenty.
I mean, who doesn’t want to be happier while saving money?
Tool #2: Know Your Core Values
I’ve slogged through to-do lists without an ounce of passion. Who hasn’t? I’ve signed on to a job that has brought me no joy. Again, who hasn’t? I’ve felt that familiar desire to bolt, screaming, from the reality that I’ve found myself in.
I mean, I’ve worked at McDonald’s. As an environmentalist. As a vegetarian. And while my example may be specific to me, we all find ourselves at one time or another completely out of sync with what matters to us.
This is why the second tool can save you time and frustration. It can lead you to follow a life of meaning and alignment with your values. Your life can be infused with passion.
I can’t tell you what your values should be because they are unique to you. You won’t feel passion for another’s list. But identifying what matters to you can help you make the great life decisions that you deserve.
How do you do this? Start by thinking about a time when you were proud of yourself. Why were you so proud? How about when you were really happy? Create a list of qualities that you aspire to and spend some time with them. Are two pretty much the same thing? Is one thing more important than another?
I have a numbered list from 1 to 10. And everything on that list infuses my life with passion. I have begun to go to that list when it comes to the big decisions. And, every day, I feel more in sync with my core values.
Tool #3: Clutter Control
Clutter is the meaningless stuff that fills spaces in our lives. Ultimately, clutter can crowd out what we really want. It can add stress and steal joy.
We can have clutter in our homes (that garage that no one wants to enter – filled with forgotten stuff that breeds resentment). We can have cluttered schedules too. Since all of us only have 24 hours each day, why do we crowd our free time with the hobbies of yesteryear? Clutter control can take away stress and leave time for friends, family, and those hobbies we do love. Clutter can even invade our minds and hearts when we worry over problems we have no control over, invite toxic relationships to stay, or spin our wheels in circles over the mysteries or vagaries of life.
Of these kinds of clutter, the clutter of our spaces is often the easiest place to start. Most people begin with the physical stuff crowding them and when they discover the advantages of living with less, they begin to apply the philosophy to their schedules and thoughts too.
If you’re eager to start decluttering now, begin looking around you. Is there one thing you own that doesn’t bring happiness? Isn’t useful? Can it be sold, given, re-purposed, recycled? And if you continued with one thing every day for 365 days, what would your home and life be like in one year?
I hope that these tools bring value to your life.