About a year ago I joined The Simplicity Institute, a non-profit education and research centre facilitating ‘voluntary simplicity’, also known as downshifting.
Since my 20s I’ve been interested in cultivating a simpler lifestyle in the interests of peace of mind and a healthier environment. The Simplicity Institute offers regular posts supporting those around the world trying to live more simply.
A big focus of choosing a simpler lifestyle is reducing overconsumption of material goods, but it also entails a shift of mind. In a culture promoting continual economic growth as the greatest good, the simplicity movement offers a different perspective on personal needs. In place of the ‘more is better’ mentality it offers a ‘less is more’ perspective.
These are some things I’ve found help me live more simply:
Minimising noise from tv, radio and music systems makes for a peaceful space which induces peace of mind. I set aside part of the day for silent meditation.
I adore beautiful objects and love collecting shells, coloured glass and candles, so minimising such ‘stuff’ I find difficult. But reducing clutter at home gives rise to a feeling of space and streamlines the functioning of living areas. I try to keep things in view that are beautiful, useful or meaningful.
In Hobart I live close to shops, beach and city so I can walk most places I need to. It saves petrol but more importantly it connects me with my surroundings. Walking means I can appreciate neighbourhood gardens, greet friendly cats, enjoy sunshine on my skin. A trip to buy groceries becomes a pleasure and not just a task to cross off my list.
When I lived in Darwin my great love was biking wherever I could. It’s a city with extensive bike paths and the warm climate makes cycling easy. On days when I had to drive to the gym I found the experience frustrating as it took almost as long to travel by car, negotiating traffic and traffic lights. By contrast cycling gave me the joys of air flowing through my hair, the flow of blood to my leg muscles, the pleasure of passing my favourite flowering trees and looking at fish over the side of the nearby bridge. Riding home in the cool dusk I felt at peace.
A simpler wardrobe
I love beautiful, colourful clothing and having a large variety to choose from has been one of my daily pleasures. But travelling between cities weekly for a few months recently, I found that being confined to one suitcase made dressing each day much simpler. So I’ve decided on a smaller wardrobe – one which is still composed of items that delight me and are functional (warmth being a priority in Tasmania!), but which allows me less room for deliberation.
Repairing and recreating
I love taking something old and worn and making into something gorgeous and functional. One of my favourite chairs was an old discarded armchair. I re-covered it by hand in white faux-velvet with sparkly silver stars, painting the arms and legs pale blue to match my kitchen. My ‘fairy chair’ cost me $5 in fabric and nothing in leftover paint, and it’s beautiful! Similarly I often repair old clothing or remake it into something quirky and eyecatching.
A simpler day
I try to keep my daily schedule simple. I write a list to keep me on track. I make a point of not planning too many things in one day.
Weather permitting, I spend up to an hour a day in the garden. My flock of guinea pigs need supervising while they exercise outside their hutches, and this gives me the perfect excuse to sit still in the green outdoors. It takes me outside my human preoccupations as I contemplate the behaviours of another species. If I feel the need to be more useful, I tend the garden beds. This simple ritual is one of the most peaceful, nurturing parts of my day.