Simplicity in an Era of Clutter

My intention as of recent is to focus on simplicity.

It seems that I am way too often pulled into clutter; whether it’s mentally or physically. I live in a glamorous, busy city and work in a fast-paced job. My mind is constantly yanked in every direction, at every single minute. It rarely ever gets a chance to rest. Finding and keeping simplicity amidst it all feels like a war on my curious and easily distracted mind.

I remember when I first moved to the yoga center in Byron Bay. I was invited to go on a mini adventure to Mount Warning. On the drive up, we sat quietly looking out the window listening to Byron’s favorite artist, Xavier Rudd. When we arrived, one of the girls called our attention and gathered us all into a circle.“Everyone set an intention before we continue the hike” she asked us gently. I found that such a beautiful and unique concept, it really created room to savor the experience.

Since I was literally living on a yoga centre, the philosophy of yoga was a central part of our daily lives. While most yoga classes often begin and end with setting an intention, we were always encouraged to extend this sort of thinking off the mat and into our own worlds.

It goes without saying that I live a very different kind of life here in Sydney than I did at the yoga center. Both have their pros and cons, and in truth, Sydney suits me better. About a month ago, I moved from Rozelle to a trendy neighborhood called Potts Point. It’s busy and brash and home to many odd, eccentric characters. Our home is beautiful and exactly what I wanted. Since moving in last month, I have gone into full-blown “nesting” mode. I’ve never had my own place before. I’ve only ever been living in furnished places, renting out a room and owning nothing more than the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet (many clothes and shoes, mind you, but you get the point). I loved the freedom of knowing I could pick up and leave whenever I wanted without ever having to worry about selling my stuff. It’s a great feeling knowing that everything you own can fit inside two (large) suitcases. That is until now because the place we moved to is unfurnished and we have since bought things to make it a ‘proper’ home.

Whenever I go to buy something new, that famous Fight Club quote replays on loudspeakers in my mind: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”  This part of the movie and the way it was said horrified me. It repulsed me to think that you could be emotionally anchored and tethered to materialistic items. In my family home in Canada, we have so many amazing, expensive things that are currently gathering dust in the basement. I remember when I lived back home, I’d spend hours going through boxes and bags looking for things to give away to the Salvation Army. It saddened me to think of how much money was wasted on these things. I used to dream of a machine where I could insert the item like a reverse vending machine; put the no longer used expensive item in and get the money it was worth minus the depreciation of value over the years (just to make it more realistic).

I love the idea of minimalism. I feel calm when I’m in a space that somehow manages to feel warm and inviting despite it actually being quite bare. It’s actually a difficult balance to achieve. I aspire to reduce unnecessary purchases and buy what I genuinely need. Of course, this does not always happen, I still do buy things out of impulse. 

My new place now has all the essentials. It has the bed and the dinner table and the lamps. Yet somehow, not even a month later, it has even more than that. We’ve already surpassed the “essentials” stage. Isn’t funny how easy it is to accumulate? It’s strange how quickly I feel persuaded by advertisements with beautiful decor and pulled in by storefront shops with “50% off blowout sale!” signs. It’s difficult to resist. It’s oddly complicated to remain simple.

Even though big cities tend to be filled with many elements of disconnection, and flailing through life from one thing to the next without much self-reflection, there are a whole bunch of things I love. I love the colorful wave of different energy that comes along with living in a big city. I love interacting with people who have different viewpoints and perspectives and ideas who can add flavor and depth to my mind. Being surrounded by people who agree with the same things and do the same things can become stifling and sometimes lead to narrow-mindedness. It’s almost like living in a bubble. When you finally get out and meet someone with a different viewpoint than yours its taken as a threat rather than an opportunity to ask yourself, “is this really true what I’ve believed all my life? Let’s allow this new information to seep my brain…”

I just want to invite more of that simple, intentional living in my day to day life. I don’t need to live in a yoga community to get it either, although it does help. If anything, it’s more of a brain workout to keep my mind in check and guide it back when it gets continuously distracted and runs off and starts digging a hole in a ditch at a creek miles away that I asked it a million times not to go to. Byron was like practicing swimming in the shallow end of the pool with professional swimmers (yogis) nearby helping me. In Sydney, there may be professional swimmers dispersed in the waters somewhere, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me. It’s up to me to remember how to swim.

My eyes and heart are set on simplicity; on removing clutter both inside my head and out, at least that's my intention.

“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.”

– Richie Norton

“Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life.”

– Katharine Fullerton Gerould

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

– E.F. Schumacher

If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.”

– Dalai Lama

“Minimalism is the constant art of editing your life.” 

– Danny Dover

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci


KIMBERLY HETHERINGTON

Kimberly writes a beautiful blog called Life After Elizabeth, an ongoing virtual letter to her big sister Elizabeth who died in October 2013. You can read more at https://lifeafterelizabeth.blog/ 

Kimberly is a part of our team of 'Free-Thinkers'. Planting seeds for thought, discussion and change - it all starts with thought.