Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, sound like barren platitudes.”
~ C.S. Lewis
The New Year has arrived and with it a fresh start. It is our chance to change things, fulfill a dream or simply make a promise and keep it. The blank page is ours to write upon.
For me, 2016 is going to be a year of less. This is not about becoming a minimalist or going without, it’s about creating a simpler and more fulfilling life. It’s about doing and having what is essential and the journey to discover what that means.
Less means different things to different people – but the essence of it remains the same: a life with fewer material possessions, reducing time and technology demands and more time for things we love. Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the bedrock of a happy life. The challenge is to remove whatever is standing in our way.
When I was younger it was about more – more money, more responsibility, and more possessions. But I am no longer young, and More has no allure. My focus is on reducing and re-prioritizing and to do that I will need to change habits, thinking patterns, and even my goals. I have thought about this a lot, and 2016 is my year to live into these changes.
I have challenged myself to live with less.
A Year of Less Stuff
We live in a world with 24-hour access to anything we want. This makes it very easy to acquire it; filling our lives and our home. We expand to fit the space we live in. But the time for us to downsize has arrived. One day I looked around and realized two things: 1) we have a lot of stuff and 2) nobody wants it.
Our possessions define who we are on a far deeper level than we realize. The process of sorting through them and letting them go teaches us valuable truths about ourselves and the lives we have chosen to live. I hold on to things.
I have boxes of memorabilia stored away because I think someone will want and even value them after I am gone. The reality is our children and grandchildren will throw them out after we’re gone. I’ve decided not to burden them with that task, so this is my year to sort through it and let it go. Part of that process is acknowledging how much I enjoyed these things and all the memories they represent. The joy is that the memories will remain.
A Year of Less Worry
I am one of those people who worries about things I cannot change. Ironically, I have the wisdom to know this and still invest too much time in it. I am working hard to let go by investing in the opposite; learning to be in the moment. Meditation has been a new tool I’ve incorporated into my daily routine and I continue to start each day with a five-mile walk.
One of my larger worries is that of adult child/care giver to my father. I have watched a parent grow old, change, and struggle with things that once came easily. My Dad is 95 and I am the only family he has nearby. This year, instead of anxiety about what I can’t change, I reassure myself that I am doing everything possible to make his life as good as it can be and enjoy the time we have together.
A Year of Less Technology
This may sound strange coming from someone with a 35-year career in the high tech industry but I have challenged myself to separate the benefits of technology from its burdens. My life is easier because of technology, but it will also be governed by it if I am not mindful. I am getting better at this, but still fall victim to the immediacies of response and information access. I do not want my world or my life to be reflected from a computer screen.
The easiest way for me to balance this dilemma is to recognize it when it happens. I have learned to set my smart phone and tablet aside for long periods of time (torture) in pursuit of things that bring me joy: sewing and crafts, cooking, my walking and book groups and, of course, writing. Turning off the notifications helps. I have succeeded in staying off my work laptop on weekends, in part because I work for a company with family values.
A year of More
Having less means I will also have more. It took me a long time to figure this out and perhaps this knowledge is not the provenance of the young. Maybe we must live out our lives and in the process find what matters most to each of us.
In my year of less I look forward to more leisure time and living with intent. As we begin to downsize our homes and lives we are finding more space in both. Less emotional clutter and a slow but purposeful release of the material is a wonderful feeling. I have chosen to have fewer obligations that consume my time and energy, giving me more freedom to explore the next phase of our lives.
This year I choose contentment. I will practice gratitude and generosity, invest my time in relationships, grow spiritually, discover new ways of living well, and travel the parts of the world I have not seen.
When you choose to remove what is unnecessary, you have more time for what is real and valuable. It is almost never stuff.
Hack away at the unessential.
~ Bruce Lee