You don’t have to look far these days to find articles and information about people embracing simplicity in their lives. There are blogs, newsletters, national publications, even television is jumping on the band wagon with programs about tiny house hunting, getting organized, and living “off the grid.” This is all in an effort to show people how to simplify their lives and therefore make them more meaningful. There is no question that simplicity leads to living more gently on the Earth, helps us get in touch with what is important in life, and enjoy the freedom that are all key components of the simplicity movement.
Organizing the garage filled to overflowing with the results of a consumeristic way of life, can certainly help free us up in some way. Downsizing our BIG homes to lessen the resources we consume to heat and maintain it can be fruitful. If we live in the city we can walk or bike to work, or trade in that Cadillac Escalade for something more economical. We can alter our wardrobes, don’t buy new when used will do, and when you want to buy new, buy high quality so it will last. These are all great ideas, great external ideas.
But simplicity advocate and author Janet Luhrs literally wrote the book on the subject and takes the idea to a deeper, more introspective level. Her book, The Simple Living Guide – A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living, (www.SimpleLiving.com) has been called “The Bible of the simplicity movement” and has resources for every aspect of life including home, family, work, money, lifestyle and holidays. She offers inspiration as well as practical application. But she also writes about the virtues of simple living exploring what is at the core of it all.
“The crux of simplicity is what goes on inside you,” says Janet. “I’ve always thought that simplicity really does start inside. And if you live according to your heart and follow your virtues, you will naturally want to lead a simple life. We need to operate in life from our core values. We get in trouble by not connecting with our heart and soul.”
She doesn’t believe that living from a healthy set of core values means being broke or impoverished as some might envision. “The material world doesn’t bring us happiness. True contentment and joy is who you are inside.” Whether you call it soul, inner best self or maybe God, listening within, can be the guide that will lead you to true and lasting peace.
Virtue of Contentment
Janet reports that every person she ever interviewed for her newsletter, Simple Living, recognized that once they began to simplify their lives, they began to appreciate what was right in front of them. Once we no longer live our lives racing about at breakneck speed, once we slow down and literally stop to smell the roses, we begin to really see what is right in front of us. Being present in our life, and recognizing the abundant blessings around us can change our perspective about life as a whole.
Virtue of Order
“Order means not owning more than you can properly use, care for, and store easily,” she writes. If you have too much of anything and can’t store it easily, it becomes clutter. “Clutter clearing paves the way for our interior life,” says Janet. “Sometimes there is so much stuff, you can’t rest. This takes away from the interior life. It’s freeing to get rid of the stuff.”
Virtue of Truthfulness
“Truthfulness means being honest about your feelings and being real about who you are. The heart of simplicity is having inner peace, and we can be peaceful only when we are truthful and real.” An invitation to be authentic is not a call we get often in life, but in being real, we can tap into what is genuine for us, no longer making decisions based on cultural norms or preconceived notions, but on what feels right.
Virtue of Joy
Janet describes joy as being similar to contentment but different. “If we have joy in our hearts, our lives can be much simpler because we won’t need so much outside stimulation to keep us going…Joy is what you make it…When our entire existence is spent pursuing one external stimulus after the other, we lose our ability to find joy where we are, in everyday existence.” She suggests that we “lighten up.”
Virtue of Patience
Being able to wait is a lifelong pursuit for some. Cultivating patience that effects how we respond as consumers, as friends, as family, as co-workers will absolutely shape our experience of life. In our fast paced culture of wanting everything yesterday this gets increasingly difficult. But for those who can be patient, peace will be theirs.
Virtue of Assertiveness and Tact
“Assertiveness means saying what you think and how you feel, and tact means saying these things in a gentle, non-offensive way,” writes Janet. In doing this we maintain authenticity by being true and honest with ourselves and this plays a part in our relationships in all areas of life.
Virtue of Creativity
Janet loves the creativity she has witnessed in people. She writes, “Creativity means opening your box, tearing down the sides, and stretching out to discover new ways of looking at and doing things that will improve your life. The less buried you are in debt, overcommitted time and junk, the more freed up you are to think of innovative solutions [for yourself and others]. Once we attain this level of creative simplicity, inner peace is just within reach.” And isn’t that what it’s all about?
These core virtues point out that simple living, however that is defined by any individual, has foundational elements that establish something beautiful within us, that can ultimately transform what goes on outside of us. Simple living is so much more than cleaning out closets and organizing your sock drawers. It is about relationships with ourselves and others. It is a lifestyle shift.
“Simplicity is not about being happy all the time,” says Janet reflecting on grief. “The grieving process is the grieving process. If you lose someone, it’s natural. You can’t hurry that process.” She points out that having a solid interior life can help when life gets difficult. “Life changes whether you like it or not. It’s always changing, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. But if you hang on too tight you get rope burn. There is freedom in the flow of life. But that doesn’t take away from the intense pain. You have to honor the grief and the natural flow of life. Joy can come again from a simplified life.”