What does simplicity look like? I think, on one hand, when people say “I want to simplify my life” there’s a Norman Rockwell-esque idea of ‘simpler days’ & ‘taking time to smell the roses’. Baked into that ideal somewhere is often the notion that ‘simpler’ means ‘easier’. But does it really? I guess it could depend on what “simplicity” looks like in your life.
What is your simplicity? Is it easy-crock-pot-meals-so-you-don’t-have-to-cook? Or is it deliberately taking time to cook savory meals together with family, not watching the clock or worrying over what’s on TV? Is it staying home on weeknights to avoid over-committing? Or is it a simple dinner and board games at a good friend’s house? To some people, simplifying might mean starting a garden in their back yard to grow some vegetables. To the ‘clock-ruled-schedule-master’, such a thing might seem unthinkable – all the wasted time! Can’t you just buy those things in a can? Or better yet, frozen? Yet it’s truly amazing how working with your hands – in a garden, on a car or some other hobby provides a deeper sense of rest and reward than simply ‘vegging out’ in front of TV. It’s easy to think that after rush hour, work, rush hour, rushed dinner, rush the kids to bed, that we’ve nothing left in us to give to other pursuits. There’s something to be said about working for our ‘entertainment’, though. Studies have shown that hobbies that require more expertise are more satisfying. They provide a sense of accomplishment, open up doors for new and deeper relationships and can provide a sense of purpose. It takes time to cultivate, but we need the things that make us come alive – and when we find them, it’s amazing how hollow a substitute cheap entertainment becomes.
So how does that fit into ‘simplicity’? Well, the longer I live, the more convinced I have become of two things. First, simplicity is about choices and focus. You may think it’s about less-clutter-in-the-house, but I’d argue two ways on that: Less clutter might be essential to help you focus on what really matters. Great, so purge already! But you will not always have the bandwidth to pursue the things you love and eliminate all of life’s clutter – and so you must bring yourself to focus in spite of distractions. That involves choice. Second, ‘simpler’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘easier’. If your criteria for defining “simplicity” is based on “whatever makes like easier”, then you will miss out on true simplicity and satisfaction.
"Very often, people confuse simple with simplistic. The nuance is lost on most." Clement Mok
"Simplicity before understanding is simplistic; simplicity after understanding is simple." Edward De Bono