“How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.” ~Nikos Kazantzakis
Some years ago – in my early 50s – I reduced all my worldly goods to the contents of two suitcases. I remember sitting alone on the concrete floor of my sister’s garage amongst all my stuff. I had made the choice to scale down. I was entering an exciting new stage of life and leaving emotional baggage behind, so why not physical baggage as well? So I threw stuff away for hours. It felt weird at first but eventually I got into the swing of it.
I began to notice that a lot of my things were just that – things. Lifeless and inanimate.
But some seemed almost alive. They had spirit. And they sang to my spirit. So that became my criteria. If a thing didn’t sing to my spirit I left it behind.
If it didn’t make me say WOW! or send me into fits of giggles or melt my heart or move or inspire or delight or arouse or comfort me, or fill me with peace .. I left it behind.
I took my childrens’ drawings
and some sensuous love letters
and a Persian rug that I bought when I was 21 that still seems to embody the spirit of me as a young woman.
and one well worn baby outfit from each of my children
I took a little blue glass lantern that does lovely things to the light that flickers inside it
and a book about Shaker design because I’ve never heard my spirit sing so loud as it did the day I visited Shaker Village in Kentucky … and … well you get the picture.
When I arrived at my new place it was unfurnished. For a while all I had was one wooden stool and a mattress on the floor. And the contents of my two suitcases.
The curious thing about this somewhat extreme introduction to simple living was that the sky didn’t fall on me. I woke each morning to find that, yes, the sun had in fact risen as usual. My morning coffee still tasted the same. People still smiled at me in the street. No one said to me “You don’t have much stuff and therefore you don’t have much worth”. Life went on as usual. Better than usual in fact!
I very quickly began to notice I felt lighter and more free than I had in a long time.
And, astonishingly, I felt at peace. I felt calm. And joyful. As if my spirit was alive again, just like it had been when I was a young woman and had little or no worldly goods to weigh me down.
As time went on I began to see how I had been struggling under the weight of my stuff. I had bought into the illusion that ‘more’ equates with happiness. I had lost touch with the true source of my joy and peace – my spirit.
And not only that – I realised I had also lost touch with the spirit of my stuff. Over time I came to see the benefit of simple living. The less stuff we have the more vivid and satisfying is our relationship with the things we do have. When we have one earthenware bowl and not five we leave ourselves room to see and feel the essential nature of that one bowl. Humble everyday items that we rush past blindly have much to teach us about deepening our connection to all of life – if we will only listen.
All of these life lessons in simple living were years ago now. Over time possessions have flowed back into my life. I still do my best though to walk this path through life with “just baggage enough”. Not so much because I need to but because I want to. Because I want to leave room in my life for my spirit to breathe. And because I want to hear the world around me breathe.
“Something inside me has reached to the place where the world is breathing.” ~Kabir
Further reading: 6 Tips For Downsizing Your Life After 50