I believe in simplicity. Simplicity, to me, means a deliberate paring down of clutter, possessions, chaos, stress, and over-commitment. Above all, it’s about reducing complication. It means going from twelve credit cards to one, from long commutes to living within walking distance to work and school. It means being content with less. It means learning how to say no and setting limits. It means making time to just hang out on the front porch on a nice spring day.
We are drawn into our complicated lives by such small degrees and have become accustomed to the chaos and stress that are a way of life. Finances are complicated. Relationships are complicated. Even our food is complicated. Just imagine the collective energy that would be saved if every trip down the grocery aisle did not have to involve the careful scrutiny of labels for hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, and growth hormones. Is it low fat, low carb, high protein, no sugar added, organic? Even my cell phone is complicated. And the actual cell phone plan? Forget it. Credit card agreements? Health plans with their varying deductibles, co-pays, prescription drug tiers, and exclusions? How can anyone keep track of all of this?
In this increasingly complicated world, the idea of simplicity has a powerful allure. Just look at the success of magazines like Real Simple. Simplicity has become very popular. It has become an aesthetic. But is this true simplicity? To me, the ideal of simplicity that is so elegantly arranged on the glossy pages of magazines looks a lot like advertising for more stuff. So, is it true simplicity people want or just the appearance of it? To simplify does not mean to simply organize an ever-expanding cache of possessions. It doesn’t mean having it all but just being better organized about it. I’ll admit, I’m as big a fan of IKEA as there ever was. I have, at times, become obsessed with the pursuit of the perfect home image, attempting to model my entire home to look just like it came from the pages of a catalog or magazine. But do I really need all this stuff? It’s an easy trap to fall into.
Achieving simplicity requires conscious choice. It will not happen by chance. In science classes we were taught that systems in nature tend to move from chaos to order, random molecules organizing themselves into complex systems. But in the society we’ve built for ourselves, it seems to be just the opposite: our lives automatically tend towards ever-increasing disorder and chaos. To achieve simplicity takes a tremendous amount of effort and deliberate choice. But I believe it is a worthwhile pursuit.
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