Charmed by Simplicity

I have been stressed out by a good many things in these past couple of years; including by job, my husband’s health, the poor economy and the state of the world. As some of you readers know I had been giving meditation a try; but not faithfully or successfully or I wouldn’t be so freakin stressed-out. Right? I have also been working on being less negative and “snarky,” again with the best intentions but not my usual follow-through, as demonstrated by the last two sentences. Oh well, I’m a work in progress.

Simplicity articles and stories fill me with envy and a desire to sell everything and find my simplicity path, but which path there are so many, it’s not very simple.

This story by David Wallis, Increasingly, Retirees Dump their Possessions and Hit the Road, in the New York Times talks to several retirees about how they sold everything and are now permanently traveling. One couple has been spending the last two years living in a tent in different parts of the world, another couple stays in short-term vacation rentals in different countries every few months and yet another woman lives on something like $150 per month by working on organic farms for room and board or couch surfing around the country.

A comment from one of the traveling couples;

““We simply traded the money we were spending for overhead on a house and garden in California for a life in much smaller but comfortable HomeAway rentals in more interesting places,” Ms. Martin said by email from Paris.”

Sell everything the house, the cars and the possessions that weigh us down and travel the world with just the necessities of life seems like a pretty awesome way to spend your golden years.

A Sandy Keenan article in the New York Times, “Freedom in 704 Square Feet” featured this quote from a neighbor of the featured couple who, to have more time to live rather than maintain a home, live in a small house in Portland, Oregon;

None of this has gone unnoticed by the neighbors. Kim Conrow, 65, who lives next door, marveled: “On weekends, they actually go places and do things. They’re not tied to the projects most of us are tied to. I’m so charmed by the simplicity of it.

A smaller house with less overhead, less to clean, less to worry about and maintain. We purchased our townhome during the market dive, but of course we were not close enough to the bottom when we did buy and are still underwater, even if not quite as bad as some of our neighbors. This adds to the stress, because if we did want to sell it, it’s going to cost us even more money to truly get out from underneath the obligation. And we may need to sell because living in a house with two sets of stairs doesn’t work all that well for a guy that is on oxygen. But he does climb the stairs several time a day like a trouper.

I purchased a book, Secrets of Simplicity – Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno about 6 or 7 years ago. It has lots of helpful lessons about how to curb your wants and focus on your needs, help you realize how much you have already in the way of family, friends and things and how to appreciate them now, and how to change a habit like “shopping” and start a new one like “exercising”. One particularly funny passages in the section on “Focus” she is telling the reader about being in a yoga class and her teacher was talking about Prana, which means breath.

“One day my teacher, Laurie Goldstein, was talking about Prana, which means “breath” or the “life force,” arguably the most essential part of yoga. In my distracted state, I heard “Prada.” Suddenly, instead of taking deep cleansing breaths, I found myself mentally wandering through Saks purchasing high-end designer goods. Though I cannot liken my shopping addiction to a chemical need like that of nicotine, alcohol, or even caffeine, the battle to avoid shopping is one I fight every day! As evidenced in my yoga class, sometimes the temptation creeps up even when I have the best intentions.” 

For me this was funny, but also, sadly a little too close to home; because I do find my mind wandering to a beautiful new coat from Barneys or some pretty bauble from Nordstrom or just some random shopping for something at Target. And I need nothing right now, absolutely nothing, yet my brain still starts thinking about when I will have the next opportunity to shop. When the urge starts to get too strong or I have fallen off the wagon I pull out this book and it helps me re-focus on what’s important.

Do you ever long for a simpler life? Or are you living one? What is your secret?