For many years now, I have been circling around an idea that I have decided to put under the label “simple life.” A “simple life” could mean almost anything, so I will make some concrete assertions of what I mean by this term. Someone living a “simple life” can be described in the following terms.
In a simple life, we avoid unnecessary complexities and frustrations in our daily routines. We do things in a way that is efficient and easy, from cleaning to preparing meals.
We avoid owning things that are not useful, or which contribute little or nothing to our happiness. We don’t horde or otherwise collect things out of a sense of obligation or fear of letting go. We don’t buy things hoping to change our personality or sense of self.
We don’t waste time on social media, 24/7 news, or other dubious sources of information. The “faster” an information source is, the less reliable it is. We prefer “slower” sources of information, such as books, thoughtful discussion forums, and long-form articles.
The purpose of a “simple life” is not to deny ourselves things, but to increase our happiness. Very often, the way to increase happiness is not to acquire more things, but to change our lives so that we need fewer things.
For example, the fewer things we have, the easier it is to take care of our home. If we have a lot of things, we have to spend a lot more effort cleaning, storing, and organizing our things.
The principle of “less is more” applies to other areas of life. The less we pay attention to the news, the more we are able to think and work on projects. When we focus our thoughts on things that are out of our control, such as mass societal problems or the vagaries of the economic system, we will find ourselves fearful, anxious, and cranky. Jaron Lanier describes this phenomenon with his term BUMMER. Media platforms thrive on negative emotions. These platforms are engineered to create feelings of outrage, righteous anger, paranoia, and angst, because negative emotions make us click more articles, which generate higher ad revenue for the owner of the platform.
In short, a “simple life” is one in which our circle of concern is limited to just those things that we can really control. In most cases, this limits our concerns to: our habits, our behaviors, our words, and our actions.
In the next few articles, I am going to lay out some groundwork for a simple life. These are not simple checklist items that can be knocked out in a weekend, but rather a set of principles that we can work to embody, and ideals that we can work to achieve. My goal is then to grow this discussion of a “simple life” into a whole different website, covering many different topics related to this central concept.
Since ideals are never fully achievable, I call this process “toward a simple life.”