• Andrea Robinson

7 Paths to Simplicity

Excerpts from a beautiful article by simplicity warrior Wanda Urbanska, sustainability activist and author.

Financial Independence

Putting your financial house in order is the most basic path to simple living. The simple approach to finance is based on three central concepts: Live frugally; save liberally; retire debt as fast as you can.

Start by reexamining your relationship with money. This may involve adjusting your definition of success — basing it on solvency rather than the appearance of affluence. Wrap your mind around the concept that less is more.

Work You Love

Have you noticed that people who love their work tend to immerse themselves in it, regardless of how much they’re paid? Finding work that challenges you and carries inherent satisfaction is important, because it will naturally reduce your tendency to overspend as a way of compensating yourself for doing work you don’t like.

If your paycheck is your primary motivation, you should look elsewhere. No paycheck can compensate you for a meaningless work life, and you’ll live happily on less if you are genuinely enthusiastic about what you do.

Rethink Housing Choices

During the last two years, Americans have begun to embrace the benefits of the “not-so-big” house. If the home you have is more than you need, consider downsizing, sharing housing, or renting out a room or two.

No matter the size of your current home, you can seek residential simplicity by making streamlined, eco-friendly remodeling and updating decisions. It’s far wiser, for example, to invest in high-performance insulation or energy-saving windows before investing in new countertops, since the former will pay monthly dividends for life with reduced power bills.

Reclaim Homemaking

Many Americans today are so overworked that they have dropped homemaking from the “to-do” lists of their lives. Some people delegate the task to pricey cleaning services; others throw up their hands and turn a reluctant blind eye to the dust bunnies roaming across the living-room floor.

Caring for something — a pet, a child, a garment — attaches us more closely to it. This is true for your home, as well. When you make housework your friend, you’ll find that your home becomes your sanctuary.

To reclaim homemaking, carve out a small amount of time each day for domestic routines — and then elevate them to daily ritual. You can start with simple things, like opening your curtains to welcome the first light of day, making your bed and folding your couch throw “just so” to invite use at the end of the day.

Food and Family

Relish the pleasures of the table by staging healthful sit-down meals. Turn off the TV, electronics and phones before sitting down to eat. Earmark time for cooking meals from scratch, involving family members whenever possible. Even one homemade item adds caring and dimension to a meal. Breaking healthy bread together on weekends is a primary family ritual that will let you reap delicious rewards now and create intimate memories for a lifetime.

A Garden of Your Own

Have you ever noticed that whenever you bring fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers into your home, they steal the scene? Everyone loves the beauty, the aroma, the connotation of care.

Farmers’ markets are a wonderful source of all this fresh produce, of course. But better and more satisfying still is growing your own goods in your own yard. It’s more local, less expensive and healthier: You soak up vitamin D from the sun, get some exercise and let your mind slip into a meditative state. And did I mention harvesting the actual fruits of your labor? That’s the sweetest thrill of all!

You can start small: Just one tomato plant on your patio will net you an unexpected bounty (enough for several pots of homemade chili!). And while you’re at it, cultivate beauty with flowers and plantings. Nothing man-made quite compares.

Reclaim Community Life

We live in a culture where self-containment is seen as a life-simplifying strategy. We think that keeping our distance will help us avoid complicating variables. And yet perhaps you’ve noticed that striking up an impromptu conversation with a neighbor or stranger at the supermarket can lift your spirits in surprising ways. That’s because human beings crave connection with each other, and we long for a sense of community.

A great way to engage more in community life is by joining and regularly participating in a group, club or organization. You’ll begin to look forward to the regular meetings, and a host of benefits will follow.

It’s easy to let our lives become consumed with unnecessary busyness, worry and distraction. But when we walk down each of these seven paths mindfully, our steps will feel lighter, our spirits refreshed.

Wanda Urbanska is a sustainability activist and author of The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life (Krause, 2010). She is the host and producer of the television series Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska.