Being content with what you have in life is not an easy thing in the world we live in. We are bombarded with advertisement, telling us that we need to buy this and that to make our lives better, or we need to travel here and there to get the most out of life. What this does is rob us from being fully content with the life we currently live. Living without that “fear of missing out” means turning off the noise of these merchants and looking at what makes you happy – not what these companies say should make you happy.
Contentment in my life comes from having affordable housing that provides the shelter my family and I need, my pets to love and cuddle, and the fulfilling relationships with those people I choose to spend my time with. I am content with my daily walks with my dog, my bi-weekly date with one of my best friends, and the easy conversation with the man who is quickly becoming one of the most important people in my life. There are, of course, other components to this, but these things are some of the most vital pieces that keep me happy.
Gratitude for what we have contributes to living a content life. Appreciate all the good things that are present, and value the experience of the not so good things because it helps to truly see what blessings there are in life. I hope to never lose sight of the truly important things that provide me with that sense of contentment that I have found.
Some things bring tears to your eyes. Not because they are sad, but because they are memories in the making. Tears of happiness or of joy but knowing that these moments will not last. Tears of trying to make the most of the time in the moment yet trying to freeze the emotion and feeling so that it can be felt again when that memory comes to mind in the future.
Tears come to my eyes often. I am an emotional creature. Tears are healing. They help to wipe the past hurts away; to open the doors to new and healthier experiences. Tears are therapeutic. To soothe and hug you when you need consoling.
But tears in these happy moments are the ones that remind me that these things—these moments, are the ones to remember and cherish, because they are the ones that I will want to remember in years to come. These are the moments that life was made up of. The growing years and the happiness that made for a good life.
We live in a world where everyone is busy; the faster the pace, the better. But what would happen if we chose to slow down, even for a day? What would happen if we said no to all those things that are supposedly so important that we can’t make time for ourselves or our loved ones?
With the spending season upon us, and Black Friday happening a mere two days ago, we are being bombarded with advertisements and flyers to buy this and spend our money on that. But the things the stores are selling are far from the greatest gift you could give your child, spouse, or even your best friend.
My Black Friday evening, because I worked all day, was not spent shopping the so-called deals. My Black Friday was spent enjoying the company of one of my very best friends in the world. We gave each other the best give we could: our time and our attention. It was a lovely three or four hour visit, sitting in the corner of a quaint tapas bar. We enjoyed a couple glasses of red wine and a cheese board together as we took the time to catch up; to fill each other in on our lives. There we were, sitting inside in the dim ambiance, with a tea light candle at one side of the table, and beautiful pieces of art on the walls next to us. Outside, there was the bustle of the winter festival where we could see families passing by and enjoying the mild winter evening together. We watched as children explored the fire truck parked just across the street, and the horse drawn wagons pass by with children happily waving at patrons as they glided by, courtesy of the team of horses and their driver. We saw couples hand in hand as they walked past the window, smiling and clearly enjoying each other’s presence.
Time is more precious and more valuable than money. In my world, if I want to show someone how much I care, I give them the gift of my time. It is the most precious commodity I have. Consider this, as we enter into the holiday season. Consider re-thinking that expensive give in exchange for something that is far more precious and valuable. Give the gift of your time.
I love libraries. I love the smell of books, and seeing row upon row of books in the stacks. I love the nostalgia I feel when I enter a library and think back to my days as a preteen girl, spending my summer holidays amongst the millions of stories that lived within the library walls.
Libraries, I am afraid, seem to be losing their appeal. With the advent of ebooks, ereaders, and google, libraries seem to be less frequented by society as a whole. It saddened me recently when there was a vote in my community where a new library was proposed to be built, and more than half the votes declined building the new branch library. A part of my heart broke when the results were posted. It seemed to signal the end of an era: an era where everyday life could be escaped and instead lived in the adventures awaiting in the library stacks.
But libraries still do amazing things. They house audiobooks and videos alongside traditional paper books. They house events for writers and readers, programs for preschool, children and teenagers. They host author readings and interviews. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to photograph three published authors for my local library this past week. It was an honour to do so, and my nervousness quickly melted away as I had the chance to learn just a little bit of each author as a person, not just a master of the written word.
For those who still strive for simplicity in their lives, don’t forget about all the pleasures the library still provides. Revel in the books and stories still available within your reach without adding to the clutter in your minimalist home. Take in a book club discussion, or volunteer with other programs your library provides. It is worth it.
One of the things that I have noticed as I get older is how much I value having simplicity in my life. I value a quiet existence.
When I was younger and eager, I had grander plans for my career. I set myself up for a workaholic lifestyle. I was no stranger to this; my father did the same, and even now, he still continues to do so even though he should maybe be enjoying his retirement years. I worked hard, worked extra on my own hours assuming that this is what life was supposed to be, and at some point I would be rewarded with all the fruits of my labor.
It took a couple of decades (plus some) to realize that this is not the life I wanted. I did what I thought I was supposed to do, then at the end of every night I would crash into bed for a couple hours of sleep only to rise again early the next morning and do it all over again. I was exhausted, fuelled by caffeine and deeply unsatisfied even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
It took a major life event to change all of that for me. It took a complete upheaval in my personal and even professional life to realize that I was miserable with what I was doing, and looked at how I could change my life to enjoy what I had. The key was simple. The key was a simple life.
Your job or your career is only a means to an end. It does not define you. It finances your life but it is not who you are.
Once I looked at it in this way, my personal life began to flourish in ways I never saw before. I love my personal time now. I choose what to do with it. I take classes in what interests me, not what I think will give me more advantages for work. I create. I love. And sometimes, I do nothing. Doing nothing was a difficult concept to grasp, but now that I have released so many of the career-focused ideals I enforced upon myself, I can now see how wonderful and refreshing doing nothing really can be. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Enjoy your life. Relax. Take time to appreciate things. Do something for yourself. You won’t regret it.
I was fortunate enough over the past couple weeks to gain some perspective on the philosophy of minimalism. I spent the better part of a week away, cultivating relationships with family friends. During this time, I needed to choose what I would do with my down time in the evening. I brought a couple minor things…a tablet to continue with my writing, some kitchen cotton to crochet some dishcloths-a minimal mental task that keeps my hands busy when I’m feeling tired, and my aromatherapy studies.
During the course of the week I discovered a couple things: The space I was spending time with was peaceful with minimal items in the room. It simply allowed the mind to rest. I spent more time with people, interacting instead of spending time in front of distractions. The tablet never came out until everyone was settled into their beds. It was a good exercise in being present.
A valuable lesson came out of this experience for me. I discovered that even though I hold on to the ideals and philosophies of minimalism, I am still finding that there is a lot of stuff that lives with me in my house. After returning home, I looked at my house with a refreshed minimalism lens and began going through things to donate or discard as needed. It was quite satisfying to shred fifteen year old documents, and provide a new home for clothing items that were gently used, or not used at all. In the kon marie way, these items had served their purpose at the time, and now they needed to be thanked and sent on their way.
I still have a way to go, but it is a journey. I am still ever grateful for the experience to refresh my determination to live a simple life.
Heritage locations that showcase how life used to be lived can be a great reminder of just how far we have come. It’s also a reminder of how much simpler life used to be. People didn’t have computers, smart phones, or even robotics to help do their jobs. They used good old muscle power.
I spent the day at one of these such sites this week. I like to visit places like this alone and truly immerse myself in the sense of what it was truly like at that time. Why? Because I hope that the reminder will help me to appreciate what we have now. Also, to remind me that we don’t need everything we have in this modern life we live. It helps reinforce my minimalistic lifestyle and appreciate what I have and use daily even more.
We live a good life. We don’t plow the fields with a horse drawn plow anymore. Most of us don’t even have a need to grow our own food, so if we do, it is more of a hobby than a necessity. Imagine the wonder that our ancestors would have had if they were told that growing food would become a hobby!
We are beyond fortunate. We are spoiled with having immediate gratification. Taking time to remember this perspective is grounding. I am grateful for the reminder.
The other day I went to visit my doctor. As usual, he asked how I was doing and if I was seeing anyone. My doctor likes to keep tabs on me since he knew the issues that occurred before and during the divorce. He always asks how my children are coping as well.
Am I seeing anyone? No, not really. But do I want to be? Well, that got me to thinking. Then the next day I read a brief article on the benefits of being single. That got me thinking even more. There are a lot of benefits to being single. You are the only one spending your income, so you choose where it goes. You decide if you use a credit card for a high-cost item or if you decide to save up before purchasing it. You decide how to pay off debt (like divorce debt), and how you allot your dollars. You decide how to decorate your home. Are you a minimalist or do you like to fill your home with things? Your choice. You decide if you want a pet, and if so, what kind? Do you want to travel? Where do you want to go?
Here’s the best one. You become utterly and solely you. When in a relationship, partners tend to pick up on certain pieces of the other partner’s personality. Quirks, sayings, behaviours. These things tend to blend. The dominant personality tends to overshadow the less dominant personality. You essentially become the same person. However, when you choose a life of being single, you know that who you are is simply you. And that is a good feeling.
I have had a week where I was able to spend time doing the things I enjoy. There were still things that needed to get done, like take the little ones to school and make dinner, but I did these things in a way that I preferred.
We walked to school, which is a convenient 5 minute walk. We brought the dog both ways. We didn’t need to use before and after school care this week, and that made a huge difference in how much time we had to do things together and the free time they had without having homework or meal time. Our days suddenly gained a lot of time.
We made meals that were fun and delicious with organic whole foods that were deliciously vegetarian. Dinner became a joy instead of a chore.
It’s amazing how the simple things take on more enjoyment when you have time. Less stuff means less to clean. Less to own means less to owe. This gives way to freedom. The less you need to work to pay the bills for the stuff you need to clean. Seems pretty straightforward, no? With less, you can do more of what you love.