Thursday, April 19, 2012

Secrets of Simplicty

On my weekend at the Glen Eryrie Castle hearing from Cynthia Heald on simplicity I had the opportunity to hunker down and spend some wonderful time reading. A previous post shared about the first of three books I read- Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life - and I got just as much out of the second book: Secrets of Simplicity, Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno.
I loved the book which is broken into seven chapters/tabs: Release, Simplify, Treasure, Focus, Invest, Discover, and Thrive. This is truly a thoughtful workbook with plenty of inspiration and a healthy dose of challenging questions. Case in point from Release. "We must accept that we participate in a self-perpetuating cycle. In that cycle, we add new things to our already packed lives in an attempt to comfort ourselves. But, in adding more, we create imbalance, which leads to the desire to add again. Recognizing our excuses is a crucial step in breaking the cycle."

This was followed by a great list of questions to help you identify the signs of an unhealthy shopping habit, such as:
  • Is most of your free time spent either purchasing or returning items?
  • Do you use shopping to change your mood?
  • Do you have a junk room, junk drawer, or storage unit that has unknown contents?
  • Do you hide your shopping habit from loved ones and friends?
  • Is reorganizing a weekly ritual for you?

On to Simplify. As Thoreau learned at Walden's Pond: "He believed that changing his environment would eventually change something inside of him. In the end, he discovered that a simpler life was only partly a result of surroundings: The secret of simplicity lay within him." This chapter has a terrific life inventory checklist to help you identify where overabundance has leaked into more than just the stuff you buy. And then there are the "tolerances" in our lives:

"So what happens when we're living in an unconscious way, running from one crisis to another? We gradually begin to tolerate an unheathy and unpleasant level of half-completed projects, tasks that need to be taken care of -- in other words, problems you put up with because you don't have time or energy to solve them. These are called 'tolerances,' and they're defined as things that distract you, waste your time, weigh you down, and have a negative effect on your life."

In true is this secret of simplicity: "It is not what you discard, but what you keep." Lots of good questions on evaluating what treasure really is. And there is Focus. "You must have the intention not only to do the best you can but also to stay engaged in the process." I loved the suggestion to start a new list, the "what I have done" list. Then Invest takes on the evaluation of our relationship to stuff. One suggestion is to make a list of all the things you have that money just can't buy. She also recommends keeping a money journal for a week -- then asking questions about your relationship to those items.

Discover was full of some nice encouragement. Basically, 'You Can Do It!' Take at least one leap a day in simplifying schedules and time. A great quote from St. Francis of Assisi, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." Important that we compare and contrast our present day and ideal day scenarios. "This exercise forces a comparison between how you actually live and how you wish to live."

Finally to Thrive. "Anything that is worthwhile takes work, understanding, and action. Understand that transformations require the shedding of old ways in order to make way for the new...Living a simpler, more meaningful life involves a commitment to gradually, persistently changing your habits."

This is a terrific book with so much information to engage with. I highly recommend and believe that the questions in the book are a great resource for doing a solid evaluation of your lifestyle and choices.

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