maybe it’s time for something new : tips for simplicity

Driving through parts of the Tennessee countryside I’ve never seen before, I am always struck by one thing: the simplicity of it all. I mean, when I first moved out to College Grove, it certainly felt like I was in the “middle of nowhere,” but I quickly became familiar with the fastest routes to the nearest grocery stores and soon enough, a 30 minute drive to downtown Nashville (on a good day) didn’t feel so bad.

But the homes I pass on winding tree-lined, single-lane country roads are truly of another variety. These are people who don’t have much to their names aside from a double-wide trailer and a pile of kids toys in the yard. I’d be willing to bet most of them don’t feel the yearn for designer goods or fancy restaurants. They may not even care what they are. Because they know how to appreciate the silence, how to stay at home and have a perfectly good time – likely because they’ve never known any different. While I, on the other hand, have always been privy to convenience – weekends that must be catered to by the latest entertainment, meals bought out “on the town” after a day of shopping, and the constant, incessant need to be doing something exciting.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I want – I just have the sensation that I need something “more”.

This doesn’t exactly make for the best quality of life. I’m always uneasy, trying to remember what hot new spot I wanted to try for dinner this weekend, feeling at a loss when I’m not out of the house and on the road by an early hour. I don’t know how to relax, how to have quiet time, how to appreciate a Sunday afternoon that isn’t based on a rainy day and a Netflix binge.

When I have a day off, I find one reason or another to stay out until “the work day” is done. That’s the only way I know how to be at home – after hours.

And I don’t enjoy being this way. I’d love to wake up at a comfortable time, sip on my coffee for a good hour or so, ease into an enlivening workout, and set to work reading, writing, or crafting…but even when I find the time – these are not the things I choose to do. I don’t make them a priority. I want the ever-elusive “more”. I want adventure, exploration, and exceeding happiness at every waking moment.

What I want most of all is to find all that happiness in the “nothingness”. Yes, I must be motivated. Yes, I must find joy in my work and my relationship – but I shouldn’t be wasting my time seeking something more than what I already have. I don’t need another perfect writers’ bag, another iced coffee, or 5 more wild bandannas. I don’t need the perfect rose gold ring – it’s already on my finger. I don’t need to eat out – I can make it at home. And I don’t need to feel unfulfilled, because my life is going exactly as it’s meant to be.

So what are the things that hold you back? The insecurities, the wishes, the dreams, the pressures to be perfect, respected, or simply seen as a fully-functioning adult? Do they drown out your potential for peace, for self-love, for quiet? Do they disrupt your financial stability, your ability to be happy with what you have and who you are in the moment? Do they leave you feeling like you’ve missed out, like you’ve forgotten something, like you’re letting someone down?

Then STOP! Easier said than done, I know, but you (and I) are not doing ourselves any favors here. If you have the time to sit and read this blog – if you have internet access and shelter and food and comfort and a working mind – then you have all that you need. And I do, too.

So here’s what I propose:

  • Don’t be vapid with (all) your free time. I don’t know about y’all, but as soon as I get online with nothing to do I’m 1. Checking the news, Instagram, or Facebook, and 2. Browsing all the sales that came through my email last night. Nothing is stopping me from doing something more satisfying and enlightening with my time, like writing, walking outside, cooking, cleaning, or reading. Instead, I’m looking for more ideas to fill myself to the brim until I explode. And that’s no good.
  • Set attainable goals that make you feel good. God, y’all, I am not into goal-setting. But it’s actually a pretty great practice. My theory is if you set goals that you know you’ll hit, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going. You’ll feel more satisfied sitting at home and typing if you can feel that you’re satisfying a greater part of yourself. The simplicity of it will serve you well and keep you from distractions.
  • Practice gratitude. Three things, five things, ten things – whatever you can muster, take time daily to think about what you’re grateful for. Very rarely will you be truly grateful for stopping at McDonald’s and getting a McFlurry on your way home. But you will probably discover you’re more grateful for that person who rubs your shoulders before bed, for the painting you sat down and created, or for the excellent meal you whipped up for your friends. The more value you recognize in the little things, the more you’ll crave them – and the more you won’t want more.
  • Let go of perfection. Y’all wanna hear a funny story? I’m obsessed with writers’ bags – usually beautiful, old leather totes that have traveled across the states or the world, worn down by pounds of books, papers, and pens. There is so much personality vested in these bags. But here’s the thing – you can’t truly have one unless you use it. In my endless search for the “perfect bag,” I find myself with way too many – none of which have ever been able to achieve their true purpose and look because they aren’t used with enough regularity to ensure it. This is such an honest note-to-self that less is actually more, and if I could just calm down and be satisfied, I’d eventually get exactly what I want (and save some money/space in the process). When you find yourself craving “those perfect jeans” or “that perfect rug,” stop and ask yourself, Do I really need it? Do I have something already in its place? And you’ll know the answer.
  • Accept that sometimes the “simple things” do still require some $$$. For example, I’ve always been a firm believer in doing my nails myself. It’s unnecessary, right? But after the engagement, I was treated to an SNS manicure – and it’s changed my life. Sure, there’s cost involved, but the stress I save knowing that my nails won’t chip one day after I paint them is so, so worth it. Plus, it helps me feel just a little more glamorous even on the rainiest of days.
  • If you forgot it, it doesn’t matter. This is the hardest thing for me to process. That thought you had that slipped away; that thing you were going to say, but forgot; that store you wanted to go to but missed on the way home? If you forgot it, it doesn’t truly matter. Let it go. Move on. You’ll be happier for it. But likewise, if it’s a thought that’s continuously nagging at you and won’t go away, like GO TO YOGA CLASS, then you should probably do it. Your body won’t lie about what it needs, and some of those “extra to-dos” are, in fact, necessary.
  • Don’t fall victim to the belief that you have to go it alone. Talk to people, share your feelings, your frustrations, your wants and your needs. Sometimes things can naturally become more simple simply because you have help, or because someone else understands what you’re going through. Do you not like staying home because you feel like all the chores fall on you? Then make it a party and work together with your roommate/spouse. Do you wish you had a cozy space all to yourself – then create it! You might be surprised how willing others are to respect your needs – they just need to know what’s going on. And if you’re worried it’s all related to something else, like depression or anxiety, then don’t be afraid to seek real help.

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