" Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things." Elise Boulding
Last summer I took myself off on a long pre-baby bike ride knowing this was something that I would have limited opportunity to do once I became a parent. I was away on my bike for 11 days and as with all trips of this nature there were a mixture of mainly high moments and a few lower ones. When I got to the end of the ride and reflected on what I’d done I realised that one of the things I enjoyed most was how simple my life became for those 11 days. Essentially all I had to do every morning was jump on my bike and get to my destination in one piece by nightfall.
An element that really contributed to the simplicity of my life on the ride was the fact that I had so few possessions with me. Obviously the more things I took, the more I had to carry and the harder my trip would have been, so I took hardly anything. I had just 2 small bags filled mainly with bike tools and gear, my phone, a netbook, a few toiletries and one change of clothes. I loved it. Carrying less stuff meant fewer things to worry about loosing, fewer things to break, fewer things to tidy and fewer things to pack when I moved on each day.
Following the trip, I started to cast a critical eye over my possessions back home to see if there were things I could cut out. There were a lot. The first change was in my office where I condensed 2 full shelving units down to one and I was able to turn my desk round so it looked out at the garden. Less stuff meant more space to play with and hence a nicer view whenever i am working. Next I started on my wardrobe. Obviously, a long bike ride is a bit of an extreme situation and if I were to only have one change of clothes in real life my wife might have something to say and friends would probably become a little thinner on the ground. I did however get rid of all those clothes that 'I might wear one day' realising that in all probability I would never wear them. In order to maintain the increased space I decided to adopt a new policy of getting rid of (recycling) an old piece of clothing every time I buy a new one.
Since the ride I've also started to become more conscious of my purchases, trying not to buy things that I don’t think really serve a purpose or which I can borrow. This isn’t always easy as I don’t want to impose my new found lust for simplicity on my family and with a young baby there is a constant influx of new items that we seem to need. But progress is been made and it’s a very liberating process to go through. By surrounding ourselves with things, we make our lives much more complicated and stressful. All the stuff we accumulate not only costs us money but we have to maintain it, store it, and clean it. I’m no where near where I want to be yet and my mission continues. I’ve yet to start on the garage and the thought of tackling that is a bit scary, but i know I'll be glad when I've done it. Every time I get rid of an item or resist the urge to purchase something I don’t really need I feel my own little world is all the better for it.
If your interested in simplifying things check out The 100 Thing Challenge to find out about Dave Bruno's rather more extreme de-cluttering experiment. It’s an interesting read.