The simplicity of your life is defined by your needs. The fewer needs you have, the more simple your life is.
I like this definition of simple living because it accommodates the reality that people live different lifestyles, and how they adapt them to be simple is open for personal interpretation.
This means you don’t have to live in a tiny home to have a simple life. You don’t have to wear an all black, 10 piece wardrobe to live a simple life. And you are not required to give up your smartphone to be a simple living genius.
To live your simple life, you examine what’s important to you, and acknowledge tradeoffs of choices and their impact on your life’s needs.
Thinking about your life in terms of your needs is a personal experience, and part of living an intentional life.
The Cabin in the Woods?
You’ve probably seen the picture before. The rustic cabin nestled alongside a lake. The wood burning fireplace in the open room, throwing off heat on a winter afternoon. Rustic, quiet, and minimal. The simple living dream!
But it’s not my simple living dream…
I live in a 1,800 sqft home in the suburbs of a midwest town. It’s about a quarter mile from my work, and two miles from my daughter’s daycare. It’s got plenty of room for our current family, and should be able to amply fit another child should we have one. The mortgage and taxes are less than 30% of our take-home pay.
It’s not a cabin in the woods. It’s a normal home in the suburbs. And we made this housing choice to keep our life simple.
I know that for me personally, a tiny cabin home would not make my life any simpler. I value the reasonable amount of space our home has and the location that it is in. I also value that I’m living in a full home with a foundation, utilities, and public services. While I am paying more for my home than I would for a rural cabin, our housing costs are in line with our family budget.
The rustic cabin does look appealing for a getaway… but it would drastically increase the needs we have in life. I’d need to drive a lot more to go anywhere. I’d need to get wood for heat. I’d need to maintain a septic system. I’d need to worry about snow removal and general land care. And so on.
For my family, our suburban housing choice was personally what we decided based on needs. That doesn’t mean that somebody else, with a different life and priorities, can’t justify the cabin as being the most simple choice. I just know that I personally would gain more “needs”, and make my life less simple in the process.
How Your Life Choices Effect Needs
Living an examined life allows you to prioritize what is important to you, and what “needs” are created because of them. Through doing so, you can actively make your life simpler by reducing your needs.
Health – According to the Mayo Clinic, about 70% of people in the United States take at least one type of prescription drug. Healthy life choices would help to drastically reduce the amount of prescription medication that we collectively take. So-called “lifestyle illnesses” like diabetes, high blood pressure and forms chronic pain, are sometimes caused by the way people choose to live their lives. Choosing to eat healthy food, and live an active life would enable people to have less medical needs, and consequently a more simple life.
Finances – Needing to worry about money is something that can be solved over time through good financial choices. A simple financial life can be created by reducing spending, increasing saving, and rethinking major purchases in your life. Having an emergency fund and little debt also makes some “needs” less scary. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is not simple because you NEED that money to keep the lights on.
Relationships – As you already know, people create needs in your life. Choosing who you associate yourself with allows you to create a more simple life. While every relationship has it’s tradeoffs, I actively try to stay friends with people who don’t always need things (or emotional energy) from me.
Minimalism – Being a minimalist means less need for consumer goods. In addition to the tie-in with finances, minimalism is a mental paradigm shift of what is required in life. It’s a powerful life philosophy that calls for what we “need” in terms of goods and services to be reflected on.
Rethinking Your Needs
When you are looking at how to start living a more simple life, start with your needs. Both reactive and proactive.
What obligations do you have in life? Can any of them be reduced or eliminated by making different choices?
When considering something new in your life, think about its impact. Will this create additional needs/obligations in my life? Or better, will this reduce my life’s needs, leading to a more simple life?