(Firstly, let me apologise for the ‘x’. Turns out it’s difficult to come up with a word beginning with ‘x’ that made sense for this series (xylophone? x-ray?) If you can think of a good one, let me know in the comments!)
Fear holds us back in our efforts to simplify – don’t you think?
- “What if I need this one day?”
- “What if I offend someone by getting rid of their gift?”
- “What if people judge me for wearing the same clothes regularly?”
- “What if someone doesn’t like me after I say no to a commitment?”
I am as guilty as anyone of these fear-based responses. But in the search for a simpler life, I think we should begin to ask, “Why not?”
Why not try?Why not see how this goes? Why not experiment?
[n. ik-sper-uh-muhnt; v. ek-sper-uh-ment]
1. a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act for the purpose of discovering something unknown or testing a principle.
a chemical experiment; a teaching experiment; an experiment in living.
If we approach change as an experiment rather than a permanent lifestyle shift, there is really nothing to lose by trying something new.
But the key is to actually try something new. Because if nothing changes, then… nothing changes. Simplifying may not be the answer, but we won’t know until we try.
Start With a No-Lose Experiment
Just nudge yourself out of your comfort zone by experimenting with a small change, and ensure you can undo the experiment if it turns out not to work for you.
- Follow the minimalist wardrobe challenge, Project 333. Courtney asks you to live for three months with only 33 items of clothing. Whatever extra clothes you own are put into storage while you see how far a minimal wardrobe can stretch. At the end of the three months, you’ve lost nothing and gained a whole new understanding of what clothes you really need, and what you can let go of.
- Choose a flat surface in your home – a shelf, the top of a chest of drawers, a coffee table or the kitchen benchtop – and clear it of everything. All the stuff that was previously there can be packed away in a box. Live with the empty space for a month and see if you enjoy having somewhere empty to rest your eyes and the calming feeling of a decluttered space. After the month is up you can choose to keep the contents of the box or donate it.
- If you use a smartphone, try removing your email app from it for a week. Use your desktop/laptop for email instead and see how you feel when you’re not constantly on-call. You lose nothing except time, stress and anxiety.
Try a Low-Risk Experiment
- Say no. If you really don’t think you should join another committee or spend another night babysitting, then simply say no. You may be surprised to see the world continues to turn and your friends do not disown you. The small risk, of course, is putting noses out of joint.
- Box up all that beautiful but unused glassware, silverware or home decor. (Weddings gifts, hand-me-downs from family and out-dated items are ripe with this kind of clutter). If it all remains in the box for 3 months and you do not miss it, commit to selling or donating it.
- Scan all your old photos and store them on an external hard-drive and/or on the cloud. Place all the physical photos back in their box and commit to getting rid of the box in a months time if you haven’t needed to look at the contents. The small risk is a catastrophic tech fail, where all data is lost and your images can’t be retrieved. Not likely to happen, particularly if you store your images in two separate places.
- Choose one room in your home, or one category of stuff (toys, sporting gear, collectables, books) and hold a packing party. Put all of it away in boxes and only pull items out as needed. Then, after a set amount of time, commit to donating the stuff still in boxes.
Of course you could also opt to go all-in and give away your possessions, move to a tiny home, go travelling for a year or shift your family from the city to a rural property. (Sounds fun!) But in the interests of making steady, small changes, the no-risk and low-risk experiments would be a good place to start. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
What could you experiment with right now? What would push you ever-so-slightly out of your comfort zone?