Simplifying Life and Being Happier // Trina O'Gorman August 01 2017


I spent most of my childhood in the suburbs of Maplewood, New Jersey, where on school days, some kids still walked home for lunch to nicely painted colonial homes with well-manicured lawns. My childhood home was neatly kept. We rarely ate out, even though I was raised in a dual-income household. Somehow my working mother provided us with three healthy, home cooked meals each day, our house was always clean and tidy. There were never dishes in the sink, even before we had the luxury of a dishwasher. The clothes were always washed and folded, and the hamper never overflowed with dirty laundry. On Sundays, we went to church and/or we visited with grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sundays were slow days. Lazy days. Rest days. God said so. Even God rested on Sundays.

With God and my mother both resting on Sunday, I found that I was often very bored, like out of my mind bored. And I would look for things to do. It was in those moments that I discovered a deep affection for reading novels and poetry, loving rainstorms, making lists, and having intensely long philosophical debates with my girlfriend, Karen. I would need to find things to do to pass all of that time. They were called pastimes. Remember those? Back then, it was more than okay to do those things. Pastimes were expected.

But too often these days we are caught up in the myth that being busy correlates with one’s personal value and having a lot of stuff correlates with satisfaction, neither of which is true. In fact, research shows that the reverse is more often the case. Our worth is not measured by how busy we are, but rather how much we contribute to the lives of others. And our happiness usually decreases with the more “stuff” we have.

Lighten your load, and lighten your heart. The lightening of the load seems to go for both tangible items, as well as the tasks on our to-do lists, and neither of those are easy for many of us to let go of because we are obsessed with being busy and practicing consumerism to excess. They are engrained in American culture, at least, through media and marketing channels.

Where do we even begin to simplify our lives, so we can savor the moments? One good place is to identify one’s purpose(s) and then set intentions that include living purposefully and mindfully. These are easy and popular terms to bandy about, but in all actuality, not so easy to commit to in the age of envy-inducing social media perusing, while trying to manage the barrage of information and choices that serve to distract us.

Here are five ways to live a slower, simpler life:

  1. Identify your core values and purpose. Being clear on what you value and what you want to do with your life really helps you manage your time and make better decisions. 
  2. Schedule your day and place a high value on down time. Spending time with my boys is not something I want to do, if I have time. It’s a priority. I make sure there is time blocked out for them, and then I work around it. They are a top priority. Exercising and writing are also very high on the list of priority. 
  3. Unplug. Staying connected can be a drain on your time and attention. It makes it difficult to pull away and to be mindful. Designate certain times of the day “connection-free.” 
  4. Be mindful. Being aware and present takes a lot of focus and concentration. It slows us down and allows us to savor life. 
  5. Declutter. Having too many choices can make decision making and organization difficult. Pare down to just a few things that you need.
 

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