how i’m choosing to simplify (quarantine or not)

There are a million ways to strip things down, cut them in half, pare them in pieces, and minimalize. Whatever words you choose to Google to find the magic antidote that will work for you will likely bring up one of a hundred different methods. From Konmari to The Minimalists, from the 10×10 Challenge to the 333 Challenge, there are sustainable, ethical, “clean,” fair trade and/or GMO Certified Organic options galore. From there, you can choose to go vegan or live as an omnivorous homesteader. You can shop secondhand only. You can hoard toilet paper so you don’t have to leave home or say you’ll be fine without it. You can believe in climate change or not. You can #slowliving or rebel against social media entirely. But you can’t. do. it all.

When I first began investigating a shift in my lifestyle, I encountered 3 words that came up again and again – words that felt interchangeable, but actually exist to promote many different ways of living: Simple, Slow, and Sustainable. These words can easily go hand-in-hand, and for many they do. But for someone just starting out, adhering to each one at every moment is pretty much impossible. The trick then becomes finding which way might work for you…. and tactfully avoiding all the bullshit that someone is trying to market at you because you googled their keyword once or twice.

Believe me. I should know.

Right now, I think we’re all finding ourselves a little more curious about hashtags like #simpleliving. We’ve never HAD to live this way before….and now we have no choice. So in our boredom and confusion, we’re looking for answers. We’re looking for tips and tricks. We’re looking for, as I said before, happiness in this new normal we find ourselves living. Happiness that was once rooted in things and activities, but now must find its place in the four walls that enclose us.

For many of us, the simplicity we seek is necessary. Maybe we’ve lost our jobs and we have to live with less. Maybe we’re still financially stable, but unsure of what the future holds. And maybe we’ve got all we’ll ever need, but we’re sincerely missing out on the vacation we had to cancel or the plans we wish we could make with friends.

But right now, simplicity (for all of us) looks a lot like knowing how to live with just ourselves. It looks like finding joy in what we have: whether it’s the same old t-shirt, a pack of Ramen noodles, or our crying children whom we now have to homeschool while we work from home. Some of us know we’re lucky to have family or pets around, but we’re wishing we had just a little more space, a little more clarity. Maybe we don’t know how to structure our days when there’s nothing we “have” to do, aside from surviving.

When I made this list of things I intended to do to simplify my life, I didn’t know I was going to have no choice in the matter. I wanted to challenge myself to stay at home, to commit to the simple obligations I’d made to myself (like a pre-paid yoga class package), and to find joy in the things I already had, rather than seeking quick satisfaction in something new.

In all honesty, living the Quarantine Life has been good for me – it’s removed many of the obstacles that might have stood in my way. But that still doesn’t make it easy. So now what?

Like I said, right now we have no choice. But what if we pretended like we did? What if we pretended like the stores were still open and the world was still moving around us, but today was a just any old day that we’d chosen to keep for ourselves?

Would it feel more joyous?

Would it feel more special?

Would it feel like an opportunity, a fantasy, or even – a luxury?

Because that’s what I want this time to feel like, even though most days it feels like my brain is in such a fog that I don’t know what to do next.

I want this to feel like my choice.

Because if none of this virus stuff was going down, then it would have been my choice.

And if the only power that I can claim for myself right now is the belief that I’m in control….then why not grab a hold of it and GO?

Here are the things I’m practicing in my (intentional, not imposed) effort towards simplicity:

  1. Cleaning Out My Closet : I want my wardrobe to be filled with things I love, so even on the down days I can still feel good about myself. Of course, I can’t exactly donate anything right now – so if anyone’s searching for some secondhand clothing, hit a girl up!
  2. Practicing Gratitude (Online, in a Journal, and in Thought) : When I look out the window at the 30 acres of horse pastures that surround me, at the ridiculous goat antics, at the fresh chicken eggs on the counter from our neighbor, I know my situation is entirely unique. I’m quite lucky. But you probably have things that you know you should be grateful for, too. Maybe it’s your health, your family, your access to food, a nice backyard or close proximity to a park. Whatever it is – now is the time to recognize it in whatever way feels right to you. Bathing your thoughts in gratitude? It’s the best form of self care there is.
  3. Minimizing My Social Media Use : I was actually doing pretty great with this until quarantine hit. Lately, I’ve been so at odds with the world that all I can do is numb out. But I know that’s only making things worse – even if there is some really awesome uplifting content out there – so this is a biggie for me and a daily struggle.
  4. Drinking Tea : There’s just something about tea, isn’t there? It’s makes things slow down, it warms your soul, and it just feels special (especially when each cup comes with its own set of affirmations.
  5. Going to Yoga – A Non-Negotiable : Welp. Once the virus hit, my studio closed down and I was unable to fulfill those pre-paid classes. But exercise is still a priority right now – getting up and moving is such a gift, even especially if you’ve got nowhere to go.
  6. Cooking at Home (and learning to wash our own dishes) : Homemade brownies, french fries, veggie quesadillas, cabbage noodles, big ole salads with frozen chicken tenders – these are the nights memories are made of. But honestly, we’ve been enjoying the extra time we now have to actually cook at home every night. This whole “having no choice” thing is actually a quite beautiful scenario. And now that our dishwasher needs a new part, I’m not even exaggerating when I say that having to wash and dry our dishes has added an extra level of appreciation to our days.
  7. Not Shopping for the Things I Don’t Need : This is a biggie, y’all. But given that I don’t get the same thrill from online shopping, I’m doing pretty well with all these stores being closed! Still, even as I peruse all these WFH sales, I find myself really questioning what (if anything) I need. And the truth is, when I ask that question….I can’t bring myself to buy any of it.
  8. Nixing the Marketing Emails + Subscribing to the Good Ones : If you look for them, there are actually a lot of helpful, simply informative newsletters out there to subscribe to. But you’ll never find them if your inbox is clogged with “special deals.” It’s such a relief to say no to all those triggering emails I’ve been receiving for years. Phew.
  9. Reading What I Have : I don’t just love shopping for clothes and home goods. Books are an issue, too. So I’m really trying to focus on catching up on all the books I’ve bought over the last few years. I’ve even put them on their own shelf so it’s like my own little reminder library. I’ve gotten through 2 of them already!
  10. Working on the She Shed : Yep! I’ve got my own little she shed, y’all. We put a lot of work into it right before Thanksgiving (it’s also our new guest house), but never quite finished it. Technically, this is the place I should be escaping to when I need some relief. And putting some work into the final details that make it feel complete is also a productive way to spend my “simplified” time.
  11. Granting Myself Grace : At the start of this year, heck, at the start of this Quarantine, I had some pretty big plans for myself. But really, it was just a lot of things that I believed I HAD to do if I wanted to see change. I’m finally starting to relax and learn that I can affect my mind in a variety of ways, at any given time, in any given place. So long as I’m having a “good as it can be” kind of day, then that’s success, right?
  12. Investing in My Emotional Education : From thrifted Joni Mitchell CDs to books on herbal medicine and “indigenous wisdom,” I’m enjoying the down time that comes with simplicity as it allows me to explore new things.

The gist is this: when we rest, we open. And while not all times allow for rest, this one sure does. So let’s take advantage. Let’s take it slow. And let’s simplify.