Key Takeaway: Simple living does not necessarily just mean literally spending on just the most basic of basic needs. Simple living means living – and consuming – smartly, and maximizing what we have.
Last Tuesday, I wrote Part 1 of this two-part post on simple living. I decided to split it into two parts not just because of my notoriously long writing (notorious only in school, nowhere else), but also because the discussion I make here seems to be both connected but so much different. I also found my experiences on reading up on it very rich.
The one book that got me thinking on reevaluating my life to become simpler was, aptly, an 18th birthday gift to me by my cousin. Entitled Simple Living for Teens, and subtitled God’s Guide to Enjoying What Matters Most, the book says it all on the front cover: it is a guide for young people on living simply and according to God’s principles.
The book contains 40 meditations, by topic or theme, on simplifying one’s life, with Christian reflections and concrete actions that the everyday youth can do. Given that it reflects on Biblical verses, it is, literally, my bible of simple living.
The book does not tell us to literally dispose of everything material. We have to be practical as well, if we want to make the most out of our lives on earth – and even God knows that. Instead of spoonfeeding us by dropping manna from heaven every mealtime or providing clothes at our doorstep (or the house said doorstep comes with, for that matter) when we need them, God gave us skills to develop to make the most out of His creation on our own, and to enjoy it. God sent us here to enjoy while we go on His mission – but, at the same time, we should moderate everything so that it does not become excessive and against His will – or at the expense of others.
My colleagues taught me that when we need something, naturally, we should not go for the most expensive or the most high-end variant. At the same time, we should not go for the cheapest or most basic, either. Now that I come to think of it, there is a point in the latter, which I think tends to be taken for granted more than the former. If you check out my Pinterest boards, you will notice that since last year, I have been learning how to style myself well. One of the articles I came across taught that we should not buy cheap shoes whose quality may be compromised and will break down after a short while, thereby forcing the need to buy again – but rather, we should get decently-priced shoes (splurge a little, even) of excellent quality, which will last a lifetime and thus eventually yield a lower cost.
Living simply, thus, is all about living smartly. It’s about living: 1) within your means; and 2) within your needs. The latter can be discovered more deeply through prayer and reflection, as we may feel at first that we “need” something but actually we don’t. Living smartly is all about knowing what not to buy, use, or even do – even if the cost of such takes up only a tiny fraction of one’s assets; and of what to buy, use, and do – even if it might be a little costly, as it should prove a worthy investment.
It also applies to abstract, non-material things, such as exerting *that* more amount of effort to yield just a marginally-improved result. Or using up a little of your time on something that seems inconspicuous, but in reality will lead you to use up a lot more of your resources, without any form of returns.
My cousin’s husband thinks this way. Unnecessary purchases as he sees fit, he does not allow his family to undertake, even if it is inexpensive or at a bargain. If it is necessary, or worth the investment (take note, bargain vs. investment), then they will go for it even though it might be a little expensive – they do have the means anyway. I think this is a good train of thought.
One quote in the book struck me when I re-read it the other day: “Simplicity is making the journey of life with just enough baggage.” It is a quote by the American writer Charles Dudley Warner (a friend of Mark Twain’s), and it was placed on the page after the meditation on avoiding debt. Now that I come to think of it, this quote can be taken two ways. First, obviously, simple living is about what I just wrote of lengthily prior to this paragraph: doing away with, among others, unnecessary things material or abstract – like too much clothes, financial debt, perfectionism, and even too much promises.
However, I believe this quote can be taken another way – again, it is all about doing things smartly. We cannot dictate the cards dealt us, but the most we can do is make the most out of said hand. It is about making the most out of it. Concretely, this can apply even to things such as your living space at home, or the way you pack your bag. It is about maximizing what you have, but not recklessly or irrationally (you can read a similar reflection in a previous post here).
Easier said than done, I know – I struggle myself! – but as I think of it, this really is the way to go if we want to achieve true happiness. It is about living every day as if it were the last, without all the burdens that hinder us from doing so (though a little pleasure is, in fact, necessary – God did not make us as machines or androids), and with our eyes set on our ultimate goal: the return to our Heavenly Father.
Wishing you a blessed weekend!