March 16, 1995 in Features

Simplify To Suit Your Own Style

Janet Luhrs Special To Choices

There are as many ways to simplify our lives as there are people on earth. (Well, almost.) A stumbling block to the simplification process is when we humans divide life into compartments like right or wrong, black or white. We figure there is either the simple way or the complicated way, with not much in between. We are either living replicas of Thoreau or we are modern technocrats.

Here is an example: The other day a man told me he saved energy by taking “Navy” showers, where you turn the water off when you are soaping up and on again only to rinse. When I admitted I sometimes liked to take long, hot, lingering showers, he asked how I could do such a thing AND edit a newsletter called Simple Living? I told him I did wrestle with guilt over this one, but geez, it feels so nice to take some time to be alone with hot water pouring all over me once in awhile.

I am just a real, imperfect human simplifying my life in some ways and not others. What is comfortable to one person may not be for another, and there is no singular “right” way to simplify. For some, it is comfortable to live a self-sufficient life in the woods. They are happy. For others, happiness means remaining in the city and continuing with jobs they like, and cutting back on stress and debt. There are all sorts of others in between, all along the spectrum.

I have a friend who works in the business world. For her, one way to simplify was buying only one or two pairs of black dress shoes, rather than the range of designer colored ones she used to buy to go with every outfit. She also realized she didn’t need a new outfit every day to look professional. Just by making these changes she was able to save a lot of money, and the time she previously spent shopping was freed up for other pursuits.

A family I know moved from their large, colonial-style home to a small, two-bedroom bungalow. “I can now vacuum the entire house by plugging the vacuum into one outlet,” the husband says. This couple spends far less time maintaining their home, and the extra time goes to their daughter, community work and vacations. They have no regrets about their decision.

A lawyer simplified her law practice so she could be home spending time with her children. She learned how to organize and streamline her business so she doesn’t need to hire any help. She does her own typing and editing directly into the computer and files papers as they come in. Because her practice is so streamlined, her bookkeeping is manageable for her. On occasion when she gets too busy, she hires a temporary secretary. By simplifying and organizing she is able to operate her business on far less money and in less time because she doesn’t need to work the extra hours it takes to pay for office help.

One thing I’ve done, gradually, is eat more natural foods. This is better for my health, costs less, ravages the environment less, and to me, tastes better. But this doesn’t mean I never indulge in a chocolate cookie or bag of potato chips; I am human and I make my choices according to where I am on my own spectrum. Others simplify in different areas of their lives. Some shop less, some ride their bikes more, and some are building wind generators. Accept where you are and continue to follow your own dreams.


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