“When we slow down, we are reminded of what matters most.”
~Julianna Poplin

The beginning of the pandemic began an introspective period of reassessment and reprioritizing for many people. For some, the whole world seemed to stop, people were faced with months and, in some cases, well over a year of isolation and unemployment. Some worked from home with little to no outside contact. This left long hours for contemplation, rethinking how to live life and rethinking plans for the future. This time caused many to ask how could they be happier, freer and more satisfied? Many people preferred the pace of working from home, spending time with family, children and animal companions without the distraction of co-workers and office chit chat. In many cases, people felt more productive. Those working from home also gained extra time with commuting subtracted from their days.

Most people discovered that being at home with extra hours and more down time created space to add a hobby or mindfulness practice to their day. Gardening, running, biking, yoga, walking, reading, playing with children and taking the dog for a walk now took the place of sitting in traffic during commuting time or working as much or as many hours as before. People have discovered what a difference those changes made in their lives. It created an impetus and time to reflect upon ways to make informed changes to create simpler more intentional lives. Change always includes the process of letting go, of material things certainly, and also of emotional baggage, of professional relationships and friendships that drain them and also releasing some goals that may have set for themselves in the past that are no longer serving them. By stripping away the unnecessary and being intentional about what is most important to them in life, people are finding they can create more of the space required to live more simply and fully for the things that are most essential in their lives.

Simplicity comes through focus and setting clear intention. Starting by clarifying intention and creating a list of the most important people, activities, things and goals that bring the greatest joy is the first step.

The next part is even more difficult as it requires defining what needs to go, creating distance from relationships that are mentally and emotionally draining, and things that take up too much precious time for little gain or reward. Next is donating or recycling material items that no longer bring joy. All must go and each one will create space and peace as they are released.

Throughout this process, it is important to keep in mind the people, belongings and activities on the priority list as they are the focus of creating a simple and peaceful life.

Creating personal time is most important. If there is not alone time for rest, exercise, meditation or whatever brings peace and joy, there will be no ability to rejuvenate and give attention and care to the people, things and activities most important in life.

Learn to say no. Consider new items and time commitments carefully. Being overly busy steals precious peace and even though saying no can be difficult—especially to social engagements—it gets easier with practice. Try not to over schedule and also consider carefully before buying new things. Do they bring joy? Are they necessary? Can something go when they come in? All this will lead to a reduction in stress and an increase in peace.

In the best-selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Upbook, Japanese author Marie Kondo writes:

“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”

5 Easy Ways to Simplify

  1. Declutter – Donate, recycle and toss those things that no longer bring joy. Start small and aim for a bag a week. Declutter a room per week and keep it that way.
  2. Take on fewer commitments – At work and socially. This one is hard but learning to say NO goes a long way when learning to live a peaceful life. Keep priorities in mind when faced with propositions and invitations.
  3. Get organized – Create routines, pay bills on a certain day, hang up car keys or place them in the same place when coming into the house. Create a family dinner routine even if it’s only on a few nights per week. Make small changes regularly. Stick to them.
  4. Single tasks – Do one intentional thing at a time and stop racing from one thing to the next or doing two things at the same time. Take time and focus on the task at hand.
  5. Limit your screen time – This includes phones, computers, tablets, video games and all things digital. Spend more time practicing the art of doing nothing, read, rest, meditate. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time per day with your digital media and stick to it. Try to reduce it regularly.

Nothing is more beneficial to inner and outer peace than the act of simplifying life. To do so can create more time to reflect and align intention. For some, the simple life can be the path to inner peace, grace and harmony.

 Marcy LaBella, who co-owns Durham-based Earthly Goddess – Art to Nurture Your Soul, is a Connecticut teaching artist who works in painting and sculptural ceramics. She shows her work regionally and nationally. LaBella serves on the Council of Connecticut Women Artists and writes for the American Craft Council Blog.

Painting done by: Marcy LaBella