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How Can I Practice Essentialism?

Do you ever feel like you have too much? It can be an embarrassingly unique problem in our land of plenty in the United States, and yet so many of us live in a spirit of excess. This is a notion efficiently demonstrated by the fact that while the size of the average American home has nearly tripled over the last 50 years, there remains enough offsite rentable self-storage space for every adult and child in the US to have their very own 7.3 square feet.

Similarly, how many times have you found yourself in a juggling act, trying to keep a hundred balls in the air with work, family, health and appearance, volunteer commitments, social engagements, and friends? All the while you know that at any moment the balls could all come crashing down to your feet; the feet, mind you, that have seen neither a pedicure nor the recommended 10,000 steps in a very, very long time.

If all of this makes you want to start paring down your life monk-style and start living more simply, you might be ready for a lesson in essentialism. In case you’re not familiar with it, living with a spirit of essentialism means that you take a focused look on the most important and significant areas of your life, and allow the other stuff to fade away. In a nutshell, essentialism is doing less, but better. If you’re interested in venturing down the essentialism road, we have a few ideas.

  • Tidy up, yes. There has been a lot of buzz over the last few years regarding paring down belongings to create more space and less clutter. The attention is deserved. Clean out, and clean out with a vengeance, not merely “getting rid of stuff you don’t want,” but choosing to keep only what is essential.

  • Slow down. Once in a while, pack up the family and head downtown or to a park, and just hang out. See what mood hits you, and follow it. Want to rent paddle boats? Great! Want to visit some shops you’ve never been in? Do it! Feel like playing Frisbee and lying back to enjoy the clouds? Even better. This practice will help you and the essential people in your life to get to know each other a little better, and appreciate each other more.

  • Get more bang for your buck. Your time and resources are limited, and whatever you choose to spend time doing should be worth it. With your health, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more turbo-loaded practice than massage. Your massage appointment can help improve your body, mind, and overall wellness in such a wide array of areas, all while giving you that quiet 60 or 90 minutes to collect your thoughts and quiet your soul. With your body and mind essentials taken care of, you’ll be able to let other time- and money-consuming practices go.

  • Just say no. Really. If you politely decline to attend a few social gatherings or opportunities to volunteer or activities for you or your family, things will be just fine. In fact, they’ll likely be much better, even. Most of what we spend our free time doing is not essential, and if you choose to create a little more space in your schedule to give you and your family time for enjoyable leisure activities, you’ll find that your household is a more relaxed, happier environment.

Removing the excess items from your life and letting only the essentials remain is a life-long practice, and you may never get “there” or even close. But even baby steps in this direction can make a surprisingly large difference in how you feel. Start with a goal to clear your schedule of one unessential time commitment on a regular basis. Next, tackle the nonessential items in a few closets. And then, keep on going with your essentialism practice. We’re guessing that doing these things will lead to more energy, less stress, and a healthy life-long habit of essentialism.

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