How to complicate simple living

It’s just life. Just live it.
~Terri Guillemets

I was washing the dishes after Monday’s post when I hit upon what exactly bothers me about the trends in simple living blogging. Quite frankly, from my point of view all the trappings espoused…the digital sabbaticals, the carlessness, the five-ingredient meals and owning less than one hundred things…merely serve to complicate things.

The point of simple living is to live simply…and yet, ironically enough, simple living practices are complicated and complicating.

Most of this, I think is due to the disparity between my life and the life of the average simple living blogger (or their intended audience). I touched on this on Monday. They’re writing for middle-aged, middle-class people with families and white-collar jobs. I’m a single working-class guy with two cats and a roommate. Not a lot of responsibility and no need for a very structured existence.

And I understand that a person who feels dissatisfied with their lives and out of control may seek solace in the structured and superficially austere environment of simple living. They feel in control when going on their sabbaticals or cooking five-ingredient meals or chucking down to one hundred items. It’s probably a far cry from the ostentation and constant demands of the lives they led before discovering the simple living movement. They may also need a highly structured method in order to retrain themselves anew, a la FlyLady.

But for me all that is arbitrary and complicating. I’m young…I’m not bogged down with a family and a “career.” I’m also by nature the type of person who doesn’t need rigor or structure or definite limits. I can be happy knowing I’ve got just what I need and that which I don’t need will eventually find its way out of my home. Eventually. I’m not an elaborate cook…my meals, like the meals I was raised on, are simple by nature. I don’t need to limit myself to just five ingredients or to insist on eating a vegetarian meal once a day. I can regulate my own use of the internet and the car rather well.

In short, I’m a picker. When I found FlyLady, I read through everything, took what I knew I could use and the gist of the message, and left. I didn’t need the email reminders or the routine or the daily sink-cleaning. But I can see someone who hasn’t moved seven times in the past six years feeling overwhelmed by their clutter and the lack of cleanliness and needing the FlyLady system to help them bring order into their lives. I can appreciate that.

At the same time, though, I think those who practice simple living are going to need to let go of these practices eventually. When I was a (more or less) practicing pagan, I often heard that the tools are mere props, that the real practice, ritual, magic, belief, what have you, lies only in oneself and not in any tool, no matter how trendy, fancy, beautiful, or beloved. And that’s the way I feel about these practices. They’re merely props to put oneself in the proper mindset. Eventually, it will become as important to rid oneself of the tools as it once was to rid oneself of clutter.

And I see a lot of that, in the emphasis on “habits.” But I’m not sure I see enough in the simple living blogs on the fact that once the habit is ingrained, the tool/practice may become unnecessary. That once habits become lifestyle, it’s okay to “cheat,” and that one shouldn’t beat oneself up over having a soda or a car or meat or a just-for-fun over-the-top family dinner or something that serves no purpose.

Simple living is an individual thing. For some it simplifies, for others it complicates. And when it complicates, it’s not simple living anymore. It’s about living the best life possible, not cramming yourself into another’s manner of being. It should change your life, but not rule it.

My other problem with simple living bloggers is that they take themselves way too fucking seriously. Simple living is not srs bizness.

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5 Responses to “How to complicate simple living”

  1. Dargon Says:

    While I don’t have a family, I find the claim of white collar work being something that brings need for simplicity to be a bit bizarre.

    When I worked in the in-circuit test business, making nice, middle class money (albeit as a family of one), I was already living pretty simply, and though I in fact WAS on the computer for 8-10 hours at work, I had no desire for any “digital sabbaticals” or anything like that. Time spent on the computer at work was spent mostly in front of AutoCAD, and had very little in common with fun computer use at home.

    Perhaps this is different for the full-time blogger, who’s job involves social media and who’s fun time also probably involves social media. Perhaps this will be different for me when I graduate, when both work and play involve coding. Though I think not, since coding on work/school projects and coding on personal projects is different.

    Perhaps, as you said, it comes down to personality types. I am not one who needs much structure either. I’m quite happy to do as I please when I please, and can quickly accommodate a new event on the schedule when it pops up. Perhaps something like all this structure can be useful for someone who has spent the past several years buying into the notion that stuff is what makes you happy, and has realized the problems with that. But then, I fail to see why all that structure is needed, and a rule as simple as “get rid of the crap you don’t use” won’t suffice.

  2. From the FlyLady’s site:

    “Your routine is not a straight jacket! It is a crutch to support you when you don’t have the energy to get yourself up and moving.” ~FlyLady

  3. I’ve been trying to simplify my life by cutting back on the blogs I read – most ‘simple living/minimal’ blogs got culled long ago.

    Yours – however you classify it – is a keeper.

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