Joyful Living, Part 4: How Joy & Simplicity Work Together
Living a joyful life requires simplifying our lives.
Don't believe me? How much joy do you think there is in trying to do it all-- working overtime in a stressful job so you can afford a bigger house and newer car, running errands every time you need just one thing, being in all the extracurricular activities, pursuing all your hobbies, saying "yes" to every social event, caving under all your family obligations, inevitably not getting enough sleep, through it all still trying to exercise regularly and eat well, wanting to learn new skills to keep moving up, longing to travel, and wanting to start a family, all the while feeling like you can never say "no"?
Now imagine a life where you work a little less in a job that's less stressful, with a home and car that fit your stage of life, where you have fewer errands to run, only a select few favorite activities and hobbies to pursue, and where you say "yes" to only the most important social activities and family obligations, where you have more time and energy to focus on your family and your health and your goals. Doesn't that sound like it would be a more joyful life?
THE JOY OF LESS
There is so much joy to be found in surrounding yourself with just what you love! When your home is full of things you're indifferent about or things you don't like anymore, it's not going to bring you as much joy as it would if it was full of things that bring you joy.
I've found this to be true in my own life. I've culled my wardrobe several times over the last few years since I began my journey toward a life of greater simplicity, and I'm working on curating a closet full of just the things I love. Then when I go to pick out my clothes, it's not so hard or time-consuming, because every option is a good option! And I'm not wrestling with any feelings of guilt over repeatedly not picking certain items because I've gotten rid of them and freed myself of that guilt.
Finding joy in having less automatically causes you to focus on keeping the things you love, which is a wonderful shift in focus!
Pursuing simplicity isn't about what you get rid of as much as it is about what you keep and what you choose to invest in. It's not a matter of saying "no" to extra hours at the office, it's getting to spend more time at home with loved ones. It's not getting rid of bags full of clothes and books; it's getting to always wear your favorite clothes and reread your favorite books, and knowing you're surrounded by your favorite things.
[S]he entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away 'stuff' left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist.
Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It's not rocked by anything. - Sandra L. Brown
THE JOY OF WHITE SPACE
Not only does having less stuff make decision-making easier and bring you joy by creating an environment in which you're surrounded by your favorite things, there is also so much less stress with less clutter!
It's not just physical clutter, either, although that's often the biggest culprit. There's also less mental clutter from having to make so many decisions, feeling guilt about keeping certain things or getting rid of certain things, and stressing about not prioritizing what you want to. And, of course, there's less calendar clutter when we commit to the few things that really matter to us instead of everything we get invited and asked to do.
This lack of clutter gives us room to breathe, room to enjoy our lives instead of rushing through them on autopilot. This way of living more simply allows us to have more white space, more margin, and more freedom. And with those things, we're able to pursue our goals, invest in time with our friends and family, and live the kind of lives we've dreamed of.
THE JOY OF NARROWED FOCUS
Having less physical, mental, and calendar clutter is great, but the thing that mattered the most to me in pursuing a simpler way of living my life was gaining a clearer sense of purpose and seeing how the act of pursuing purpose reinforced my joy.
Before I discovered simplicity, I had no idea what my purpose was or what I wanted to do with my life. And because of that lack of clarity, I was spreading myself too thin. I did everything because everything sounded fun and people kept asking me to do things. But it wasn't fulfilling because I felt like I was trying to run in twelve different directions at once, which got me nowhere.
By choosing to simplify my focus and prioritize investing in the things that mattered the absolute most to me, I was able to arrive at a place where I could understand my purpose, and from there, make decisions about what to invest in and what to let go of.
I thought it would be hard to say "no" to so many things, and at times it was, but more than that, it brought so much freedom and joy! I knew what I wanted and why I was pursuing it. I had peace with my decisions. And I had more space to do what mattered to me and enjoy it without wondering if I should be doing something else because I already decided what I needed to be investing in. Choosing to simplify brought me greater joy, and I get to experience more joy in living with simplified focus every day.
How have you seen joy and simplicity work together in your life? Do you know what your purpose is, and have you found joy in pursuing it? If you're struggling to pin it down or follow through with it, I'd love to talk to you about it!