My Journey to a Simple Life
Change is afoot in the world, as it always is.
It seems to me however that at the moment people are stirring more, getting into action more, and taking a stand for their beliefs.
But then surely this is how we should live; with passion, and purpose.
One of my main passions is intentionally living a simple, beautiful life. And so I have decided to share this belief with the world by learning digital skills in an amazing community (more about that elsewhere) and creating my own digital business.
Covid-19 and Simple Living
The sudden and life-changing arrival of Covid-19 this year, which shut us all down for a while, gave us time to pause and consider our lives. We have all chosen to spend the time in our own way (I signed up and became part of a community learning digital skills), but the one thing we had in common was that our daily lives were simplified.
We may have had an increase in stress and worry, but the busyness of our lives stopped. We started baking and sharing music and offering free classes and support – globally. Our lives became more simple.
Creating and living a similar simple life is something about which I have been passionate for a long time.
For me an intentionally, chosen life lived within the loosely defined parameters of Minimalism, is a good, rich and meaningful life. It is the purposeful and considered building of a life which centres around my priorities and values. And such a life would look a little different for everyone.
I took a look at ‘simple living’ on Google Trends recently and it is clear that there is a recent increase in this trend.
I have been following Joshua Becker (at Becoming Minimalist) and Courtney Carver (at Be More With Less) for at least 5 years and they have been preaching about Minimalism for over a decade – since about 2010. They were, and still are at the forefront of the Minimalism movement and have paved the way for so many to live a richer life with less.
They both had their reasons for stepping onto the Minimalist path:
- Joshua realised he was ignoring his family while looking after his possessions.
- Courtney was diagnosed with MS and so for health reasons started to look at her life, and see how she could make changes to support her health.
My reasons were both practical and philosophical.
I started out by wanting to reduce spending, which quickly morphed into wanting to rid myself of consumerist habits, which became a desire to reuse resources rather than unnecessarily waste new resources.
I subscribed to the philosophy of Minimalism.
One of the simplest descriptions the Minimalist philosophy is by Colin Wright – who owns 51 things – at Exile Lifestyle:
“… a reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.”
Or from The Minimalists:
“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom.”
I am aiming for a simple, beautiful life. I am not sure if I am a Minimalist. For me it is about living with intention and focusing on personal priorities:
- I wanted to create breathing space by decluttering material stuff.
- I wanted to create head space by actively simplifying the days by saying yes less.
- I wanted to work towards a more healthy financial way of life.
- I wanted to respect our bodies by eating tasty, healthy food.
- And I wanted to be open to and cognisant of other shifts that happened.
- I wanted to live a rich life, focusing on what matters – my family, doing good work, living well.
So I purposefully started to focus on simplicity in everything.
- simple meals
- A reduced wardrobe
- Uncluttered spaces
- A clear desktop
- A tidy desk
And I focused on the beauty of nature
- sunrise and sunset
- the ever-changing colours of the autumn skies
- ocean swims
- an evening stroll along the rocks
- taking the time to go outside and spot the hooting owl
- pointing out the jumping whales to my girls
And I chose quality again and again
- as much as possible in the ingredients of the food we eat we buy from small, local producers
- buying none, or one good T-shirt instead of more poor quality, cheaper options
- I spend money on learning and growing, rather than on accumulating things
- And more esoterically the quality of my decisions and ideas
Looking back I have been on this path for a while.
I grew up in Cape Town and after graduating went to spend some years in the UK. During that time I tried and tested numerous careers but spent most of my time working in investment banking.
I travelled a bit here and there, and then from 2006 to 2008 I drove (with my now husband) from the UK, all the way around Africa ending up back to the UK.
If I look back, it was during these years that my love of simplicity was strengthened. Any time I went travelling, I would give up any stability; leave my job, move out of my rental apartment and give most of my possessions away. I learnt to travel light. I also learnt that most objects in themselves hold little value.
During our trip around Africa we lived very simply. We ate what food we could buy and we wore and washed the same clothes for months on end. Our days and nights were dictated by the rising sun and the arrival of the stars above. I am convinced I even healed my lifelong IBS on this trip.
When we returned to the UK, we hit the 2008 recession. But we started again, got work, set up house and slowly reacclimatised to the urban lifestyle. However we longed to leave the city for fresh air and more space. So we did. We moved to the beautiful Kentish countryside where we had our first daughter. We lived in a small cottage in the woods surrounded by acres of land and chestnut trees. Instead of bar-hopping in London, we spent our weekends on country walks and in country pubs. Life became simpler.
And then we decided to move back to South Africa with our small daughter. We spent a while living with my dear parents while we found our feet, and then we moved to a small village at the seaside, where we now live our simple life with our two daughters.
Even though I had lived a few versions of a simple life, it was here that I discovered Minimalism and began to apply the ideas with intent. Over the years my belief in living a simple, quality, chosen, priority-led life only grows stronger.
It was after an early morning dance session, mentioned here, that I decided to change my life actively and intentionally pursue a more simple life. This was an early defining moment.
Do I believe that one really can create the life one wants? Yes
Will it be all smooth sailing? Unlikely. But life rarely is boring.
Will it head in the exact direction I intend? It may head in a different direction, but perhaps the right one. As a dear friend Annie said to me – “what matters is to step onto the path.”
I firmly believe in taking a step in the desired direction. And then another, with an open mind. Just like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said:
“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
This is a photo of where I live. I took a while to realise how fortunate I am to call this place home. But now that I have, I aim to appreciate it every day in all the beauty it offers in the creation of our simple, and beautiful life.