Simplifying your life: a starting point

Simpler living is an attainable goal for people of all backgrounds and incomes, say those involved in the simplicity movement.

Writer and simplicity activist Cecile Andrews reminds those interested in voluntary simplicity to remember that there are no set rules.

It's basically all about questioning and soul-searching.

But everyone has to start somewhere. Here are five steps that most simplicity authors agree are important ways to start the process:

Reduce the clutter in your home. Ask yourself what you really need in order to live a happy and fulfilled life. Clean out closets, drawers, and the garage. But don't just throw away the clutter. Have a garage sale, give items to friends or neighbors, and, best of all, consider giving the items to charity. Computer equipment can be used by community service organizations, homeless/low-income newspapers, schools, and literacy centers.

Rethink your buying habits. Examine where you spend your money, and whether those purchases increase the quality of your life. Delay major purchases until you've had time to think and shop around. Be creative; buying a new item may not be your only option.

Begin to pay off your debts aggressively. Financial counselors and voluntary simplicity advocates all agree that families can improve their long-term economic well-being by getting rid of debt. If you have a problem with the accumulation of debt, experts advise getting rid of all or most of your credit cards.

Simplify your eating habits. Dining out on a regular basis is expensive, and a constant diet of frozen and fast foods can leave you feeling less than energized. Instead, plan out your meals. Only go to the grocery store once a week, and cook uncomplicated, healthy meals that yield plenty of leftovers. Simplicity advocates and environmentalists alike stress that eating locally grown, organic produce benefits your health and the local economy.

Take time for spiritual practice and/or meditation. Voluntary simplicity practitioners include people from an array of religious faiths and belief systems. But all agree on the importance of choosing and staying on a spiritual path. Such practices also help to increase one's own sense of interrelatedness to the environment and community, the simplicity advocates say.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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