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Personal Growth through Keeping Life Simple

In the winter of 2008, I decided to embrace simplicity by slimming down my material possessions. Like most adaptations I have made to my adult lifestyle, I did a rapid and complete 180, getting rid of my car, all my furniture, and most of my clothing, all in the span of two weeks. My book collection, however, which consists mainly of poetry books, books on spirituality, travel, biography, and the classics, filled up eight big boxes. The content of those eight boxes became a choir of voices in my head, echoing their refusal to accept, such sudden, lasting abandonment. So, how could I simply surrender them? A close friend of mine offered a rescue, by making room for my boxes of books on the floor of her basement. As a fellow bard, this also entitled her to coveted reading privileges.

By this time you might be questioning my motivation behind making such a drastic, and sudden change in my lifestyle, rather than doing what most experts suggest, which is to take baby steps, to feel your way. Why not venture from the trap of my comfort zone at a graceful, more elegant pace, with greater regard for what ifs around the bend such as, what if your job teaching English to professionals in Chile doesn’t work out? What if you are unhappy living abroad? What if you come back to Colorado sooner than the year you expect to be gone, and then have to buy all new furniture and a new vehicle, asked my mother?

I already knew that I wasn’t going to keep my furniture in storage for a year and shell out a hefty fee. It seemed to me I had much more furniture than I actually needed, in any case. The cash was also an incentive since I was going abroad. It would offer an extra cushion in case work was slow for the first few months, especially since I was arriving in March, the start of the school season in Santiago. Things in Chile, and South America in general, start at a gradual pace, as business professionals come back from the summer holiday and employers begin to enroll them in English classes. Being someone accustomed to often seeing things in black and white, it made little sense for me to stand at the shore, weighing the wind shifts, when I already planned to fly.

I had finally reached the point in my life where I had enough self-confidence and faith in life itself to know that regardless of future events, I would be fine with how it all turns out. How much time do you spend on the fence when it comes to making changes in your life? It is good to make a list of new goals, especially at the start of a new year. You can make your life a lot simpler and begin working toward your goals sooner, when you decide not to over-analyze things. Think through your options, and hit select, knowing that if you are centered within yourself, and in touch with your inner voice, regardless of how things turn out, they always turn out for the best. Surrender society’s ways of judging events and learn to listen to your soul.

Inner Light

“Though sometimes we don’t recall, our inner-light has always led us home.”
Michele Harvey

30 Responses to Personal Growth through Keeping Life Simple

  • Keeping it simple! Yes Michele
    It was a pleasure reading about your journey.
    Enjoyed it, thanks for sharing!

  • W.A. Rusho says:

    Keeping it simple is a wonderful approach. We get to much clutter in our life, then our lives get cluttered.
    Removing the clutter, material things, help you remove the mental clutter also.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Yes, this has been my experience, William. It makes sense to me that the less I have to take care of in the way of material possessions, (clutter) the more clear my head is to focus on other things that keep me in a calmer space. Thank you for your comment.

  • Andy says:

    Two thoughts:
    (1) When I think of ‘life simplification’, I think of abandoning a white-collar career and getting a job at Baskin-Robbins scooping ice cream. Going abroad to live in a country whose primary language is not English sounds pretty complicating to me!
    (2) Going from a motorist to a non-motorist is definitely simplifying. Gas, traffic, parking, maintenance, insurance, registration, smog certification … who wants to deal with any of that? But not everyone lives in an area where s/he can get by without a car.

    • Considering it was 2008, and what was going on here in The States, economically, plus the fact that I was already proficient in Spanish, and was able to work and earn good money in Chile, my choices certainly seemed simple to me. True that not everyone lives in an area where they can get by without a car, I am grateful that I always seek out areas where I have that option. Thanks for your comment, Andy.

  • This post really resonates with me. I’ve always lived lighter than most people, but in the past year have taken even greater efforts to cull my belongings. It really is a freeing experience. I like that I don’t get too attached to most things, not even books! I’ve culled those as well. I’m down to one tall book shelf from my high seven of them.

  • Sounds like a good way to start an adventure. I have moved house and home so many times over the years, that I learned early on what “stuff” I would always transport (books) and what could be eliminated and replaced–or not–at a future time.

  • tuhinmech says:

    Hello Michele,

    I must appreciate your super fast way of getting rid of the material stuffs. Not many can do this. Moving abroad is always a tough decision and even tougher is to manage things before you leave.

    Many people often end up stressing themselves with sleepless nights and dilemmas on whether they are taking the right step. I think you have taken a wise and confident step.

    • Thank you, Tuhin! I never looked back after giving away all that stuff. Actually, there was one piece of furniture that I do wish I had kept but it really wasn’t possible for me to arrange it at the time.

  • Ken Dowell says:

    As I’m reading about how you are getting raid of your car, your clothes, your furniture, the thing that came to mind is people who move into tiny houses. Heading off to Chile is totally different though.

    • The story I related, took place in 2008! I returned from Chile at the end of 2011, and since then, I have accumulated more possessions (although not that many more) and another car. Thanks for your comment, Ken!

  • heraldmarty says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Michele. I must admit material possessions have never been very important to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate your analogy or perspective. I’m fairly comfortable with change having reinvented my life at least 3 times (if you don’t count the smaller pivots along the way) and applaud your comment about having the belief that whatever may happen you are confident that you will be okay. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I deeply resonate with your comment about self reinvention as the same is true for me, and yes, what I have realized is that with all I’ve experienced, I am still here, and I am happy, and when I am not still here, there will be no reason for having worried. Thanks for your comment, Marquita.

  • Good for you, Michele! We live in a smaller house and my husband never wanted to move so I had to learn how to weed through things every few months so that the space didn’t look cluttered. It has helped because we know many people who moved on to bigger homes and now are empty-nesters with a house full of stuff. I don’t want to get to that point, so since my kids are in high school now, I started last year getting rid of stuff we didn’t need or use. It has freed up the space and made our house feel even bigger. Funny how that happens.

  • Erica says:

    I live in Los Angeles which is really transient. Many people move here, only to eventually move home. I always miss my friends who leave. However, I’ve inherited a bunch of useful belongings that came into my home so I could watch them until my friends returned (which they never do). On the flip side, I move to Los Angeles, having never been on the West Coast in my life and with all my belongings in 2 suitcases. Overthinking big decisions can happen because they can seem so scary. But as you said, sometimes you just need to jump in.

    • I really admire your courage, Erica! I recently moved to the Bay area and it is amazing how much really good stuff people just leave outside on the street when they move. You could furnish several mansions just by walking through neighborhoods on a Sunday! Thank you for your comment.

  • Phoenicia says:

    It is easy to slip into the mode of wanting to keep everything “just in case.” Meanwhile our possessions grow and grow. Even if I had a very large home, I would not want it packed to the brim with “things.” The items Iost value are photographs, majority are now online, my children’s memory boxes, birthday and anniversary cards.

    We had a recent clear out of our loft and I must say it was such a relief to throw out items we no longer have use for. Previously the thought of moving home made me shudder as I knew how many items were up there. Now our loft houses our suitcases, out of season clothes and a few more bits and pieces.

    • Yes, it is such a relief to get rid of things that you really no longer have use for, and to free up all that empty space. Cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. So true what you say about photos as well, now being online, books, as well! Thank you for your comment.

  • Can’t help wondering if you would have sold your furniture if they had been in your family for generations? Am not sure I agree with you that selling family heirlooms is keeping your life simple or has anything to do with simplifying your life or setting goals?:-)

    • Some were antiques, and yes, releasing possessions does clear the way for new things (not necessarily possessions) to enter your life, however, what works for me is not a one-size-fits all remedy for keeping things simple. Thanks for your comment, Catarina.

  • lenie5860 says:

    Michele, I don’t know if you are aware that we had 7 boys but your statement of ‘just in case’ really resonated with me. I used to save all their outgrown clothes ‘just in case we became poor’ and they always teased me with “Mom,we already are poor, you just haven’t realized it.” Those ‘just in case’ stored clothes were never used by us and many of them became so dated that I couldn’t even give them to charity. If I had done that from the first, someone else would have benefited, I would have had less ‘junk’ and less work. Now one year at the most – if it hasn’t been used, out it goes.
    Within the next couple of years we are going to have to move from our large farmhouse to a smaller house and I have started downsizing big time and must say I rather enjoy the process. Course it’s not being done in two weeks (what energy you had to accomplish that) but I’m getting there.

    • Wow, 7 boys! I can certainly understand why you passed things down! It just makes sense! I did what I did in 2 weeks because I had to, since I was leaving the country, but, I had no trouble doing it in that amount of time. I admire your change in perspective as you currently downsize and experience the pleasure of doing it. Thanks for your comment, Lenie!

  • Donna Janke says:

    I love the line “our inner-light had always led us home”. Hanging on to things (literally or figuratively) “just in case” weighs us down and may actually stop us from fully embracing a new direction. I haven’t gotten rid of physical things as drastically as you did but have downsized over the past couple of years and discovered how freeing it was to get of things I didn’t really need.

    • It was extremely liberating when I got rid of all that stuff, 95% of which I never missed, once it was gone. These days, I have more things, including a car, but not that much more. I agree with your remark about how your possessions can hold you back. It is a very true statement. Thanks for your comment, Donna.

  • So true. It’s nice to read your journey and also admonish that society might not be reflective of our own goals. Love it.

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