Bare Essentials—Another Reason Life Gets Better as We Age

By Etta Hornsteiner
simple life

Remember that song by Tony Bennett, “Give Me the Simple Life?”

I don’t believe in frettin’ and grievin’;
Why mess around with strife?
I never was cut out to step and strut out.
Give me the simple life.

Some find it pleasant dining on pheasant.
Those things roll off my knife;
Just serve me tomatoes; and mashed potatoes;
Give me the simple life.

A cottage small is all I’m after,
Not one that’s spacious and wide.
A house that rings with joy and laughter
And the ones you love inside.

Some like the high road, I like the low road,
Free from the care and strife.
Sounds corny and seedy, but yes, indeedy;
Give me the simple life.

According to the latest statistics from Becoming Minimalist, Americans seem to be pursuing anything but the simple life:

  1. The average American home has 300,000 items in it (LA Times).
  2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled over the past 50 years (NPR).
  3. Never mind the expanding house,1 out of every 10 Americans rents offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

These statistics might suggest that we are occupied with accumulating stuff! What’s the problem with this, you are probably asking? As we age, too much stuff can lead to clutter, difficulty managing the space in our homes, and depression at our inability to keep our environment organized or clean, among other things.

As we age in place, we are to be mindful that our purpose is not to accumulate things but to grow in wisdom. We recently published a blog on the attainment of wisdom as the end goal of life. Living a simple life can lead to this path of wisdom. Here are some of the reasons why minimalism, as the simple life is now called, a wise approach to aging in place:

  1. Downsizing allows us to live in a home that is more manageable.
  2. It also allows for future modifications to take place.
  3. Decluttering allows us to keep our life simple because a cluttered home can cause falls.
  4. A cluttered home can also have adverse health effects such as depression.
  5. An unkempt home negatively affects physical activity level according to a 2017 study.

So, how do we declutter, let go and live the simple life of a minimalist?

A.    Here are some questions you might want to consider answering first:

  • What is it that I really value?
  • How is my home a reflection of who I am now?
  • How is my home a reflection of what I am becoming?
  • What in my home is a reflection of my past?
  • How do I wish this space to serve me?

Once you have answered these questions, you are ready to begin to declutter.

B.    Check out two of our blogs that can help you declutter your path:

Indeed, decluttering is hard. Letting go of stuff can be just as hard as letting go a relationship. That’s why it is important to answer the questions in section A above. As consumers, many of us identify with our belongings or things. Our things can reflect who we are; but it is not wise to derive our identity from them. Marie Kondo, a tidying expert, bestselling author, star of Netflix’s hit show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” reminds her clients to ask this question: Does the item spark joy within you? “Minimalism is not about deprivation. It is about removing the things that are getting in the way of the things that bring you value or joy,” explains Katie Vermazani, leader of a minimalist meetup Facebook group in an interview on NPR. If an item does not bring you joy, then purge it.

C.    Here are the Five S’s to simplify your life:

  1. Sort what you have, get rid of what you don’t need, keep what you need and remove the clutter.
  2. Set everything in its place, a home for everything.
  3. Standardize-make processes, schedule.
  4. Shine-clean every day. Create a checklist.
  5. Sustain (keep it everything nice and shiny).

Simplicity is wisdom. It is one of the values of Quakers. Friends believe that the character and spiritual life of the person is more important than his or her possessions. Friends also believe that we should use our resources, including money and time deliberately, in ways that are most likely to make life truly better for ourselves and others. In the minimal words of Joshua Fields Millburn, a minimalist, “Love people [including yourself]. Use things. The opposite never works.”

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