Learn to Live Leaner and Lighter
Less is More
A disclaimer before I begin. This is not another “dieting” plan, although I will address weight loss. It is much more than that. It’s about living lighter in every sense. If you are not put off by that, please read on.
I have come to believe that there is true beauty in simplicity. Perhaps it’s my reaction to all the clutter in the modern world. The incessant din of hundreds of TV and radio programs, the proliferation of digital content on the web, and the continuous pressure to get more “stuff” from telemarketers, advertising, and keeping up with the Joneses (i.e., the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for the accumulation of material goods).
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just “turn off the tap” for a week or more? Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t turn on the computer. Don’t answer the door. Don’t even open the mail. Just read a book, play a board game with your family, sing in the shower, dance while somebody plays the acoustic guitar, plant some flowers, or enjoy a homemade meal.
Perhaps that’s too extreme for you. Perhaps you’d like just a little more “stimulation” than that. Well, I’m here to offer you some “baby steps” to get you started.
Some of my favorite meals have only three or four main ingredients. I’m not trying to slam gourmet cooking, if that’s what you love. But for most of us, a simple sandwich with soup will do very nicely (especially with fresh produce from your garden).
I recently subscribed to one of those services that sends you a “box” of individually packaged unprocessed food, with beautifully illustrated recipe cards to go with it. The card would say preparation time was 40 minutes, but it would always take me well over an hour. And in the end, my family ate the resulting meal in 15 minutes or less. I will concede that the results were tasty; but the time, effort, and money was way more than a typical home-cooked meal. It got me to thinking, “what’s the point?”
So, I’m going back to my “Dump” recipe book, to find something I can prepare in 15 minutes or less, with four ingredients. Or just boil some water, make a little pasta, and throw it together with a jar of pasta sauce and crumbled lean ground beef. It’s still home-cooked. It’s just – well – simpler. And it’s less costly.
We probably already know that lighter (to a point) is healthier and happier. What if you started your “lighter, leaner” you by just putting “less” in your mouth? No complicated formulas, no books to buy, no new kitchen appliance, and certainly no new exercise apparatus that will eventually become a clothes hanger in the corner of your bedroom. Just write down everything you put into your mouth in one day (no cheating – I saw you eat that candy bar, so write it down please). The list is for your eyes only.
The next day, look at the list, and cross off one thing. That’s it, just one thing. Perhaps you can substitute one unhealthy item (candy bar) for one healthy item (sliced apple with peanut butter). Then, once that become comfortable with that level of consumption, cross off or substitute one more thing. Slow and gentle as you go.
I can hear you now: that’s too simplistic. It will never work. But how do you really know until you try? My “one thing” started with all forms of alcohol. Without any other changes to my diet or exercise patterns, I took off (not lost, because I don’t want to find them again) five pounds in a month. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.
Here is another place to get “lean.” How much “stuff” do you having sitting around gathering dust? Learning to live leaner and lighter, you will want to thin down all the clutter.
Think about all your “stuff.” Now think what you might do with anything you haven’t used in the last year or two. Here are some questions to help you get started. Can you:
- Toss it? If it truly has no value, and you don’t have a sentimental attachment, then just toss it. And it’s not hazardous waste of course.
- Burn it? If it’s got personal, sensitive information on it, but you don’t need it any more (like copies of paid invoices from 10 years ago).
- Recycle it? If it’s plastic or paper, or electronics that can be stripped down for precious metals. Check your local regulations first.
- Reuse it? Is there a plastic bin currently holding old magazines, that could be spruced up and reused for another purpose – perhaps to store light bulbs or batteries all in one place? By the way, it can be reused in your house, or somebody else’s house.
- Gift it? Do you have a book that you know somebody else would enjoy? Don’t just donate it randomly. It’s much more satisfying to gift it to somebody you know will read it. You may even get a thank you note (it has happened to me).
- Donate it? Does it have “life” left in it, but you’re not using it? There are dozens (dare I say hundreds) of charities that would love to have your stuff. They will even come to your doorstep and pick it up. Just Google it. You may be surprised.
- Sell it? Perhaps it’s a new item, that you bought but never used. It’s too valuable to just donate, so you’re holding on to it, thinking that one day you’ll use it. Well, snap out of it. And list it in your local “Recycler” paper or post on EBay.
Worrying About Things We Can’t Control
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for fixing things if you can. Even if it’s a stretch, and you need to get other people involved. If the problem is solvable – I say go for it. But if it’s clearly out of your control, then don’t spend another minute worrying about it.
One prime example of this is what “other people” think of you. You can’t control it. You can do your best, and have wonderful intentions, but at the end of the day, people are going to have opinions about you that you can do absolutely nothing about. Nothing.
So, if you are going to live life “lighter,” you’re going to need to jettison that baggage. Personally I have found journaling a good way to get things off my chest. Write it all out, and then release it. Some people even write it on a piece of paper, and then burn the paper (a symbolic gesture). You will feel lighter once those opinions are not weighing you down.
How Do You Define Success?
Is success to you having a big house, filled with lots of “things?” Or what about several cars in your garage? Or a bank account stuffed with cash? If you had all of these things, would you be happy? Maybe, but maybe not. My suggestion to you is to find your “joy.” Having a lot of “stuff” doesn’t guarantee your joy. Of course you’ll need certain basics to live. But after a point, adding more doesn’t bring you more happiness.
As you learn to live leaner and lighter, you will come to appreciate the “simple” things more and more. Looking at sunrises and sunsets. Watching children play on swings. Playing catch with a dog. Setting the alarm 20 minutes early, so you can wake up slowly while stretching and listening to music. All these things (and many, many more) are free, and don’t accumulate a single “thing” in your life. Except the memories. And those are something worth keeping.