The road to simplicity is full of potholes

road to simplicity

Photo: _chrisUK

Your inbox is full.  Your bank account is empty.  Your calendar leaves no room for rest.  You are, in a word, busy.

For years you have followed the siren song of leading a full life.  Except that now it is overflowing and you can barely keep your head above water.

Off in the distance a new melody captures your attention.  The voices of angels sing of simplicity.  You hum along, captivated by lyrics that urge you to pare down and be happier with less.

Soon, you, too, are singing this song.  Your voice rising with the chorus as you commit to simplify your life.  You vow to clean up and clear out.  To spend less and save more.  To travel the road to simplicity.

That’s when the trouble starts. 

Because old habits die hard.  After a lifetime of striving and battling rush hour and accumulating a wall full of lifestyle trophies, you quickly learn how difficult it is to turn off all those cultural cues.

The mental triggers that say “do” and “buy” and “brag” don’t shut down just because you read an article by Oprah or bought a book about tidying up.

Try as you might, it’s not as, you will pardon the expression, simple as flipping the turn signal and driving down the road to simplicity.

There are bumps in the road and your transmission might very well fall out.

Take me, for example.  (Since there is no one else around, I might as well throw myself under the bus.)

We spent several years fixing up a lovely house.  It was older and run down, and we rebuilt just about everything in it – from the roof to the septic tank.

And for a couple years we enjoyed our little slice of heaven on earth.  We had friends and family over.  We ate and drank and laughed together.  We watched the boats float by during lazy weekend afternoons.

But it got to be a bit too much.

It sat low on the ground and, despite what you may have otherwise heard, the waters were indeed rising.  And the costs weren’t heading south with the flotilla.

So we sold, thinking, what a perfect opportunity to simplify.  To downsize and get ready for retirement.

And then stuff started to happen.  My brain couldn’t leave well enough alone.

It couldn’t be happy with a pre-existing house, it had to build a new one.  And it couldn’t build a simple, little house, it had to build a gem.  A masterpiece of design and craftsmanship.

And although the layout is simple enough, the proportions are large.  The materials aren’t extravagant, but they are nice – well above builder’s grade.

Until today, about a month away from moving in, I find myself having come full circle.  The location has changed, but the circumstances haven’t.

Even for me, old habits die hard.

Now, does that mean I throw in the towel and give up?  Say “screw it” and revert back to frantic chasing and mindless striving just to keep up?


“Oops” is probably the most appropriate thing to say.  To appreciate what we have, learn from my mistakes, and move on.

After all, it isn’t the road to perdition I am following, just the road to slowness and simplicity.

I am sure we all have examples like this, where in the course of change we unintentionally revert to bad old habits.

Most are minor.  Like when we blow up our diet by gorging on ice cream.  The lesson is to learn and adapt.

Bumps in the road to simplicity are to be expected.  Just because we bounce around a bit doesn’t mean we are going the wrong way.

Pam and I continue to work very hard at this slow thing.

We are changing our diet to one that skews heavily to plant-based whole foods.  We are using every trick in the technological book to ensure that physical activity is an important part of our day.

And although for the past year we have been living like monks in the boonies, we are looking forward to moving into our new home in our small town and, once again, opening it up to friends and family and love and laughter.

On the horizon, once all the dust from our construction project has settled, is a major exercise in financial simplicity.

We will attempt to find out how low we can go with our monthly budget.

And while there are thousands of sources of financial advice out there, I was delighted to recently come across one of the more ascetic blogs that goes by the odd name of Mr. Money Mustache.

In a nutshell, he advocates for severe simplicity and extreme saving in order to retire at an early age.  I’m not sure I am capable of the discipline he suggests, but it is an interesting premise – even if modified somewhat.

So, yes, there have been potholes in my road to simplicity.  And in yours, too, I am sure.

But the journey remains worth taking, and sharing.  Thanks again for coming along for the ride.


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