How Simplicity Can Improve Well-Being

My life has been shaped by stories of people who have transformed their lifestyles to embrace simplicity. They dare to do radically less and have radically less, and end up with more – happiness, well-being, peace, time, and meaning.

In light of the Health Horizons’ current research on Resilient Bodies and Lifestyles, let’s meet Peter Lawrence and the SoulTravelers3.

Less Stuff

Peter Lawrence is The Happy Minimalist. Living in Santa Clara, California, Peter has retired well before the usual retirement age. He lives in a small condo, with his only furniture being a lawn chair, an ironing board, a laptop, a sleeping bag, and some kitchen equipment. He can pack up his entire home and be out the door in an hour. For Peter, simplicity is not about deprivation at all, it’s about saying no to everything that you don’t need, and only including things in your life that bring you great joy. He chooses to live with minimal impact on the planet and on his bank account.

After reading Peter’s book, I moved with my husband and 2 daughters from a 3 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom apartment, sold most of our furniture on Craigslist except mattresses, kids’ desks, and kitchen things – and we’re happier than we’ve ever been. We have access to a pool and tennis court every day, 7 computers, and the uncluttered mental space to enjoy being together. While not everyone will be as spartan as Peter or my family, the lesson is that there is greater, deeper, longer-lasting joy in eliminating than in accumulating.

Open Travel

Another of my biggest inspirations is the mom, dad, and daughter trio called SoulTravelers3, who are 4 years into “an epic odyssey: open-ended, years long slow trip around the world as a family adventure, unschool, spiritual journey and lifestyle.” They are world-schooling their daughter, taking a gradual path through Europe and living in different villages along the way. The cost of this extravagant lifestyle? $23 a day per person. Rather than doing all the touristy things, they choose to live like locals, making friends wherever they go and enjoying simple pleasures.

We are unschooling our daughters too, and plan to incorporate increasingly diverse travel into our winters as our children grow and as our work becomes more location-independent. The main takeaway from SoulTravelers3 is that you don’t need to wait for one distant day to start living your dream – with the proper lifestyle design and minimal tradeoffs, it’s closer than you think.

More Inspiration

Less is more, but I have to throw in 3 more people who have influenced my thinking:

– Rolf Potts, who popularized the term “Vagabonding” as “a deliberate way of living that makes the freedom to travel possible.” Rolf is currently on an around-the-world tour without a single piece of luggage. He pushes the boundaries of simple travel as far as they can possibly go.

– Tammy Strobel, author of the Rowdy Kittens blog, whose tagline is “Social change through simple living. Tammy was featured in the recent New York Times article “But Will It Make You Happy?” and writes about things like how to become a Happiness Ninja.

– Henry David Thoreau, the original simplicity guru and author of Walden. Thoreau spent 2 years living in a self-built house near Walden Pond in Massachusetts and writing about his experience. The messages I get from reading Thoreau are to both appreciate simple things in the world around you, and to be fiercely yourself even when what you believe is in stark contrast to the current popular trends. Paraphrasing slightly, one of my favorite Thoreau quotes is “We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.”

If you’re convinced to try simplifying your life, it is perhaps obvious to start simply – choose one or two things that would make a big difference to you, and do them today. Reading more about any one of these 5 simplicity pioneers is a good place to begin. Ready, set, simplify!

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