Craving Simplicity

In simple moments,

Life’s beauty quietly blooms,

Elegance revealed.

I was sitting in my Cumbrian Garden yesterday. The light was starting to fade. At my feet was my labrador Murphy who was drifting in and out of nap time.  I had a cold drink to quench my thirst after working hard in the garden cutting back and tidying. The air was full of bird song mixing in with the Shane McGowan ballads playlist I’d put on. In that moment no one wanted anything from me, and if they did they were not getting it! I was playing around with haiku (above).  It was a moment of solitude, not loneliness. It was a moment of peace. There was nowhere to be but present in that space and that time. There was an elegance in the simplicity of that moment.

I think it is worth exploring the profound reasons why simplicity appeals to us and to see if we can offer practical insights on how to embrace it in our lives. Whilst we can’t spend all our time hiding from life in a peaceful rural garden, and not everyone has the capacity or blessed resource to do so; by understanding the significance of simplicity and adopting strategies to simplify our daily existence, we can experience greater clarity, balance, and fulfilment in an age marked by incessant distractions and information overload.

In a world filled with constant stimulation and busyness, the concept of simplicity has emerged as a powerful antidote to overwhelm and dissatisfaction. Simplifying our lives, both externally and internally, can lead to greater clarity, contentment, and peace of mind. So for the next few minutes let’s explore the theme of craving simplicity, delving into the principles of minimalism, decluttering, and embracing a more intentional way of living. I’ll focus on the philosophical position but also actionable insights for personal growth and development, inviting readers to embark on a journey towards a simpler, more fulfilling life.

Minimalism, a philosophy centred on living with less and prioritizing experiences over possessions, has gained popularity as a means of achieving simplicity and contentment. By decluttering our physical spaces and streamlining our possessions, we create room for clarity and focus, allowing us to cultivate a deeper sense of meaning and fulfilment. Research has shown that embracing simplicity can have profound benefits for mental and emotional well-being. Studies have linked cluttered environments to increased stress levels and decreased cognitive functioning, while minimalist lifestyles have been associated with greater feelings of satisfaction and happiness. By simplifying our lives, we reduce decision fatigue, improve our ability to focus, and create space for creativity and introspection.

In my view, the ‘craving’ for simplicity arises from a desire to escape the complexities and distractions of modern life and reconnect with what truly matters. At its core, I believe that simplicity has a timeless and universal appeal because it resonates with fundamental human needs and desires. It offers a respite from the chaos and clutter of modern life, providing a sense of clarity, peace, and authenticity. Here might be some of my key reasons why I think we long for simplicity:

 “Overwhelm Reduction”: Simplicity helps reduce the overwhelming complexity of life, making it more manageable and less stressful.

Enhanced Focus: A simplified life allows for better concentration and the ability to prioritize what truly matters.

Improved Well-being: Living simply often leads to increased contentment, as it allows us to appreciate the present moment and find joy in the everyday.

Environmental Consciousness: Embracing simplicity often aligns with sustainable and eco-friendly living, which is increasingly important in today’s world of climate crisis. More so we get to tune in to nature. I don’t think it is a coincidence that most people report holding stillness and simplicity when we align with the natural world.

The above is not an exhaustive list, and you’ll have your own ‘cravings’ but then we might consider how we set out for ourselves the ’principles of simplification’. I have found that simplifying one’s life involves a deliberate and conscious effort to streamline various aspects. While the specifics of simplicity can and will vary from person to person, some common principles might guide our journey. We could explore these further through conscious reflection or working with your coach. You might wish to consider the list offered below and think how you can take a few steps in each over the coming week. But here are areas that I think are valuable to consider as four starter principles.

 Decluttering: Reducing physical possessions and letting go of items that no longer serve a purpose or indeed our purpose. Begin by decluttering your physical space. Marie Kondo’s method of keeping items that “spark joy” can be a helpful approach. This can also, sometimes sadly, be applied to people too. Cultivate and nurture meaningful relationships. Simplify your social circle by focusing on connections that truly matter. This deliberate act can feel harsh to do but once complete it can help. You are not there for everyone, for everything, at every time and relationship move on. I have ran a process of decluttering three times a year for years now. Every space, external and internal, and everyone. It’s a sure-fire way to little what you carry.

Prioritization: Identifying and focusing on what truly matters in life, including values, relationships, and personal goals. Learn to say no is a powerful ally in the shift to simple living. It’s essential to say no to commitments, requests, or activities that don’t align with your priorities and values. Efficiently managing time and commitments to create space for meaningful activities and leisure. Establish a daily routine that incorporates simplicity. Start and end your day with moments of mindfulness, such as meditation or a few minutes of quiet reflection- even if its 5 minutes.  Define your life’s priorities and set clear, achievable goals aligned with those priorities. This can help you avoid unnecessary commitments and distractions.

 Mindfulness: Embracing the present moment and savouring life’s simple pleasures. Embrace gratitude as a daily practice. If you don’t fancy sitting on a mountainside in meditation (which is fab!) then approach things more mindfully (as opposed to mindlessly). Reflect on the things you’re thankful for, which can enhance your appreciation for life’s simple joys. I can never underestimate the power of enjoying a cup of tea or sharing a meal with family. Start to embrace slow living as another route into mindful practice. Slow down your pace of life. Enjoy leisurely activities like reading, walking, or simply sitting quietly.

Digital Detox:  Reducing the overwhelming digital clutter and distractions by disconnecting from technology periodically. Set boundaries on digital devices and social media. Designate specific times for checking emails and social networks, and consider digital detox days. Unfollow, unsubscribe…..

We might also turn to philosophy for a greater guide in this regard. Most religions or philosophers have at one time, or another considered the benefits of a more simple life. In my own favourite, Buddhism, the concept of leading a simple life is deeply intertwined with the pursuit of inner peace, contentment, and enlightenment. Buddhism encourages simplicity through teaching the importance of non-attachment to material possessions and worldly desires. By letting go of attachments to material things, individuals can free themselves from the burden of craving and cultivate contentment with what they have. Central to Buddhist practice is the cultivation of mindfulness, or the awareness of the present moment without judgment. Living simply allows individuals to focus on the present moment and appreciate the beauty and richness of life as it unfolds, rather than constantly seeking external sources of happiness. As I said above this does not mean casting yourself into isolation but considering simple moments. Buddhism also encourages reducing external distractions that hinder spiritual growth. By simplifying one’s life—whether through decluttering physical possessions, limiting media consumption, or minimizing commitments—individuals can create more space for introspection, meditation, and self-discovery. One aspect that I love is connected to serving others. In this regard, Buddhism emphasizes compassion and generosity towards others. By leading a simple life and reducing one’s own desires, individuals can free up resources, both material and emotional, to support others in need, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and community. Many Buddhist teachings emphasize the interconnectedness of all beings and the importance of living in harmony with nature. So how we might become better stewards of our world might be found in simpler living? Leading a simple life often involves reducing consumption and living sustainably, which aligns with principles of environmental stewardship and respect for the Earth

Meanwhile in Stoicism, my favourite ancient philosophy, often referred to within these articles,  founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C., offers profound insights into leading a simple and fulfilling life. At the core of Stoicism is the idea that true happiness and tranquillity come from living in accordance with nature and focusing on what is within our control. This philosophy provides valuable guidance on embracing simplicity in various aspects of life. Stoicism teaches that the path to eudaimonia, or flourishing, lies in cultivating virtues such as wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. By prioritizing virtue above external possessions or status, Stoicism encourages individuals to lead a life of simplicity centred on moral excellence.

Stoic philosophy goes on to emphasize the practice of acceptance and equanimity in the face of life’s challenges. By accepting the present moment with serenity, individuals can free themselves from unnecessary worry and desire for material wealth or social recognition, thereby simplifying their lives and finding inner peace. Stoics advocate for practicing indifference to external goods—such as wealth, fame, or luxury—since they are ultimately beyond our control and do not guarantee lasting happiness. By detaching from the pursuit of material possessions, individuals can lead simpler, more contented lives focused on what truly matters: internal virtues and moral integrity. Considering how we promote the practice of frugality and moderation in consumption is a simple tenant borrowed from Stoiscm. Instead of indulging in excess or extravagance, Stoics advocate for living modestly and in accordance with one’s needs, thereby avoiding unnecessary clutter and complications in life.As with Buddhism and my reflections above,stoicism also teaches that living in accordance with nature entails aligning our actions and desires with the fundamental principles of reason and virtue. By embracing simplicity and living in harmony with nature’s rhythms, individuals can find greater fulfilment and tranquillity in their lives.

How we think more deeply about cultivating our inner strength and resilience in the face of adversity helps simple living. By developing a resilient mindset and focusing on what is within their control, individuals can navigate life’s challenges with simplicity and grace, rather than being overwhelmed by external circumstances.

Both these ancient perspectives provide timeless wisdom on the virtues of simplicity, urging individuals to focus on cultivating inner qualities, accepting the present moment, and living in accordance with nature’s principles.

Simplicity is not a destination but an ongoing journey. It requires consistent effort and a willingness to let go of habits, possessions, and commitments that no longer serve your well-being and values- and not pick up new habits and possessions along the way. As you embark on this journey, remember that it’s a process of self-discovery and self-improvement. Be patient with yourself and allow room for growth. The pursuit of simplicity is a timeless aspiration that resonates deeply with our human need for clarity, balance, and authenticity. By understanding the allure of simplicity and embracing its principles in practical ways, we can create a life that is more meaningful, focused, and fulfilling in a world that often overwhelms us with complexity. The best place to begin might be with a drink of choice, a warm summer evening in a garden with a dog at your feet….then go gently from there.

Stuart is a founder of Inner Mountain Strategy and Coaching and Murphy is his black Labrador and personal coach.