How I Simplified My Life—for the Better

After my 30th birthday, I thought it was about time to finally purchase a new car for myself, and my family. So I did, and I did it in a big way. I walked into the Acura dealership, picked out my gray MDX, and signed the loan papers for an over $700 monthly payment for five years. The SUV was everything I hoped for when I bought it—large, shiny, and expensive. I told myself I could afford this, I needed this, and I deserved this.

My car and I had been through a lot since I bought it. I had obsessed over keeping it scratch-less, parking it in my garage at home and at remote positions in parking lots. The front tire had once drove over a nail and had to be replaced. It had been stolen, then found by the police, then brought back to it’s brand-new condition after weeks of repairs and cleanings. And although it costed about $90 to fill the tank with premium gas for a measly 300 miles per full tank, I happily obliged every time. My car was worth it, even if it consumed a lot of my money, time, and energy to upkeep it.

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I sold my car almost exactly three years after I purchased it. My family and I were preparing for our gap year of world travel and the car was the first thing that needed to go. Once I sold our near mint-condition car, I felt this huge two ton burden lifted off my shoulders. No longer did I have to worry about large monthly loan payments, insurance payments, maintenance fees, and all the gas fill-ups.

We downsized to a smaller, rental car for the two months before leaving for our travels. During that time, the kids never felt any difference in comfort levels and we didn’t miss our gas-guzzling SUV at all. In fact, we relished not having to constantly fill up the tank with premium gas, parking wherever we wanted, and having more space in our garage with the smaller car.

Getting rid of our biggest possession—besides our house—helped us realize that we were more emotionally attached to the car than physically attached to it. We didn’t need the SUV for all its leather seats and four-wheel-drive handling, and were perfectly fine with a more compact car. After the car sold, we put everything we owned on the chopping block, including clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, electronics, dishes, and anything else that could be sold, given away, or donated.

As we got rid of more and more stuff, our house seemed bigger, our closets were roomier, and our kids could actually find the toys they were looking for. Initially, we were downsizing because we had to, since we were leaving for at least a year to travel the world together. But eventually, as we went through all of our stuff, we started downsizing because we wanted to. Things that could easily have been put in storage were sold or given away. My wardrobe was cut by 80% and my wife followed my lead by liquidating almost her entire closet, which was an entire lifetime of clothes, accessories, jewelry, and shoes.

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” 

~Steve Jobs

Through the process of liquidating all our stuff, we realized that we didn’t need any of it, except the bare essentials for a few days of clothing and our Apple products, of course. Everything else was excessive. Things that we hadn’t used in years had taken up space in our lives without us even knowing it. So when we released ourselves of those things and freed up that space—physically, mentally, and emotionally—we were able to focus on the things that mattered. We enjoyed more family time together, we became more charitable with our time and possessions, and we were able to concentrate on activities that we enjoyed such as exercising and spending quality time with our children.

With less stuff, we were able to rid ourselves of all the stress that the stuff had brought us. We had less bills, less upkeep, and less wasted energy. We filled the void of less stuff with more time for activities that gave us meaning. For me, I had more head space to meditate, read, and write. I also became more efficient in my work and running and exercise routines.

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My children were also beneficiaries of having less. They fought less over toys. They didn’t fuss as much about having to clean up their toys, since they had less. They were more calm and relaxed about finding their toys, as opposed to finding those things in the mountains of stuff they had before. They gravitated towards simple pleasures such as reading a book, coloring, and drawing a picture.

Less became more. We had a cleaner house, a more peaceful family, more time and energy to do the things we enjoyed the most, and more money through less consumption. With less stuff to buy or think about, we were able to fill up our lives with all the stuff that created balance in our lives. We weren’t consumers of our lives, rather we were producers of our lives. We were creating the life we wanted to live, simply, and with less.

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Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

~Henry David Thoreau

Living a simpler life is a step-by-step process. It won’t be easy at first, but once you takes steps to simplifying your life, you will start making forward progress and gaining momentum. The changes you’ll make in your life will create habits that will allow you to live a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

The Benefits of Simple Living:

  • You let go of burdens. Whether it’s financial, physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritual burdens, when you get rid of unnecessary stuff in your life, you let go of all those burdens. You don’t have to carry all that weight on your shoulders anymore and it feels amazing to carry a lighter load.
  • You free up necessary space. With less stuff, you have more space to literally move around and neatly arrange the stuff that you do have. You create more head space to concentrate on things that matter to you, whether it’s relationships with friends and family, work, school, or any goals that you may have. You now have the time and energy to focus on what’s most important in your life.
  • You start enjoying life. Because your life has been readjusted around living with less, you become grateful for what you have. You have a healthy body and mind, good relationships with your family and friends, and you have the capacity to be of service to others. You’re happier now because you’re living a fuller life, one of abundance, rather than scarcity. So you are more willing to share your time, energy, and resources with others.

Get rid of the excess in your life, live simply, and make room for all the good stuff to come in.

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Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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  • Becky Jo Schwarz

    This was so good! I couldn’t agree more! When my husband left his job to come work for my company, we took a major financial hit since he was the major breadwinner. We had to simplify our lives. Here it is more than a year later, and we are happier than ever. Who knew all those things we spent money on we didn’t really need.

    • Hi Becky Jo, great to hear from you! Glad to hear things are going well. I’m sure you and your husband make a great team. Wishing you and CE Talent all the best!

  • Natasha Drisdelle

    We totally agree! In preparation for our 1-2 years of world travel (we are currently in month 4), we spent an entire year (2013) buying nothing new. It was liberating and helped us prepare for selling/giving away every single thing we own (which happened in early 2016). We now have the bags on our backs and a few plastic totes in my parents basement to our names and it feels scary but great. We knew in 2015 that we were ready to let it all go and live a spartan life — except for our Apple products, yes! 🙂

    • Thanks, Natasha! Less is more. Hope you’re enjoying traveling with your kids.

  • Yabatravellers

    Very nice article and inspiring. We have the same way of thinking 🙂 keep the good work and be happy with your beautiful family!

    • Thanks for reading and glad you’re living the simple, more fulfilling life.