A passionate expression of how a simple life can improve your health, relationship and reduce stress
|Originally published: Dec 26, 2017
Author: Courtney Carver
Genre: Self-help bookPublisher: TarcherPerigee
For several months I have been thinking about a simpler lifestyle, and luckily my wife is an equal partner in this journey. We have decided to downsize and live in a motor home full time – which recently became a reality when we sold our house and the large majority of our possessions. If it didn’t fit into the motor home it had to go! I will be documenting our journey, for good and bad, over the coming weeks and months. So, by the time I watched the movie “The Minimalists” featuring Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from the comfort of our motor home we were already on our way.
As is my way, I like to get other people’s perspective on a simpler lifestyle to see if I can get further insights. Whilst deep diving into relevant material I came across the book Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver.
As I started to read the book I immediately resonated with Courtney Carver’s story, although we started from a different place. The catalyst for Carver was when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she called her “wake-up call”, causing her to re-evaluate everything about her life. She goes onto describe the changes she made to her life and the benefits she has seen. She does this is very personal way, explaining these were things she did that worked for her, but not going as far as to proselytize her methods.
In the chapter entitled “Lessons from the Mat” Carvers talks about the importance of yoga in her daily routines and how this has bought her balance (spiritually and physically). She presents seven lessons covering stretching her beliefs (sorry for yoga reference again), letting go, managing fear and the connections between mind and body.
In addition to yoga Carver has introduced other healthy lifestyle options into routines including changing her diet (eating more greens), exercise through walking and getting plenty of sleep; up to seven to eight hours every night.
The next section of her book talks about making space. This includes removing the clutter from your life. She spends time breaking down some of the myths about ownership of things and how scary people find it (including herself) about letting go, especially of those sentimental things and dealing with the guilt of letting these things go. This is something on which I can empathize with Culver, having just gone through the process ourselves. She de-cluttered over a period of time, in our case we had two weeks to find new homes for all the contents of a 4 bed, 2400 sq ft house. Also, I set us the challenge of not renting a storage unit. Apparently, 1 in 10 Americans have a storage unit or more because they can’t get everything in their home. We did play with idea of a trailer to hold anything we couldn’t get into our motor home – but amazingly we cleared everything out and didn’t need a trailer or storage unit. A pat on our backs.
Having simplified your house of possessions Culver goes on to address another issue of ownership – the relapse; refilling your home with things to replace the stuff you just got rid of. She presents some ideas of things to do to fill up those spare hours we have rather than take off to the shops when we are bored. And if you do go to the shops she gives some strategies to keep you focused on sticking to buying just the things you need rather than what you want.
The next hairy topic she deals with is the stress of money – or more precisely the lack of. She and her husband Mark set themselves the goal of being debt free. For myself and Karen this is also a life goal. We have paid off our mortgages, but we still have a car loan, but could pay this off from money in the bank if we chose to. So, I like to think we are debt free, Yeah! For Culver it took several years of focus and sacrifice but they finally managed it They cut up their credit cards and put any spare cash in to paying down their mortgage quicker.
Going on a journey towards a simple lifestyle is almost impossible on your own if you have a family. Carver and her partner Mark held “simplicity summits”. They used these sessions to plan and map out the changes they wanted to make and set goals. In the books she gives some ideas on creating your own simplicity summit.
In the chapter “Simple is the New Black” Carver sets out to simplify her wardrobe with her “Project 333” – with the challenge of getting down to a closet made up of 33 items, including clothing, jewelry, accessories and shoes in a three month period. The benefits she found as Project 333 rolled out were easier mornings, less time to get ready, more free time, more money and more compliments. For myself and Karen this process of rationalizing was made easier as we have very limited space in our motor home. The main issue we have is the weather – we live in the high desert in Oregon so the winters are cold and the summers hot. Our compromise is that we store seasonal clothes in the under storage of the motor home – but we only have one tote each.
In the third section of the book Culver tackles the subject of making time and reduce the stress of having to manage a busy life. She outlines and provides some thoughts on getting less busy and slowing down, introducing concepts such as habit stacking for developing new, less stressful routines. Since moving ourselves into the motor home we have had to develop new routines, especially in the mornings where we have to get ready for work. It is fair to say this has been challenging but after a few days it does get easier! Then there is the “Busy Boycott” which starts with banning using the word busy from your vocabulary moving to doing less and lingering longer. She also talks about how she protects herself from the pressures in life is that try to drag you back from a life of soulful mindfulness to unforgiving busyness. To achieve this she has developed strategies to manage these situations and learning the art of saying no, with grace.
Overall, I really enjoyed Courtney Culver’s book “Simple Simplicity” it was gentle and engaging with some very practical suggestions some elements of which would work for many people. I would say that there were some repetition and so the message could have been more punchy. But a good read and helpful for people considering simplifying their lives.