American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder once remarked, “I believe we would be happier to have a personal revolution in our individual lives and go back to simpler living and more direct thinking. It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature.”
For me, simpler living is a way of life I witnessed, cultivated, and adopted through the invaluable and countless occasions I happily shared with my grandparents.
I can evoke memories of sitting around my grandparent’s kitchen table, pouring cups of freshly brewed tea from an ivory ceramic pot while munching on cookies or other sweet treats my grandmother placed on a coordinating dinner plate.
We’d communicate stories about our days, talk about our struggles, review newspaper headlines, sometimes play card games, sort through old family photos, and laugh and smile while simply relishing in each other’s company.
These occasions featured no over-the-top fanfare and were uninterrupted by the background noise of a TV idly playing. It was just the three of us cherishing a warm, comforting feeling that radiated from the unconditional affection which united us. These occasions served as a souvenir of sorts – a reminder that simpler living with people you admire, and respect, are the most memorable moments.
My wife and I could easily be categorized as old souls and treasure the art of simpler living, which is often synonymous with the categorization. Though we don’t own the ivory ceramic pot my grandmother prized, it’s not uncommon to find us seated at the kitchen table with two steaming cups of hot tea – relating our days, consoling each other, reminiscing, or just enjoying the company of a best friend.
Old souls typically have a greater appreciation and understanding of what’s essential in life, such as having meaningful connections with those around us and rarely supporting the mainstream ideology for what defines success. We’re often reflective, empathetic, purposeful, humble, compassionate, and observant and assign little importance to material possessions.
However, being an old soul doesn’t come without its share of prejudices. Society often depicts us as dull and unable to discuss matters of popular culture, which are often top of mind in mainstream society.
It can be challenging to establish and maintain meaningful connections. So many individuals define their self-worth by their amassment of material possessions, physical appearances, pop culture knowledge, and career status, which old souls rarely assign priority.
Because of this, there are times when old souls can feel alienated from their social environments and even ridiculed for the simpler living they’ve embraced. Let me share with you an example.
My wife and I are often teased that we only own one TV in our home, whose dimensions are only 32 inches, which by today’s materialistic standard is unacceptable for television viewing. Little do people realize that the marketing wizards of the world have been manipulating the public for years by convincing them of such a materialistic standard so companies can sell more gargantuan TVs at a higher cost.
There’s no TV in our living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, office, or outdoor spaces – just one unobtrusively placed in a small sitting room where the TV itself is not the focal point. Sometimes, we even watch television programs on a 10-inch tablet; believe it or not, the program is just as enjoyable regardless of the screen size.
We also have no virtual assistant technologies living in any room of our home. Frankly, I find them redundant if I already own a cell phone with the same capabilities, and it only adds to society’s overall laziness. Unfortunately, some people feel the need to point out this omission when visiting our home. They call out for “Alexia” when someone has a question they can’t answer as a way of reminding us that we’re misfits in popular society.
Maybe we are misfits. Old souls enjoy simpler living and seldom believe their lives are lacking in anything – refusing to waste valuable time consumed by what other people think. Compared to mainstream society, who’s obsessed with what others think about them to the point of anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues – all while propagating stereotypes and a lifestyle that is then conveyed to our children as the ideal way to live.
Simpler living doesn’t mean you’re missing out on something. On the contrary, it means you’ve gained something that old souls already know is a direct result of being reflective, empathetic, purposeful, humble, compassionate, and observant.
Old souls refuse to participate in the shallow competitions that exist in always trying to outdo one’s neighbor – accumulating debt to generate a perception of status rather than acting responsibly and rejoicing in the financial freedoms attained by simpler living.
We have a firmer understanding that time is not infinite, and we hold others’ time in high regard – never allowing meaningless activities to cause someone else to feel ignored, unimportant, or unloved.
We never allow ourselves to be prisoners to cell phones or other technologies, especially when visiting family or friends, which unquestionably illustrates one’s lack of care or concern for anyone else but themselves.
Simpler living allows you to be genuinely grateful for all the simple blessings you’ve been bestowed. Such as the ability to increase one’s knowledge by reading texts that may be outside your comfort zone. To welcome individuals who are different from us – snubbing antiquated stereotypes and opening our hearts and minds to the notion that we all long for love, reassurance, and happiness regardless of the circumstance.
To enjoy the silence of being out in nature, even if it’s only gardening in your backyard, to reconnect with the earth and the natural environment all around you. To eliminate the trivial distractions we assign so much value to and reconnect with those individuals who have been so steadfast in our lives but now have become an afterthought.
Perhaps most importantly, to find a quiet moment in the chaos of life to be alone with your thoughts and critical of the person you’ve become and what, if any, meaning that person provides to everyone with consistency and sincerity.
Writer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Simply being a member of mainstream society and popular culture does not define your accomplishments in life any more than riches or material possessions ever could. Conforming to social norms is not a ground-breaking character trait and offers little originality to a world so consumed with being accepted rather than being themselves.
Simpler living is all about understanding and accepting who you are and appreciating your abilities to be reflective, empathetic, purposeful, humble, compassionate, and observant with those you’re closest to and unknown strangers. Only after you’ve harnessed the power of all those characteristics (and more) can you say with certainty you’ve achieved your greatest accomplishment in life.