Around ten years ago my husband Thom and I got serious about living a more simple, minimal and rightsized life. But as most of us know, a simple life isn’t like a college degree where once you have it, you hang it on the wall and never think about it again. So, when offered a review copy of the book, Soulful Simplicity—How Living With Less Can Lead To So Much More—I eagerly accepted. The book not only reinforces many of the practices I’ve learned along the way, it also gently shares a number of new and soulful ideas about how living with less truly leads to a life of living so much more.
The book’s author, Courtney Carver, was a former advertising executive and single mom who gave up her chronically stressful life of workaholism and debt after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS.) Like most things that need changing, it didn’t happen overnight. And perhaps even more importantly, Carver recognized that even though the transformation started with a few external actions—like diet and yoga—it was the internal shifts that made the biggest difference. Once Carver put her health first and how that touched her daughter, she kept peeling off the layers of her former life until she uncovered the needs of her soul.
Like many of you, I’ve read a lot about simplicity and minimalism. I’ll admit that it can be tempting to just skim through information that we think we already know. Fortunately for me, I began reading this book over the weekend and slowly allowed it to share its soothing message with me. Serendipitously, it handed me a pearl of an idea that I really needed to hear.
It was a busy weekend. Not only did Thom and I attend a large family gathering on Saturday afternoon, that evening we were invited to dinner with friends. Both events were filled with laughter, love and good food—my favorite things. Then along with the goodbyes at the end of the evening, we received an invitation to play Pickleball first thing in the morning. I haven’t mentioned much about Pickleball before, but it is a fun new game that I really enjoy.
The problem was, when I woke up on Sunday morning what I really wanted to do was just sit, open the doors of the house so I could hear my fountain, cuddle with Kloe (my dog), and finish my book. But those of you who know me also know that I struggle with FOMO. (Fear of missing out.) My FOMO is constantly pushing me to do more, see more, enjoy more—so the thought of not going to play Pickleball with my friends was very conflicting.
While I wrestled with the decision I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened the book. There Carver reveals an excellent antidote to FOMO. Rather than worry about anything I might be missing, Carver suggests JOMO—the Joy of missing out! When you think about it, it is so simple that it’s crazy I never thought about it that way before. Instead of agonizing over what I was missing, JOMO suggests that I celebrate letting go of the temptation, and enjoy being and doing nothing (or something else that matters more to me in the moment.) The minute I read about JOMO, a light when off in my head and I immediately felt myself relax into the pleasant choice of just staying home.
If you don’t suffer from FOMO you might not be as impressed as I was about this simple but profound thought. But here are a few more jewels in this book that deserve attention:
- Carver freely talks about her illness, but it is also clear that this book isn’t about her MS. She says, “Once I intentionally began to slow down and simplify my life, I began to heal, and most of the healing had nothing to do with multiple sclerosis…It was a gentle honesty about what mattered most in my life.”
- Carver points out that we often must shift and adjust ourselves to get to where we want to go—and sometimes that is difficult and painful. She says, “Over almost a decade of massive change, it’s become very clear to me that you have to do things you don’t want to do so you can do things you want to do and have the kind of life you really want.” Like I talked about in last week’s post, tradeoffs (or PVT) are necessary!
- “Making ends meet impacted my entire life—keeping people happy, paying the bills, errands, meetings, obligations, commitments, getting things done, catching up—so many ends…. I finally figured it out. Instead of working so hard to make ends meet, work on having fewer ends.”
- “We buy and hold on to things for many reasons, but usually it’s because we want to be someone we are not, feel something we don’t, or prove we are something we don’t think we are to someone else.”
- “Shopping numbed the pain and it felt like an accomplishment…. I loved the feeling of shopping. The relief. The distraction. I was shopping away the pain…. I didn’t love shopping, I loved numbing the pain.”
- “I know how it feels to do work you don’t enjoy earning money to pay for all the things you need to make yourself feel better for doing work you don’t enjoy.”
- “Busyness was part of my definition of success…If you’ve ever used your to-do list or calendar as a report card to assess your self-worth, you know what I mean.”
- Carver quotes another author named Glennon Doyle who said, “You can either be shiny and admired or real and loved.” Carver continues with, “Being shiny means not being you. Shiny doesn’t last, or feel good, or matter. Loved is always the better bet.”
- “…the simple yet sometimes hard truth is that your children don’t want your stuff. They want you…. I don’t want my legacy to be storage containers of stuff…When I go, I want to be remembered for how I loved while I was here.”
- “We don’t remove clutter, reduce the stress, and boycott busyness to have a simple life. We do it to have a life.”
There is obviously much more in the book including suggestions about how to put it all into practice. But what really stands out for me is the fact that this book was written by a woman (most of the other books on simplicity and minimalism are written by men) so it feels different. Carver does an excellent job of pointing out the why we strive for a simpler life instead of all the how-tos—so it makes for both an enjoyable read as well as an inspiring one.
In true SMART Living fashion, Carver admits that she isn’t an expert on simplicity and is still a work in progress. What she does in this book is remind us all that the best way to experience a life that matters, is to let go of everything else and be true to ourselves.