Less is More: Simple Steps to Reduce and Simplify

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It’s a brand New Year! Which is a great time to take stock of where in your life you can REDUCE & SIMPLIFY. After what is often a hectic and sometime glutenous holiday season, most people have the desire to  start fresh, form healthy new habits, and even make, yes, you guessed it, resolutions.

I’ll leave the resolutions to you, but I’ll lay out some effective ways you can start to simplify your life that will help you to make space (both literal and figurative) for any goals, changes and shifts you’re working to put in place this year.

You’ve probably heard some of these before, but reminders can be helpful, and there may be one or two you’ve not yet considered. And maybe you’ve never thought of these suggestions in terms of the Yamas and Niyamas. The point of all this is not to feel bad or guilty about any behaviors listed below that you may engage in, but to start thinking about, and maybe practicing, some of these tactics to simplify your life.

Ahimsa – nonviolence, nonharming:
Ahimsa isn’t just about non-violence toward others, it also applies to ourselves, and overindulgence is a way in which we self harm; whether it be too much booze, cannabis, social media, work or television (just to name a few). Overconsumption is the opposite of simplification. So reduce in those areas where you know you tend to pass a healthy limit. You’ll free up time and energy for other things. Like sleep.

Sleep, you ask? Yes, sleep. Prioritize your sleep. Exhausted is not an easy nor efficient way to go through life. It’s not good for your health, and it’s pretty likely that you’re treating those around you less well than if you were well rested.

Much like tired and cranky, ‘hangry’ and under-nourished isn’t a kind way to treat yourself either. Eat healthy food. Fuel your body with foods that nourish and support. Eat organic foods and drink filtered water whenever possible. Stop ingesting pesticides! Healthy is much, much simpler than sick.

Satya – truth:
Economize your words. Be honest and simple. Stop engaging in gossip and drama. In fact, why not give more silence a try? When you do talk, think about whether what you say is actually true, as opposed to being your own opinion that you hold as truth. If it is, that’s ok, but present it as such.

Work to reduce debt and live within your means. Start today. Spending more than we can afford is a form of untruthfulness. So pay bills right away, or as soon as is possible, and strive to live within you means moving forward.

Astaya – nonstealing:
Don’t steal your own time, or that of others. Be punctual. Getting places on time makes things much simpler. There is no need for excuses or apologies or stress. So leave space around activities in your day. Plan gaps in your schedule so that you can move through your day in a more relaxed way. (Bonus: watch your propensity for road rage diminish.)

Evaluate relationships, fix or dump those that drain you.

Limit unnecessary communication. Free up your time. Unsubscribe from junk email! (Fyi, there are services available to help with this, such as  https://www.otherinbox.com/ and https://unroll.me/). Limit media consumption too (yes, this includes social media), especially 1 hour before bed. (Remember prioritizing sleep above?)

Brahmacharya – nonexcess:
I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to make suggestions in the bedroom too? Well, not necessarily, as brahmacharya can be thought of in terms of non-excess in all areas of your life, not just in terms of sexuality. But since we are on the subject, get pornography, excessive sexual fantasy and unhealthy sexual behavior under control if you do struggle with it. Reduce and simplify – in all areas.

Aparigraha  – nonhoarding, nonattachment, nonpossessiveness:
Eliminate the unnecessary! We’re all heard it before — keep only those things that contribute positively to your life and discard the rest. But this can be harder than it sounds, as there are things that have sentimental value and others that may come in handy for future use. But if/when you do decide to delve in and take stock of what you should keep, chuck and donate, remember this: stuff we have little use for still requires that we take care of it and give it energy. To put it in simpler terms, owning less is better than organizing more. So to the best of your ability, get rid of and don’t replace, and spend that extra time and energy you just created to take a hike, catch an extra yoga class or meet a friend for tea.

Limiting your buying habits moving forward can also make a big difference. It will help you to both keep a clutter-free environment and to stop the (often unconscious) habit of accumulating new things you don’t really need. Want to jump-start this habit? Pick a month and commit to buying only food and household necessities (e.g. toilet paper & toothpaste). Believe me, it will wake you up to how many things you buy with little thought. (Insider tip: February is only 28 days.)

And if you’re wondering if your $6 morning latte counts as food or not? I’ll leave that up to you, but if you feel this daily cup is something you really can’t do without, you might want to see how giving up this attachment feels; get curious about what it is you’re actually craving (ritual? feeling of being cared for? community?).

Saucha – purity, cleanliness:
I’ll repeat myself here – get rid of clutter; keep only what is worthwhile.  Keep things clean and organized too, which again, is much easier if you’re not trying to tend to lots of stuff you don’t really need or want. Try this: take some time to organize your fridge. Get rid of anything past its prime, condiments you rarely if ever use and then put healthy, clean food front and center. You’re more apt to eat what’s right in front of you, and everything is more appetizing when it’s housed in a clean, organized environment.

Minimize
. As they say, your home is a living space, not a storage space. And a minimalist living space is much easier to keep clean and orderly.

Santosha – contentment, ‘enoughness’:
Be happy in the present moment, with what you have now – not longing for more. Practicing gratitude is a good remedy for those times when you do feel an unwanted pull from the material world. Also, remember that you are not your stuff – all those physical objects  you’ve accumulated over the years. As Ram Das so rightly states, “Our whole spiritual transformation brings us to the point where we realize that in our own being, we are enough.”

Tapas – discipline, right effort, internal fire:
Practice tapasya when making decisions about the many things listed above; put fiery focus toward creating healthy habits, carrying through on your attempts at simplification and reducing your consumption. Stop habitual patterns that are unsupportive — shopping out of boredom, for example.

Svadhyaya – self-study:
Any of these tactics put forth that you decide to try can be a means of self study. Get curious about what works and why. What does reducing and simplifying feel like physically, emotionally and mentally? What does it make room for? And in contrast, how do some of these actions challenge you and lead to discomfort?

Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender:
And lastly, surrender and observe. Trust the process. As Yoga Amrit Desai so aptly said, “Each time we learn to let go of fears and attachments, we automatically surrender.”

Beth Purcell is a human, freelance writer, yogini & member of The House of Yogi family. She finds the oft repeated routine of yoga – from asana to breathwork to meditation – allows her to navigate the organic chaos of everyday life and stay connected to the inspiration & creativity innate in us all.

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