In Praise of Simplicity

It generally seems that at this time of year (cold days with long holiday to-do lists looming) we begin to choke a bit at life’s many complexities and consider simplicity even more elusive than usual. We stare down our gift-giving and merry-making to-do’s and punt to New Year’s any healthy behaviors that feel too difficult right now. We feel worn down already by the weather (well, some of you lucky readers live somewhere warmer than us). And, unfortunately, have the added weight this year of jumping into a new decade with a political quagmire ahead.

All of this got us talking about what constitutes a simple, less-complicated life. Is it really possible? Well, we have a few thoughts on how to scale back and refocus now (and not just on Jan 1). None of it’s ground-breaking in nature but some things just need a regular reminder to become habit. And paring things back a bit has a knock on effect — helping you and those around you.

Turning it Off

Doesn’t it seem so obvious to suggest you should tune out to simplify your life? But we don’t do it…for so many reasons. We have post-traumatic political syndrome…feeling sure that if we turn off MSNBC we won’t be prepared for the apocalypse brought on by a single day’s news. Or if we only look at Instagram with just one eye open we’ll suffer FOMO. This great piece about the ‘Lost Art of Concentration’ in The Guardian from last year is still a fresh and important read.

In fact the article is so full of studies that hopefully you won’t get distracted in your multi-tasking and can make it through to the end! Because the rub is this: a more fragmented approach to consuming information means you are processing less; not more. No multi-tasking is not a good thing. We aren’t getting smarter just more agitated. And it’s something we should be gravely worried about.

Not all is lost; as the fix can be relatively painless (of course besides the obvious ‘switch to off’) One of our favorite tips here:

This is a simple way of learning to concentrate better. It goes like this: whenever you feel like quitting – just do five more – five more minutes, five more exercises, five more pages – which will extend your focus. The rule pushes you just beyond the point of frustration and helps build mental concentration. It’s a form of training as well as being a way of getting something accomplished.

Throwing it Out

Sure Marie Kondo is so 2014 (yes it was that long ago that she burst onto the tidying scene). But it’s not just her resurgence last year on Netflix that has gotten our attention.  It’s our need more than ever to declutter and de-prioritize mass consumption.  As city dwellers this is not just a conceptual need but instead a fear of sinking beneath our possessions. Even if us city folk fill our closets with less …we fight the same battle of resisting new shiny objects and art brought home by the kids from school. Why we like the Marie Kondo Method reminder is this…what doesn’t ‘spark joy’ as Kondo effuses, for us, causes stress. It’s hard to focus on what’s important when you are knee deep in things you don’t need.

And in keeping with our mission of letting our visitors know about the great women-owned businesses they might be missing…there is room for being more thoughtful when you do consume. It’s too easy to see sales and to be immediately distracted by what’s bright and shiny. But there are so many reasons to be instead more thoughtful about what you buy.

Simplicity is Saying it Clearly

There is a great book often used in journalism programs called ‘On Writing Well.  The late William Zinsser tells an anecdote in the book regarding the way he would get students to simply write a flyer or any business letter/document… He would push them to get to the point over and over again until the piece was so tight and obvious that it felt naked.

The point is we often obfuscate to death with words (and isn’t that the understatement on the decade in our post-truth world?) We see a lack of simplicity everywhere…. in politics, at the store, on television, even at work. A ‘word salad’ (btw, likely one of the words of the decade we’ll see in wrap ups) that is convoluted and twisted that you just nod your head. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say.

So with that, let’s wrap it up this way: focus on one thing and you’ll be smarter. Turning off devices will make you more sane. Cleaning up and throwing out will make you less testy. And saying what you mean, and saying it briefly, will make you more powerful. See. Easy. Simplicity granted!