Wednesday, 13 August 2008

How Simple Living Can Be Damaging

There isn't a day go by where I don't think about what simple living means to me and how I might be able to simplify my life even more. Today I got to thinking about how the extremes of anything can be more damaging than they’re productive.

Let’s say you’re staying at a hotel that’s less than green and you can’t find anywhere to put the rubbish that you know should go to recycling. You don’t have a car to drive to a recycling point and as you hardly know the area, finding one on foot isn’t easy. Because you’re so determined not to go against your green principles you could well end up spending the best part of your holiday obsessing over what to do with the said items and fretting over the hotel management who just aren’t doing their bit.

Or perhaps you’re intent on eating only healthy foods but the hostess who invited you to dinner has cooked a meal that’s far from what you would have chosen. What do you do? Sit and pick at your food because there’s no way you’re going to eat something that’s less than healthy? Start a discussion with hostess about her choice of menu? Or might you just eat and enjoy it, knowing that one ‘bad’ meal now and then isn’t going to kill you?

Maybe you’ve promised yourself that you’ll only buy locally produced fruit, veg and meat but when you get to the shop, all they have is imported stuff. You’re tired because the kids have been moody and you really just want to get home but, even so, you stalk off the next shop even though it’ll take you an extra 15 minutes and the kids will be even moodier because there’s no way you’re feeding them imported food!

There are myriad situations like these where obsessing over our lifestyle choices can be damaging to our ability to live quietly and with contentment and that really can’t be the best way forward when living a simple life.

There’s such a thing as the 80/20 rule. Basically it means that we should all live by our own standards 80 percent of the time and accept that the remaining 20 percent may not be exactly how we’d prefer it.

Sometimes we eat things we don’t feel we ought to, whether it’s because we’re eating out or simply because we fancied that indulgent bar of chocolate; sometimes we throw something that could have been reused and at times we might buy something we didn’t really need. Then there are times when we might spend more on something that we feel we should have or watched more TV than we promised ourselves we would.

Beating ourselves up over these situations is non-productive. We’re human and no human’s perfect. We don’t live ‘perfect’ lives.

We’re allowed to make the odd mistake, take a shortcut or indulge ourselves occasionally - I know I certainly do and i don't feel guilty about it, either. I used to, but I've learned not to. It really is just a matter of keeping everything within reason - that 80/20 parameter.

Sharon J

PS: No spend days so far this month: 5/16 (lost one on Monday as wasn't well so ordered a take-away to save cooking a meal - it wasn't even nice!)


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Catz said...

Thank you Sharon! I feel so much better now It is the 20% when it goes wrong that can really rack up the guilt!

Sharon J said...

I know, Catz. I learned to relax about things when I realised that guilt and contentment really don't go hand-in-hand.

Jade of the Jungle said...

Totally agree.

I've only just started to see the light in terms of downshifting, and it's not been easy to make certain changes to my lifestyle. If we beat ourselves up every time we stumble a bit or face a blip, living simply would become a chore or something negative. It shouldn't be like that, it should be something to be enjoyed.

Ultimately I think a lot of things are about balance and doing things that work for you as best you can otherwise you'll drive yourself bananas.

Sharon J said...

Absolutely, Jade. If we don't enjoy life, then something is wrong.

I wouldn't want to go bananas ;)

Frugal Trenches said...

Wonderful post! Like I always say, balance!! I do find I'm a lot harder on myself then I am on others...hmm!

I hate when I do a splurge and then don't enjoy it! I feel your pain!!

Sharon J said...

Frugal Trenches. I know what you mean, I'm also tougher on myself than I am on others. I'm learning to ease up though :)

Rachel said...

I think it's so important to apply grace to each aspect of our lives.

Cottage Smallholder said...

Thanks, Sharon. Good point. The 80/20 rule allows for loads of other people's lifestyles. No one is trying to ruin the planet!

Sharon J said...

Rachel. I agree, although I think all of us find it difficult at times.

Cottage Smallholder. That's so true. Even those who don't appear to care are unlikely to be deliberately destroying it.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point. Having just spent some of the week in a hotel, I was automatically flattening cardboard boxes and stacking up paper for recycling, yet there was no where to recycle it. I was half tempted to bring it home with me.. but every little helps.. so thank you for easing my guilty conscience somewhat

Sharon J said...

apieceofwood. I'm happy to have been of help :)

I can just imagine you automatically flattening the boxes. I think living with a teenager who isn't quite as keen on simplicity as I am has taught me to 'see through my fingers' at times.