When a Busy Mind Gets in the Way of Minimalism

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When I close my eyes and imagine a perfect day in my minimalist, simple life, a quiet voice, speaking in its best NPR hushed tones, speaks inside my head:

I wake without an alarm, do some stretches and gentle yoga, and meditate for ten minutes to start the day.  After a large glass of water and some hot tea, I settle down to read for an hour before my family wakes and my day starts …

And then, WHAM! I’m back to my current-day reality.  It is good to have dreams and good to have goals, and I have plenty of both.  While I aspire to a slower cadence and a calm, low-stress life, right now I define success in that department differently.  Do you?

Minimalizing my life has been an ongoing project for more than two decades, but I am still a work in progress.  Honestly, I have had some glorious, short-term successes during some life intervals.  My year of pregnancy comes to mind.  In general, I spent that year being laser focused on my health and growing a healthy new human being.

During my pregnancy, when I was told to dial back my work schedule (under the threat of a bedrest order if I did not comply), I was all too willing to shift from my four-day work week to a three-day work week.  That was more than a decade ago, and I have largely kept my three-day work week habit intact.

In fits and starts, I have worked to simplify our home and my schedule.  Decluttering the things in our home was actually the easier project for me.  Decluttering my schedule has been more challenging, as I do not like to let people down.  By prioritizing my family, however, I have made great strides in keeping my schedule reasonable.

There is one aspect of me, however, that resists mightily to slowing down and chilling out:  my mind.  Whether it is those damn hamsters running on the wheel in my head if I wake up in the night, or simply my inability to stop thinking about plans, ideas, or scenarios throughout the day, my mind refuses to go gently into that simple, minimal night.

Have you tried meditating?  This is the first thing people suggest to me when I bemoan my non-stop mind.  Of course, I have tried meditating!  It’s abundantly obvious to me that I need to meditate.  I make excuses about not having time to meditate, but that is baloney.  The fact is that I have not made meditating a priority.  As a result, my mind continues to run the risk of careening off the rails.

Have you tried exercising?  Yes, I have.  Exercise comes in fits and starts for me.  I don’t love it naturally, and I haven’t found a routine physical activity I can’t live without.  What a pity.

The irony of all of this is I am totally capable of slowing down and enjoying the simple things.  I am not one of those people who can’t sit still for five minutes without looking at my phone, and I am not one of those people that MUST be busy all day.  How do I know this?  Because I do it all the time!  My struggle is when I try to commit to that state of serenity for any great length of time.

And why is that?  Because I adore being busy.  I thrive when I am juggling multiple projects!  In the mornings I frequently wake before my alarm goes off.  But I don’t take it slow and easy.  There’s no hushed voice in my head.  Instead, I am fired up and ready to make things happen!  I greet the pets, make my tea, and get to work.  Mornings are my writing time and my “review the day for maximum efficiency and effectiveness” time.

I continue to admire from afar folks who spend large chunks of their days being quiet, peaceful, and content, a state of being that is seen as the goal of minimalism and living the simple life for many.

Living the simple life for me doesn’t look like that.  Instead, it looks like an uncluttered home (most of the time), a schedule that reflects my priorities (most of the time), and a passion for all the projects and roles I currently fill – by choice.

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I just haven’t experienced enough of the “good life” to appreciate what I’m missing.  I have experienced many days where I dispense with work and just read, relax, and play with my family.  Those are fabulous days.

But more often, my head hits the pillow after a very full day doing things that I love, and I experience deep satisfaction.  The rest that follows a productive day is my favorite kind of rest.  I lie down and review all the wonderful things my family did and all the work I completed.  Then I smile, sigh, and instantly fall asleep.

I realize my busy life doesn’t meet most people’s definition of minimalism or a simple life.  But here is the thing – I very rarely do anything that I don’t absolutely want to do.  My schedule has been sufficiently decluttered of the things that no longer feed me, and instead is filled with the things that matter the most.  There just happen to be a lot of those meaningful things at the moment, and I am just fine with that.

Can you relate to being happily busy?  Do you still feel like your life is simple?  Share your thoughts below.  Or if you want some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your thoughts!

You might also enjoy:

The Importance of White Space in Life and Money

Simplifying Your Life Requires Balancing Time and Money

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P.S.   That picture?  Not me.  I don’t meditate, remember?  😉

2 responses to “When a Busy Mind Gets in the Way of Minimalism

  1. I can relate. My home is largely clutter free (although my craft area always needs a tweak.). I got down to 25 hours/week to make time for exercise, yoga, meditation and more time with my husband. This was to be a year long experiment: I trained for a race, have done more yoga. My meditation practice is fits and starts. My husband works part-time too, likes to garden, and watch TV, I don’t share the first two, so I knit and keep him company. I still sleep well. Money has been tight this year so the good news is I have cut a lot of mindless spending. But overall, nothing this year (even completed projects) seems “all that and a bag of chips” satisfying so I’m thinking, it’s time to get back to full time work. He doesn’t agree. We are empty nesters and I hope to preserve the flexibility to make needed visits to our aging parents and spontaneous visits with our kids happen, but haven’t found a full time job opportunity that allows for that yet…open to suggestions.

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for sharing your journey thus far! What if you started a side-gig in addition to your part time job, instead of trying to find a full time job? I’m fearful that a full time job with lots of flexibility (such as you desire) might be a bit of a unicorn. 🙂 I wrote about some ideas to increase income in this post: https://simplemoneypro.com/blog/want-to-make-more-money-just-add-value-and-stir-well/. Maybe do some thinking about what really jazzes you – what activities, work, hobbies, and see what you can brainstorm as a way to make a bit more money and have more satisfaction. Report back, please, I’d love to know what you come up with! ~Dawn

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