The Art of Artlessness: On Living Simply and Naturally
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” - Wu-Men
Post written by Leo Babauta from zen habits
A lot of the complexity in our lives come when we try to keep up certain appearances.
A simpler, happier life can be achieved when we drop those appearances and just live naturally, without pretense or artfulness.
Let me give you just a few examples:
* There was a time when wardrobe was important to me — I wanted to impress my superiors and so I had lots of (fairly) expensive clothes. Now that I’ve decided I don’t need to keep up those appearances, I normally wear shorts and a T-shirt and sandals to all of my meetings. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and people can deal with me on those terms or not. I’m happier, and my wardrobe and life are simpler for it.
* I’ve also decided that a huge, fancy house and beautiful luxury car are no longer important to me (not that I ever had either, but I did strive for them). Now I go for function, and I’m debt-free.
* There was also a time when I tried to impress others with my knowledge, intelligence, competence. I’d try to show off, or take on more than I could handle, just to impress people. Now I worry less about this and instead just try to do the best I can in whatever I do. In the end, I’m more satisfied with the job I do, and with myself, and others seem to be happy with this as well.
Shaking off these pretenses, this artfulness, results in simplicity. It’s when we try to hold up the pretenses that things get complex. We’re also less honest, and less true to ourselves.
Learn to live a simpler, more natural life, and drop the pretenses one at a time. You’ll be glad you did.
A few ideas to get you started:
1. Dress: Do your clothes aim to impress? Do you have to keep a complicated, expensive wardrobe to maintain this image? How can you shed this need to impress, and just dress simply and functionally instead? I’m not saying you need to dress in rags (or wear sandals, as I do).
2. Grooming: I no longer worry about grooming as much as I once did. Now I have a shaved head, and my grooming tools are down to a reasonable minimum: soap, razor and shaving cream, deodorant, electric trimmer (for the hair). I don’t need hair products, aftershave, a comb, or many other grooming products. Of course, not everyone is going to shave their head, but going for a more natural look could simplify things: stop trying to look a certain way, and you can cut back on the number of grooming products and tools you use and keep.
3. Language: I know lots of people who use “impressive” language, often full of jargon or academic-speak or geek-speak. Well, that might impress some, but knowledgeable people know that you’re covering up a lack of real competence with complicated language. Speak simply, with plain language, and your real intelligence will shine through. You’ll also communicate better — a plus in my book.
4. Decorating: Almost every home I visit is filled with decorative things, perhaps meant to impress or convey a certain message about the home. I find that the simple, natural look is better — subtract as much as you can, until you are left with a minimum of simple, beautiful things.
5. Gifts: When we try to impress and keep up appearances, we can end up spending a lot of money on gifts, especially around the holidays but also on birthdays and other occasions. And while I think it’s great to show someone that you care with a gift, does it really need to be expensive? Can’t something home-made, or consumable, be just as nice? Or perhaps you can do something nice for someone, like a massage or chores or babysitting? Keep things simple, but show you care.
6. Work: Don’t do things at work to impress — you’ll end up doing things that are artificial and false, and often stretch too far and fail, or at least show your shortcomings. While there’s nothing wrong with having shortcomings (who doesn’t have them?), you should aim instead to do the best you can, not because you want to impress but because you want to feel good about the job you’ve done.
7. Transportation: Forget about an impressive car — go for minimalism and function. Or maybe you don’t need a car at all — can public transportation or a bike suffice? I’ve been walking more, for transportation, because I no longer worry about what people will think of me. As a result, I get more exercise, and I enjoy the outdoors more and I help conserve resources a little more.
8. Devices: Do you have to have the latest and greatest gadget (the iPhone, the Palm Pre, the Android), not because you need it but because you want to show people you have it? I’ve done this many times. Drop the pretension and get only what you need.
Life is so much richer when you live in the moment, live for you and be present with the earth. – Marvelous Mouth