But the true key isn’t in the steps, it’s in our mental habits.
For example, I could get rid of my physical clutter and simplify my day so that I have more space in my life … but until I address the mental habits that got me to a cluttered life, it will just keep coming back.
So here’s what I’ve learned is the key mental habit of simplicity: noticing the mind’s tendency to want more, and don’t believe it.
The mind always wants more. And at the same time, it wants less — there’s a polarity in the mind that craves simplicity and craves more.
Why does the mind want both? The mind wants more because it thinks that more will make it happy, it sees possibility in acquiring more, and it thinks that acquiring things will help relieve the uncertainty it feels.
The mind wants less when it is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and just wants relief from that difficult feeling. It thinks that if it gets rid of stuff, there will be peace.
Both are wrong, but they come from a good-hearted place.
Why the Desire for More, & Less, are Both Wrong
The desire for more is wrong because, as we’ve all seen, you can get a bump of joy when you receive your new package in the mail … but it doesn’t even last a day, usually. Certainly not a few days. That dopamine hit of acquiring more is very temporary … and it doesn’t make us happier over the long term. It doesn’t actually give us what we’re hoping for in life, nor does it relieve any uncertainty.
Think about it:
- If you are worried about an upcoming trip, you’ll research the destination, buy some new clothes or equipment to help you feel more prepared, make plans and have everything set in place. The uncertainty doesn’t go away, you’ve just kept yourself busy trying to get control as a way of coping with the stress of uncertainty.
- You got into a new hobby, excited by the awesome possibilities of it. Of course, you had to buy more things to enable the hobby, but that’s OK because it’s going to give you this amazing new life, right? Actually, your life might change, but it won’t ever be what you were fantasizing about. Your mind just tricks you.
- You got that beautiful new (outfit, bag, gadget, tool, whatever) and you think, “Oh, isn’t life grand?” But then your life returns to normal, and it’s not any better, except now you’re a little poorer and you have a cool new thing in it to clutter up your space.
So when the mind wants more, it is simply trying to find happiness or relief from stress. Neither actually results from having more, but that doesn’t stop the mind from trying.