"Throwing things away requires effort. Getting rid of things is not difficult in itself, but judging what is useful and what is not can be."
With L’art de la Simplicité, Dominique Loreau has penned a wonderfully comprehensive yet simply written book on how to attain the art of living a simple life. As a working mother of two children who sometimes feels life is a rollercoaster (huge fun but rarely slowing down), the concept of a simple life offers some attraction. I was looking forward to reading this book to find out how I might adopt at least some aspects of leading a simple life. This is a book to which I am sure I will return and I was reassured by the simple fact that decluttering and living a simple life is a choice and requires some careful consideration.
Dominique also outlines that while creating lists is a method for decluttering, the challenge is in remaining disciplined about ticking off the to do items and ensuring we remain firm to our principles of living a simpler life. The book is split into sections focusing on materialism and minimalism in terms of objects and possessions, a review of your body and how you can look after it better, and an exploration of your own thinking and mental models. Together these three aspects can help anyone achieve a simpler life. What is important is making the choice and following through to achieve the goals of that choice.
We do not possess things—we are possessed by them
"Each of us is free to have whatever we like, but what matters above all is our attitude to things, our knowledge of our own limits, needs and expectations: what we like to read, what films we enjoy, the places that make us profoundly happy."
The takeaway for me here is that hanging onto items for sentimental reasons is not useful if the item doesn’t continue to give us pleasure. Rather, pleasure can be taken in recognizing something no longer holds real value for us, and that giving it away may enable someone else to benefit from valuing it.
Dominique provides a set of questions to help you think about what you can do to achieve a simpler, easier life and these really help with then identifying where and how we can declutter our existing way of living:
- What makes my life complicated?
- Is it worth it?
- When am I happiest?
- Is having more important than being?
- How far am I prepared to divest?
There is time for everything, today
"Each new day is the only thing we truly possess. Today is our whole life. Not yesterday, not tomorrow… Do not fall into the trap of thinking you must do whatever you want straightaway, before it’s too late. Whatever you do now will prepare you for the things you will do in future. Everything you do is cumulative."
Dominique emphasizes the importance of taking breaks and being idle, as this alone can help reenergize us. This is also about learning to live mindfully; having a simpler life reduces the number of things demanding our care and attention. The reader is also asked to consider how to accomplish our tasks with good grace and without question. An example here is recognizing that housework is necessary but that it can help you create a living space which is clean and bright and well-ordered which will in turn help make your mind clearer and decisions seem easier to make. Therefore, approach housework as a moment of real pleasure in that creating an ordered environment helps us order our inner selves too.
Everyone should have space in their day for the following:
- Walk for half an hour every day;
- Take a short sleep, even 15 minutes at your desk;
- Look at old photos as these can help you rediscover yourself;
- Devote 15 minutes a day to a project that is important to you;
- Do one thing at a time;
- Learn to say no gracefully and firmly;
- Live life at a slower pace, working less;
- Avoid routine;
- Own little;
- Schedule housework;
- Buy all shopping in one session, once a week;
- Keep your desktop free of paperwork, except for immediate ongoing tasks;
- Answer emails and letters quickly, never leave a task half done.
Make looking after yourself a priority
"Don’t neglect your body – your own life, and the lives of others, depend on it… The body should not burden the mind and spirit. It should be made ready to support and reflect intellectual activity and the things of the spirit."
Dominique notes that beauty is about being yourself and that it’s a combination of self-assurance, pride, presence, allure and vivacity. The lesson here is on looking after yourself and noting that what we eat and drink can impact how tired or energetic we feel with the emphasis being on feeling good in our own skin. Dominique highlights how important regular exercise is in both looking after our body and our mental health and reducing the levels of stress and anxiety we might be feeling.
Asides from these important aspects, the other part of looking after ourselves is about how we reflect our own sense of style with our clothes. Dominque defines style as combining simplicity, beauty and elegance. Our clothes express who we are and what we want to be, dressing well in well-fitting clothes provides us with a sense of peace and we should only keep the clothes we truly love.
I loved reading this book. It is almost a guide for how women today can create a sense of order and peace both for themselves and those they love and others they interact with. Dominique provides many things to think about and has some wonderful lists ranging from housework tips through to willpower and image and attitude. If you, like me, are looking to reduce the sense of being on a rollercoaster and want to look at how to make it a long country drive then this is a book worth the read.