Three years ago my wife and I cut the cord when it came to cable TV. We had signed a two year deal with our cable company when we moved and when that contract was up, as expected, the rates skyrocketed. It was hard to justify the money we would be spending when we were only watching roughly 7 channels out of the 100 or so we were offered. So we dumped cable.
As someone who was attempting to live a more simple life this just seemed to be the next logical step and matched the experiences of others whose blogs I followed. The experts indicated that ditching TV would lead to more family time and more overall happiness (and who doesn’t want that?). I wouldn’t be saddled with the expectations of a consumer driven world and could live my life without worrying about how marketers were attempting to drive me in specific directions to buy more. This is what a minimalist was supposed to do; this was the essence of simple living. I was being counter-cultural, I was being a rebel. Viva la resistance!!
It was great – until I realized that it ripped away a source of joy from my life. Sports.
As I indicated in my previous post watching TV was not the most satisfying activity for me to engage in. This was especially true when I found myself just channel surfing to find some background noise. But watching sports was something I enjoyed that brought myself, my wife, and our friends together (similar to playing board games). There is something special about gathering with a group of people to watch a game and to have everyone get caught up in the drama that is unfolding. It is reality TV at its best.
In an effort to ditch the expectations of the world I instead shackled myself with the expectations of others who I’ve never even met. I rid myself of something I enjoyed because I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing if I wanted a more simple lifestyle. When I realized this, I started to look back at other decisions I had made regarding simple living that were not based on anything other than the expectations of others:
- Attempting to convince my wife that we should live in a ‘tiny’ house
- Eating only non-processed organic produce and whole foods
- Working towards only having 100 possessions
- Finding a job I was passionate about
- Trying to limit myself to watching only 1 sport because this was more simple
- Feeling guilty about all of the above when I would inevitably fail
The last part was the worst – guilt over not meeting expectations that were set by other people. Granted, I let this happen because I assumed that those who are the current crop of gurus already had the answers I was looking for. This created a situation in which I felt burdened in living a more simple life because I couldn’t re-create what others were doing. There was no way I was only going to have 100 items. It wasn’t possible for me to eat only organic foods. I enjoy sports far too much to only watch one. So, if this is the case, then I must be a failure. I couldn’t be like all of the other minimalists I followed.
Thankfully I don’t have to be like them.
I asked myself a question: What would equal success when it came to living simply, what were my expectations?
It was then I realized that my goals when it came to simple living were rudimentary. Less clutter in the house, more healthy meals than not (with allowances for pizza, ice cream, and chicken wings), time to travel with my wife, and enough room in our house to allow friends and family to stay as long as they would like. This simple change of perception has made all of the difference in how I interact with the minimalist lifestyle. My situation, while similar in some regards, is very different from the typical single person looking to travel non-stop. So why in the world would I attempt to live that kind of life when it would never work for me and would assuredly cause strife in my relationships?
So, what expectations are you burdened with when it comes to simple living that you could ditch today? Removing those expectations from your life is the best kind of de-cluttering; expectations that are not your own are far too heavy, and far too costly, to be kept around.