Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. As an author, naturalist, philosopher, historian, tax resister, and more, Thoreau advocated a life of simplicity. He asserted that, “as you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” These same principles fueled Duane Elgins’ Voluntary Simplicity, published in 1981. The book updated an ancient concept — the idea of living in balance. Elgin suggested that, in order to gain true balance, we must focus on three elements: ecological awareness, frugal consumption, and personal growth. Simplicity Day, aptly celebrated on Thoreau’s birthday, champions these same beliefs and encourages individuals everywhere to tune into nature, enjoy the simple things in life, and strive for balance.
I often find myself yearning for the simple, organized life I see featured on the covers of Martha Stewart’s magazines or The Container Store’s advertisements. Keeping things arranged in a systematic way is very important to me, as I become easily frazzled if I misplace something. I think it might have to do with my Type A personality — if I lose something I feel that, in some way, I’ve failed. This stress, which I admittedly put on myself, has resulted in an organized home office, complete with a picture-labeled personal filing system and multiple labeled binders. The office is often untidy, but my system allows for me to know where everything is. Unfortunately, it’s gotten a little out of hand since Organize Your Home Office Day, but for the most part it still functions as it should. At least I’m telling myself that fro now, if that’s what it takes to keep from breaking out into a cold sweat.
Ironically, when I purchased my home almost seven years ago, it had also been in the hope of attaining the ever elusive “simple life.” It’s in what I call the quasi-country, on three acres of beautiful land. I thought a life away from the crowded suburbs would be great. I thought “hey, if the grass gets a little too long between cuts, nobody can see my yard anyway!” I also marveled at the square footage dedicated to storage in the house, a feature that was sorely missed in my first home. I thought for sure, with all of that room, I could finally get organized and live a simple, uncluttered life — a place for everything and everything in it’s place! But what I ended up finding out was that living in the “country” can be a lot of work. We don’t get trash service, we have our own well and septic system, and more storage space just means more nooks and crannies to fill with junk, In short, the journey toward a simpler life has been more like a constant struggle.