These days between Christmas and New Year are the ones I find more peaceful and nourishing than almost any other. Something is at an end and nothing has yet begun.
It is now that I try to create simplicity. Stripping away, recycling, disposing of. Establishing order where none previously existed in preparation for another year.
Hauling several bags of old clothes to the tip along with my broken microwave (I’m managing just fine without one, thank you), an old vacuum cleaner and an assortment of random bits and pieces from the house and garden, I feel slightly overwhelmed at the huge piles of waste added to by a stream of cars that snake all the way through the site and out onto the road.
Most of what we throw away is done to make room for something else, so what are we really achieving?
Striving for improvement is already a permanent drive but I wonder if we stop long enough to establish precisely what improvement might be meaningful for us and how much of it we actually need.
Simplicity is not about an absence, it is about quality.
It is in the stripping away that we are able to properly enjoy and appreciate all that really matters in our lives. If I can discard what is unimportant there is more room for that which really fulfills me. That doesn’t change however old you are and whatever your life position.
But in order to create simplicity, you must first be sure about what it is which is most important to you.
If we confuse ourselves about what we really want from ourselves and our lives it becomes easy to feel we have failed, when really we simply weren’t prepared to make the sacrifices for something that wasn’t sufficiently important.
Our lives and our bodies, physical and emotional, have a natural ebb and flow. If we can tune into it simplicity becomes much easier.
A failure to observe this truth is the reason why so many well-intentioned New Year resolutions fall at the first hurdle. Cleaner eating, going to the gym twice a week, getting your tax return done by June (note to self: Complete tax return by June), spending more time with your partner. They only happen if they are what you actually want rather than what you think you should want.
This year, instead of asking yourself what you need to change try asking yourself who you want to be. Rather than demanding more from yourself see if you can picture the life you want to live. Edging towards these aspirations rather than any other will leave you far more satisfied than anything else, and they will almost certainly require simplicity.
In becoming who we truly are we are much more likely to strip things away than add them. It is simplicity that gives way to a richer life like coppicing allows the trees to flourish.
Back at the tip, I am hauling carrier bags of clothes into the recycling skip and I hold an old coat in my hands which has been on the verge of being thrown away for probably the past three years. For a moment I hesitate, wondering if there might be just one more year in it. But, as I see it disappear into the gloom at the back of the bin, I remind myself that there are plenty of ways to keep myself warm and comfortable, and most of them don’t require a coat at all.