Don't confuse what you need with what you want

4 July 2016
There are many aspects of simple life that come easy to most people but one or two that seem to be more difficult.  The difficult ones tend to be the non-practical things that often have to do with acceptance and knowing what enough is. In an email that came last week, a reader told me that she feels a bit cheated at times by the simple life she and her husband are living. She said she enjoys the budgeting, organising, homemaking and cooking, she loves her children, but when she looks around her home, she's not proud of what she has and she never invites friends around because she feels her home is not good enough. The implication is that she feels her home is not good enough for her friends, that they won't feel comfortable there. But it sounds like she feels her home is not good enough for her. She wrote asking for decorating advice - it seems that her attitude is fixed and it's easier for her to decorate her way out of this rather than adjust her eye to appreciate what's around her.

A clean and tidy house has a beauty all its own. It may not be to everyone's taste, it may not be fashionable, expensive or something that you feel you can show off. But everyone's living circumstances are a matter of perspective. I think acceptance and appreciation come from being grateful you have anything. Many people do not. 

Not all of us live in show homes, many of us have humble homes that have the kind of appeal and character that weaves its own magic. We use ordinary domestic objects to decorate in an unpretentious way that is charming and authentic. Often there is the aroma of hot soup simmering on the stove or cakes and bread baking. These genuine things, the side benefits of home production, are what adds to the appeal of a home and gives it a true beauty that can't be bought - it has to be created and then nurtured. Nurturing your home will help you appreciate what you have. It generally means fluffing the nest by re-arranging and with sewing, painting and recycling, which soften the hard edges of homes, and people.  When you look around a simple home, it's not so much about what you've bought but in how you've spent your time.

Accept the realities of life, don't confuse what you need with what you want. Simple living isn't just about simplifying your physical surroundings, it's about simplifying your mind too. If you can't love your own life you're putting unnecessary expectations and limitations on yourself. Break free of mainstream ideas of acquisition and accept what is in front of you. By slowing down and being more aware, you'll see what's there in a clearer light. And in the end it's not about being surrounded by beauty but in your ability to see the beauty in whatever is there.  That could be a kitchen table surrounded by family and friends but some days the sight of steam rising from a cup of tea is enough.