The third and final action virtue in my trinity of 2021 resolutions is simplicity. It rarely appears on a list of virtues, yet it is at the core of two religions, Buddhism and Christianity. It also is one of the spiritual tasks of the final stage of life after one’s hair has turned white and one has seen one’s grandsons in the Hindu tradition. (Coloring my hair and pointing out that I have only granddaughters does not get me off the hook.) Simplicity means leading a less cluttered life in all respects, but for 2021 I will focus on three in particular: fewer possessions, living lightly on the earth (“live simply that others might simply live”), and decluttering the cluttered calendar.
First and easiest, possessions. Having written a book on decluttering with my friend and distant cousin by marriage Fran Scoville, I recognize that decluttering my space is not an act but an ongoing process. Marie Kondo is an inspiration to me as she is to so many. Does this possession spark joy? If not, thank it and let it go. Decluttered cabinets, countertops, closets, drawers, and spaces make it easier to find the things you do want to keep and use. Lots of recycling involved. Reducing food waste is both decluttering and living lightly on the earth. Recycling from two of my hobbies, jigsaw puzzles and books, is pretty easy to do, with fellow puzzle fans and readers before the books finally wind up in the library to keep or sell to support the library, and the carefully repackaged puzzles get recycled to a consignment shop that supports a volunteer organization. Virtual decluttering is a challenge that I have begun to face by divorcing most social media, but I will continue to work on the challenge of managing the overwhelming volume of email by clicking more often on that magic word “unsubscribe.”
Living lightly on the earth has lots of dimensions. Using less energy with less driving, flying, and shopping. Being mindful that ordering from amazon or other online services does not reduce energy consumption and may actually increase it compared to shopping mostly locally. Reducing food waste is another dimension. Growing some of my vegetables. Avoiding the use of pesticides and wasting energy (mine and the mower’s) on mowing a lawn, a continuation of my war on grass that began in 2020. Replacing grass with plants that provide habitat and are friendly to birds, bees, and butterflies. Empowering others to simply live spills over into prudence in charitable contributions that go to providing solar energy in sub-Saharan Africa and planting trees in the Brazilian rain forest.
Most challenging of all is the to-do list and the calendar, the tendency to over-commit time and energy and leave no space for spontaneity, silence, or what the Dutch call “nichtsen”–doing nothing. I have two major volunteer commitments for 2021, one tapering off starting in May, one continuing through the year, so I will limit my other volunteer obligations until that ‘space” is available. I feel more of a need to tend and befriend, so people time will be more central to my calendar, as I look forward to more of that time being in person and less via Zoom some time in 2021.
I once had a friend who always talked about repotting herself, like a pot-bound plan with a need to spread her roots and grow toward the sun. (She eventually took a leap of faith, divorced her overbearing husband and remarried.) For me, the annual tradition of New Year’s resolutions (some of which I have actually kept!) is a less dramatic but still meaningful, challenging, and enriching form of repotting myself, nourishing my physical, intellectual, and spiritual roots and letting myself grow toward the sun. What kind of repotting will enrich your new year?