Making Space for Complexity

Blog on simplicity and minimalism sometimes raise the question of what we should do with the time that is made available by simplifying our lives. Thats an important question, and a very personal one. As I go through a process of simplifying, I become aware of how complex the simple things in life had become.

There are certain things we all need access to, such as clothing, food and shelter. We need to spend time sourcing these things, because these are the foundation of life from which we operate. Yet somehow, those of us in affluent societies have managed to overshoot the target, and have far more than we need. We have access to an abundance of clothing, and spend a lot of time buying and maintaining it. We are overwhelmed with food choices, and can spend a lot of time, money and calories on our diets. Homes are becoming larger and larger, which requires more time for cleaning and maintenance.

The question is, what is the cost of devoting so much of our resources – both time and money, to over satisfying these basic needs? One cost is that we need to spend long hours working to afford these things, which takes time away from family and personal pursuits. Labour saving devices were meant to make life easier and create more leisure, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. These days a working mother spends less time in the laundry and the kitchen, but she probably doesn’t spend less time working.

Over-complicating our solution to the basic questions of food, clothing and shelter, has compromised our ability to spend time and resources on other higher level needs. If every waking minute is consumed with what we believe to be essential survival tasks, when do we find the time for interacting with family and friends, for reading, for creative and spiritual pursuits? Its almost as if these things are a waste of time if you haven’t got all your chores done. But are all of these chores necessary, or have we created new chores for ourselves by taking on too much?

I can’t say what each person will do with the time that simplicity creates, but I suspect it makes space for more complexity in the areas that matter.

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