Women growing older with grace and gusto

Sunday Collection: Simplicity

Simply Be
I really do believe that living more simply is a big part of growing older with grace and gusto. Several readers have commented to me over the months that clutter seems to collect effortlessly as we grow older (well for some of us anyway) and that getting rid of it frees up enormous reserves of energy and creativity. That’s certainly been my experience, which is why this week’s Sunday Collection covers the topic of living more simply.

It’s not just “stuff”

It’s important to remember that simplicity is not only about having less physical “stuff”.

It’s not even about having less digital “stuff” (and some of us know all too well the temptations of hiding books on the Kindle, of subscribing to too many digital newsletters and blogs, of being a member of online communities we have no hope of keeping up with).

It’s also about thoughts and emotions. Worry and guilt are two particularly stubborn mental residents for many of us. And they’re useless, except on the rare occasions they actually spur us on to take some necessary action. I wrote about the clogging-up effect of thoughts and emotions here last year, with a few suggestions on how to deal with them. Click here to read. I particularly enjoyed, by the way, Norma’s suggestion in the comments of that post about the use of toilet paper to acknowledge then flush away unwanted emotion.

But it is a lot about “stuff”

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful

William Morris

I suspect there are many reasons we collect clutter – and let’s be honest, downright mess and occasional squalor in some cases. Some of them are to do with depression and some connected with fear – of failure, of success, of loss and many other things. And I’m sorry to say that most of us are never going to process all those emotions fully.

What we can do is work from the outside in and begin clearing clutter, because the effect on our emotional landscapes of simple beauty around us can be transformational. I know this from hard experience.


Although it can be a trap to get lost in reading books about simplicity and clutter-clearing (you read the book rather than clearing the clutter!), they can be useful, both practically and inspirationally.

Two of my favourite inspirational books I’ve already reviewed on Pilgrim’s Moon:

In Celebration of Simplicity by Penelope Wilcock, and

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

For great practical suggestions, read Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out and Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley (Fly Lady).

However if you tend to be paralysed by ambitions of perfection DO NOT yet tackle Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson. I bought this book then laundered linen table napkins while dishes lay unwashed in the sink. I bought and fitted under-slips for my pillowslips and under-covers for my duvet covers while my clothes lay on the bedroom floor because I had too many to fit in the wardrobe. It’s a wonderful book, but it’s PhD level in a world where some of us haven’t finished High School!


The blogs I read about simplicity tend to be more inspirational than practical, although a bit of both.

I enjoy Courtney Carver’s blog Be More With Less. She has some brilliant Mini-Missions which help take things in small steps, and I particularly liked her recent post Vulnerability and the Myth of the Picture Perfect Anything, in which she talks about how people sharing perfect vignettes of their lives online can make us feel less worthy:

Let’s be inspired by the beauty shared online instead of shamed or envious. People that eat pretty food, or live with less, or strive for more are still people. They still experience ups and downs and set backs.

I refer above to Pen Wilcock’s book In Celebration of Simplicity, and I also love her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way. She’s been running a series called 365 in which she posted a photograph each day over the course of a year of one unneeded piece of stuff she recycled. I enjoyed her latest post, Aggregating Marginal Gains, in which she talks about the beauty of what some would call a marginal life, and the connections we make:

If one walks the badger tracks rather than the highway, the whole lot is marginal – all gains are marginal! Income is low, status is minimal or non-existent, one has no platform, nothing with which to impress, no strings to pull.

But the aggregation of one’s gains here in the margins amounts to a life of contentment.

Josh Becker’s Becoming Minimalist is another excellent blog. In a lovely moment of serendipity, a friend posted a link on Facebook yesterday to my favourite post of his, which I had planned to link to today. So here it is: The Life Changing Nature of Gratitude.

Gratitude will never be a result of your next purchase, success, or accomplishment. It is available in your heart right now. And you will never find gratitude in life until you intentionally decide to choose it.

And Alison Wiley’s blog, Diamond-Cut Life, is consistently great. Here’s her 64-word guide.


People sometimes think that owning less is being less, and nothing could be further from the truth. Having what we need and paying attention to life is full of joy. As Mary Chapin Carpenter says:

Is it too much to ask
I want a comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back
Food to fill me up
And warm clothes and all that stuff

…Is it too much to demand
I want a full house and a rock and roll band
Pens that won’t run out of ink
And cool quiet and time to think

And of course she also wants Passionate Kisses. Here’s the song:

(For those of you reading this in email and unable to see the YouTube video, click here.)


Have a wonderful week everyone, whether simple or complicated!


Image credit: h.koppdelaney

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