*This post is a guest post by Elisabetta, the founder and CEO of Kurandza, and founder of the Global Dream Collective community. It's the third installment of our "Slow Living FAQ" series that is meant to inspire you to slow down, pushing common road blocks aside. Read the first post and second post when you're done with this one ;)
Last year was an unexpected journey for me—one that took me from complete burnout to immense clarity and freedom. I became burned out after raising close to $8,000 in 30 days to help feed over 35 families who were experiencing a severe drought and hunger crisis in Mozambique. I had lived in this village in Mozambique for three years and continue to visit for work with my non-profit, Kurandza. This community is like family to me, and I couldn’t sit back and watch while they went hungry.
When I got back home to San Francisco after being in Mozambique for a month, I had a wake up call. I realized that I was burned out and needed to take some time for self care and to gain clarity. I needed time to explore how I wanted my biggest value, freedom, to play out in my life.
Seeing everything I owned in my studio was blatantly juxtaposed to the simple way of life in Mozambique. I only lived with the necessities in Mozambique—and I was fine. I was so more than fine that I was able to slow down and appreciate the simple things like observing the beauty of nature while walking or biking through the village, visiting with the neighbors for hours, or enjoying a good, home-cooked meal with friends. Even though the people in that village deal with issues like malaria, unemployment, and hunger, they are still happy and able to find joy in the little things. They continue to teach and inspire me all the time.
I noticed that my life in the States was full of so much distraction that I wasn’t focusing on what really mattered to me: connecting with other human beings, traveling the world, and making an impact.
I wanted the freedom to be location independent—so that I would be able to visit Mozambique whenever I wanted, and also able to explore the world, traveling to new places while also continuing to cultivate the friendships I had already created in different parts of the world.
I knew that this freedom would require major downsizing, so I immediately started reducing, and got rid of over 75% of my belongings. It wasn’t easy, but the process was so liberating, and it continues to be as living simply is a journey not a destination. Reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up helped by giving me permission to get rid of things that didn’t “spark joy”. Before, I would feel guilty getting rid of something that I had bought and hadn’t even used or wore yet, or something that was given to me as a present. But I became more intentional about my buying habits and about receiving and honoring gifts.
This newfound freedom was the result of freeing up space in my life and only having space and time for the things, activities, and people that I truly cherished.
With less material possessions, I can now travel anywhere and not worry about what I’m going to do with my belongings. I still have some downsizing to do before my upcoming three-month trip throughout East Africa, and I’m almost there! People ask me where I will be living when I return from Africa, and my answer is “I don’t know, yet! I’ll be traveling.” Without the need for an apartment or storage, I can go anywhere I want and live without depending on material possessions, and instead focus my energy on enjoying the new experiences and people that I meet!
Here are some of my tips to start living more simply and experiencing more freedom now!
1. Get clear on what lights you up:
Have you ever over-packed for a trip and regretted lugging a big suitcase around? When you simplify, you know your favorite clothing, what you feel good in, and what all your essentials are. Packing takes so much less time and you end up using everything you bring, and you get to feel like you! You could say the same thing about choosing what to wear in the morning, or how to spend your free time.
What do you love? Who do you love to spend time with? What are your favorite hobbies? What items really bring you joy? For me, fresh cut flowers and candles bring me a lot of joy! Find out what these things are and surround yourself with these!
As Marie Kondo would say, get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. Donate non-perishable food that you will never use, donate clothing or take your designer clothing to a consignment shop, and throw out receipts, half used toiletries, and old notebooks. Make one nice box for your keepsakes and sentimental items.
Don’t just give away things that you don’t love, also give away things that you do love, but that you know someone else will love even more—I learned this in Mozambique after I would compliment someone on their pretty earrings or sweater, and the person would take off the item and give it to me. They didn’t do this because they didn’t like the item, but because they knew how much joy I would have from wearing it, and that brought them so much joy as well.
3. Start using your best items:
Do you ever save your favorite shoes, candles, journals, etc for I don’t know what or when? I used to do this, too. Not anymore, though. I want to cherish and enjoy everything I have now. Hoarding special items creates blocks about lack and not being able to have those things again. Use your best and emit a feeling of abundance!
I remember when I was in Mozambique, I would hoard care packages of Funfetti mix and chocolate for who knows when. But I learned my lesson when a flood came and not only ruined the food I had been storing, but ruined all my photos, letters, books, clothing, jewelry, and all the rest of my possessions. When experiences of loss happen, you realize how material possessions really don’t matter as much as we think they do.
4. Organize your life:
You’d be surprised how much freedom comes with simple organization. When you organize your inbox, desktop, papers, closet, car, purse, etc, you find things that are important for you to take care of. You also find things that you had been looking for. You also find opportunities for money—coupons, discounts, ideas, and more! Having everything in order and organized allows you to function more efficiently and helps you take care of everything that you need to without wasting time on searching for lost items or recreating or re-buying something that you couldn’t find. It also frees up your mind and shows you that you have exactly what you need.
5. Say yes!
Say yes (to the things you love, of course). In the last year, I’ve said yes to wedding invitations in LA, NYC, and Brazil. I’ve said yes to celebrating with my friend for her birthday in Peru. I’ve said yes to a retreat in Hawaii and an upcoming one in Tulum. I’ve said yes not because it was the easy answer or because I had a ton of extra time or money, but because I prioritized these experiences of spending time with people I love and visiting places I enjoy.
And these memories will last a lifetime.
6. Be present:
It’s so easy to think about future plans or past events. But life is right now. The present moment is the only thing we really have. What’s life if we keep looking to the past or preparing for the future? Of course it’s easier said that done to live in the present, and I, too, am a planner who loves to think of future events. However, now, when I’m driving in my car or in yoga class and I start thinking about some upcoming event, I change my focus to the present and feel gratitude for the beautiful trees, how I feel in the pose, or the freedom to be where I am right now with all the amazing blessings and opportunities I have. Even now as I’m typing this blog post from my favorite local health food store café, I’m looking around and feeling gratitude for having the freedom to choose what type of food I want to eat and being able to access it whenever I want.
What steps have you taken to live a more simple life? How have you created more freedom by living simply?