Simplicity: The Answer To All Our Troubles

Simplicity: The Answer To All Our Troubles

As a member of the GDI team we get daily “Thought of the day” emails from the company President to help inspire us.  A recent one caught my attention and I wanted to piggyback on it as a topic for this blog post.

The thought read as follows:

“When people want to free themselves from their humdrum workaday life, they go on vacation. They rent a cabin with half the rooms they have at home, and sacrifice many of the conveniences they generally rely upon. They rough it. And then they feel free. As it turns out, everybody agrees: When you let go of those material things to which you have become attached, only then can you start to be free.”

I found this idea interesting in that many people when trying to get away seek out places or experiences that offer a simpler way of life and a way to disconnect from the “modern” world.  They go camping, find a deserted beach somewhere, do without the cell phone, laptop, TV’s, Xbox, etc.

This left me asking myself a few questions:

  • Can we do these things in our “regular” lives?
  • Can we simplify?
  • How do we do it?
  • Life can be complex at times, but are we making it that way for ourselves?

I don’t know all the answers to these questions, but I wanted to bring up the subject as an interesting discussion topic.

Henry David Thoreau wrote about this subject and has many notable quotes.  I find it interesting that he was writing about this in the 1800’s.  The idea of simplifying was being talked about at a time that you would think would be a ‘simple’ time.

“I do believe in simplicity.  It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit.  When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms.  So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real.  Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.”[Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 27 March 1848]


“Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly a need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.” [Walden]

“The rule is to carry as little as possible” [Journal, 22 July 1857]

“Simplicity is the law of nature for men as well as for flowers”[Journal, 29 February 1852]

Thoreau has many more quotes on the subject, but you get the idea of where is coming from.

How can we simplify our lives?  There are so many things in the world today to occupy our time and resources.  Many of us seem to always be on the go (myself included).


I will admit that there are things that can help to make life “easier”, but not necessarily simpler.  Smart phones for example.  They do make communication easy, but there is a trade-off with the constant texts, emails, calls that you get in a day.  Would getting rid of the smart phone be an example of simplifying?  Could you do it?

A few things come to mind when I think of simplifying my life:

De-clutter:   It’s amazing how much “stuff” you can accumulate during your life.  I walked into our storage room the other day and had a hard time moving around in it.  Can’t wait to get in there and start loading up the trash cans.

Prioritize: Find what is truly important to you and re-focus how you do things and the time you devote to tasks.  As the title to a popular book by Richard Carlson, Ph. D. reads – “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Slow down – take a break: As I mentioned earlier, many people on always on the go.  I think it is OK to stop and take a breather on a regular basis.  Many people don’t take the time to “stop and smell the roses.”

Un-plug: So much technology and media bombard people every day.  Cut the power cord sometimes.  Enjoy some time away from the screens – you never know, you may just like it.

I know there is much that can be written about this subject and I hope that this at least gets people thinking about how/if we can simplify. Look forward to hearing from you and your thoughts on simplicity.

Bill Hoover – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.