When life feels full and overwhelming, as it often does at the start of a new year, I find it helpful to assess what I can live without.
Instead of starting a new year with new resolutions and goals, I prefer to refocus and refine my previous goals and dreams.
Instead of adding, I choose to subtract.
Because if I want to achieve any goals or dream it helps to start with a clean(er) slate. It helps to minimise all the excess in my life that’s holding me back so I can maximise the good bits.
Living without isn’t always a bad thing. Often it means we can see the things that are really important with more ease and clarity.
And after 2020, I’ve discovered there are quite a few things I am surprisingly happy to live without.
1. Social Events
As an introvert, the mass canceling of events didn’t bother me much at all. Although I know there was real grief over the loss of these special times with friends and family, I also know it was somewhat of a lightbulb moment for many.
Life without a constant stream of social engagements felt like a breath of fresh air. In fact it felt like I could finally take a deep breath. There was room to really expand my lungs now.
Room for a deepening of relationships that were really important, like my husband and daughters.
I can live without back-to-back social gatherings all weekend. And I don’t need to go to everything me or my kids are invited to. I can say no. Repeat after me, “I can say NO”.
2. My Once Favourite products
I don’t know about you, but in my part of the world, there are still many things that we can’t get due to delays in manufacturing or shipping.
For example, I rocked up to our local bottle store a few days before Christmas to grab a bottle of our favourite celebratory bubbly (it has gold flakes!) only to find they couldn’t get any in.
After a very brief panic about traditions gone awry, I realized I wouldn’t die without this specific wine. In fact, we just went without bubbly all together and it was totally fine.
I’m learning to look to alternatives, or better yet, go without.
And if going without our favourite bottle of wine is the only kind of ‘going without’ we face right now, we should probably count ourselves lucky. It’s a tiny inconvenience with a big lesson.
It’s okay to live with less or live without.
3. Excess Internet
I’ve kept boundaries around social media use for several years. Going without the constant scrolling on any social media platforms for periods of time wasn’t foreign to me.
However mindless scrolling can be done almost anywhere on the internet. During the early days of the pandemic I found myself refreshing my CNN feed way too often.
Between that, and falling down the occasional True crime Reddit rabbit holes, it’s no wonder my sleep suffered!
Others struggle with scrolling their local Facebook marketplace, looking for the right fridge, only to end up purchasing 7 plants (when I say others, I mean myself).
So this year I plan to do a bit of drastic subtraction when it comes to the internet, both for myself and my family.
Some ideas we might try are; no internet Sundays, no phones in bedrooms at all times, and a family holiday without social media. I say might because it’s important to be flexible and try things out. As long as we find one or two ways to reduce our internet time I don’t think the details matter.
I am 100% confident that the whole family will struggle (especially my 12- year-old), but also 100% sure it be worth it.
4. The Need to Please Others
And finally, I’m (re)ditching the need to please, and be accepted by others.
I can do without the constant striving that comes with a desire to please other people, even family and friends.
This one is grounded solidly in my core value of authenticity. I make peace with who I am and give up trying to be anyone else.
There are always ways I can improve myself as a friend, mum, and wife, but not at the expense of who I am at my core.
I want the motivation behind my actions to come from a desire to love, not to please. It’s a subtle, but important difference.
For example, choosing to love my kids and give them boundaries, like no internet, is better than trying to please them, with all-hours access.
When motivated by love instead of a need for acceptance the outcome is a healthier one.
Take some time to consider making your own list of things you can do without this year.
This gentler approach of subtraction rather than addition is my favourite way to start the year. Perhaps it will become yours too.
About the Author: Emma Scheib is a mom, writer, and lover of all things slow and simple. Her blog, Simple Slow Lovely, helps people live a slower, simpler, and intentional life, based on their values. Connect with her on Facebook.