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Monday, January 31, 2011


I ran across the word 'busyness' recently, in a sentence about all the 'busyness' that consumes our lives. The spelling caught my idea and started me thinking.

'Business' is commerce or a profession, while 'busyness' is 'lively but meaningless activity' according to one source. So regardless of whether or not we are in business, many of us are engaged in 'busyness.' I am recently retired, yet some days are full of busyness. I may be waiting for someone to make a third trip to diagnose a problem with my garage door, or spending countless time on the phone with a 'customer service'  representative. Whatever it is, busyness is time-consuming, unrewarding tasks that bring no sense of accomplishment.

Busyness can take over our lives and rob us of meaningful activity and interactions with friends and family. It can cause us stress and frustration. Busyness also can be a convenient substitute for self-reflection. We can tell ourselves that we are "too busy" to really think about our future, about changes we want to make, or to plan enjoyable things we want to do.

The Web is full of suggestions for how to decrease the busyness in our lives, but the bottom line is eliminating the 'clutter' and distractions from our lives and focusing on people and things that are truly important. Simplicity is the key.

There is a great Web site that lists 72 ways to live simply:
My favorite suggestions from this list include:
  • Find inner simplicity. 
  • Live in the moment.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Do what you love.
  • Learn how to be a minimalist.
  • Learn what 'enough' is.
These things aren't easy, at least for me. Before I moved last year, I got rid of a lot of stuff, and I gave away a car full of things after moving. Still, I am amazed at how much I still have.

It's really easy to be overwhelmed by electronic busyness, especially with all the social networking opportunities available through e-mail, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, and the constant presence of 'smart' phones.

A common thread running through all of these 'simplify your life' suggestions is to learn to appreciate the necessities and avoid the excesses. A smaller house requires less energy to heat and cool, and less time to clean, than does a big house. How many pairs of shoes do we really need? Does our house really need four television sets? You get the idea.

But even if we can't adopt a minimalist lifestyle, or choose not to, we can work on finding inner simplicity. Take pleasure in the simple things: a walk on a nice day, a chat with a friend or relative, a good book. We can work on finding time in our lives for those people and activities that are most important to us. I love photography, so I have made a habit of not leaving the house without having at least a small pocket camera with me. I never know when I will see a beautiful scene, a rainbow, or an interesting animal. I have joined a photography group. I make time for photography because it is important to me.

I would add one more thing to the list above: Know what you need and what you want. This is a lesson I've been working on with my daughter. When she says she 'needs' something, I ask whether she needs it or wants it. Often she will correct herself when she says "I need" something. Lesson learned.

To quote a line from a Sheryl Crow song, "It isn't having what you want. It's wanting what you've got."