The next event in ADVISA’s Women’s Field Trip series (June 21st) will explore the idea of simplicity. I am especially excited about this particular Field Trip! The concept hasn’t been far from my mind all month as I’ve worked remotely from Venice, Italy – an environment in which daily life forces the on-going prioritization that naturally leads to simplification.
Imagine living in a city where…
- There are no cars; the only way to get anywhere is to walk or to take the vaporetti (water buses).
- You must carry everything from one place to another, over several bridges, and up several flights of stairs.
- Most people live in small third or fourth-floor spaces, likely without an elevator.
- You must carry home any food or household goods purchased, take them upstairs, and stow them in a small refrigerator.
- Laundry must fit in a tiny washing machine (stowed in the bathroom) and then hang it to dry on a rack in the living space.
- Someone must deliver anything ordered online via pushcart and haul it up the stairs.
- A family must fit all of their clothing in a small closet.
- Due to the fragility of the ecosystem, there is a legal mandate to sort trash for recycling. People pushing two-wheeled carts come daily to sort small batches.
Living with these environmental “constraints,” it doesn’t take long for simplification to become the obvious and easy choice. Why would I want to buy more than I need when I am going to have to carry it a mile home and up four flights of stairs? Why wouldn’t I naturally reduce and reuse when I have to sort my trash and take it out every evening? And why would I want more clothes when they are a burden to store and launder? For my month here I brought two dresses, one pair of pants, and two tops. FYI, I haven’t yet missed my (very) full closet of clothes at home.
Counter-intuitive as it may seem, I have noticed that these “constraints” actually enrich the quality of daily life. Visiting the same stores every day to buy food (meat, cheese, produce, wine, bread) opens opportunities for positive “micro-moments” of connection. Thinking intentionally about daily food purchases supports fresh and healthy eating. Walking everywhere is physically energizing. I’m averaging 11,000 steps and 10+ flights of stairs a day, and I feel better physically than I have in a long time. Walking also opens up the time and the space to think more deeply, and when everyone in the city is walking, there are many more opportunities for human interaction. Together, these constraints can be a great equalizer with, perhaps, fewer judgments made based on consumeristic standards. It’s unlikely to hear people talking about whose car is bigger and who has more “stuff”?
For most of us, our daily life doesn’t demand the on-going prioritization out of which simplicity becomes a natural and logical outgrowth. For us, at least at this point, it is mostly voluntary. Voluntary simplicity comprises a series of choice points that we are confronted with (whether we realize it or not) many times each day. My month in Venice has heightened my interest in exploring how I can approach these choice points more intentionally.
The June Field Trip will be a welcome opportunity to take a deeper dive into this question and to share the experience with a wonderful and diverse group of women. Join us on June 21st as we hear from JoDee Curtis and Lauren Moffatt on how the word “simplify” has changed their life.