“Keep It Simple Stupid!” Is a motto I should have etched into the inside of my glasses lens so I would constantly have it in the corner of my line of vision.

One of my favorite websites that I feel embraces this idea is CommonCraft and they had a wonderful piece recently titled “Super Simple vs Needlessly Complex“. It showed a picture of a young man pulling a device called the Q-drum which is basically a rolling container for water with a rope attached. One person can easily haul 20 gallons of water with this simple tool. The comparison image showed a Japanese toilet that had 17 buttons on it. The picture of the Q-Drum came from an article on simple design that can be found here. My attention was grabbed by this quote:

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.“We need a revolution to reverse that silly ratio,” he said.

Amen Dr. Polak – sign me up.

So how do I make these changes on a personal level? I am starting with some of the suggestions in the article Simple Living Manifesto on the Zen Habits blog.

For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The long list contains 72 ideas with links to help on some of the individual suggestions. This seems like a “complex” list but if you start with the first which tells you to identify the four or five most important things in your life and make those your priority. The next two are evaluate your time and your commitments and ditch whatever is not in line with your most important things. Everything else flows from there. The blog author states that the entire list will not work for everyone – to just choose a few that work for you and concentrate on them.

I’m going to spend some time working on my “Most Important” list and post about it later. I also want to think about how simplifying would translate to education.

The internet is the great “leveler”. Anyone can find information on anything – anytime. That information doesn’t mean a thing if the learner can’t read, comprehend, or aggregate it into something meaningful to them. If we distill what is the most important skill in education today wouldn’t it be reading even in the higher grades?

We work harder to have more which means we need more to organize and take care of the more we worked for which means we need to work more to pay for it all. We eat junk because we don’t have time to cook good healthy food because we are working so hard so we have to work more (or at least make more money) to afford the junk food that ultimately makes us sick which means we have to make more money to pay for the medical bills. We teach our kids that they need a good education so they can have nice things and a nice job but if the above life is what we are showing them and if they are seeing it all as pointless I vote with them.

I don’t think simplicity is the goal so much as the way to achieve the goal. If we are so tied to all the stuff and the working to sustain it then where is the meaning? How often do we even have time to stop and think and question if there is meaning in our lives? Why should this generation educate themselves to have a live that has no meaning?

That’s the context for the questions I am asking myself while I work on my most important list. I want to be productive. I want to have meaning. I want to be present in my life, in my family, and in my job. I want a little solitude. I want to be as healthy as my choices can make me. I want my kids to see meaning in my life.
Do you have a list? Am I the only one who struggles with this?