This is a summary of our Magnificent Midlife Podcast interview with Kay Newton, author of three books about how to simplify life.
Simplifying life doesn’t just mean living minimalist. It’s finding the balance between hoarding and not hoarding, both mentally and physically.
I started learning about simplicity when we lived in a two-roomed tin-roofed house by the beach in Africa. You don’t need a lot to be happy. Happiness is the key.
Because we’ve had so much time on the planet, we hold on to stuff, we hold on to memories, we hold on to beliefs, we have our values on top, and all this becomes clutter. You can see it in our physical life too. When you clear out your physical life, you create space. When you create space, externally, you’ve got more time to spend internally making space.
The way towards freedom and happiness is to get rid of all that no longer serves you and it’s a daunting task. When you have something happen to you, like some life event, you realize you actually don’t need a lot in your life. You only really need the bare necessities and with that you can be totally happy and functional. The rest is just going to junk. Junk that we don’t need to hold on to.
Leaving less behind when we go
When our parents are no longer with us, it’s the children who have to clear up the mess. The saddest thing for us as children is that we look at all this stuff and it doesn’t have the emotional meaning that it had to them. What do you do with it?
A lot of it just gets given away. It goes into recycling, the charity or it gets dumped, because you don’t want it anymore. There is the Swedish word, “döstädning“, which translates to death cleaning or death declutter which means you do the decluttering before death happens to you, so somebody else doesn’t have to do it.
I love the concept of being able to leave less behind and having less while here. I need less, I am helping the planet because I’m buying less and I’m collecting less and then you take the philosophy further.
How materials, everyday products and food can impact our health
I used to have a cleaning company and we cleaned homes for the rich and famous, which is an absolutely fabulous job, for their holiday homes. We used chemicals for cleaning until I ended up with a bit of asthma.
Now we live a simple life in that our cleaning products and our personal hygiene products are all natural. Again, downsizing. If you come to my house and ask for something to clean the bathroom, it will be white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, maybe a bit of olive oil or some essential oils.
You won’t find much else in my cupboard. That to me is not minimalistic. It’s simplicity, it’s helping my body, helping my environment and helping the world and the planet as well.
The more you buy that comes in plastic bottles, the more chance you’ve got of the hormone bending happening in your body, because plastic is one of those things that we still don’t know enough about. We know it affects our bodies but we’ve just not done enough investigation to know how it’s staying in our bodies and how that’s affecting our hormones.
If you can avoid it, then do so because it’s everywhere. It’s in our water. It’s in our food line. You buy fish and you think you’re buying fresh fish and yet the fish has taken on the microplastics in the water and you’re eating those without even realising. The more we can do to simplify everything we do, the world will be a better place.
How living more simply provides space to reflect
We need to ask ourselves, what is this action I’m taking today? We’re talking about physical stuff, but this is also so important for the mindset stuff as well. What action am I taking today that’s going to cause that ripple effect out? Is it the action I want to take?
We’re just so busy, we don’t have time to reflect and stop and that’s what living simply gives you. It gives you the chance, gives you the space to start and really have time to think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
How do you ask questions if you’re so busy in your life, and you’ve got no time to have a little bit of a think about things and how you’re doing things. It becomes this vicious circle, or spiral downward. You’re in this mode, and you’re operating on this level and if you keep doing it, and don’t question, then nothing will change.
Right now, there’s so much we can do to make a change. The change comes from within. It’s us stopping and questioning and doing what we feel is right and not what society tells us we should be doing.
It’s this big thing about being strong and true to who you are, especially at our age, this magnificent midlife. We have to create that magnificence because if we don’t, it won’t exist. We don’t want to get in our rocking chairs in our 80s, 85, 90 and 100 even and say, if only at 50 I’d done this, my life would be so different.
Easy steps to make change
I love the Dalai Lama’s quote, he said something along the lines of, “Western women will change the world.” What’s the biggest demographic of the Western world? It’s the baby boomers. It’s the women over 50, over 55.
If change is going to happen, we’re going to make the change. It’s up to us to do it. We don’t need to do a big movement. We don’t need to stand in the streets and chain ourselves to railings. The biggest movement comes from you doing those individual moves, step by step processes.
What am I going to change today? I am going to look at my personal hygiene products. Let me see what’s in them. Let me get rid of cleaning products. What can I do that’s going to help the world? Am I going to keep going to the supermarket and buying stuff with plastic on it or am I going to find another source? Every time we take a step forward to change, we create change.
If you think about it, many years ago, we just assumed buying a plastic bag in the supermarket was the thing you did. Then people started realizing that plastic bags are really a waste. They’re doing the planet no good and they’re killing a lot of wildlife. Let’s stop using them.
Now we take notice, in relation to plastic bags, we take our supermarket shopping bags with us. We can do that with everything but we can only do that if we start questioning what we’re doing.
You need to have a group of confident people around you who can question you back, reflect what you’ve said, and help you make really good choices from their experiences. A group of like-minded people around you is really important. It’s an individual unique thing so if we do the work individually, we do it collectively.
Ways to simplify your internal life
It’s really important to be confident in who you are. Confidence is a really interesting thing now we’ve got to the later stages of life. We can say what we like and be who we want to be and we shouldn’t lack confidence and yet so many women are lacking that.
Part of the confidence comes from knowing who you are. Living true to yourself, living true to your intuition will make you stronger.
Less is more. If you can get that into your head, whatever we do, whatever’s going on inside our heads, it’s not just physically but also mentally. The more space you give yourself, the more in flow you become, the more powerful you are. We have to tap into that power right now. The world needs us.
Looking back on all our years, it can seem those years are quite lost. Quite a lot of that you can’t recollect, just days that have disappeared one into the other and that’s part of life. But also there’s this feeling, how many more days are you going to scroll for?
This is the big question. If you find yourself longing for something, now is the time to act, not tomorrow, not to think about it, do it now while you can.
Listening to yourself and being in tune with yourself are also key. If your body’s saying it’s stressed, tune in to the four seasons and make use of those.
Winter is a perfect time to sit and reflect, and think about what you want to do in the spring. And come spring, you’ve already got your ideas well-formatted and thought about then you can go off and start doing springy things.
Deciding to change
You have to make the decision that you’re going to change; you’re going to make a choice to change. You have to then decide how you want to do that change and the change can be as simple as going and standing in nature for a minute, two minutes, three minutes, five minutes, gradually increasing the time so that you don’t really realise you’ve done it.
If you turn around and say, I’m too busy or I’m going to slot in an hour here, then it becomes a real burden, because you’re already regretting the fact that this hour of space has taken over an hour of busy time. The best way simply is to do it gradually, step by step and really start to use that space as time to think, to contemplate what you would like to change in your life.
Then start and take those tiny steps to change, to simplify life, perhaps opening one drawer and decluttering it. Or sitting down and doing a life audit. Or thinking, does this belief I have really work for me now, can I move on from this? It’s just taking those tiny steps.
Listen to the full podcast interview with Kay Newton here.
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Kay Newton is the Midlife Strategist and lives a simple lifestyle by the beach in Mallorca, Spain. In her 20s, Kay owned a guardianage business looking after the holiday homes of the rich and famous and used toxic cleaning products daily which led her to partially destroy her lungs. Kay now lives in a chemical-free environment, owns one lipstick and no perfume. She’s a speaker and author who’s written three books (How to Clean Your Home Organically: De-stress Your Surroundings | The Art of Midlife Stress Busting: Seven Steps to Declutter Your Mind Without Pills or Potions | Tips and Tricks for Stress-Free Downsizing: A Step by Step Guide to Moving On) and she helps women over 50 get their mojo back. Find out for more about Kay at www.kaynewton.com and on her Facebook Page.