Simplicity of life is one of the tenets at the heart of Zen practice, and one of the things about it that most appeals to me. Interestingly, there is now an active movement, that I encounter mainly through other blogs, on ways to simplify your life. Something I find interesting about much of this movement is that the way towards simplicity expounded is often by adding complexity. The most visible form of this is the Get Things Done way of thinking. At its heart this involves adding small things to your life which enable you to more-effectively use your time, sounds good. However, many of the practitioners I've encountered talk about convoluted systems where there is a specific time to do everything that you can conceive of, which doesn't sound very simple to me.
I am a fan of achieving simplicity by removing the things that make life complex. What got me thinking about all of this was doing yard work. This is the first time in many years that I have lived in a house that had a yard which requires maintenance. I have small front and rear yards, with lawns to mow and plants to trim. As I was working on the yard this weekend I found myself thinking about how much more sensible it would be to have a "native garden" type yard. Simply put this is a yard planted with native vegetation and allowed to grown more naturally. All told it means less work, less water use, better habitat for local wildlife, and an extension of the local wilderness into your yard. Given that my rear yard backs up to a creek, going native would allow me to incorporate some of the creek wildlife into my yard. However, since I'm only renting there is little I can do for now.
Another way I strive towards simplicity is biking and walking rather than driving. I don't imagine that I am rare among car-free commuters to find it more mentally relaxing to walk or ride rather than drive. As I continue working towards a more simple life I will continue to post the little things I find that help. My goal is not to create some artificial zone of emptiness around me, but to have those aspects of my life I have control over to be as stress-free as I can make them.
And that includes not adding stress by overdoing the attempt to simplify.