It’s time to get back to basics and celebrate National Simplicity Day! The holiday falls every year on July 12 in honor of the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, who was born that day in 1817. Thoreau was a jack-of-all-trades — an author, an environmentalist, an abolitionist, a poet — but you probably remember him from your high school English class mainly as a transcendentalist. He and his contemporary transcendentalists believed, in simple (see what we did there?) terms, that people have knowledge about themselves that “transcends” all the external forces in their lives. They advocated for living a simpler life to better get in touch with those feelings. Now we’re not telling you to abandon your life and go live in the woods for a few years, but we love the idea of taking the day to evaluate your life and find out what elements of it are simply the most important to you. So read on for some modern-day tips on how to celebrate National Simplicity Day — as Thoreau himself said: “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
National Simplicity Day timeline
- May 6, 1862
Thoreau dies in Concord, Mass.
- July 4, 1845
Thoreau moves into the house near Walden Pond for two years, two months, and two days
- July 12, 1817
Henry David Thoreau is born in Concord, Mass.
- August 9, 1854
"Walde; or, Life in the Woods" is published
National Simplicity Day Activities
We know you probably haven’t read it since you were in high school, so why not take Thoreau’s birthday to pick it up again? Thoreau chose to remove himself from society for two years to live as simply as possible in a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond, and wrote his reflections of that time down in Walden. We know it’s unrealistic to expect you to give up on TV and takeout for that long, but you can at least live vicariously through him.
Unplug from your devices
We know that it feels like it’s impossible to get through a day without Snapchatting, constantly checking your work email, posting to Instagram, and catching up on the latest HBO show, but try to challenge yourself to take a break from your computer and smartphone for a day. You’d be surprised at how refreshing it can feel to not be constantly plugged into everything that’s going on in everyone else’s life—and we’re willing to bet that when you log into Facebook the next morning, you’ll find you didn’t miss much.
Declutter your home
Whether it’s a tiny apartment or a four-bedroom house, do you ever feel like you have too much stuff crammed into your home? Use Simplicity Day as an excuse to take a long, hard look at all your various objects and figure out what’s really important to you vs. what’s just taking up space. Take everything that falls into the latter category and donate it — you’ll feel more comfortable in your home and you’ll have done a bonus good deed!
Why We Love National Simplicity Day
It’s an excuse to unwind
Our lives are constantly scheduled out between jobs, school, workouts, childcare, etc. and we often forget how taxing it can be to always be moving from one thing to the next. Simplicity Daygives us a chance to put all of those elements of our lives on pause, even if it’s just mentally, and focus on the importance of the simple things.
It celebrates getting out into nature
For Thoreau, a big part of living simply was getting away from the distractions of everyday life by spending time in nature. That could be in the woods, by a lake, on a beach, you name it. Spending time in nature also happens to be one of those special, simple pleasures with an extra perk: it’s free!
It’s an ancient idea
Although Simplicity Day is celebrated in honor of Thoreau, the principles behind it go back way further than the nineteenth century and span across many different cultures. From the founders of the yoga practice to monks of both eastern and western traditions, many groups of people through the ages have banded around philosophies that emphasized simplifying your life in both mental and material ways.