Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Introduction

We live in a society where most people are looking for the BBD (the Bigger, Better Deal) and not making an effort to nurture and enjoy what they already have. Making a commitment to prioritize what’s most meaningful in one’s life is imperative for living a life of fulfillment.

I’m surrounded by a world of privilege, excess, and fantasy. While I run a business and raise my four children, I also work in television and I come across many unsatisfied people who tend to miss the message of “The Joy of Less.” That’s why I was so excited to be a part of this inspirational collection of Chicken Soup for the Soul stories that help us focus on what really matters in our lives.

I believe in the power of saying “no” — “no” to too many material possessions, and “no” to schedules so crowded with “obligations” that we crowd out time we should spend with our families and our friends. We need to use the power of “no” so that we can say “yes” to the things that matter to us.

As a young woman, I shared my life with many people aiming to please others at the expense of being true to themselves and their own needs. I’ll never forget the first time my boyfriend blew off a social dinner because we were jetlagged and simply too tired to pull it off. I was so relieved that we could skip what was potentially a four-hour dinner, but I was also mortified by his insensitivity to our hosts. I remember thinking how free he must feel to not be psychologically obligated to show up for someone else’s event.

Rather than canceling, I have learned to say “no” up front. Now let me tell you, Hollywood is notorious for being flaky. I cannot stand people who say “yes” and then don’t follow through. Being unreliable is unacceptable. There is an etiquette to saying no, which can be misinterpreted as being rude, but I believe in a good, honest “no.”

I write my own story. I am responsible for the commitment to raise a connected family without guilt, and I alone control my journey. I often make compromises for my husband and family, but outside of that I do not do what does not serve me.

As a multitasking businesswoman and mother of four, I have chosen to conquer my work/life balancing act by saying “no” as often as I need to. Which means I don’t have much of a social life! But my family life is so rewarding, and valuable, that I choose to put it first and let all other wish lists take a back seat.

I used to get anxious when looking at my calendar, calculating every full day and the endless events that filled it. I would furiously flip pages looking for an empty date that meant I would have some time to breathe. I placed my personal time last on the priority list. Then I turned forty and I grew up!

Saying “no” to many social events and other demands on my time, even optional ones that are for work, allows me to carve out my invaluable “me time.” I need that for my sanity, and in order to do a good job doing what matters to me. I am often asked how I balance motherhood and my hectic life. I don’t know if any woman honestly thinks she has achieved that perfect balance, but I am okay taking my life day by day and doing the best I can… and that means focusing on quality time. For example, I don’t feel any guilt about passing on most invitations on school nights. On busy work days, I try my best to be home at night for my family. That means missing those fun “ladies’ nights” with the other moms, and it means passing on nights out, even with friends I adore. They have to take second place to my family… and my own wellbeing.

The speed at which we move is so fast that we too often forget to hit the pause button. I spent much of my younger years going to places I had little interest in, socializing with people I didn’t enjoy, and wasting time for other people’s benefit. All of that compromised my personal gratification.

You’ll read dozens of stories in this Chicken Soup for the Soul collection that will empower you to say “no” yourself. You’ll see how other men and women did it, and you’ll read about the consequences — which were always great! Most of our writers were pleasantly surprised by how well their “no’s” were received, and by how well their lives went once they learned how to de-clutter their calendars.

You’ll also learn about another kind of de-cluttering in these stories, and that is the how and why of reducing all the “stuff” that you have. It’s a rare person who doesn’t feel that he or she has too many material possessions, and we present you with dozens of stories that provide you with easy-to-implement tips for how to do it.

My own rule, the result of necessity, is “dig it or ditch it.” If you aren’t using it, if you haven’t worn it in a year, get it out of your life. Give it to a friend, donate it to your church or a thrift shop that supports a good cause. Someone else will value the item that no longer fits in your life.

Keeping the clutter means someone else doesn’t get the blessing of your unwanted item, and it also means you can’t clearly see those items of value that really should remain part of your life. I love having a little space between hangers and being able to organize fashion choices. Having too much just isn’t healthy. It’s overwhelming, it hangs over us, and it slows us down.

So that’s it. The Joy of Less. Less stuff and fewer commitments on our calendars. The joy of less isn’t really about having less, it’s about clearing the way to have more of what you love. It isn’t about doing less, it’s about doing more of what inspires you. It’s about making room for meaningful things in your life and letting go of what does not serve you. By saying no you free up time and space for what serves you best.

Enjoy this collection. Be inspired. I know you’ll come away filled with ideas and enthusiasm for the new life you’ll carve out as you reduce the clutter in your life, literally and figuratively, and experience The Joy of Less!

~Brooke Burke-Charvet

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