As I embark on a new year, I am reflecting on what it means to live a simple life.
I recently removed the television from my living room. Everyone in the family has a device (or two), and removing the television helped transform our living space into a more open and welcoming area to hang out. However, I still sometimes fantasize about replacing the small, simple television with a big screen. This internal struggle led me to revisit my early commitments to simple living.
I wrote the following post several years ago on my blog Just Plain Joy, but many of the principles still hold true.
When I started my blog, I wanted to create an outlet for exploring and defining a simple life. I decided I wanted to pursue a simpler life for several reasons – I wanted to save more money to invest in my child’s future, I wanted more time to spend on the things that matter most to me, and I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment.
The benefits of simpler living have been overwhelming – I worry less about finances, I spend less energy keeping track of my possessions, I have a greater appreciation for natural beauty, I am less concerned about status, and I’m enjoying life!
Simple has many interpretations. After careful consideration, I chose four concepts to define my interpretation of simple living:
Here are seven steps for achieving a super simple life based on these four concepts.
1. Simplify your home. The first step to physically simplifying your life is to get rid of the clutter. Start with the room where you spend most of your time (or the one that is most manageable).
Then, move methodically through every drawer, desktop, shelf, and countertop and sort items into three categories – keep, toss, and recycle (these are items that will be given away, donated, or sold). If you are undecided about an item, ask yourself, “Do I love it? Is it useful?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” then don’t keep it.
The second step to physically simplifying is to get organized. Ask yourself, “Where is this item’s permanent home?” Everything you own should have a physical place.
2. Simplify your finances. As a rule, we tend to spend as much as we earn (or more). To simplify your finances, spend less than you make. This is a basic debt-reduction strategy, but it also allows you to work less and spend more time doing the things that really matter to you.
There are simple strategies for staying out of debt – write down every single thing you spend money on, evaluate your spending habits, create a budget, identify a money management system that works for you, pay down your highest interest debts, create an emergency fund, and pay your bills in full and on time.
3. Simplify your virtual world. It is easy to be sucked in by email, instant messaging, social networking sites, and online media. Technology can assist you in delegating everyday tasks, but it should not be allowed to overrule the more important things.
Clean out your inbox, choose one social networking site, and minimize your time online. Mastering technology will simplify your life.
4. Simplify your work. First, stop trying to do it all. You may think you can respond to an email while you are on hold and in the middle of drafting a document, but when you multi-task you are not giving any activity your full attention.
To simplify your work, clean up your physical work space, limit your commitments, find an organizational system that works for you, and learn to delegate.
5. Simplify your day. Managing ourselves from day to day is about prioritizing our values and goals. Before you decide how to manage your time, you have to identify what is truly important to you in your life. Then, using simple time management tools can help you control how you choose to spend your time.
Create a list of goals, establish a morning and evening routine, schedule time to relax, and leave your weekends unscheduled.
6. Simplify your health. It is much simpler to stay healthy than to deal with illness. To simplify your health, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, fill your frig with fruits and vegetables, stock your medicine cabinet with basic remedies and supplies, exercise regularly, and identify a doctor you can trust.
7. Simplify your philosophy. Adopting a simple lifestyle can require a shift in thinking. It requires you to accept that what you have is “enough,” learn to let go of the need to be a superachiever, live in the moment, find simple pleasures, and define your identity by reflection rather than by consumerism.
Simple living is not difficult!
It is not necessary to tackle every area of your life at once. If you feel you could benefit from simplifying any of these areas, then I hope this article was helpful.