Simple living is all about cutting back your possessions and living a less hurried life. Here are some practical tips to simplify your life.
We all live busier, bigger and faster lives than ever before.
We fill our calendars, max out our credit cards and spend hours scrolling our smartphones comparing our lives to others.
Stress, anxiety and depression are at all-time highs and the promise of a simple life seems like a distant Pinterest dream.
These days, simple living is a huge trend with entire YouTube channels and podcasts dedicated to simplicity.
And their millions of viewers testify that consumerism, social media and demanding careers haven’t brought us the satisfaction they promised.
Does your own life feel hurried, complicated and stressful?
Simplifying your life and decluttering your home will help you regain control of your time (and your money).
And by letting certain things go, you’ll be making room for what really matters.
So what exactly is simple living?
Simple living is not a strict lifestyle that everyone follows in the same way.
While some live off-grid and grow their own vegetables, others may just want a less cluttered garage.
Simple living is all about finding the beauty in simplicity and putting quality over quantity.
It’s about valuing things that make us happy instead of chasing status symbols and societal expectations.
And it’s about knowing ourselves well enough to know the difference.
Simple living is a life driven by what’s most important to you – and not by appearances and possessions.
Though simple living is as old as antiquity. Figures from Buddha to Oprah have advocated for a simpler life dedicated to self-knowledge and good deeds.
Countless philosophers have left behind the excesses of their age to reconnect with life’s essence, from Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond to Leo Tolstoy in rural Russia.
The benefits of living simply
A simpler and less hectic life has immeasurable benefits to your health.
Living with less stress and eating simpler foods means lower blood pressure, better sleep and a lower risk of heart attacks and anxiety.
When you eliminate busywork from your calendar, your work-life balance improves and you get more quality time with loved ones. Your relationships instantly improve when you make them a priority.
Simple living also brings more financial independence.
There’s no more pressure to buy the latest gadgets and keep up with your colleagues.
Things like fashion brands and trendy vacation spots don’t mean very much anymore.
Simple living tips for more happiness and less anxiety:
Here are some practical tips to start simplifying your life.
1. Reduce your spending habits
If you spend less money on things you don’t need, you can work less and pursue more meaningful work – instead of maxing out your credit cards for retail therapy.
Get some inspiration from projects like the 100 Things Challenge and the small house movement.
But you don’t have to move to a wooden cottage to live more simply.
Practice gratitude and be happy with what you have. Drop out of that constant race for the newer and better gadget.
Simple living means a simple home that’s decluttered and free from the overflowing piles of stuff that often cause so much anxiety and overwhelm.
It means getting rid of whatever is taking up space and isn’t useful.
But it also means being aware of your shopping habits so your home doesn’t just end up getting cluttered again later.
A simple life free from unnecessary spending saves you money, space and cleaning time.
2. Simplify your meals
Eat simpler meals and take your time (away from your phone) to really savor your food.
Buy local ingredients whenever possible to minimize your carbon footprint.
And if you’re constantly rushed and eat most of your meals on the run – or in front of your computer – then try some meal prepping.
Cook a batch of healthy ingredients in advance that you can just re-heat later for a quick and satisfying meal.
Meal prepping saves you time in the kitchen and ultimately makes it a lot easier to eat healthier foods.
And you’ll be saving money that you’d otherwise spent on last-minute takeout when you’re hungry and tired.
3. Simplify your schedule
Simple living means a simplified calendar that’s not packed with obligations that don’t add value to your life (and busywork that only feels productive).
Simple living means focusing on what you love and the hobbies that bring you fulfillment – over things that you should be doing.
Make time for your loved ones without the distractions of TV and social media feeds.
Learn to say a kind but firm “no” to any get-togethers, activities and events that you’re not genuinely looking forward to.
4. Recognize marketing tactics
Educate yourself about marketing and advertising strategies. When you’re aware of the various ploys that PR companies use to ensnare you into endless purchases, you’ll be more likely to dismiss their catch phrases.
In a culture that tells you success is determined by how much money you make, it’s crucial to realize that happiness isn’t synonymous with new possessions.
Consumerism creates impossible ideals and aspirations. It teaches that whatever you have is never enough.
As soon as you buy a new smart phone, a new model comes out.
And society is designed to leave you always wanting the latest season’s fashion. It’s just how marketing works.
But living simply means you’re aware of these tactics and recognize the advertisement slogans for what they really are.
5. Quieten the digital noise
Your smartphone is both an incredible tool and an enormous source of stress.
The dangers of social media are well-documented and include anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness and envy.
Hours in front of a screen lead to the erosion of your communication skills, empathy and ability to concentrate.
Taking time away from your phone is the single most powerful step you can take towards a simpler life.
Here are some simple tactics to quieten the digital noise (even if you’re currently addicted to your smartphone):
- Remove all social media apps from your phone and only check social media on your laptop. This hack makes it more difficult to access your accounts and harder to spend hours watching cat videos in bed.
- Turn off all non-essential notifications and take weekends and evenings away from your phone. You don’t need your phone to ping whenever someone posts a new meme in your WhatsApp group.
- Don’t sleep with your phone next to you. This makes it easier to enjoy quiet mornings and evenings away from your feeds.
6. Stop constantly checking your inbox
Dedicate specific times of the day to reply to emails instead of checking your inbox every few minutes.
Don’t reply to anything that doesn’t require your response and organize emails into folders for easy reference later.
Give your colleague a call on the phone (or stop by their office) to clear up ongoing issues.
Often a real-life conversation is much quicker than an endless stream of back-and-forth emails.
7. Take a regular digital detox
Take a digital detox for 1-2 days and use your weekends to enjoy some offline life.
To make a detox work, log out of all social media, delete social media apps from your phone, and put your phone away in another room.
Then find something else to occupy your time and don’t think about what you’re missing (not much).
It’s going to feel really frustrating at first. But you’ll be surprised how little you’ll miss your phone.
8. Watch less TV
Cut back on TV and you’ll see less of the not-so-subtle materialism in movies that depict unrealistic lifestyles.
Unwinding with a good series can be a relaxing end to a hectic day. But hours of TV every night will ultimately leave you unmotivated and drained.
Limit your TV time and make space for more effective ways to relax. Pick up the latest novel, listen to an inspiring podcast or try a guided meditation.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but lounging in front of your TV every night isn’t actually very refreshing in the long run.
Try a yoga session if your body’s aching, or pick up a challenging hobby that you can devote a half hour to in the evenings.
You’ll be more invigorated than after a binge TV series session.
Cutting down on TV initially takes some real effort. But you’ll be surprised how better rested you feel with less screens in your life.
9. Live in accordance with your means
Don’t spend what you don’t have on things you don’t need.
Work consciously to change the mindset that promises happiness with the next online purchase.
And remember that simple living isn’t about painful deprivation. It’s about freeing yourself from that unsatisfying cycle of desire.
You might get dismay and even backlash from friends and family. But don’t give in to social pressure to spend – especially around the holidays.
Seek out friends and communities with similar views and take inspiration from their lifestyle.
Be grateful for what you already have. You’ll be less likely to obsess about whatever’s lacking in your life and more likely to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
10. Declutter your home
Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up brought the joy of simple living to thousands of people.
And it’s no wonder – a clear and organized space is a real catalyst for serious life changes.
When you declutter, your physical possessions begin to serve you instead of overpowering you. And that’s such a powerful feeling that you’re likely to keep going and simplify other spheres of your life.
You ask yourself: what else can I streamline in my life?
Here are some practical tips to start decluttering:
- Start small and keep your expectations realistic. Forget the full house weekend overhaul. Start with organizing one kitchen drawer or tackling a section of your wardrobe.
- Sort your clothes first. Your wardrobe is an easy place to start, and this will motivate you to tackle bigger challenges. Donate unwanted items and identify what you never wear by hanging worn clothes with the hanger in the reverse direction.
- Get rid of one item a day. Keep it simple and find one unused or unwanted item every day to get rid of or donate.
Multi-tasking just doesn’t work and it’s actually a far less productive way to get things done.
Despite what some people write on their resumes, nobody is actually good at multi-tasking.
Work goes much slower when you constantly switch your attention between a big project, an inbox full of emails and a chatty co-worker.
And while some interruptions can’t be avoided, you can simplify your workload by batching similar tasks together.
Spend a half hour replying to emails. Then dedicate an hour of focused time to a more challenging project. Set your timer and stay focused – and leave the messaging for later.
Though your ability to focus is a skill that improves with practice.
Here’s how to improve your focus:
- If your attention drifts easily, then start with short increments of focused time and increase them gradually.
- Use time blocking as a powerful tool to identify your top priorities and make sure you’re dedicating time to them daily.
- Keep a notebook with a to-do list for your work and your personal life to save your brain from having to remember everything.
12. Set realistic goals
Don’t expect too much of yourself when you’re simplifying your life.
Sky-high expectations only lead to overwhelm and burn-out.
And while a weekend spent getting rid of all your possessions makes for a great YouTube video, it doesn’t really work like that for everybody.
If you want a more minimal lifestyle, then start with small goals.
Declutter a single item a day for a month. Or take an evening to organize one kitchen cupboard.
Those small acts will give you a sense of accomplishment that will inspire you to continue.
13. Start a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is a powerful antidote to social media feeds that leave us constantly comparing our lives to others.
It’s a powerful practice that increases your happiness and wards off those nagging feelings that your life just isn’t enough.
When you’re constantly bombarded with ads and other people’s social media posts, it’s easy to feel like your life is lackluster in comparison.
Then comes the self-doubt, comparison and spending splurges to fill that void.
But when you practice gratitude, you appreciate life’s small pleasures. And you’re more aware of everything you have – and less likely to envy others.
Practice gratitude and start journaling daily – even if it’s just a few minutes.
Use these prompts to start a gratitude journal:
- Write in detail about 3 things you’re grateful for today.
- List 3 things that you value and appreciate about your partner or your family.
- Describe a challenge you’ve dealt with recently and what you learned from the experience.
- Write about the 3 people who’ve made the biggest positive impact in your life.
14. Embrace white space
The importance of doing nothing is widely underrated.
You’re pushed at work and rewarded for high productivity. And this attitude often trickles down into your personal life too.
On weekends, you’re uncomfortable sitting still and you fill every minute with activity or entertainment. TV and social media feeds are ready to ward off any boredom.
But letting yourself experience boredom has many surprising benefits.
It lets your mind wander and gives you space to ponder new ideas. If you’ve ever had a great idea in the shower, you know the value of a few minutes away from your screen.
White space gives you time to process experiences and to learn from them.
When you don’t fill every free moment with entertainment, your mind slowly builds back its attention span. Your brain weens itself off the endorphins that social media and TV provide.
Learn to just be instead of filling every available moment with activity.
15. Don’t expect miracles
Simple living can dramatically improve your life.
But it won’t prevent stress or grant you unlimited happiness and fulfillment.
And keeping your life simple is a constant learning experience. You’ll relapse and you’ll make mistakes.
But what matters most is persistence.
Decluttering is often a first step towards a simple life – but it doesn’t end there.
A simple life means a rejection of materialism and the values that mainstream culture sell us.
And that takes conscious effort, self-awareness and a willingness to always learn.
16. Make time for self-care
Self-care is more than just a feel-good bubble bath on the weekend.
It’s a daily practice that teaches you to prioritize yourself, take care (and recognize) your own needs and love yourself and your body.
Self-care also boosts self-esteem and makes you appreciate yourself more. And that makes you far less likely to worry about what other people think.
This increased confidence puts you more in tune with your needs. And it makes it easier to resist social pressure and trying to appease others.
Self-care can be as simple as yoga by candlelight in the evening when your back is aching. Or a short walk in the park at lunchtime during a busy workday.
Self-care is all about listening to yourself and giving your body whatever it needs.
17. Keep learning
A simple life isn’t an end result that you arrive at after a decluttering session.
It’s a lifestyle that comes with its own challenges, and takes constant self-awareness to grow and adapt with time.
Keep learning and stay motivated on your path towards a simpler life. The more you absorb, the more you learn about new strategies that work for you.
Attend a simple living retreat, pick up a book on minimalism or tune into an inspiring podcast.
Take inspiration from the slow living community to keep growing.
18. Forget what others think
It’s not always easy to insist on the simpler, slower path in a society that’s always striving for faster and better.
You’ll get bewildered looks, incredulity and even scorn when you opt for a small wardrobe of well-worn classics or a slow travel vacations that rejects a fast-paced itinerary.
But you’ll realize that your own happiness means infinitely more than the approval of others.
You’ll realize that – however selfish it may feel – your own life is meant for yourself only.
Simple living quotes
Get inspired to start a simpler life with these powerful quotes:
1. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
2. “To me, so much of simple living hinges on less – both owning less and doing less. Intentionally choosing to live an uncluttered, minimalist and slower life. I want to make time and space for the people and experiences that are most important for our family.” – Melissa from Simple Lionheart Life
3. “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” – Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist
4. “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
5. “I will not say yes when my heart says no.” – Courtney Carver
6. “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau
Books on simple living:
1. Destination Simple, by Brooke McAlary
Destination Simple is a short introduction to simple living with bite-size chapters on practicing gratitude, limiting your social media time and adding calming rituals to ground your day.
If you’re looking for a practical, no-nonsense guide to simplifying your life, McAlary’s slim tome is a great place to start.
The chapters include checklists, bullet points and step-by-step guides that make simple living doable – even if you have children.
McAlary also makes a convincing case for single-tasking and how concentration leads to better and more meaningful work.
2. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
Essentialism is a comprehensive look at how doing less – but doing it better – can transform your career.
McKeown lists real life anecdotes from the business world that illustrate how outdated the busy work culture really is.
He argues for simplifying your to-do list and focusing on what makes the most impact.
There are also valuable insights into discerning the valuable from the trivial.
Other chapters highlight the importance of rest – and the magic of looking at the bigger picture and making difficult decisions.
It’s not easy to cut back on your screen time and tackle an overflowing closet. And it definitely can’t all be done in a single weekend.
But with a few small changes, you can simplify your days and start your journey to a slower and more meaningful lifestyle.
You’ll be more in control of your time and more in tune with the person you’ve always wanted to be.
I would love to hear from you. How do you practice simple living?