what is simple living
Slow Living

What is Simple Living?

Simple living is all about cutting back your possessions and living a less hectic lifestyle. Here are my tips to living simply.

The term “simple living” gets thrown around a lot these days from Pinterest boards to lifestyle magazines. It’s become a big trend with books, YouTube channels and podcasts all dedicated to minimalism and simplicity. And ironically it’s also become a huge industry with online courses and retreats all designed to give you a less complicated life.

But simple living as a reaction against materialism is as old as antiquity – even if it’s now wrapped in a new package.

Religious leaders from Buddha to Muhammed have advocated for a simpler life dedicated to self-knowledge and good deeds. And literary thinkers have left behind the excesses of their age to reconnect with life’s essence, from Henry David Thoreau and his two-years sojourn on the shores of Walden Pond to Leo Tolstoy and his admiration for rural life in Tsarist Russia.

The Greek philosopher Diogenes used his simple lifestyle to criticize the corrupt society and institutions of his day. More recently, the Bohemians of Paris lived for adventure and wine, putting art well above the pursuit of material possessions.

what is simple living

These days, Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus brought simple living to the mainstream with their blockbuster Netflix documentary Minimalism. Their millions of readers are testament that our society’s rampant consumerism isn’t making people truly happy.

There are dozens of interpretations on the theme of simplicity throughout its long history.

So what exactly is simple living?

It’s not a strict lifestyle that everyone follows in the same way. While some may life off-grid and grow their own vegetables, others may just aim for a less cluttered garage.

Simple living is all about finding the beauty in less and putting quality over quantity. It’s about valuing things that make us happy instead of chasing status symbols or societal expectations.

It’s a lifestyle that often includes cutting back and streamlining your possession and living a simpler and more intentional life. A life driven by what’s most important to you – not by possessions or status.

what is simple living

The quest for a simple life

Simple living usually encompasses a few basic elements:

Minimalism and reduced possessions

Simple living at its core is about reducing your consumption.

If you spend less money on things you don’t need, you can work less or pursue more meaningful work instead of living to paycheck to paycheck and maxing out your credit cards.

Simple living includes things like the 100 Things Challenge or the small house movement. The emphasis is on gratitude and being happy with what you’ve got. The lifestyle is sometimes about refraining from luxury and indulgence – but certainly not always.

Simple living means a simple home that’s decluttered and not overflowing with the junk that’s often a cause of anxiety and overwhelm. It includes getting rid of whatever takes up space and isn’t useful. A simpler life reduces your costs and your cleaning time.

what is simple living

A simpler diet

Simple living can often mean eating simpler and buying local ingredients to minimize your carbon footprint.

It can mean going back to the land and growing your own food to stop consuming and start being more self-sufficient. And it often means cutting out meat to lessen your exploitation of humans, animals and the planet.

A simpler schedule

Simple living means a simplified calendar that’s not packed with obligations that don’t add value to your life or busywork designed to make you feel productive. Simple living often means focusing on what you love and the hobbies we don’t often enjoy when our lives are packed with “shoulds.”

It’s making time for family and friends instead of the distractions of TV and the Internet.

In a culture that says our success and value is determined by the money we make and how we spend it, simple living is about realising that being happy isn’t synonymous with being rich.

Consumerism creates impossible ideals and aspirations that will never be met because it teaches us that it’s never enough. Our society is designed to always leave us wanting the next new model, upgrade or new season’s fashion.

An advocate of simple living is aware of those tactics and opts for a less materialistic life.

what is simple living

The importance of a simple life – and some benefits

A simpler, less cluttered and hectic life has immeasurable benefits to your health. Living with less stress and eating simply means lower blood pressure, better sleep and less chance of a heart attack or anxiety.

When you eliminate busywork from your calendar, your work-life balance is improved and you get more quality time with valued friends and family. Your relationships improve when you prioritize the important people in your life.

Simple living can also mean increased financial independence. There’s no more pressure to buy the latest gadgets or keep up with the neighbours, and no more retail therapy as a mood booster.

what is simple living

Simple living is also more sustainable and environmentally friendly when you consume less meat, go zero waste or become more mindful of where your clothes are made.

9 Simple living tips: how to live a simple life and be happy

Here are some small tips that can mean incredible changes in simplifying your life:

1. Quieten the digital noise

Our smartphones are both incredible tools – and also enormous sources of stress.

To quieten some of the digital noise that daily fights for your attention, try unsubscribing to newsletters you rarely read. Have a dedicated time of the day to reply to emails instead of checking them every half hour.

Turn off all notifications and take the weekends or evenings off from your phone. Don’t sleep with your phone next to you, erase the apps you don’t use and delete any apps that don’t serve a clear purpose.

2. Watch less TV and limit your screen time

Cutting back on TV means fewer ads and less of the subtle materialism in many films that depict unrealistic lifestyles. While unwinding with a good series is great, limiting TV time leaves you space for other forms of unwinding like reading or meditation.

how to live a simpler life

3. Live in accordance with your means

Don’t spend what you don’t have on things you don’t want.

Better yet, work to improve the mindset that’s telling you happiness lays in the next online shopping order.

Simple living isn’t about painful deprivation. It’s about freedom from that unsatisfying cycle of desire.

4. Declutter your home

Simple living for thousands of people is a journey that began with Marie Kondo or clearing out junk drawers. When you declutter and organize, your physical possessions begin to serve you instead of overpowering you.

It’s addicting to experience that post-declutter feeling of weightlessness and renewed space.

5. Single-task

Multi-tasking means more stress – and it’s actually far less productive to get things done. Despite what many people write on their CVs, nobody is really great at multi-tasking.

6. Set realistic goals and reward yourself

We often underestimate how long tasks will take and then we beat ourselves up about making too little progress.

Impossibly long to-do lists can lead to overwhelm and burn-out. It’s better to cut back to the essentials and work that really makes an impact.

quotes tips minimalism

7. Appreciate the little things and practice gratitude

Journaling and writing about everything you’re grateful for is an incredibly powerful tool to increase your happiness and ward off the nagging thoughts that you’re lacking something.

8. Embrace the white space

Take a day on the weekend to do nothing and let go of any pressure to fill your time with self-improving hobbies.

Learn to just be instead of measuring your self-worth by what you accomplish.

9. Don’t expect miracles

Simple living will improve your life – even drastically.

But it won’t prevent stress or grant you unlimited happiness and fulfilment. There’s no finish line. And keeping your life simple is a process and a constant learning experience.

4 Simple living quotes

If you need some inspiration to start a slower and simpler life, here are some of my favorite quotes on the beauty of simplicity:

1. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

quotes trend minimalism

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

All photos taken at the Kenooz Shali Lodge in Siwa, Egypt

Can the quarantine teach us a lesson about minimalism? Read my thoughts on Minimalism in the Time of Quarantine

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4 Comments

  • Tracey Bacic

    I recently started a gratitude journal, which, for me, helps to hone in on the small everyday things. Things that I might otherwise miss, which really make me feel life is wonderful.

  • Helen

    I really enjoyed this newsletter thank you! I aim every day to appreciate the simpler aspects of life. Although saddened by the Extreme loss of life and illness through this pandemic, I have personally been fortunate to slow the whole of daily life down and enjoyed that time. I will aim to continue to simplify where I can Moving forward too x

  • Ryn

    Hi Dee,

    I’m new to your website and only read a few of your articles so far, and I love all of them! I love the idea of simple living, and I’ve been reading more into minimalism lately because of a podcast I recently listened to.

    Society tells us that we need to work for countless hours and make a lot of money to be successful and happy, but thats so far from the truth. I love how your article says “In a culture that says our success and value is determined by the money we make and how we spend it, simple living is about realising that being happy isn’t synonymous with being rich.” We can still be happy and successful, even more so, if we live a simpler life by choosing the things that truly bring us joy and make us feel like we have a purpose.

  • Holly

    Love this. Even though I am already on this bandwagon, it refreshes my motivation and appreciation for simple possibilities to read primers like this.

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