10 Ways I Embraced Simplicity and You Can Too

Simplicity:  Sun and Moon

Imagine extra time and energy, the chance to pay down debt, deeper connections, better health, improved quality of life, more meaning and purpose, less stress, and honoring the environment for a start.  These are just some of the benefits you can gain by embracing simplicity.

When you engage in simplicity, you’ll naturally begin to think about what really matters in life. Hence, simplicity can be an incomparable path of personal transformation as well.

I wouldn’t wait a moment if you feel called to simplify. Like Joshua Becker and his family, you might discover that the “abundant life is actually found in owning less.”

What Draws You to Simplicity?

The process of clearing away the excess and clutter may feel boring, dirty, and overwhelming at times.  It did for me.  So take a moment to identify your reasons for seeking simplicity right from the start.  This clarity of intention will keep you going when the complexity of getting to simplicity feels too much.

I prefer a simple life because I want:

How about you?  What draws you to simplicity?

Take Your First Step Towards Simplicity

You don’t have to become a minimalist or own less than 50 things to reap the goodness of simplicity.  Start where you are and find the level of simplicity that matches your personal circumstances and needs.  Simplicity will naturally look different to a single nomad compared to a family of four.

You can start small by cleaning off a single counter or dig in with a weekend extravaganza clearing the garage.  The most important thing is to just begin and then keep going.

For most of us, it takes time – think months and years – to simplify our lives.  So find a pace that works for you and take one step at a time.  Keep the momentum flowing without pressuring yourself.

If you do get off track, that’s OK; just start again.  Remember, you’ll feel lighter with each step you take.

10 Ways You Could Embrace Simplicity

To help you get started or reignite your enthusiasm, I’d like to share 10 ways I’ve simplified my life – so far.

1. Reduce or Eliminate T. V.

I used to watch television at night because I felt exhausted and just wanted to space out.  But, it didn’t add anything positive to my life.  Dramatic programs trigger the stress response:  pounding heart, tightening muscles, etc.  Commercials lure you to consume more than you need; more than your fair share.

I gave up television when I moved to France eight years ago and have never looked back.  When I occasionally watch a program, I’m all the more turned off.

Instead, I practice meditation, exchange massage or Reiki with my husband, sit outside and enjoy the dark night sky, have friends for dinner or read a book.  These activities nurture my spirit and enhance my well-being instead of keeping me in that “always on” state.

2. Buy Less

Try a shopping moratorium - except for the essentials – for 3 to 6 months.  A no shopping rule gives you the space to consider if what you desire is something you really need and whether the item will truly enrich your life.  It gives you a chance to see what tempts you and why that might be.

I’m lucky because I don’t like to shop on or off-line, but I still bought too much stuff.  I used to have obsessions like pens, planners and baskets of all sorts.  I sold or gave away almost all my possessions when I moved to France.

Now, I rarely buy things.  I don’t hesitate to purchase what I need, but I’ve found that I need much less and enjoy life much more.

3. Get Rid of Excess

Here’s an idea to help you avoid the overwhelm if you have a ton of stuff.  Robert Wall  bought a large outdoor trash can.  Then he promised himself that each week it would get filled and brought out to the dumpster.  It was a gradual, but very effective process.

You can start with one room, one corner of a room or even one shelf to make it feel manageable.

Whatever approach you use, know that attachment and emotions will arise as you begin to try to let go of your stuff.  For example, at first I found it very difficult to give away my library of almost 1,000 books.  But, like all feelings, the sadness dissipated  soon enough.  I rarely thought about most of those books again.

Don’t let emotions be the obstacle that stops you for living a more simple life.

If you’re not sure about something, put it in a “maybe” box and stash it away for a few months.  If you don’t need it or think about it during that time, let it go.

I used our move to a smaller house a year ago to do another clean sweep.  Even though the accumulation wasn’t out of hand, it still took several months.

4.  Streamline Your Wardrobe

I participated in Project 333 to streamline my wardrobe.  The idea is to assemble a collection of 33 pieces of clothing and accessories for a season (three months), get rid of any clothes that don’t fit or don’t work, and store the remainder – just what you truly love – until the next season.

Each season, you create a new collection of 33 by mixing pieces from your current closet and those you’ve stored.  Courtney Carver escorts you through the process, showing you how fashionable and fun a smaller wardrobe can be.  You’ll save time, money and energy when you downsize your wardrobe.

5. Read Selectively

I believe knowledge is power.  But, how much information do you need?  I think it’s better to read fewer books and actually put the knowledge into action than to keep reading more and more and more.

This is something to consider if you buy every popular book that comes along, but never have time to chew on it or apply what you’ve learned.

Yes, I once had that library of 1,000 books!  Now, I have a small library that mostly resides on my Kindle.  I might read 12 – 15 books a year, but I sometimes go for months without reading a new book at all.  You might, however, find me re-reading one of the  books from my small wisdom library in order to refresh and deepen my understanding.

6.  Spend Less Time on Social Media

A lot has been said about how social media can detract from your well-being when you compare yourself to others online and come out on the losing end.  It can also be a way to avoid feeling alone or taking the time to be still and in touch with yourself.

But, social media can be addictive so it’s not necessarily easy to reduce your engagement.  You really need to make a conscious plan.

I’ve had my periods of obsession, but now I try to take at least one full day off from social media each week.  And, I keep the time I spend there each day to a minimum.

A great way to start is to track your 168 hours each week to see precisely how much time you’re spending on social media.  Then set a clear limit that defines the amount of time you’ll spend on social media each day going forward.  Experiment and see what works for you.

7.  Do Less

Most of us seem to be caught in the “Doing Too Much Syndrome” that is part and parcel of modern life.  Use your time tracking sheet (mentioned under number 6) to observe how you actually spend your time.  Then identify 3 activities, commitments, or engagements that you can say goodbye to, one at a time.  You know the ones you don’t really want to do, but somehow committed to anyway.

When you go through this process you’ll have to learn to kindly say no.  You’ll also have a chance to explore the emotional patterns that keep you locked into over committing yourself.  It could be low self-esteem or the need to please or something else.  Whatever it is, this is a good time to bring it out of the shadows, say hello and tell it there’s a new way now.

I used to over-commit and give my time away without a second thought.  But, I started to question my approach when I felt like I was coming apart at the seams.  Finally, I had an epiphany when my husband pointed out how a friend was asking me to give him gratis about $500 of my professional time.

I turned a corner and learned to set limits so I don’t burn out.  So I’m quite sure you can do so as well.

8. Downsize

When we first moved to Hawaii four hears ago, we lived in a very large house.  This was a welcome change after living in relatively small, crowded spaces for a good part of my life.  I loved having a whole floor to myself and the rest of the household activity on another.  But, I didn’t love all the cleaning, maintenance, and endless walking up and down the stairs.

We decided to downsize and now live in about 950 square feet with a sweet meditation gazebo as an outdoor plus.  That’s half the average home space in the U. S., but still far more space than people have in most countries in the world.

I admire people who live in tiny houses, but as a highly sensitive person that’s too small for me.  I believe the secret is to find the right size for you.  However much you can downsize, you’ll release oodles of time, money and maintenance.

9.  A Simple But Loose Planning System

I’ll write on anything within reach:  post-it notes, backs of envelops, napkins, loose pieces of paper.  But, I’ve misplaced those important scraps time and again, losing time in my search and depleting my equanimity.

I’ve been exploring options for a simple system to keep everything in one place.  Now, I’m trying the Bullet Journal rapid logging method to track my tasks, important notes, lists, events, ideas, and plans all in one Eco-System Journal.

What a relief!

10.  Meditate

Meditation declutters you mind.  It increases your clarity so it’s easier to see what’s important and streamline your life.  It brings simplicity of mind so you have a more relaxed and enjoyable life.

Simplicity:  Perhaps It Could Help You

This is a big list so please don’t get overwhelmed.  Just feel into your first or next step towards simplicity and see what’s right for you.  The benefits of simplicity are difficult to ignore. If you’d like to find more time, energy, peace, and freedom, simplicity may be the perfect way for you.

Would you like to simplify your life?  Is there anything holding you back or have you already begun?

I’m glad you’re here and thank you so much for sharing my posts.  If you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

 

Comments

  1. says

    Your list is interesting. Here’s how I am doing
    1. don’t watch TV…do watch 1-2 movies a week
    2. working on this…some days more successful than others
    3. I am on 2nd go round…doing better this time w/the emotional stuff
    4. see #3
    5. love to read…usually 1 book a week
    6. no social media other than blogs I follow…I limit my time on the computer now so less of this too
    7. got this covered!
    8. I could but happy where I am
    9. your planner seems a bit complicated and time consuming…I will stick w/planner I use. It’s simple but then see #7
    10. work in progress…trying to be more disciplined in prayer and meditation
    I think I am doing fine overall. Life is good…I am happy…nuff said.

  2. Jean Sampson says

    I hope you will laugh at me at least as hard as I am laughing at myself! I started reading this post somewhere around 5:00 pm. At the same time, “Hoarders” came on TV (I watch sometimes to just remind myself of how bad it COULD get:) ).
    So I stopped reading the post and kept an eye on the TV, decided to clean out the drawer under the computer+ the desk around the computer! So I tossed 2 trashcans (small) of outdated drawer stuff and wrote things I needed to keep off little scraps of paper into a book I keep for those sorts of things. I did the other drawer a few weeks ago and tossed (recycled actually) a bunch of old stuff that I will never look at again (I am gradually tossing most of what is in that drawer :)
    So you and ‘Hoarders” really inspired a lot of paring down today! :)

    • says

      This is wonderful, Jean. And, it did give me a big smile. This is obviously a case where watching t.v. is beneficial. :)

      Wow, you accomplished a lot. Paper is one of my nemesis. I find it accumulates so easily and it’s easy to avoid shifting through it all. My journey of simplicity is not complete yet and it probably never will be. I still have some papers to sort through, but it’s no longer a mountain. Now, you’re inspiring me. :)

  3. says

    Sandra,
    I need a better system for social media. About the books, you suggest reading versus television and then say to cut back on books. Hmmm. Hubs has no desire to cut back on television. I watch some The Voice and American Idol with him because it’s his thing. Love the simple life!

    • says

      Hi Tess,
      It’s wonderful that you support your husband watching television that he likes. I realize that eliminating television is not going to resonate for everyone. It can be a time of enjoyment for people.

      That’s the great thing about carving out your own simple life, it’s going to look different for each of us. I’m sure your way works perfectly for you.

      I do read less, but I still read sometimes. When I do, I find I read in the evenings when I used to watch television. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but it’s just one of my alternatives to television.

      Good luck finding a good system for social media for yourself.

      Thanks, I appreciate your honesty.

  4. says

    Buying less has always been a strategy of mine Sandra. “Stuff” really just stresses me out. I’d much rather have my home neat, tidy and streamlined so I can relax, than get the newest and latest back breaking shoes or whatever. (that being said, I just discovered West Elm and I’m obsessing over their furniture ;) )

    Great post – always appreciate living “Smaller”.. My entire food blog is premised on that and it’s how I try to live my own life. Thank you so much for the wonderful words of wisdom!!

    • says

      Hi Kristy,
      I’m so with you! Too much stuff stresses me out too. Of course, if you appreciate quality or beauty it can be difficult to let go of the obsessing entirely. :) What a great premise behind your food blog. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Warmly,
      Sandra

  5. says

    Love this, Sandra! I’ve been simplifying for many years now, and recently kicked it into high gear again. My boyfriend just moved to another city about a week ago, and the first thing I did was to clean and declutter everything to the Zen-like standards that I really prefer. I feel like there is a lot more breathing room in here now (except in his old room, where I put all the discards, and which he says looks like an Indian bazaar now). :P

    I do watch TV though – I cut the cable, but I love Netflix and movies and such. It’s kind of a vicarious window on the world, and I learn tons about life and history and psychology that way. I love social documentaries too. I always leave the closed captions on, so I suppose I’m really kind of reading TV like a visual book.

    But I’m rarely JUST watching TV – I’m almost always doing something else at the same time, and I can actually meditate while watching, believe it or not. It works for me somehow. :)

    • says

      Dear Jennifer,

      I love the feeling of zen-like standards. I’m far from there, but I would like to inch in that direction. It sounds like your boyfriend has a great sense of humor! I’m part of a couple myself so I know compromise is important to a healthy relationship.

      Yes, there’s a lot of goodness on TV too. I know everyone’s path to simplicity is different and this particular idea might not resonate with everyone. :)

  6. says

    I haven’t watched TV for years. I keep my space simple and minimal. I am trying to schedule in more meditation. I love this list though. Even for those of us who practice this on a regular basis, it’s an important reminder for times of overwhelm.

    I feel like the less I have to distract me, the closer I am to peace, truth, God, Source, wholeness…the more I can be a vehicle. It’s a very important message. It’s one I am passionate about and appreciated other like minded individuals.

    Beautiful,
    Megyn

    • says

      I agree with you wholeheartedly, Megyn. Your motivation is so inspiring. This is my feeling too: with fewer distractions I can be a better vehicle to help others find inner peace, compassion, and wisdom. I’m glad you like the list. I think it’s so true that we need regular reminders!

  7. says

    We have been on the simple path for many years now. At first we took steps cautiously, now living simply has become so natural, there is no way we could return to our consumerist past. In a way it is like discovering a food sensitivity. Consumerism is the bread and butter – and when you can no longer eat gluten or dairy, your diet (lifestyle) changes for the better.

    • says

      Cheryl, It’s quite amazing how you’ve embraced a natural and simple lifestyle and it’s become the norm for you. I completely understand as I have little interest in consumerism for the sake of consumerism too. Food sensitivity is a good analogy. Thanks for joining us. So nice to connect with you!

  8. says

    I used to confuse simplicity with minimalism Sandra, and I didn’t (and still don’t) resonate with a minimalist lifestyle…but staying open minded to the concept allowed me to see the beauty (for myself) in simplifying certain aspects of my life and lifestyle.

    This is a great reminder…thank you. :-)

    • says

      I think that’s an important distinction, Elle, and I’m glad you brought that up. The word “minimalism” isn’t necessarily inviting for most people and can give the wrong impression. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed simplifying some aspects of your life.

  9. Tracey Martin says

    Great post Sandra! I’ve been following Rowdy Kittens & Be More With Less for a few months now and love your blog too! I am definitely a minimalist but I love to simplify all aspects of my life-It’s a full time job! Most of my books are now on my Kindle but I did just purchase some classics in England that I love and read over and over: Dickens, Austin, & Bronte-but they are quite old and were printed in the 1800′s. I have fewer than 120 personal possessions and these are among my faves. Project 333 was a godsend and my husband & I cancelled TV and social media. Learning to say ‘no thank you’ has always been a challenge, but I’m working on it! I recently went from vegetarian to raw vegan- further simplifying my life and I’m amazed at how much better I feel. Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It’s reassuring to find like-minded people in a world of chaos!

    • says

      Wow, Tracey! You’ve done so much. That’s huge to cancel TV and social media. How amazing. I can feel so much positive energy emanating from your words. It feels like simplifying has made a huge difference in your life. I think it’s fine to have special classics like you do. The simple life will look different for everyone of us!

      I know it’s not always easy to say “no” but I’ve gotten much better at doing so in a kind way. So I have every confidence you will too.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I feel very uplifted by it.

  10. says

    I have been on a journey to simplicity for some years now. I really liked the thought that “You don’t have to become a minimalist or own less than 50 things to reap the goodness of simplicity. ” This was something I needed to discover for myself. At first I would feel guilty about keeping things that gave me pleasure! I’ve slowly learned that simplicity is about getting rid of the things that don’t enhance my life, in order to make room for the things that bring me pleasure and make me smile. It was an aha moment when I realized that!

    • says

      Dear Sharon,

      It’s so helpful to hear the personal insights your garnered through your own journey to simplicity. You’ve come to a beautiful conclusion that it’s not about someone else’s rules but really a process of discovering what truly enhances your life.

      That sounds like a big “aha” moment!

  11. says

    I feel like I should add something inspiring or insightful here, but I think that guest post you linked to covers it pretty well. :D

    Thanks for the mention Sandra!

  12. says

    Sandra, I love #7! Sitting somewhere and doing nothing is great. First there are a lot of thoughts and worries. When they stop the magic happens. My mind starts to dream and new ideas come up. To be honest, I could spend a whole day doing less ;)

    • says

      That sounds so lovely to me too, Andrea. I know what you mean about the magic happening. I find my creativity flows so beautifully when I simply give it some open space like this. I’m with you. Let’s spend a whole day doing less!

  13. says

    I have been trying to simplify my increasingly complex for a while now. I feel like I have done a lot of these but more out of necessity. I don’t watch TV because I don’t have time, I live as downsized as I can get because I’m pretty broke, I was never a fan of social media and I still don’t have time.

    That said I feel content, I feel like I use my limited time wisely, reading, writing, blogging, working out and studying various topics (I try to learn something new and become proficient at it every few months). Although I could use a 28 hour day to get everything done I still feel like my complex life is simple (if that makes sense) because I lack those distractions.

    However, books are my weakness. The one thing I collect, my one material good. I could lose everything I own and not really care, but if I lost my books I would be very upset. I have rare books, signed books, limited editions, banned books, books that even libraries don’t have. Books are my one material connection to the world, my one major weakness. I wish I could give them up, and I am trying, but it’s very difficult, I guess everyone needs a vice.

    Any way, great post, I am definitely going to follow your blog, it’s a lot of what I am looking for.

    Also, for point 9, check out Evernote, I just started using it (I was the same way sticky notes and slips of paper strewn about everywhere) and I love it.

    • Tracey Martin says

      Craig, I think it is very acceptable to have books or anything that helps us increase our knowledge and proficiency. I too have a weakness for books. Certain things feed our soul and make us better people and those are worth hanging on to!

    • says

      Hi Craig,

      You seem quite content and as you say you are using your time wisely. That’s a big inspiration. Many people have a love for books and it’s not easy to let them go. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you feel good and in balance in your life in general. Maybe there’s a good reason you are holding on to them. They could indeed quickly become a rare commodity in this world of ours.

      I’m glad you like my blog! Thanks for the tip on Evernote.

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