“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” — Henry David Thoreau
In a world where demand for our attention seems relentless and the problems seem never-ending, it’s easy to see why life can seem so complicated and convoluted. The stressors of our complex lives tend to tap our mental, physical, emotional, financial and spiritual resources, until we are just about at our wit’s end. It’s no wonder why people are seeking to simplify their lives rather than to further complicate them.
However, in this instant-gratification world where on-demand everything has become the norm, how do you go about simplifying your life? How do you wind things down so that you can take things slowly and truly savor and enjoy life for what it is? Is this something achievable or is it just some pipe dream?
No matter what your situation, no matter how busy or complicated things might seem right now on a day-to-day basis, there are some straightforward ways that you can simplify your life if you’re truly committed. While this might seem like the antithesis of modern culture, there’s a beckoning towards simple pleasures and purist pursuits that tend to call us away from the everyday rat race that we all seem to be struggling in.
We envision days spent out in pastures, the warmth of the sun on our skin, taking a pleasant stroll through grassy knolls or splashing in the ocean waters in some tropical destination. But simplifying your life isn’t just about escape. It isn’t about running off to some foreign destination. It can happen right here, right now, as long you’re truly committed to it. And while there are countless ways to simplify things, there are a about a dozen that are critical to achieving this goal.
#1 — Downsize your home
If at all possible, downsizing your home could help to significantly simplify your life. Big homes not only require big expenditures, but also a great deal of time and energy for maintenance. When you’re not maintaining your home, it’s just becoming more and more disorganized and cluttered, which further adds to your sense of internal frustration and anxiety. Why put yourself through all the stress when it’s unnecessary and unneeded?
Sell your home and move into a smaller home with less expenses and overhead. You could also take this opportunity to get a home closer to your workplace that’s possibly smaller and still less expensive, but that will also reduce your commute time. By spending less time in the car, you’ll have more free time at home to work on things that matter or spend those precious moments with your family.
#2 — Avoid extraneous expenses
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” While it’s easy to pile on those expenses month after month, forgetting about those tiny charges that appear on your statement, it only adds to the confusion and complexity of our lives. From that gym membership that you forgot about, or that magazine subscription you just haven’t had time to cancel, and everything else in between, it’s easy to allow these extraneous expenses to get lost in the fray.
But, by avoiding extraneous expenses, and not allowing them to enter into your financial life in the first place, it’s easier to simplify things. You don’t have to fret or worry about things that you’ve been ignoring or avoiding to cancel. But it isn’t just monthly memberships that should be avoided, it’s also those late-night-infomercial buys. Those get-rich-quick programs and fad-weight-loss diet plans haven’t helped us in the past and they certainly won’t help us in the future. Avoid them like the plague.
#3 — Have a garage sale
When your house is filled with too much stuff, one way to simplify things is to put on a garage sale. Organize or catalog everything that you’re looking to part with. Things that have been neglected and ignored, tucked away in boxes for years, most certainly qualify. When it comes to your wardrobe, one good litmus test to determine if it should be discarded is if it hasn’t been worn in a year, or by asking yourself if you were to go out shopping right now, would you buy it again.
As you empty out your home and put on a garage sale, with each item sold, you’ll feel a cathartic cleanse of your spirit. Letting go of things and selling them to others who might actually put them to good use is most certainly empowering. While it might feel good to hoard and think you might use it at some point in the future, don’t try to hold onto things for too long because they’ll weigh you down mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
#4 — Slow down and enjoy life
Our chaotic and hectic lives have us shooting from one point to another, fervently dashing about throughout the day while just trying to keep our heads above water. It can seem frustrating and stressful at the best of times. There is always so much going on and we always have so many things to tend to including family lives, work, friendships, finances, and more, that it seems we never have enough time to do the things that truly matter to us.
However, by taking those precious moments to slow down and really enjoy life, not only will it give us sound peace of mind, but it will also help instill emotional stability. When we take time for those things that truly matter in life, it’s easier to get back to the busy work and the other things that tend to take up much of our time. Not only does this simplify our lives, but it makes us happier and healthier overall.
#5 — Organize clutter
Studies have confirmed that clutter reduces our ability to focus. When there’s too much clutter in the home or the office, it doesn’t lend itself to the relentless pursuit of our goals. It helps to divert our attention in subtle ways through interactions in the subconscious mind. You get distracted without realizing the source of that distraction. The disorganized clutter acts as a trigger for allowing us to veer off course in life.
If you have issues with organization, take 15 minutes each day to do small bits. Focus on one drawer the first day. The next day, focus on a tabletop. Purchase a filing system to organize all the paperwork in your home, or small boxes that you can label and tuck things away. Use your attic or your basement as an organizing space, discarding the stuff you no longer use, and categorizing items and sentimental pieces you’d like to keep.
#6 — Focus on the Pareto Principle
It’s easy to allow all of the current stressors in our lives to get in the way. We lose focus when we think about the millions of things that are on our to-do list. How are we ever supposed to get ahead in life and simplify things when everything seems so complex? One way to simplify your life is to focus on what’s called the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20-Rule, which states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts.
That means that 80% of your income is produced by 20% your effort. So, in a 10-hour day, merely 2 hours are helping to produce the majority of your income. This also means that 80% of your sales, will come from 20% of your clients. This is a fairly universally-applicable law. The point? To simplify your life, and even your work, focus on those efforts that are producing the biggest results. Once you identify what they are, scale out. You’ll also be able to earn more while working less.
#7 — Avoid multitasking
We live in a society obsessed with multitasking. However, this is the surest way to complicate things rather than to simplify them. Avoid multitasking when possible. Focus on one task at hand and do it to the best of your abilities. Don’t skimp on it one bit. When you attempt to do too many things at one time, it’s easier to get distracted. When you’re distracted, it means you need to come back and redo something that you didn’t do properly in the first place.
Use an effective time-management system in order to block out your time to focus on one task at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at once. Even if you have to block out your time in 30-minute intervals so as not to try to do too much at once, then take that route. The time-management system will also allow you to determine where to invest your time and in what efforts will produce the greatest long-term results.
#8 — Reduce and eliminate your debt
The modern world is fraught with debt. And we’re not just talking about the good kinds of debt such as mortgages or home improvement loans and so on, but also bad debt. There’s simply far too much revolving and credit-card debt used for impulse buys, vacations, shiny-object purchases, and other things that we know we can’t afford at the moment. Too much debt is not only taxing financially, but it’s also mentally and emotionally straining.
If you want to simplify your life, reduce and entirely eliminate your debt. Live within your means and invest your income in paying off as much of your debt as possible so that you can begin to use that income for investments, education and other worthwhile causes. Especially when you’re dealing with high-interest-rate loans and credit cards that can pretty much eat away at all your disposable income, eliminating that debt needs to become an absolute priority.
#9 — Contribute to others
There are so many people in this world living in an utter state of lack. It pains me to even think about it. Whenever I stop to think about my so-called problems, I’m reminded of the people that are suffering through real pain, oppression, violence and overall inhumane treatment. I think about people who don’t have a roof over their heads, food on their plate, or enough money for the basic necessities in life.
Contributing to others not only feels good, but it also helps to put your own problems into perspective. It doesn’t mean you need to give money. If you don’t have money, donate your time. Find a good cause that you can help to donate your time to in your area or even remotely, and do it. It will help you realize the importance of the simple things in life that we often take for granted until they’re taken from us.
#10 — Chase one major goal at a time
As you likely already know, I’m a huge proponent of goal setting. I think you should set major goals and go after them with planning and persistent daily action. But, I also think that major goals can easily overwhelm us. This tends to complicate our lives rather than to simplify them. I would suggest to chase just one major goal at a time. Whatever that goal is, if it’s major, it’s likely going to consume just about all of your free time.
As you build momentum towards that goal and ultimately achieve it, set the next major goal. You’ll feel far more accomplished and mentally adept to the notion that you can achieve anything over time. It will also help to soften the load that you might feel when chasing big goals. With just one goal on the horizon, it’s easier to stay focused and committed, not taking your eye of the proverbial prize, so to speak.
#11 — Avoid negative thinking
Negativity is a sore that pervades modern society and provides a platform for hate and aggression, allowing people to justify their actions based on some fictitious credo that they live by. Negative thinking is something that needs to be stamped out, but likely never will be for some time. One of the biggest problems with negative thinking is that hate consumes much more of our energy than love. It takes far more energy to be angry and resentful towards someone than to simply forgive and love them.
Negative thinking is also a self-fulfilling prophecy, festering and growing as it becomes more and more habitual. We spend endless moments steeped in negative fear-based thoughts that causes nothing but stress, anxiety and an array of physical ailments. Do whatever is necessary to avoid negative thinking. There’s no room for negative thinking for the person looking to achieve lofty goals or bring things back to their most basic and fundamental elements in life.
#12 — Reduce screen-time and increase me-time
We spend a lot of time in front of screens. Often, it’s not productive time; it’s merely time wasted. We have bad habits of visiting the same sites and wasting much of our free time on inane nonsense. While there’s nothing wrong with surfing the web, checking social media, or even reading blogs, make sure that you don’t spend too much time in front of the screens. Rather, increase the time spent doing something you love, away from screens.
Technology can be a companion, but it can also be a curse. Considering that it’s all around, and it has simplified life in the way of enhanced communications, information gathering, entertainment, commerce and so on, it also takes us away from doing other things that we love, experienced away from glaring screens. Spend time reading real physical books, painting, walking in the park, or having a fireside chat with a friend. Your future-self will thank you for it.