There has been a lot of talk about simple living in the past few years, but 2020 offered an opportunity for me to really evaluate my values and beliefs, and I decided to make positive life changes during the unexpected slow period.
During 2020 I was able to experiment with living a slower simple life. I pursued new hobbies, and found productive and creative ways to fill my days that were meaningful to me. I also picked up old hobbies, like backyard chicken keeping, that I had let go of because I was always too busy, or never found the time for.
What I found is that simple living isn’t just about meal-planning, raising chickens and decluttering. Simple living offers you the opportunity to create a sustainable and productive life, and while simple doesn’t always mean easier, the rewards for living a more simple lifestyle are profound.
What is Simple Living?
I love how minimalism.co summed up simple living “Simple living refers to constructing a life with intention and a minimalist approach to how you live. Like minimalism, simple living is about focusing on what’s important when it comes to your activities, mindset, possessions and use of your time.”
The first thing you have to do when you decide to live a more simple life is to determine what that means to you. My definition of simple living can be totally different than yours. But the beauty of simple living is that there is no wrong or right way to do it. It is important to remember this isn’t an all or nothing way of living. You get to choose your starting point, and what is important to prioritize in your life.
I have listed some great starting points I found very impactful in my own life below if you are interested in simple living. My hope is that this list inspires you to move towards a life that is intentional and meaningful. Don’t let the broad range of topics overwhelm you. Choose one thing that really resonates with you to focus on, and then decide on one small, actionable thing that you can do to get started.
7 Tips To Help You Practice Simple Living
I’ve read that a clean space = a clear mind, and I have to agree. There is a reason that decluttering goes hand in hand with living a simple life. A disorganized home means you spend more time looking for things, and less time doing whatever it is you love. I personally get stressed by clutter in my home, I can’t help but see it, possibly trip over it, or knock it over. I can’t focus on other tasks at hand when I feel my physical spaces are in disarray. Clutter creates distraction that draws me away from the endeavors I really want to start or complete.
Decluttering can be overwhelming when you are just getting started, there are a ton of resources available, and you may have to go through a little trial and error to find the system that works best for you. Challenges like 40 bags in 40 days, and the 31 Day Home Detox are a good way to get the ball rolling and gain a little momentum.
Create a Budget
Feeling out of control of your finances can take a significant emotional toll. Just to be clear I am not implying you need to be earning a certain amount of money, but you should have a very clear understanding of where your money is coming and going. The idea of a budget isn’t always appealing or the most exciting activity (for me it was downright scary), but it is important to help you control your spending, track your expenses, and save more money. A simpler, less stressful life is easier to achieve if you have an honest understanding of your financial situation.
If you are just getting started with budgeting there are several systems available to help you master your finances. YNAB is a very popular app based budgeting tool that stands for You Need a Budget, and it’s a great digital budgeting tool.
If you are a more pen and paper type of person, the cash envelope system popularized by Dave Ramsey may be right up your alley. Although, I will say I am not necessarily a fan of all of Dave Ramsey’s teachings, the cash envelope system is a solid practice.
Give Your Days Structure with Routines
If you are feeling your household is a little chaotic, you can create order by getting simple systems in place. Household systems might sound complex, and maybe even a little overwhelming, but it is simply looking after your home and your family, in a way that makes sure everything is taken care of. Systems ensure you know what needs doing and when, and nothing falls through the cracks. When I think about systems to help my household run more efficiently I like to think in terms of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks such as:
- Managing finances
- Seasonal Decorating
- Home improvements
If you’re wanting to take a little stress out of household management, spend some time creating systems that make the jobs you have to do move quicker and easier.
A big part of living a simple life is limiting distractions. If you are like me, the distraction of cell phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, email, Facebook, and the digital world is never far. How often do you mindlessly scroll instagram? How many times during the day do you check notification sounds coming from your phone, use apps, check social media, send messages or even just generally handle your phone? Technology has improved information sharing, and can increase knowledge and opportunities, but using the available apps and platforms at the right level can be tricky, especially for someone like me who has a habit of mindlessly scrolling. Unplugging and taking some time to reconnect with yourself and doing something that makes you feel productive or happy is a much better use of spare time.
Be Intentional with Your Errands
Quick trips to the store, random runs to the post office, or swinging by the bank can quickly cut into whatever time you have in your day. This has been one of my biggest challenges, but since lockdowns I’ve been very strategic about where I go, and when. Once I got intentional with my errand running I quickly realized how much free time I was losing by letting errands run me, and not the other way around. Instead of making several trips during the course of the week I schedule 1 day for errand running. To make sure nothing slips through the cracks I keep a running list of things I need to get done on my errand day in my planner. That means trying to get all of my groceries, appointments, and other little things done, in one run.
Running errands once a week generally saves time, money and gas. Things do pop up and unexpected trips sometimes simply can not be avoided, but being more efficient with my time is always the goal.
Let Go Of Things That No Longer Serve You
One of the best ways to begin living a more simple life is to take inventory of how you spend your time, and if it aligns with your priorities. Really spend time reflecting on relationships and activities that draw energy away from you and leave you feeling empty and uninspired.
It is so easy to overextend yourself. It is sometimes a lot easier to simply say yes to an opportunity or invitation, even if you don’t feel like it, because you don’t want to disappoint anyone, or have a fear of a negative consequences.
Focus your energy on activities and commitments which bring you happiness and joy, let go of toxic or negative situations. Remember that, when we overextend ourselves, we won’t be able to focus on what’s really important and prioritize the things that will get us closer to our goals and dreams.
Try Your Hand At Old-Fashioned Skills
My Great Grandmother knew how to stock and manage a pantry, grow her own food, preserve seasonal foods with canning and dying, and how to sew. While these were essential skills for my great grandma, today they are better classified as lost arts. Today we can get by without these old-fashioned skills, but they still have value, and come with their own set of rewards. Many of them will help save money. Most will make you more self-sufficient, giving you a sense of accomplishment. Others offer a creative outlet, provide a productive and fulfilling activity for you to pursue.
When you are limiting distractions and filling your life with more of what matters, you have the time, energy and money to do the things that bring you joy and make you feel alive.
What makes you happy?
Figure this out and infuse your life with more of it. Remember, your version of simple living can look exactly how you want it to look.