I am stepping into my early thirties with a valuable life lesson I learned in my twenties.
That less is more.
For many years, I searched for happiness in my external world (we all do that, don’t we?).
We think that the next big raise is going to make us happy or getting that “big dream” fulfilled will make us happy. And that we will “start living properly” after that.
But we are humans and we have great capabilities to adapt to any situation: good or bad. Therefore, we get used to the luxuries of the new life and become unhappy again.
You make a conscious effort to be grateful for your life.
But you can be grateful even when you have less too. Gratitude and happiness are virtues we can CHOOSE to have.
That’s where simple living has its significance.
Simplifying life means getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve you anymore. And you open up that extra space for true pleasures that delight your soul.
Simple living and minimalism can go hand in hand.
Simple living may not always mean fewer possessions. You want to be surrounded by things that make you happy and comfortable. Therefore, for a simplified life, you let go of the clutter and keep only the things that are most essential to your living.
Well, that sounds a lot like minimalism itself. Simple living and minimalism overlap with each other on many levels. In my opinion, the terms are not important, but how you pursue your happiness with fewer possessions is.
So let’s see how you can simplify your life this year.
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1. Decide your priorities
Before simplifying your life, think about your priorities in life. And decide to give more time and space for them.
For example, if you decide your family is your top priority and when you are faced with making decisions that go against spending time with family, you cancel those.
Thus, you free yourself from non-essential commitments and make space for what’s important.
2. Learn to say NO
If you want to simplify your life, learning to say NO is absolutely important. Because when people burden you with their requests, it becomes hard for you to make time for the top priorities in your life.
And needless to say, it makes you frustrated and makes your life more complex.
3. Limit media consumption
Since when we started walking around carrying the internet in our pockets, our media consumption has increased at an alarming rate. By media, I mean media of all forms including pictures, videos, messages, etc.
The problem is, like in the earlier days, we don’t have to wait for getting free time to watch the TV or get to the computer.
The luxury of having pocket internet makes us lose focus easier and therefore we tend to consume media more and more.
Using your phone less helps to declutter your mind. And the mental space and clarity you will gain are priceless. Make your smartphone a tool that helps to simplify your life rather than something that makes life more complex.
In other words, take it out only when you absolutely need it.
4. Focus on taking action
We consume so many ideas every day. Let this year be for taking action. Ideas are useless if you don’t take action on them.
The money you spend on books and the time you spend on reading this blog will not uplevel your life if you don’t take action on these ideas.
It doesn’t matter even if you don’t learn much, as long as you take action on whatever little you are learning. Because the action is what is gonna change your life.
5. Make the top 3 tasks in alignment with your priorities
Planning the top 3 tasks that you should get done in a day helps to improve productivity.
And make sure these top 3 tasks align with your priorities.
For example, if one of your priorities is to get out of debt by the end of the year, make saving x dollars a daily priority. Or let doing the work that will help you get out of debt to be a top priority task.
This helps to focus on your goals and make life simple because you are not letting any other low-quality tasks to consume your time.
6. Evaluate your spending habits
If you think your house is cluttered, take a look at your spending habits.
Are you buying stuff out of “want” more than a “need?”
That’s one question I always ask myself when I am thinking about a purchase.
Is it a want or a need?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been able to evade a purchase by asking this question.
The world will tell you that you need the latest gadgets and fashion to stay happy. But true happiness can never be found in materialism. For that, you have to travel inward.
Happiness is a state of mind that you create deliberately through gratitude and appreciation.
If you are a compulsive shopper, create a monthly budget and always stick to it.
Also, I love this tip from Leo Babauta. Put the item you want to buy in your wishlist instead of buying it right away. If after 30 days, you still want it and you think you will benefit from it, go ahead and buy.
Decluttering your home and surroundings simplifies your life and gives room (physical and mental) to the things that matter. Decluttering also helps you to evaluate your spending habits because you realize how much stuff you actually need.
If you think decluttering is a time-consuming process and keep procrastinating on it, it’s time to form new decluttering habits. Make decluttering easy by dedicating 10-15 minutes for it daily.
And start from one room. Or one drawer. You only need to declutter one drawer a day. And eventually, you will get to declutter a whole room and then the whole house. Here is an article I wrote on daily decluttering habits to keep your home clutter-free.
8. Simplify your wardrobe
Having a simplified wardrobe means less decision fatigue. When you don’t have a lot of options, you don’t have to worry about what to wear.
And also, you need to spend only less money and energy to buy clothes. This year, purge your closet and keep only the quality clothes that you love. Give away the ones that don’t fascinate you anymore. Let other people benefit from it.
And also, be truly grateful for what you have. You don’t need to purchase during every sale when you already have enough clothes. When you get a shirt on 30% off, remember you were not intending to spend the rest of the 70% at all. Basically, it’s money you could have used for something else.
9. Save money to pay off debt
If you have debts, you know how they can nag you even if they are less urgent ones. This year, focus on saving money to pay off debts.
Set a goal as to when you should pay off the debts and set saving goals accordingly. When you see the money increasing in this account, you will feel much better and will be less stressed.
Debts are no fun because they are a constant source of stress.
10. Stop using a credit card
As of April 2018, the average credit card debt of U.S households is $9,333.
I know that the topic of whether to “stop using a credit card or not” is a debatable one. It’s always a personal decision. But looking at your spending habits, if you think using a credit card is making you take impulse shopping decisions and adding to your debts, stop using it.
Don’t spend the money you don’t have…yet.
I am always for investing in my business or even investing in books and courses that help to improve myself. These expenses pay off with greater returns.
But if you are using a credit card mostly to add to the clutter at home, and to buy the things you otherwise cannot afford (which you’re completely okay to live without), stop using it.
And if you still want to use a credit card for valid reasons, make sure you have cash in your hand or in other accounts to cover the money required for a particular purchase.
11. Cancel subscriptions
Are you procrastinating on canceling the subscription services you don’t use anymore? Be it a magazine subscription, newspaper subscription or cable TV, cancel those if you don’t add value to your time anymore.
Newspapers keep you updated on world events, but they also add so much negativity to your lives by focusing on negative events.
12. Automate your payments
Automating repeated payments makes your life easier. You can set automation via Paypal account or debit/credit cards.
Just make sure you have enough money in your bank account to cover the bills you are expecting. It helps to save time and energy required to make manual payments every month.
13. Learn to become organized
I know that not everyone is naturally organized or even likes to become organized.
But no one likes to be stressed either. If you think your life will be more simple if you set up certain systems to manage the different roles, welcome to the club!
Setting up systems means to create routines and bring order to your day so that your daily affairs can get done easily.
You can set up systems for,
- Managing your business
- Remembering dates (use google calendar or an analog system)
- Managing housework (think daily decluttering, having a space for everything, meal planning, etc.)
- Saving your notes, files, and documents
- Backing up digital files, photos, etc
- Other daily tasks
If you think you are disorganized in a particular area and have room for improvement, do a quick Google search and you can find tons of tools and resources to help you stay organized.
Personally, I like to use a bullet journal, and tools like Trello, Evernote, etc, to organize my life. A bullet journal can be used to organize pretty much everything in your life.
- How to start a bullet journal even if you aren’t artistic(step-by-step method)
- 121+ page ideas to organize every area of your life
- How to create a morning routine that will transform your life
14. Start a journal
Why start a journal?
A journal helps you to calm down a loud mind. A lot of your mental burden can be put down in a journal.
Those who overthink knows how our brain likes to play the same thoughts in a loop, without finding a solution. It’s hard and wastes time and energy. But when you put them down in a journal, your mental weight is transferred onto paper.
When you have to deal with lots of choices and your brain won’t stop thinking, take out a journal and do a brain dump. It helps a lot in relaxing your mind.
I can go on and on about the benefits of journaling. But since I can’t go in detail in this post, I would like you to read this post.
15. Start meal planning
“What to make for dinner?” can seem like a simple question. But we all know how much mental space and energy this question consumes day after day.
More than cooking, I hate the indecision of what to make. It just seems to make me tired. So I started meal planning and my life is so much simpler now. You can use any tool to do meal planning – it can be in a bullet journal or in Trello or in any other tool you like. What matters here is the mental space you will be freeing up with this.
16. Focus on health
Simple living in a way means going back to our roots. Our ancestors lived so much in connection with nature. They ate the food they cultivated in their backyards or on their own farms and stayed active until old age. No wonder, they were a lot healthier than this generation.
So many lifestyle diseases that are common today were unheard of in the past.
Though it might not be possible for all of us to live on a farm, we can make a resolution to spend more time in nature, do daily exercise, eat healthy food (organic whenever possible), grow food if possible, etc.
Every little step matters because daily consistent actions take us closer to our big goals.
17. never stop learning
Learning helps us to grow from the place we are already in. Learning, be it any form – courses, books, blogs, seminars, etc. expands your horizons.
Learning has helped me a lot in simplifying my life. I would not be able to learn about minimalism, materialism, organization, productivity, personal development, etc if I didn’t have the zest to keep learning and improving.
But as I said, learning is useless if you don’t put in the work required to grow out of your comfort zone.
18. Remember to feed your mind
We accumulate not only physical clutter but also mental clutter.
Like the body, our mind also deserves rest. Instead of spending every waking moment working and thinking and constantly scrolling on your phone, spend time in solitude.
Spend time with yourself because you deserve it. You deserve all the love and pampering. Do the self-care activities that you love. Meditate. Spend time being mindful of the present moment. There is so much beauty to be gained from all these. Being mindful is being in peace. The feeling of getting connected to your universe is priceless.
Do you know the secret of the happiest people in the world? It’s called hygge. Danish people place a lot of importance on hygge in their lives.
It’s so true that life’s biggest pleasures are found in the simplest things.
19. Do nothing
Who said you have to fill in every second of your life with an activity? As much as I love learning in every free minute I get, I also love sitting doing absolutely nothing.
I think today, it is the biggest luxury we can give ourselves. Being carefree, not looking at any screen, just you and your thoughts. Try it once in a while. It feels nice to get bored sometimes because it is a nice little break from the constant “do, do, do” chatter of your mind.
20. Live for your own happiness, not to show the world
Since the advent of social media, it seems like people deliberately create moments for social media.
When you go to a place, why do you go there? To enjoy the beauty of the place, to enjoy the food available there, or with the intention of posting to social media?
I am not against posting about daily life on social media. But what you do in life has to make YOU happy first.
As social beings, we have this innate need to share our happiness with others. But better share it with your close friends and family than to everyone else.
If social media sharing occurs as a byproduct of your happiness, it’s okay. But doing it for the likes, comments and the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ will have an effect on your mental health.
Because as I said before, happiness should come from within and not from the external validation of your achievements and milestones. Those things can make you happy only for a day or two. Happiness should come from the gratitude and celebration of your life with your loved ones, rather than as “likes” from strangers.
On birthdays and anniversaries, why not do something special for that person and spend quality time with them, then posting on social media and waiting to see how many likes and views you got, by checking your phone frequently?
21. Live like in the 80s or 90s
I sometimes reminisce about the simple life that we lived in the 90s (my childhood was in the 90s). Technology had not intruded on our lives as it does now. We had a life closely connected with nature and people.
It was acceptable to sit idle in the evenings, being bored. Sometimes, the only escape from boredom was indulging in conversations with people at home. And that brought us close.
When we had stayovers, no one retreated to any corner with their mobile phones. And also everyone had fun.
Children were seen mostly outdoors playing. They sweated like anything, they played with mud, and they didn’t have to be given immunity shots because they were building it naturally.
I wonder if that simple life has gone far beyond our reach. My intention is to achieve that simplicity as much as possible. For that, my plans are to
- Use technology only when it’s necessary and keeping it out when I am with family
- Grow organic food as much as possible and improve the overall health of my family
- Accept boredom and stillness as normal parts of life
- Get outdoors everyday with kids
- Laugh more and talk more with my parents, spouse, and kids. I can substitute the time spent on a mobile phone for this.
Now, just thinking about it makes me happy.
Downsizing will help us to let go of materialism and the belief that “more stuff means more happiness”.
When you do the decluttering process, as painful as it may seem, you gain a new perspective on life. You become happy with less, and you understand that you can live with less.
It helps you to cut down on your spending too. When you are starting out, it may seem frightening to downsize. But you don’t need to do it all at once.
Start slowly and start with one area of your life. If you think that your closet has more clothes than you can ever wear, donate the excess, and make a conscious decision to not have more than x number of clothes at any given time.
If you think having two mobile phones or two cars do not resonate with the “simple life” that you want, downsize.
Recently, I purchased a Kindle e-reader to reduce book clutter. I can never call books as “clutter” because of what they teach me and how much I love them, but “technically” it occupies physical space in my home.
And I am someone who loves the feel and smell of books. It was a hard decision, but I took it anyway to make my life easier. And the experience has not been bad. I am starting to enjoy reading on a Kindle.
23. Follow only those who add value to your life
When it comes to online subscriptions, do a declutter once in a while. Unfollow from the newsletters that don’t add value to your life in any way. And unfollow people on social media who make you feel bad.
By making feel bad I mean people who show off their luxuries, but don’t add richness to your life in any way. The reality is, we are all blessed in so many ways. But as they say, “comparison is a thief of joy”.
We might compare our lives with them and feel that we need more stuff. It only makes your life more complex and cluttered.
To unsubscribe from emails, I use a free service called unroll.me. It helps you to see the newsletters you are subscribed to, all in one place, and you can unsubscribe from newsletters easily with the click of a button.
24. Simplify your goals
Instead of having too many goals, focus on one or two at a time. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by doing so many things at a time.
Focusing on one or two goals will help you devote all your energy to them and therefore have more chances of success.
25. Implement time blocking
Time blocking is an efficient time management technique to do focused work.
Instead of multitasking, you block a certain period of time in your day to do a single task. During this period, you are fully focused on the task in hand. This helps you to work free from stress and be more fully immersed in what you do.
When you multitask, your focus is everywhere and therefore might end up doing poor quality work.
26. Cut out toxic people from life
Toxic people make your life stressful and far from simple. Toxic people are those people whose energy you don’t like.
They complain about everything and find faults in whatever you do. They like to gossip and waste time by dissecting people’s lives. It all comes from their dissatisfaction in their own lives. You don’t want to absorb this kind of energy. So, stay away and minimize the time you spend with them.
27. Work on your limiting beliefs
Do you know what prevents us from living our best life? Limiting beliefs that keep us stuck.
Our lives would be so much simpler if we didn’t cling onto the false beliefs that prevent us from achieving our dreams.
Identify your limiting beliefs one by one and set out to work on them. You will achieve your goals faster, make more money, become more confident and thus change your life.
For more reading:
- What is minimalism? And how to get started with minimalist living
- How to start your personal development journey
- 10 best habits to take your life to the next level
- 7 common things you do that waste your life
What are your best tips on simplifying life? Let me know in the comments below.
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