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When you hear the word “simplify,” what comes to mind?
I used to hear the word and think that I needed to get rid of all my stuff, move to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and take care of my chickens… But guess what? It’s not that.
I mean, I love the idea of that kind of simplifying, but it’s not super realistic.
Many of us have lives that are too busy and too stuffed with “stuff.” If you’re anything like I used to be, you have too many obligations and work too many hours. You dream of a slower-paced life with an uncluttered home (and brain) and plenty of rest and quality time with your family, but you have no idea how to get there.
Does that sound about right?
Simplifying is only as complicated as you make it. It can be done right where you are, with almost all of your stuff, and with most of the people already in your life. The whole point is right there in the phrase – it should be fairly simple, right?
You don’t want to feel overwhelmed, and you want to have time and energy to do the things that matter. Just by thinking those thoughts, you’re on the right track. But how do you get to that point? Simplify your life!
What Exactly is Simple Living?
Put in basic terms, simple living means living an intentional life while doing away with unnecessary “stuff” – both physical stuff and emotional stuff. It’s not just a philosophy – it’s a practical activity that involves rearranging our time and our priorities, being aware of what truly matters, and actually living our lives accordingly.
For me, simple living means a quieter life – slowing down, being mindful of my surroundings and my people, and being grateful for what I do have.
It means more free time, less stress, and better, more fulfilling relationships.
Simple living is about creating a balance in all aspects of your life. Yes, we need to work and keep up our homes. But we also need to rest, put effort into our relationships, and make time to actually enjoy our lives.
Why Should You Simplify?
- Overwhelmed with mess and clutter?
- Pressed for time ALL the time?
- Frustrated with the amount of time it takes to maintain your home?
- Stressed about money?
- Wishing you had more time and freedom to explore your interests, hobbies, and passions?
- Wanting more time to spend with the people you love?
- Wishing for more space for joy in your life?
All of the above are reasons why you might consider simplifying your life.
The ultimate goal of simplifying is to feel joy and content with what you have and where you are. For me, this primarily involves focusing on and enjoying everything that’s truly important to me.
My #1 reason for simplifying my life: My relationships with my husband, my kids, my family, and my friends. The relationships in my life are more important than my things, so I need to do what I can to walk that walk. I cook almost every single night because I’d rather put that money toward a family vacation. I say no to certain tasks at my job because they take away from my time and ability to best care for my home and family.
Knowing your reasons and knowing that you need to simplify are a good start. It’s going to take some effort, but it’s worth it.
14 Fresh Ideas to Simplify Your Life in 2022
#1 – Pare Down Your “Stuff”
I know, I know – I said that you could do this with almost all of your stuff. And you can. But the simplest way to simplify (see what I did there?) is to get rid of the extra things that can begin to overwhelm you.
Your closet is a great place to start.
If you truly love clothes, keep them. I hoard books. I have a wall full of bookshelves in my living room, and they’re full of books. But I love my living room, and all of those books make me feel so cozy – so they’re not going anywhere. I’m definitely not telling you to get rid of things just for the sake of getting rid of things.
But my closet usually has stuff in there that I haven’t even looked at in years. Plus there’s that sweater in a color that looks horrible on me. And that dress that never fit quite right. Are you like me, with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear?
Other easy wins are your makeup bag, your junk drawer, or your desk. Trash what isn’t working for you anymore, and make sure everything you think you need has a “home.”
Visual clutter leads to mental clutter, and that’s what we’re trying to get away from. Keep what you love and what serves you, get rid of what doesn’t.
Okay, I had to get that one out of the way. Now let’s get into the real goodies…
#2 – Pare Down Your Relationships
If you have people in your life who drain you every time you see them or talk to them, distance yourself.
It may not be possible to completely cut them out of your life, especially if they’re a close relative, but you can stop engaging by taking extra time to respond when they text or call, or you can be up front and “break up” with them.
I don’t have a ton of advice on this specific topic – I’m blessed with an amazing family and the best friends a girl could ask for. Cynthia Garcia says it better than I ever possibly could – she’s written a detailed, super informative post on the topic, so if you’re dealing with a toxic relationship, you should definitely check it out!
I know this one is very hard, and you might feel guilty, but it’s necessary for your mental health and your happiness.
Plus, once you’ve distanced yourself from toxic relationships, you’ll have more time and energy to pour into your supportive relationships – and those are the ones that help you simplify your life!
#3 – Say “No”
One of the ways we add mental clutter to our lives is by agreeing to more than we can actually handle. So, consequently, one of the quickest ways to simplify your life is to stop saying “yes” to every single invitation, request for help, or extra task that comes your way.
This doesn’t mean saying “no” to the things you truly want to do or to the people you love. However, it might mean saying no to a social gathering that you don’t actually want to attend. Or declining an offer that you know will stress you out because it won’t leave you enough time to finish school with your kids. Or, if you get an invitation for a meal train, sending pizza or DoorDash rather than spending an extra hour in the kitchen.
When I’m thinking about the activities and tasks that I used to always say “yes” to, I ask myself three questions:
- Will this bring me joy?
- Will the benefits of taking this on outweigh the stress that it causes?
- Is it important to me or to someone who is important to me?
If the answers are mostly “no,” then it’s probably okay to not attend or do the thing that’s being asked of you.
In order to live simply, you need to learn to guard your personal resources – the things you only have so much of: time, energy (both physical and emotional!), money, and space. Saying no to some of your unnecessary obligations is a way to conserve these limited resources to spend on the people and activities you love instead.
#4 – Write Stuff Down
Writing things down is one of my favorite ways to simplify. It gets your brain out of that constant state of anxiety that comes from having too many things to remember.
You can put things into your calendar so you aren’t tasked with remembering dates or deadlines. Or add creative ideas to a list. You can write down your to-do list or brainstorm.
In my non-expert opinion, you should physically write – it can reduce stress and anxiety simply because of the sensory experience it offers. Physically writing is like active meditation, helping to make sense of the chaotic mess of thoughts and ideas in your brain.
If you’re really attached to your digital tools, though, that’s okay. Find the apps that work for you, and get the thoughts and ideas out of your head and into your phone or computer!
I’ve never been able to get into the whole electronic thing. But I’m told that Google Calendar is great for dates and deadlines. I love Trello’s format and ease of use – I’m just hit-or-miss when it comes to actually using it.
It really doesn’t matter all that much which method you prefer – the takeaway here is to get all of those thoughts out of your brain so that you’re not overwhelmed by them!
#4a – Do A Brain Dump
This one involves writing stuff down, but it’s different enough to deserve its own space – do a brain dump!
When I’m feeling extra overwhelmed and in need of some serious simplification, I grab a sheet of paper, set the timer for 15 minutes, and write down EVERYTHING that’s swirling around in my head.
There are a few different ways to do this, but my favorite method is to take a piece of plain white printer paper, divide it into four quadrants, and start writing. I label my quadrants based on what’s going on in my life at that time. It usually includes Home, Homeschool, Personal / Family, and Work. Then, when I start writing, I can put things where they belong. Some people skip the dividing step, but it works better for me to sort a bit as I go.
This often ends up having a lot of the same items as my calendar or to-do list, but there are usually a few stragglers that haven’t made it onto any other list.
Once all the thoughts are out, you can break the list down into priorities and add the items to the appropriate spot in your planner.
Brain dumps help you simplify by clearing your mental clutter and allowing you to focus on the tasks, thoughts, and ideas that truly matter to you. Whenever I complete this purge, I feel so calm and relaxed – it’s such an amazing feeling to not have all of that stuff swirling around in my head anymore!
#5 – Put Yourself First
Make time for yourself. Take care of your body. Bring back the simple pleasure of doing the things that YOU love.
When you put yourself first, priorities become a little easier. You’ll have more energy for other things. It doesn’t mean that you’re selfish – it means that your physical and mental well-being are important to you, as they should be!
Prioritizing yourself is as simple as getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising. Then throw in some activities you love, like going for a hike with your family or finding an hour to sit and read with your favorite beverage.
Take care of yourself, and focus your free time on things you enjoy. If you feel like you don’t have any free time, MAKE SOME. Putting yourself first sometimes will definitely make your life feel simpler.
#6 – Create Routines
Routines are the building blocks of a simpler life. They give structure and eliminate stress. This type of quiet life is made up of those routines that keep you feeling comfortable. They take away the stress of making decisions a hundred times a day.
Decision fatigue is a very real thing. The more decisions you make in a day, the worse the quality of those decisions is. This is why, at the end of some days, you just CAN. NOT. with dinner. It’s too stressful to even decide what to make, let alone figure out how to cook it. Your brain is simply done making decisions.
Routines can enter the picture wherever you find them helpful – morning, evening, meal planning, laundry.
My whole day is routined – I know what to expect and when, and so do my kids. I wake up and go to sleep at around the same time every day. My family eats meals together at around the same time every day. I clean, homeschool, and work pretty close to the same times every day.
There’s also my weekly routine – on Mondays, I wash the whites. On Wednesdays, I do the meal planning and grocery ordering. On Fridays, we leave the house for a good chunk of the day.
When you have solid routines in place, you take a lot of the decision-making out of the equation, which gives your brain a rest and makes life smoother – and simpler.
#7 – Make Your Home Your Happy Place
Running errands, social gatherings, kids’ sports – all of these outings can make life feel chaotic. How to simplify? Spend more time at home.
And if you plan to spend more time at home, you need your home to be a place where you’re happy, cozy, and relaxed. If it doesn’t feel like that, it’s time to make it so!
I love the Danish term “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah). It doesn’t really have a direct English translation, but it’s all about being comfy, cozy, and warm. It’s candles (unscented!), comfort foods, hot drinks, nights spent in front of the fireplace.
From this little book that I love: “It’s the feeling of home.”
This is how your home should feel to you – like home. Not like a place with never-ending to-do lists and projects. It should be a place where you’re completely comfortable – a safe spot after long, stressful days.
Part of this will likely involve a bit of decluttering. It’s near impossible to relax when there are piles of clothes, books, or toys everywhere. Everything needs a home, and, in my opinion, toys should have a home with a door so you don’t have to look at them all the time 🙂
Even when my kids were tiny, all of their toys that we kept in the living room had a place to go at night. After the kids were in bed, the living room looked like actual adults lived there, and it felt so much more peaceful than it would have if the Minnie Mouse play kitchen and Paw Patrol lookout tower were in full view.
Make your home a cozy sanctuary. Set up a few cozy reading spots – throw pillows and blankets will make any chair more comfy. Keep your kitchen table clean enough to sit down and have a cup of tea in the afternoons before the craziness of dinnertime begins.
Whatever feels hygge to you, that’s how you make your home your happy place.
#8 – Create Margins
Space is one of those limited resources we have.
In a physical sense, if you can’t see your kitchen counters or your desk surface, you probably have too much stuff. If there are no blank days in your calendar, you’re probably doing too much.
In a metaphorical sense, if you’re anxious, losing sleep, or feeling overwhelmed, you could probably use some blank space in your brain.
This is an important concept to consider when it comes to creating a simpler life.
I’m going to focus on calendar space and brain space – I think you already know how to fix your physical space.
It’s time to create margins in your life and appreciate the space that comes with them.
When writing a book, the margin on the page is figured out before the content is written. If we don’t leave enough space for the margin, there’s no way to go back and add it in later. This is also true in our lives. These margins, or empty spaces, have to be intentionally planned and prioritized, or they’ll never happen.
On a normal day, I don’t feel like I have enough time for rest or recreation – I have to force it by planning it in. Once I do that, though, I’m soooo glad.
Plan a standing weekly family game night – order pizza and just stay home. Figure out a weekly time for you to go and get a coffee by yourself, so you can sit in the coffee shop and read for a minute. Take 30 minutes every afternoon to just sit on the couch with your coffee, put down your phone, and practice being in the moment.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be downtime – whether for yourself or for quality family time.
#9 – Embrace the “Done is Better Than Perfect” Mentality
Perfectionism is the enemy of simplicity. Even if it’s less than perfect, completing tasks is something to be proud of. The “Done is Better Than Perfect” mentality means that you have healthy boundaries and expectations of yourself.
Creating these boundaries and having realistic expectations is yet another fresh idea to simplify your life.
Every time I start to get overwhelmed by perfectionism and procrastination, I remember that done is better than perfect.
This mantra can apply to some of the ideas already listed in this post. Decluttering? Creating cozy spaces in your home? It doesn’t have to be perfect – just get it done.
When you subscribe to the philosophy that done is better than perfect, you start feeling more peace and joy wherever you are. Shortening that to-do list by getting things done feels good, and that new, shorter to-do list leads to a simpler life.
#10 – Choose Quality Over Quantity
Choosing quantity over quality goes for both the things you buy and the relationships you have.
For the things you buy, focusing on quality over quantity eliminates a lot of clutter, unnecessary purchases, and stress. It causes you to make better buying decisions so that you surround yourself with things you actually love and want to use. It decreases frustration because you’re buying better products that don’t wear out or break quickly.
Buy less, but buy better.
From a relationship standpoint, you could focus on having all the friends in the world, but if none of them are supportive and meaningful, then it’s kind of pointless.
When you focus on quality over quantity in your relationships, you’re happier because you have more time to invest in the relationships you care about (who has time for a bajillion friends?!?!), plus your relationships have more substance and depth.
Quality leads to contentment, while quantity can be frustrating and lonesome. And contentment is why most of us want to simplify our lives in the first place!
#11 – Be Present
We live in a world that is constantly moving at a very fast pace. It’s so easy to try to slow it down by living in the past or speed it up by constantly planning ahead.
I know it’s easier said than done, but staying in the present is an important part of simplifying your life.
Thinking about the past changes nothing, and worrying about the future is just plain stressful. The best way to plan ahead is to take intentional, consistent actions NOW to make it the best future possible.
Stay in the present.
Being mindful of your surroundings and your actions can help you reflect on your life and remember your blessings, which is relaxing, de-stressing, and mind-clearing. By focusing on the present, you’re less likely to be distracted and more likely to be able to focus on what’s important.
Simplification can be found in these moments.
#11a – Stop Multitasking
Part of being present is to stop trying to multitask. It has a negative impact on your time, your energy, and, therefore, your simple life.
There’s really no such thing as multitasking anyway – your brain simply can’t be in two (or three!) places at once. What’s actually happening is that your brain is rapidly switching between tasks, which means that your focus is rapidly flip-flopping between two things. You end up frazzled because it takes time and effort for your brain to re-focus after each switch.
When you try to multitask, your head is never fully in one place, so it will always feel a bit more chaotic than if you were to focus on one thing / task / activity at a time.
Research shows that multitasking increases stress and lowers productivity. Deal with one task at a time. Do it well. When it’s complete, move on to the next. Try it! I think you’ll be surprised at how much more you’re able to accomplish and how much it helps eliminate your mental clutter.
#12 – Unfollow
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve placed unreasonable expectations on myself based on what I see on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. It’s so easy to look at my feeds and feel like everyone else’s lives are more amazing than my own.
Their homes are perfectly decorated. They do all these creative, complicated activities with their kids. They’re always dressed and wearing makeup!
It can make a girl feel very inferior, you know?
The problem with social media is that, most of the time, people show only their best selves. We all know this. Even the people who pretend to be “hot mess moms” are perfectly curating their feeds to show only what they want to show to be funny and get those likes.
It’s a lie. Nobody is as perfect as their social media feeds show.
Social media should be informative and allow you to easily keep in touch with people you know and love – it should never bring you down. When we compare our own lives to what we see on the internet, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
Simplify your life by unfollowing those people who make you feel inferior. Besides, to live quietly, you need to look inward for validation and growth – don’t look toward outside voices and opinions!
Ask yourself what YOU want and how you want to achieve it. Focus on yourself and your own life, and work on getting a little better every day. Make your journey about YOU!
#13 – Practice Gratitude
Pause several times throughout the day and be grateful for your life in the moment. Acknowledge all of the good things in your life and appreciate them. It would be impossible to simplify your life without being aware of everything you already have – your home, your family, your friends…
Practicing gratitude on a daily basis allows us to see that the simple, everyday things do matter – the people who surround you, the material things that make you feel happy, the activities that make you feel whole.
Gratitude isn’t about ignoring or avoiding your problems or challenges – it’s about giving you a new perspective on your life. It causes you to appreciate the simple pleasures in your life more, even when you’re having a less-than-awesome day.
Begin actively practicing gratitude and you’ll become more aware of and more likely to stop and reflect on life’s goodness. And that, my friends, is literally life-changing.
#14 – Be Intentional
This is arguably the most important of the ways to simplify life. Be intentional about everything you do.
Intentional living means defining your priorities and living each day in alignment with them. It involves seeking out a life of purpose, peace, clarity, and joy, and then doing what it takes to get there. It means actively making things happen instead of passively waiting for them to happen to you.
Take control of your immediate environment, which includes both your physical space and your relationships. Make daily conscious decisions that enhance this environment. Being busy for the sake of being busy doesn’t serve you, so make sure that everything you do has a purpose – even if that purpose is rest and relaxation.
Simplifying your life is about getting clear on your priorities so that you can make sure that your time, energy, and space align with those priorities. It’s not particularly complicated – but it’s not necessarily easy either. You simply need to get rid of the clutter that fills your life now (mostly mental clutter, some physical clutter), and appreciate everything along the way.
If simplification is something you want, remember that it doesn’t all have to be done at once. Find small ways to simplify your life every day, and, over time, all of those tiny changes will add up to amazing results.
Find joy and contentment in the little things, and you’ll be well on your way.
What does simplicity mean to you? Send me an email at email@example.com or leave a comment!