What attracts you to simple living? Do you want to have more money,
to be able to switch to more meaningful work or cut down your hours? To get out of debt? To have more freedom?
Maybe more security?
Or, do you just want to be able to do more of what matters to you?
Maybe you’re ready to let go of the stress that comes with too much. Too many things, too many commitments, too many hours spent commuting, too
many demands on your time and energy.
You want quality over quantity.
Perhaps you want a simple life so you can spend your time creating, or you want to become more self-reliant, or to be sure your life is aligned with your values.
It’s hard to know where to start when a search on simple living conjures up pastoral scenes of goats and home-churned butter. You don’t need to get goats (but you can).
The good news is that everyone can have a simpler life. Simple living looks different for everyone. A simple lifestyle can be practiced anywhere-you don’t need to move to a farm (but you can).
This isn’t to say you should magically ditch it all to “live your dream” today or that you can or should live a life that looks like someone else’s. There’s no right way or wrong way to do it.
There’s no simple living competition.
Start where you are, in any place, in the middle of a family or on your own or in a house full of roommates, with money or without, with a busy stressful job or as a retiree or as a stay at home caregiver.
It’s for anyone anywhere who wants to have more of the good stuff and less of the stuff that doesn’t add to your life.
How to use your simple living guide
You build a simple lifestyle by learning what to keep in your life while letting go of the rest at your own pace. With new space in your life, you add in actions that make you happier, healthier, more self-reliamt, and better off financially.
Or you can just enjoy the space and time.
Simple living might look like lowering your spending so you can work part-time and spend more time with your family. It might look like taking the bus to work so you can work on your novel en route. It might mean you invite friends over for a potluck brunch instead of dropping $50 on restaurant poached eggs and mimosas.
There are infinite ways forward. The main skill is to recognize when you’re spending your time, energy and money in ways that don’t serve you. Then, follow through to do things differently.
In this guide you’ll learn how to notice what works and then how to apply what you’ve learned to every aspect of your life.
Simple living is not “doing without”
Here’s what simple living is not:
Poverty: The simple living lifestyle is voluntary. It is by definition not the same as living in poverty, without the means to meet your needs.
Asceticism: It is not self-denial and depriving yourself of the things you care about for the sake of it.
Perfect: A simple lifestyle is not another perfectionism rabbit hole wherein you must do such and so or else be “not simple”. There is no perfect end point to strive for.
Old-fashioned: Simple living is not about pretending to live in “the old days”. Practitioners may choose to do things that used to be more common, but no one really wants to recreate the world before antibiotics and the Internet. Simple living principles transcend place and time.
One Size Fits All: People practice simple living in different ways depending on what they care about and find fun to do. There are no simple living police who will show up and tell you you’re doing it wrong.
It’s about conscious choices that maximize the quality of your life as you define it while contributing to the betterment of the world.
The surprising ways simple living will help you
The rewards of simple living reach throughout your life. Once you start you’ll find you have more time, money and energy to spend on the things that matter to you.
Simple living decisions have multiple benefits. Any decision made for one reason will have additional benefits for your wallet, health, relationships or the
- Say you decide to bike to work to save money. Cycling will also make you healthier and be better for the environment.
- Say you ditch your Friday night movie, dinner and drinks habit to host a friendly game night at home. That decision will save you money, be better for your relationships and probably be healthier.
- Say you decide to buy a special occasion dress at a consignment shop. That decision is more environmentally-sound and less expensive.
How many good things can you build into your decisions?
A simple life provides lots of personal benefits, including better work-life balance, the confidence of being able to meet needs with less money, and the satisfaction of solving problems with creativity.
You’ll have less stress, better relationships. You’ll be able to be more generous, have more adventures, and be more involved in your community.
How to get started on your new simple lifestyle
When you’re just starting out it can be hard to know where to begin.
At its core, a simple lifestyle is based on three pillars that work together, like three legs of a stool; mindfulness, practices and big decisions. The change in your life will come from conscious choices; small incremental habits that build up over time plus big once in a while decisions.
Mindfulness comes from a series of check-ins that you do with yourself daily, weekly, and monthly. Practices are the things you do in your day to day life, including what you choose to eat, wear, do, and buy. Your big decisions include where to live and in what house, or what to do for work.
Each simple living area has it’s own section, with mindfulness prompts, practices and thoughts on how big decisions affect that area of life.
- Start by asking the daily mindfulness questions. Pretty soon you’ll get a better understanding of which area of life you most want to change
- Then go to that area in the guide to find practical suggestions. Tip: It’s easier to start in an area that you find energizing and exciting to think about.
- When you feel you are making progress, pick up some more of the mindfulness practices
- Use what you learn to pick another life area to simplify
Increased awareness, even if only for a couple of days, will help you change your practices. Then, when it comes time to make big decisions, you’ll automatically take your simple living values and goals into account.
Or, maybe you are making a big decision right now, like buying a house and know only that you want to simplify your life. Use the guide to think through how your big housing decision can open up more simple living possibilities.
Eventually, simplicity will become part of who you are and it will be easy to spend your time, money and attention in ways that move you forward.
Put your mind to it
It’s easy to just keep going as you are. To disrupt that reality, yearly, daily, weekly and monthly mindfulness habits help you notice how you REALLY feel about the ways you spend your time, money and attention.
Yearly Reality Check: Once a year ask yourself two questions. “What do I want more of? What do I want less of?”. Write your answers down.
DailyReflection: At bedtime, think of the day you just had. Which parts of the day are you grateful for? What was fun? What seemed like a waste?
Just notice this, or jot a couple of things down. Over time, patterns will emerge. The patterns are clues about what you really want..
Reflect at the end of the day because you will then have a better sense of the value of what you did. Volunteering, socializing, organizing, writing, making art and lots of other good things feel burdensome beforehand but great afterwards.
Use this exercise to build up your notice-ability (your ability to notice).
Weekly Schedule: Armed with your new “noticing” muscle, quickly plan your week. I like to do this on Friday afternoon before the weekend but any day will do.
- Block out existing commitments on your calendar, such as going to your job.
- Think back to your daily noticing, and add blocks to do some of the things you value, like going for a hike with a friend or working on a project.
- Add in blocks for nothing, The nothing blocks are there for “margin”. Margin lets you enjoy and daydream or do things that come up. With margin you can accept a spur of the moment barbeque invitation or sit on the porch to watch the hummingbirds.
- Make sure you’ve left ample time for sleep and don’t mess with it. You need your sleep.
The exact days and times of the blocks aren’t as important as having them in your schedule and letting the rest go. You will naturally shift things around but you’ll start with a basic structure.
I 100% guarantee you will want more blocks than you have actual hours. Looking at your schedule, ask these questions:
- Are there optional commitments that you don’t really want to do anymore? Can you get out of these?
- Are there currently non-negotiable commitments (like commuting) that are taking up time but provide no value? Can you add something to make that time serve some purpose?
- Did you schedule things you know are going to be meaningful and satisfying? Keep them there.
Notice how you feel about your schedule. Like daily reflections, what you find out will give you clues about what you’d like to change.
This monthly audit is informed by the book “Your Money or Your Life”, a book on personal finance that links money, time and purpose.
Once a month, do two things:
- Look back through your calendar for last month. Notice what you feel good about and what you resent.. Add a plus (+) to a calendar item if you want more of that in your life. Add a minus (-) if you know you want less of that in your life. Add no symbols if the item is just right or you have no reaction.
- Look back through your bank transactions. Notice where your money went. Add a plus or a minus to note which expenditures you want to spend more on (such as art classes) or less on (gas for commuting).
You don’t need to do anything about the results of these audits right now. For now, it’s enough to recognize what you care about and what you’d like to remove.
How the little things add up
Making small changes to your daily practices add up to impressive shifts in how you use your time, money and energy .
It’s simple but not easy.
Change one thing and make it a habit before moving on to something else.
Think back to your answers to the questions “What do I want more of?” and “What do I want less of?” Use these to know where to start.
When you consider simplifying an area of your life, think through these questions:
- Fit: Does this area of my life fit with the person I want to be?
- After: How will I feel AFTER I do this?
- Simple: What could I do to make this simple?
- Stop: What should I stop doing?
You’ll get used to asking these questions in the background. The answers show up as a small feeling of satisfaction or of discomfort.
Big decisions for a simple life
Big decisions cause dramatic change in your life that either enables or constrains other parts of your life.
Where you choose to live, what kind of housing you choose in what neighborhood, if and whom you choose to marry, what education or work you choose, and all the other big decisions affect the big picture of your life.For years.
When making a big decision, consider these questions:
- Will I regret not doing this?
- How easy is it to reverse this decision?
- What will this really cost (time, money, energy) in the rest of my life?
- Am I making this decision because I want this? Or because I think others want it?
- Does this help me live my values and get closer to my goals?
- What are the impacts of this decision on others? The environment?
- Is there a simpler way to get what I want?
Say you have always loved the idea of living on a little farm. The prettiest farm in the world just came up for sale.
What will buying the farm do to or for your financial plan? How far must you go to get the things you need? Will your friends and family visit you there? Could you make the time to keep it up? Could you sell it easily if you wanted to?
There are no right or wrong answers, just decisions that get you closer to where you want to be.
Simplify every area of your life
You already know which areas of your life need to be simplified. Over time, progress and practice in one area will lead to progress in other areas.
Usually it’s a good idea to start with the area that’s most energizing to you.
A simple home is a happy home
Since we all spend so much time at home, simplifying your home will make a big difference in your life.
How do you feel when you walk in your house?
How do you feel when you pay the rent or mortgage?
Does your home support your values and goals?
- Decluttering and organizing are the bedrock practices of simplifying your home. Decluttering keeps your house from turning into an archaeological site belonging to the person you used to be.
- Organization is about being sure the things you keep are as used, loved and functional as they can be.
- Keep track of your energy and water usage. You can sign up for alerts from your utility companies to be sure you don’t waste money and resources.
- Do my house costs represent a reasonable fraction of my income? This question presumes you have housing choices, which isn’t true for everyone.
- Does this house enable my long-term goals?
- Does this house lock me in to a long commute or work in a career I don’t love?
If you already have a house consider if you would choose this house again.
The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life. by Robin Zasio. This book is for anyone who tends to say “I was going to fix it “, or “I need that just in case”.
Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. For people who like to declutter in one big marathon.
Cleaning that won’t kill you
A clean enough house pays off in peace of mind. Focus on getting it done in ways that work for you.
- Are your standards attainable?
- Are your cleaning practices in line with your values and goals?
- Make it a daily habit. Start with a small attainable commitment.
- Go slowly as a form of meditation or go as fast as you can to just get it done.
- Be sure everyone in the family has some responsibility for keeping the house clean, even if it’s just for their own areas and things.
- Make it fun with music, audiobooks or podcasts.
- Practice acceptance of good enough. Your house is not a museum.
- Simplify your cleaning tools and products. Most cleaning can be done with some cleaning cloths, a few simple non-toxic ingredients, and some elbow grease.
- Learn to replace unnecessarily toxic products with simple DIY concoctions.
- If you can’t or won’t do it yourself, hire a cleaning service if that’s available to you, hire a friend, or trade for it as part of a time bank or barter group.
More house means more cleaning. Consider the upkeep when you choose a house.
Flylady: Marcia Cilley’s original cleaning support site that changed my life back in the day.
SpeedCleaning and all related books by Jeff Campbell.
Little House Living by Merissa Alink. Recipes for DIY cleaning supplies and more.
Simple home décor hacks for people who like stuff
There’s no need to aspire to a thingless white canvas of a home, unless you’re into that. What’s important is that your home is comfortable and reflects who you are.
- How do you feel when you walk into your home? At peace or frenetic?
- Does your home reflect your values and creativity?
- Walk your home as if you were a real estate agent. Make a list of the things you know you’d like to change.
- Take Simple Living decor sites with a grain of salt. No one needs to replace all their stuff to live a simple life.
- Make a vision board of interiors you like. Look at it now and again.
- Build time into your weekly scheduling to work on the things you’d like to change.
- Consider how to decorate with what you have, and how to get what you need used or upcycled.
- Your home decor style influences how much time you’ll spend cleaning and how much money you’ll spend. My mother’s English Tudor house dictated framed pictures of milkmaids and copious tchotchkes-is that what anyone really wants?
- Consider your stage in life. Having little kids dictates slipcovers and easy storage.
Use What You Have Decorating by Lauri Ward. Interior design principles using stuff you already own.
Simple food for people who eat
Foodies espouse one diet over another on the basis of health and ethics, The best diet for you is one that works for your body and fits with your values, schedule and budget..
- What are your values around food? Health, convenience, local food systems, environment, animal welfare, cost? Some combination of all of these?
- Does your current diet serve you well?
- Plan your dinners around a few healthy, easy to prepare entrees that can be switched up with different seasonings or sauces. Switch out dishes as the seasons change.
- Save time consuming dishes for weekends or as a family activity.
- Focus on whole foods that need minimal processing.
- Try prep
ping your ingredients once a week, or prep some for the next day when you prep for today.
- Experiment with a more plant-forward diet, where meat is an accompaniment rather than the main show.
- Join a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm or shop the farmer’s market to support local foodways.
- Learn to grow some of your food-even a few pots with tomatoes and herbs can lift up your cooking and save you money. Or find a community garden nearby.
- Join a food exchange group like Olio or find local groups on Facebook
- When you choose where to live, find out if there is a community garden or farmer’s market nearby.
- In addition to thinking about the house, decide if the yard would support a garden or chickens.
- What are the laws about home-based agriculture or cottage foods in the town you are considering? In my town we can have hens, bees, and goats with a permit.
- Is there a neighborhood HOA that prohibits vegetable gardens or other things you’d like to do?
Local harvest Find CSAs, farmers markets and pick your own farms.
Double up Food Bucks: In many states, people with SNAP benefits can get $1 of free fruit and vegetables for every $1 they spend on fruit and vegetables.
Slow Food USA An organization working to “change the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all.”
Meal planning: This is a good introduction. In addition, shop your freezer and pantry to use up items you already have.
Surprising paths to simple health
While some aspects of your health are not entirely within your control, a lot of them are. One good thing about a simple living lifestyle is that it’s also good for your health. In addition to all the regular things like diet and exercise, consider some of the ideas below.
- Do you have habits that you know are unhealthy?
- What motivates you to get healthier?
- Talk to the cashier. One of the top predictors of longevity is social integration-the number of face to face social interactions you have, even with people you don’t know.
- Get into nature. Women who spend time in nature have a 12% decrease in mortality, due to increased physical activity and social engagement, lower exposure to pollution and decreased stress and depression.
- If you can do so safely, try walking or biking instead of driving. To start, pick a place you go regularly and try walking.
- Eat more plants. Try replacing some of the meat and dairy on your plate with high nutrient plants. There’s no need to go full vegetarian, just think of more plant-forward meals.
Your health is influenced by the people you spend time with. Look for a workplace and friends who will help your healthy habits and not sabotage you.
The Secret to Living Longer May be Your Social Life: TED talk by Susan Pinker
Nature and longevity for women: Article and study links within.
Top tips for commuting to work by bike: Practical tips for bike commuting
Connection is a basic human need. Full stop. Yet, more than half the adults in the United States are lonely. How can you simplify your social life so that you maximize your connection?
- After I spend time with friends do I feel connected or do I feel more lonely?
- Does my social life reflect my values?
- Stack your goals: Socializing is a perfect activity to stack onto another goal. If you want to exercise more, invite a friend to go for a hike. If you want to get more involved in your community, invite a friend to volunteer with you.
- Be a joiner: Find like-minded friends by joining groups that do the things you like to do.
- Be discerning: If you spend time with a friend who leaves you lonelier than before, think carefully about your relationship with that person.How you could spend time with that friend in a more meaningful way? Or, you may need to spend less time with them for your own well-being.
- Practice connection: Learn what leads to deeper connection. Friendships are built on reciprocal self-disclosure, time, and trust. It takes at least 200 hours to build a close friendship, which is why it’s so much easier when you are young and fancy-free.
The decisions you make about your neighborhood and your work influence who is around you, what they value, and how much time you can devote to your social life.
Frientimacy How to deepen friendships for lifelong health and happiness
Simplify your “it’s complicated” dating
Yes really. I was a single mom for thirteen years. I’m married now but I learned a lot about dating when I wasn’t.
- What’s important to you? Write it down, focusing on the big stuff like character traits and shared values.
- How do you feel after you spend time with someone you’re dating? If the person isn’t right, they aren’t right, and no amount of wishing makes it so.
- Find like-minded people: Hang out in places where simple living people hang out. There are singles sections on simple living forums. There are meetup groups for people who like to do what you like to do.
- Journal: Keeping perspective is hard. Writing about your dating helps you sort out conflicting and complicated emotions.
- Authenticity: Be authentic in how you present yourself on dating sites and in person. Put your best foot forward is a good idea, but make sure you present who you really are. At the same time, don’t over-share.
Your lifestyle and life phase decide a lot. Maybe you’re committed to your location-dependent job and you can’t move your kids. Your date loves to spontaneously travel for months. You can see the issues.
Why authenticity is the best dating strategy: Article on authenticity in dating
Simple Loving: by Janet Luhrs, author of the Simple Living Guide
Simple family life: Tips to connect
- Write a family mission statement: A family mission statement expresses your values as a family and how you live them in your lives.
- Monthly review:, What parts of your discretionary family budget and time were a good investment? What cost too much time and money for the value?
- Ask your family how they’d like to spend time over the next month. Be sure everyone gets a chance to choose within the available time and money.
- Family chores: In a simple family, everyone has a role. Spending time as a family getting the work done frees up time to have fun.
- If this is available to you, consider a work — at-home or part-time position so you have more time for family (and for yourself).
- When you decide where to work or live, find out if family friendly policies are in place in the workplace, state or country you are considering.
- Be mindful of the impact scheduled activities (lessons, sports) have on your family schedule and your children’s down time.
Making Motherhood Work: How Mothers Manage Careers and Caregiving by Caitlin Collins. A research-based examination of motherhood and careers in different countries.
Your money is as precious as your time
Money represents the time and effort you spent making it. Once you have enough money to meet your basic needs, how you use what you have is more important than how much you have.
- What is the highest purpose for your money? To buy financial freedom? To fund a trip around the world? To ….?
- How much money is enough for you?
- Does your spending and investing reflect your values?
- Set up a savings or investment account for your highest money purpose (e.g.early retirement, a trip around the world). Automatically put something away after every paycheck, even if it’s only a very small amount.
- Calculate the minimum daily cost of your life. This means basics, not optional fluff. Write this number down and recall it when considering purchases. You’ll have new perspective on little daily costs after you make this a habit.
- Consider impact investing. Impact investing is investing meant to result in social and environmental benefits as well as financial returns.
If you are ready to grow your money, find a financial advisor who can help you invest in a way that’s aligned with your values.
Your Money or Your Life by Viki Robin et al.; The personal finance book that started it all, updated for today.
The Next Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and Sarah Stanley Fallow; The habits of self-made millionaires, updated.
Finding an impact investment advisor Tips for finding an advisor who will help you invest in alignment with your values.
7 tips to simplify your schedule: less is more
Like money and willpower, time is a finite resource, the most finite resource there is.
My family thinks I have a pathological need to be productive. They aren’t wrong, but I see it as using a limited resource wisely.
- How busy do you feel? Too busy, not busy enough or just right?
- What should be part of your life that isn’t?
- Block it out. Reserve time for your personal goals in your weekly schedule. Call it down time, project time, what you want. Even if it’s only 15 minutes regularly you’ll get some momentum.
- Say No First. When someone asks you to do something, stall. Channel someone you know who is in control of their calendar. Then, consider if you really want to do the thing,and what good things you would be doing instead before you answer.
- Track the thing. Mark your calendar or habit tracker every time you do the thing you most need or want to do. IIf you end up with fewer marks than you want, that’s a signal.
All decisions about work, housing, and family affect your time.
Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. Time management, even for people who don’t like time management.
Simplify your work, amp up your happiness
Like it or not, work occupies much of life. That means simplifying your work life has a big impact on your happiness.
- What is the purpose of your work? To pay the bills, to make a positive impact on the world? Some combination of things?
- How much time must you work to pay your basic expenses?
- How do you feel before your work week starts?
- Could you cut back at work and still live and save? When you review your budget, notice how much money goes to non-essential items.
- Every day, choose the one thing that will move your work forward the most and do it before anything else happens.
- Move towards a zero-waste office, even if the rest of your workplace doesn’t.
- Add decluttering and organization routines to your work. Just a few minutes a day will make your space and mind more peaceful.
- Build in time for personal relationships at work. Are there people you’d like to know better? Reach out to make plans for coffee.
- Decisions you make about your career will determine education costs, expected lifestyle and the common characteristics of the people around you.
- Find out about the company culture wherever you consider working. Is it a good fit for you?
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown
The Green Office Green office supplies
Work-Life Balance is a Myth. Do This Instead Tips for finding more satisfaction in your work
The Little Guide to Digital Decluttering by Be More With Less
Simple fashion: How to have something to wear
Fast fashion is infamous for pollution and textile waste and it encourages you to waste your money. With a little bit of thought, you can be put-together on a budget without much work.
- Are my clothes right for my lifestyle?
- Is my wardrobe flattering and comfortable?
- Does my wardrobe reflect my values?
- Learn about the colors and shapes that flatter your body. Focus on building up a wardrobe of versatile, high-quality basics that work for your body..
- Get to know the thrift and consignment stores in your area or online. Shop there first.
- If trends are important to you, include them in a small way through inexpensive accessories.
- Consider organizing a clothes swap with friends.
- Once a year, turn all your hangers around one way and turn the hangers the other way when you wear a piece. Consider weeding out the unused pieces.
- Learn to do simple sewing (e.g.replacing buttons, mending small tears)..
- Adopt a “uniform”, even if it’s just for part of your life.
Your workplace culture and neighborhood choice influences the way you are expected to dress. Consider the downstream costs of your work wardrobe and fancy events..
The Curated Wardrobe by Rachel Nachmias How to dress well for your own body and style
Fashionista’s Complete Beginner’s Guide to Ethical Fashion Certifications Find the certifications that matter to you.
The Uniform: A Philosophy of Dress Utne article on the uniform as effortless style.
Beauty that’s simply beautiful
What goes on your skin matters. Non-toxic, lower waste products are better for you and for the planet. Luckily, simple beauty products are easy to find or make.
- How much of your beauty routine makes you happy and how much is driven by other’s expectations?
- Do your beauty and personal care products align with your values?
- Experiment with doing less, or nothing, at least part of the time.. Expect people to ask if you’re sick.
- Find non-toxic, cruelty-free brands. Conventional beauty and personal products contain hormone-disruptors, carcinogens, and heavy metals. Look for non-toxic certification icons on the product label or scan the label on the SkinDeep mobile app.
- Find zero-waste beauty brands. Look for packaging made of glass, metal or bamboo, or brands that come in refillable tins.
- Learn to make your own. You can make your own lotions, soaps, and shampoos with some simple natural ingredients. You can even make your own makeup with natural food-based colorants.
Whether or not you feel pressure to have extensive beauty routines is affected by your workplace, neighborhood and friends.
Skin Deep Check the database or use the mobile app to identify safe products
Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple and Self-sufficient Life Includes recipes for Body and Beauty products
How to travel like a local
My in-laws are the king and queen of sustainable, simple travel. They get on their tandem bike and spend months touring a place, camping and staying with local hosts.
- Why do want you travel? For adventure? To connect with new people and cultures? To relax?
- Does your travel align with your goals and values?
- Learn about slow travel, a practice that takes a more relaxed pace and builds deeper connections with a place.
- Minimize the environmental impacts of your transportation. Consider bike and walking tours and non-air options.
- Pack light. Really. One person can go anywhere with just a carry-on pack and a personal item.
- Try a reverse bucket list. You can’t do all the things or go all the places. Avoid FOMO by being grateful for the places you do go.
- Some people choose or build jobs that can be done from anywhere. Does your workplace allow remote work or extended leave?
- Family circumstance influence but don’t determine ability to travel. Some families travel full-time and homeschool their children on the road.
The Art of Slow Travel Smarter Travel article on how to get started with slow travel.
What is Sustainable Travel? Charlie on Travel sustainable travel how-tos and tips.
The Carry-on Challenge Smarter Travel tips on packing light
Roadschooling Families Resources and private Facebook group for families that school on the move.
Simple entertainment: Ways to resist the couch
Your down-time can help you meet your goals. Happy, healthy people resist the couch.
- After time meant to be entertaining how do you feel?
- Does your entertainment align with your values and goals?
- Active downtime: Engaged past times such as playing board games or working on a hobby is more relaxing than watching TV. Or combine TV time with another activity. My grandma happily crocheted miles of afghans while watching Days of Our Lives.
- Learn to make something. Making and crafts are relaxing because you are engaged and learning..
- Find free stuff. Your local library is a treasure trove of free books and media and maybe free cultural passes. Museums and science centers have free days throughout the year.
Choose your hobbies wisely. Flying a plane for fun keeps you poor whereas cooking can make you healthier and richer.
The Next Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and Sarah Stanley Fallow; Self-made millionaires spend more of their down time on activities like gardening and visiting with family.
Discover a Hobby Wondrously idiosyncratic descriptions of 300+ potential hobbies.
Are you Living an Active or Passive Life? Mark’s Daily Apple on the benefits of active entertainment
Simple technology for people who can’t put down their phones
Technology can open up worlds of learning and life-minded people. But too much screen time can mess with your sleep, your relationships and your thinking.
- Do you have any tech habits that don’t serve you?
- What would you do if you spent less time with tech?
- Do people ever complain you are addicted to your phone?
- Go on a Digital Diet. Designate some times as screen-free and fill that time with people or hobbies.
- Review how much you spend on tech-the hardware, subscriptions, and maintenance. Do you get good value from the cost?
- Keep a log. Just like a food diary, a tech diary can be eye opening.
- Use social media to set up real life connections
- Your work may dictate that you spend most of your time sitting in front of a computer.
- Some people choose to forego internet access at home and use the internet at public hotspots or the library instead. I’m not one of those people.
6 Apps to Stop Your Smartphone Addiction Inc. article to help you just put it down. Not forever, just for a bit.
The Little Guide to Digital Decluttering Be More With Less article on simplifying your digital life
Watch out for these 8 simple living traps
Simplifying your life pays off, but it can become a Bad Thing if taken to extremes. If you aren’t feeling the benefits, notice if any of these common traps are happening:
Perfectionism and comparison: There is no simple life competition where we all compare trash jars and closets and carbon footprints. There is only a life that feels satisfying and beautiful to you.
Shift your perspective; instead of looking at your life like a metaphorical garden and seeing only weeds, see the abundance and life instead.
Over busy-ness: If you are prone to overdoing things, simple living can become just another burden. You can’t grow your own food and make your own things, bike everywhere, hold down a job, raise a family, be an uber-volunteer and have less stress all at the same time..
Pick some things, but not all the things.
Analysis paralysis: Sometimes your values conflict and you need to make a decision about which values to honor. This happens in large and small ways every day. Pick whichever option helps you grow or serves people.
If it doesn’t work well, choose a different option next time.
Over-denial: It’s tempting to think that simplicity is about denying yourself and scrimping and using as little of everything as possible. It’s true that simplicity is about finding the sweet spots but it’s not about imposing unhealthy limits on yourself.
It’s like the difference between being frugal and being miserly. You aren’t trying to disappear.
Alienating your family: Like any other big life shift, it’s natural to want everyone around you on board. If you try to impose a big change on everyone, resistance is natural.
Take baby steps. If your family’s resistance persists, treat your simple living ways like your own weird hobby and continue to move forward.
Staying in your comfort zone: Anytime you do something new it will feel weird and scary. That’s just your lizard brain telling you to stay safe.
If you aren’t doing something actually life and limb threatening, just breathe through the discomfort, and do it anyway. Know that it will be easier next time.
Going it alone: If you are the only person you know who cares about the things you care about, find your people. Finding the other chicken ladies or garden nerds is a many splendored thing.
Martyrdom: If you start to feel that you are doing all the things to help the world, and no one cares, and you are working so hard, and it’s not fair, then stop and take a breath.
Put more time into your own self-care. Tell people you need help. Stop doing some things.
Fear of boredom: Choosing to slow down will come with an adjustment. If you’ve always been scheduled to the hilt, having “nothing to do” will come as a shock.
Avoid filling the space with distractions and you’ll harvest the fruits-creativity, rest, self-knowledge, and the ability to be present.
Keep inspired on your simple living journey
Everyone needs some inspiration. Try reading some of the classic books or follow some modern-day role models.
Simple living books to read
The Good Life Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living
Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Matter by Elaine St. James
Walden by Henry David Thoreau the original simple living American. In case you missed it in high school.
Simple living blogs and people to follow
Be More With Less Courtney Carver blog about simple living, including a bit about living with a chronic disease
Little House Living Merissa Alink blog about frugal, do-it-yourself, simple living
Rob Greenfield, Food Freedom Activist and adventurer demonstrates entertaining possibilities for a simple and self-sufficient lifestyle.
What caught your attention? Is it better relationships, more health, or less stress? Do you want to quit your current job and travel the world?
If you were brave and made some changes, how does it feel? Are you feeling more grounded and happier?
The good news is that when you keep going you’ll just feel better and better. You can start anywhere and from any situation.
Once you start, simple living is a practice that builds on itself. You can begin in any area of your life, learn to shift your mindset around that area, and then apply your new thought patterns to other areas of your life.
This list is just a start. The options are endless.
The important thing is to take that first step and keep putting one foot in front of another.
There’s no need to change everything all at once. Just start somewhere.
If you want help, find other simple living people online or in real life or reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.
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