Was your first thought when you saw a post about the simple life a flashback to Little House on the Prairie?
I’m not surprised. The simple life gets a bad rap these days. Most think it’s crazy and it must represent a life without power, running water, or anything else from the modern day.
The simple life can certainly be defined as an Amish utopia, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to give up power, running water and modern conveniences to embrace the simple life. The simple life doesn’t have to be some massive change in your life, but I promise you, it can make your life much more enjoyable.
What’s Most Important?
As humans, we often miss the boat on the most important things. We get so distracted by the stuff we have, the things we think we have to do and the stuff we think we have to own. Our social status has become the reason we live and we think we need the latest and greatest to keep our status high.
Embracing the simple life is a return to the things that truly matter and a way of decluttering your life from the things that really don’t matter one bit. It’s not about learning how to grow your own food, although this could certainly be a part of it. It’s not about swearing off all your electronic devices and living what most would consider a very boring life in today’s world.
The simple life is about getting rid of the unnecessary to make more room for the necessary. It comes in many shapes and forms. If you feel overwhelmed, unhappy, or simply weighed down by your life, it’s time to embrace the simple life.
I am not writing this post because I have it all figured out. Trust me, I don’t. However, I have spent the past several years simplifying my life and every single time I take a step towards a simpler life, I end up happier, with more freedom, and less stressed out all the time.
Don’t worry; I am not going to tell you that you must live in an RV to embrace the simple life. Just because that’s what I chose doesn’t mean it’s right for you. While some of the tips I am about to provide may seem a bit drastic, trust me when I tell you, you’ll likely look back and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
If you’re interested in simplifying your life or you’re just curious about how you could do it, here are ten of my best tips for embracing the simple life.
1. Start off Small
You don’t have to overhaul your entire life today. Often, we want to change so we go as drastic as possible and it backfires.
Remember that time you tried to quit something cold turkey and you lasted all of 48 hours before you just had to have whatever it was. We’ve all been there and very few people can actually quit something cold turkey.
While it’s possible to quit something cold turkey and in some cases, healthy to go this route, embracing the simple life doesn’t have to happen overnight. It can happen over many weeks, months or even years.
Start with something small and doable. For me, this used to be cleaning out my closet of clothing once or twice a year and getting rid of anything I hadn’t worn in a while. It may seem silly, but when you cut your wardrobe down, it makes getting ready for the day much easier. Fewer choices equal less to worry about, which leads to less stress.
You don’t have to attack your closet and for some, this wouldn’t be starting off small. Pick something you can simplify or minimalize that you feel won’t be that difficult to do. We all have something we’ve been carrying around with us, whether literally or figuratively, that we simply don’t need. Let it go and embrace the simple life.
2. Simplify Your Schedule
A huge area we could all use some simplification in is our schedules. While writing out your entire schedule or using one of the hundreds of apps or programs for scheduling is great for organization, an organized schedule can still be jam-packed with unimportant clutter.
It takes anywhere from a week to three months to truly simplify your schedule, but it starts with one solid hour of really looking at what you do each day and what’s really important.
You don’t need a ton of time to look at your schedule and realize what can go. Maybe you attend far too many meetings. Find a way to cut your three weekly meetings down to just one and you’ll probably gain an hour or two in your week with one swift move.
Is TV Dominating Your Life?
If you’re like me and you work from home, you may have far too much time planned into your schedule for TV shows or other unimportant things. Embracing the simple life means decluttering your schedule and getting rid of the unnecessary. It doesn’t mean every part of your schedule needs to be filled with work or something society would deem as productive.
I am a big believer that our rest and relaxation must be just as productive as our work or our work will suffer.
Look at your schedule and figure out what simply doesn’t belong. Most of us have something we can cut and when we do, it opens up a world of possibilities.
Maybe you’re something that gets sucked into working 10-hour days when you could easily get the same amount of work done in 6 or 7 hours. If you’re not getting paid by the hour or your boss isn’t holding a gun to your head, make a change. Trust me, when you get the same amount of work or more done in less time, your boss won’t even notice you left earlier than normal or came in a bit later than normal. Of course, it may be a good idea to speak with your boss first and clue them in on your plans.
3. Simplify Your Email
Oh, the overwhelming pile of junk we call email and how it weighs us down. In today’s modern world, we take our email with us everywhere on a smartphone or some other device. Could you imagine if each piece of email was an actual letter stamped and delivered in an envelope? Would you carry it around with you everywhere you go?
I think not!
One of the best things I ever did was eliminate email programs from my phone. When you leave your email on your computer only (and you leave your computer at home) you can actually start to enjoy life again.
Have you ever been that annoying person that just had to return an email during a dinner with friends or family? Maybe you use it as a way to escape from a family event you think is boring and just an obligation. You could actually be enjoying the event if you’d lift your head from your phone for more than five seconds at a time.
Email is a wonderful tool for communication, but it’s not meant to be a text message or an instant message. It’s email and you don’t need to respond to every single message you receive in record time, especially after you’ve left work.
Take the app off your phone, sign out of those accounts and leave the email at home, at work or in a ditch on the side of the road. It will still be there when you arrive back at your desk or your computer.
4. Create some Me Time
When was the last time you had an hour to do something you truly love doing. No, I don’t mean doing something you think will help you climb the next rung on the social status ladder. I mean something you truly love.
Oh, you forgot there were things you truly love to do? Has it really been that long?
You’re not alone. Most people dredge through the day and they don’t make any time for the things they love to do. It’s sad really and a sign we really are a part of the modern-day zombie apocalypse.
Do What you Love
If you haven’t experienced an hour of something you love to do in a very long time, it’s time to create some me time. I recommend one hour per day, but if that’s too hard, start with one hour three times per week.
It can be anything. Go fishing if that’s what you love or join a tennis league. Hit the driving range, read a good book, sit in silence, go for a walk in nature, enjoy gardening, or play a video game.
Whatever it is you truly love to do, do it and do it regularly. You may discover you have so much passion for the thing you love that you decide to start a blog and share it with the world. Next thing you know, you’re passionate about blogging and you build a successful blog that allows you to quit the job you hate. All of the sudden, your life just got so much simpler.
5. Learn to Say “No” Politely
We often don’t know how to tell people no when we feel obligated to do something. Obligations come from family, friends, co-workers, bosses, church groups, and about a million other places. You don’t need to do every single thing you’re invited to do or asked to do.
The word “NO” is the most powerful thing in the toolbox of the person trying to embrace the simple life. Saying “No” has a wonderful domino effect, as well. When you tell someone you won’t be attending their event, they are less likely to ask you about their next event. This saves you the hassle of having to turn them down again.
Of course, this doesn’t really work with family or certain friends, as they will often keep asking, but that’s okay. You don’t want to be cut off from everybody that wants to invite you to something, but sometimes, it’s better to not be invited by some.
Saying “NO” doesn’t make you a jerk or an a**ho**. It makes you a person with your priorities in order.
I am not telling you to say no to everything you’re invited to, just the unimportant things you really don’t want to do. You don’t need an excuse or a rationalization, either. Instead, just say “I will not be attending your event, but I wish you the best with.”
You don’t need to apologize, either. Often, we spend time saying sorry when we really aren’t sorry and we just don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. You’re not superman or superwoman. You can’t do everything and you only get 24 hours in your day. Spend those 24 hours doing the things you find to be most important and you’ll be embracing the simple life.
6. Stop Striving for Popularity
One of the things that holds us back so much as humans is our ridiculous need to be popular in today’s world. This never used to matter so much to most people, but as it became easier and easier to stay in contact, it became more of a necessity in the minds of the vein.
We are not all in one big popularity contest and image really shouldn’t be our idol. When we allow our social status to dictate our life, it’s impossible to live a simple life. Instead, you’ll live a very complicated, frustrating and stressful life of always trying to stay up on the trends and impress everybody in the world except those that matter most, including yourself.
Entering the popularity content of life means you will no longer be yourself. Instead, you’ll be allowing society and other people to dictate what you do, wear, say, the music you listen to and so many other things. What a lonely, desperate life that will be.
Instead of striving for popularity, strive to be the person you were uniquely created to be. I am a huge believer that if you become yourself and you strive to be you, the people you will attract into your life will be far more meaningful than the shallow group of so-called friends you will have if all you care about is popularity. With friendships, it’s not about the quantity, but the quality.
Living a simple life isn’t just purging the unnecessary things from your life; it’s also purging the unnecessary relationships. In most cases, this will happen automatically as you embrace the principles of a simple life. Often, when we undergo massive change, it causes those around us to either become a close friend or to stop being a friend.
7. Rejection of Consumerism and Materialism
The core principles of embracing a simple life are found in the rejection of consumerism and materialism. Now, this doesn’t mean you cannot ever buy anything and it doesn’t mean you can’t buy something that you want. It simply means, you only own things you actually use.
The United States has more storage lockers than any other area in the entire world, and the race to number one isn’t even close. We pack away more crap we don’t need into a 10×10 box, which we use our hard-earned money to rent, than any other country in the entire world.
The storage unit phenomenon has given people a way to become hoarders and so has the need for an attic, basement and three-car garage. Seriously, why do we think we need so much storage space?
We live surrounded by things we were once hoping would make our lives easier, more fulfilled or make us more popular. Now, our storage units are simply a place to store old junk we don’t really need. While there are times where a storage unit makes sense, like for those of us traveling full-time and needing a place to store up our physical memories for a possible future house and for those storing an heirloom handed down from generation to generation until they can find space in their actual home to display it, most storage units are completely unnecessary.
Do you have Multiple Units?
I remember when I was much younger and was trying to make money by helping people sell their things on eBay. One lady wanted me to help her sell some items and when I arrived at her house, she took me down the road to her storage units. Yes, that’s units, not unit.
She had 4 10×10 units and they were literally stuffed as full as you could get them. I could not believe it and the things she wanted me to try to sell for her, were not even at the front. It was a complete mess and I turned down the job because it was going to be far more work just to find the items than the commission was going to be worth.
Why did she have all this stuff? I am pretty sure she had kept everything anybody had ever given her, along with everything she ever purchased.
The old proverb sums it up, “Love people, use things.”
When we get this twisted around, we end up using people and loving things. This is one of the most dangerous ways to live and it’s not congruent with the simple life.
If you want to fully embrace the simple life, you must rid your life of the things you don’t need. If you don’t use it regularly and the item truly doesn’t have a purpose in your life, it needs to go.
8. Become Grateful
Saying thank you is something most of us do throughout the day. However, this is just the smallest step towards becoming grateful.
The simple life requires you to become grateful and realize everything you have is truly a gift. When you embrace the simple life, you need to realize what you have is special for you and be grateful.
Gratefulness leads to contentment, which is vital to the simple life. If you cannot be grateful for what you have now, you’ll likely fall into the consumerism trap marketers so desperately want you to fall into. However, when you are thankful for everything you have, it’s easy to turn your heart to love instead of want or greed.
One of the best practices I have ever adopted is the grateful list. Basically, when I do my journaling, I write out five things I am thankful for. Personally, as a Christian, I thank God or Christ for these things, but you can simply be thankful for them if you’re not a Christian.
Do this every single day and you will see a difference in your life. Becoming aware of the wonderful things you have is a great way to embrace the simple life in such a materialistic, shallow world.
While those that have been in sales at one point of their life or another will get this, it doesn’t just apply to sales. One of the best ways to embrace the simple life is K.I.S.S.
This acronym stands for:
Keep It Simple Stupid
I have also seen it as:
Keep It Short and Simple
I like the first one because it embraces more than just short and simple. When you keep something simple stupid, you don’t overcomplicate it. Unless your some genius scientist trying to solve the biggest problems in our world, you’re probably not dealing with something nearly as complicated as you would like to think.
Adopting the K.I.S.S. philosophy allows you to see the world around you a bit different. It allows you to realize, the simplest answer is usually the right answer and you don’t need to overcomplicate or overanalyze things.
I am a very analytical person and I have a tendency to overthink things. My wife is the same way, so this is one area of our lives that is hard to find balance. Decisions can take far longer than necessary.
While we think we are doing the right thing, often, the simplest solution was the right one. For example, we keep a bit of a tight schedule, but we love to go to the movies. The movie we may really want to see, may not have a ShowTime that fits our schedule. However, another one on our list does. It could take us a half hour or longer to realize the right ShowTime matters more than the perfect movie.
When we keep it simple stupid, we don’t choose the movie based on the first one on our list that we want to see. We choose it based on the one on our list of movies we want to see with the ShowTime that fits our schedule. This keeps the rest of our day intact without major changes or interruptions.
Simple is Better
Keeping things simple matters when embracing the simple life. The K.I.S.S. philosophy isn’t just about keeping things simple, however. It’s about seeing the simple answer and not trying to complicate it.
How often have you taken something you didn’t know the real answer to and blown it up into something it wasn’t? For example, when you text someone and they don’t answer back in what you believe is a timely manner, where does your mind go?
Do you automatically think they must not like you or do you default to, they must be busy? Do you think they must be dead in a ditch somewhere or do you think maybe they have their phone off?
If something as simple as not getting a reply back to a text sends you into a tailspin of worry, you need to adopt the K.I.S.S. philosophy. Assume the simplest answer is the truth until you know otherwise and move on with your day.
10. Embrace your Black Sheep Life
In my family, I believe I have always been the black sheep. Whether my family agrees doesn’t really matter as I embrace this role. I do things differently and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you decide you want to live the simple life, you’ll likely become the black sheep of your family or group of friends. Most people don’t live a simple life. Most people would rather live the ridiculous “American Dream” which became a nightmare for so many in 2008.
It used to be, the dream was, you immigrated to this country, got a decent-paying job, saved some money. Then, you bought a house and lived your life in that house until you retired. That was an American Dream for those coming from countries where it wasn’t really possible for this type of life. It was also the dream back when houses didn’t cost a quarter-million dollars on average. Heck, there was a time when a nice little house was $10K and families of 8 lived in less than 1,500 square feet. Now, 1,500 square feet is considered a modest apartment.
Stop Chasing the So-Called Dream
Anyway, chasing this so-called lifestyle isn’t healthy and will leave most people trying to climb out of a mountain of debt and a mountain of crap they don’t really need. Today’s society has it very wrong and you need to embrace becoming a black sheep if you want to embrace the simple life.
If you’re going from the common, society-driven lifestyle and you’re looking to make massive changes, expect to lose some friends and have family members that simply don’t get it. This just means you’re on the right track.
I have been there, done that and seen it. As a freelance writer that travels full-time and embraced Christianity while having a group of friends that were, at best, spiritual and at worst full-on atheist, I have seen how massive change can impact relationships. It’s not all bad, however.
I can attest that those people that stick around, when you embrace becoming the black sheep, will eventually become even closer to you. Heck, once the newness of your changes wear off and they see the smile on your face, they may start asking you how you did it and why you’re so happy.
Change is necessary if you want to embrace the simple life. Becoming the black sheep is inevitable. Embrace your new color of wool and enjoy a life without so much clutter literally and figuratively.
There you have it! My 10 tips for embracing the simple life. I won’t act like I have it down perfectly. Sometimes, consumerism still gets me, but it’s not nearly the temptress it once was in my life. Living a simple life keeps my mind free to think up blog posts like this and to enjoy the real pleasures of life far more.
I urge everybody to find ways they can embrace the simple life. Live intentionally, focus on what matters most in your life and actually define your core values.