MY INTENTIONAL LIVING JOURNEY: STEPS TO A SIMPLE AND INTENTIONAL LIFE
Living intentionally isn’t a one-off project you can do and tick off your list. In this article I’m sharing my own intentional living journey. I invite you to take your own steps towards a simple and intentional life with less stress and stuff and hopefully more ease, time and freedom for what matters to you.
SIMPLE AND INTENTIONAL LIVING
I thought it might be helpful to take you on a journey through my own path to simple and intentional living, especially if you’re new to my website or simplicity as a lifestyle.
I’d like to share what I’ve learnt about how to simplify life and the steps that helped me get there. My hope is that it might encourage you to look at your life differently so that you can really focus on the things that are important to you, right here and now, rather than that long To Do list or pile of laundry that’s staring you in the face!
However, life can be complex and it can take time to untangle it. Despite its name, simplifying life isn’t easy! Decluttering and simplifying your life isn’t something that happens overnight and it’s not a one-off project that you can do and tick off. Job done.
It’s more a question of making some deliberate decisions about different aspects of your life. It’s about defining what’s important and what’s just clutter, learning to say no sometimes and finding simpler ways to do the things that you need to do so you have more time, space and freedom to do what you want to do.
To me, this is what simplifying life is all about – not trying for a perfect life, but an easier life. More full of what matters with less of the clutter that doesn’t.
MY INTENTIONAL LIVING JOURNEY
Here is the path of my own intentional living journey. My journey might look different to yours in the finer detail but here are the steps that I took, how one step led to another and some of the benefits I gained along the way. It was about baby steps that helped me gain confidence, clarity and momentum. The more I simplified, the more the snow-ball effect created space, not just in my home but in my schedule, heart and mind too.
1. Recognising where things go wrong
Rewind to about ten years ago when my kids were babies and I was juggling career, family and everything in between. I hadn’t realised it at the time but my life and its stresses and strains had caught up on me whilst I was too busy looking the other way. I was working hard at my career, working hard at being a mother and working hard at being a wife.
I was working hard all the time but somewhere, some time, something had to give. I had carried on for years, believing that I could do it all and have it all, if only I kept pushing and working hard enough.
How stupid of me and how naïve to think that I was Superwoman… when clearly, I was not!
I stuck my head in the sand for too long, ignoring the warning signs and pushing them under the carpet so that I wouldn’t see them and neither would my friends and family.
However, things came to a head one difficult and emotional day in the office. I was forced to take time off work and re-assess my life and the impact it was having on me (and therefore my family). At the time, it felt like the worst thing in the world and a major sign of weakness on my part, but in hindsight it turned out to be the beginning of profound change…
2. Knowing when things need to change
My meltdown was the catalyst for this change. From the point at which I’d sunk so low that I knew things HAD to change, to the point at which I can, hand on heart, say my life is finally where I’d like it to be, my journey from start to finish came about because of slow, small and daily changes to my lifestyle.
If you want to make changes in your own life, don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember that baby steps will get you to where you want to go just fine! In fact, baby steps build consistency, habit, confidence and courage in a way that a big leap of faith and a mad dash towards the finish line could never achieve.
The first thing to think about is whether you’re ready for change. It’s no good planning to do this or do that if you’re not committed to the idea of giving it a go.
The decisions you make about what clutters your home, schedule and life don’t need to be the decisions you stick with forever, but one thing I do know…
Unless you’re motivated and ready to take action, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically too, then no changes you make are likely to stick. Accepting that things need to change and being in the right mindset to make those changes happen, are vital.
That’s why I like to write about personal growth, mindset, and intentional living on my website. Decluttering and simplifying are important, but how you think affects what you decide to do (and not do) so mindset is key to everything!
3. Understanding the role of clutter
Studies have shown that the amount of clutter around you is directly proportional to stress levels, especially for women. Putting it simply, the more clutter, the more stress. And, the more clutter you have, the more time you spend looking after it – cleaning, tidying and moving it.
Therefore, by reducing the amount of clutter you have, the lower your stress levels. You can read more of the research here.
Clutter isn’t just confined to the physical stuff in your home or on your desk at work. There are different types of clutter that takes up space in your life in different ways – debt, bad habits, a packed schedule to name a few.
The research I read all sounded good and well worth giving a go. Clutter around my home was certainly taking up my time and energy and stressing me out a lot. The idea of less clutter meaning less stress and more time was too good not to try!
I wanted to reduce the amount of stuff and clutter in my home so that I wasn’t constantly playing catch up, overwhelmed by the mess and forever moving, tidying and cleaning it. Especially in the evenings after a long day’s work and a battle with the kids at bedtime.
I’d had enough. I didn’t want to settle for just getting through my days only to drop into bed exhausted at the end of them.
I seemed to be busy all day but never had enough time or energy to enjoy the things I was so busy working towards.
My life was cluttered in so many ways and that clutter needed to go!
4. Decluttering my stuff
My first step into the world of simplifying was a small project that I tackled one weekend. I’d read up on decluttering and decided to make a start for myself. I began by decluttering my clothes.
I’d had enough of not being able to find anything to wear and fed up of looking like something the cat had dragged in each morning. I was annoyed that my kids and work commitments meant that early frantic mornings left me little time to make myself look good and more importantly, feel good, each morning. Of course, it wasn’t their fault though. It was me that needed to get myself more organised!
Decluttering my wardrobe bought instant benefits so I carried on decluttering the rest of my home – the toys, the kitchen, the garage and so on.
Decluttering isn’t always easy but there are some tips you can use to get started. I tried them out myself when things got tough and I can honestly say, they work. I share a lot of these decluttering tips on my website so you don’t make the same mistakes I made!
Don’t let lack of time or lack of support at home put you off. With a few strategies in place, anyone can declutter their home – you just need to be a little creative!
If you want to get started right now, grab your free copy of my popular Declutter Starter Kit.
5. Learning to think differently
Getting rid of my clutter was great but I soon learnt that the benefits of decluttering were only as good as long as they lasted! The clutter soon crept back if I didn’t stay on top of it and those benefits disappeared as fast as the clutter reappeared. It was so frustrating!
I found that the only way to keep a decluttered home was to think differently.
It wasn’t about getting rid of things for the sake of it. It was more to do with weeding out the things in my life that didn’t add value, have purpose or that I didn’t appreciate – to make room for the things that did.
Decluttering was the tool that makes this happen but simplifying life (or a minimalist lifestyle if you like to give it a name) is a general lifestyle shift towards less stuff in your home, schedule, heart and mind and more time, space and freedom in every other way.
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”Joshua Becker
6. Trying less in other areas of life
Eliminating the clutter and excess in my life bought about a complete change. Not only did I enjoy having less clothes (less decisions, less faff, less wasted time) I found that I naturally chose less of a lot of other things in my life too.
- I wanted less stress in my life so I was happier and calmer
- Less clutter in my home so it was easier to keep clean and tidy
- Less complicated finances so I could save more, donate more and spend more on experiences (rather than stuff)
- Less fancy recipes that took less time to prepare but were just as yummy
- Less commitments in my diary so I and the kids had more free time
More specifically, I wanted less of the things that wore me down and more of the things that lifted me up.
I naturally gravitated to simple in every way – a simpler lifestyle, a simpler schedule, a simpler self-care routine, a simpler way of setting goals that I actually achieved!
A simpler life isn’t necessarily an easy life. It’s not a magic wand to make all your troubles go away, but it does make things eas-IER.
7. Living intentionally
Deciding how to simplify life is about intentionally choosing and including in your life what’s right for you.
It’s about getting rid of the clutter, keeping out the things that don’t support you and making space instead for what does. Find simple ways to do what you need to do so you have time, space and freedom for what you want to do.
I believe that intentional living is at the heart of decluttering and simplifying life. Of course, you can choose to do a few decluttering projects and get rid of some stuff, but if you want to make more sweeping changes then you’ll need to make some intentional choices.
Intentional living is just a fancy way of saying that you know what you want in life and you find ways to make that happen. As we touched on at the top of this article, this all starts with your mindset and being ready and willing to make changes, even if you’re not quite sure how they’ll turn out in the end.
Then it’s a question of deciding how to simplify life. Do you want less clutter in your home, to be less busy, have more money, less stress, more direction, more freedom? Maybe all of this and more?!
Intentional living underpins all these because it means you’re being purposeful and deliberate about creating your best life in all its areas including family, health, relationships, home, work, leisure, financial, emotional. And, I believe that the way to do this is by decluttering and simplifying life, getting rid of the things that get in our way and hold us back and finding a better balance through simplicity.
TAKING YOUR OWN INTENTIONAL LIVING JOURNEY
These were the steps I took as I explored intentional living. When I think back to my first decluttering project and chucking a few clothes I never wore into the donation pile, I really had no idea what great changes were going to come of it.
This is partly because I was a little sceptical of how less stuff could possibly make me happier, but also because I didn’t really know what I wanted from life. I just knew I wasn’t happy and I wanted things to change.
Intentional living is a journey because at the outset it’s highly likely that you won’t really know how and where you want to end up. You might only get a feel for what you do and don’t want as you begin to strip back the excess in your life and create space to think, feel, do, dream…
When we’re busy managing our overstuffed lives, we can’t take a step back and look at the broader picture. That’s how simplifying helps. Simplifying isn’t the end goal but it’s the tool to help you find where you want your end goal to be.
And, that’s why intentional living is a journey with plenty of detours, pitstops, twists and turns. You can take the fast highway or the slow, scenic route. You can pause and pick it up again. You’ll know which views you like and which roads to avoid. Most of all, you’ll learn about yourself and what a meaningful, rewarding intentional life looks like to you. Enjoy the journey!
TAKING YOUR FIRST STEPS…
If you’d like to take your first steps in exploring simple and intentional living, here are some things you could try. You might need a notebook and pen for some of it!
- Get clear on how you feel about your life right now. What do you enjoy? What stresses you out? How do you feel at the end of the day?
- Understand what you’d like to change. Are you too busy? Frustrated with just treading water? Scared to try something new? Overwhelmed by stuff or responsibility?
- Get clear on your priorities. What’s most important to you right now? Getting out of debt? Raising a young family? Looking after an elderly relative? Re-training for a new career? Enjoying retirement? Finding yourself and enjoying life again?
- Make a plan. Some things in life we can’t change. We just have to ride through them. Pick one or two key things that cause you most stress or would make the most difference to you and break them down into simple steps with a clear plan, end goal and timescale. Make a start today.
- Revisit your plan often. Check in with yourself and your plan regularly to ensure your decluttering goals are still in alignment with your priorities. Tweak things if you need.
- Take baby steps. Don’t try to walk before you can run. Little habits built up consistently that integrate with your daily life are the key to making big changes with big impact. Declutter one item a day, knock one thing of your schedule this week, stop mindless shopping for a month, spend 10 minutes each day on self-care, reflection and listening to your mind and heart.
- Be consistent. Don’t give up if everything doesn’t fall into place in a week or month. Take it steady but keep going. Simplifying life and living with intention becomes more impactful the more you practice it.
RESOURCES ON SIMPLE AND INTENTIONAL LIVING
Here are some helpful articles and resources with practical tips if you’d like to begin your own intentional living journey:
- What is intentional living? A beginner’s guide to finding purpose and meaning in life
- How to be intentional with your time
- How to be intentional with your spending
- How to be intentional in your mornings
- How to be intentional in your daily life
- Simplify Your Life – a guided workbook to help you create a meaningful life without clutter.