WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SIMPLIFY LIFE?
In this article we explore what it means to simplify your life, how to get started and how it can help you create a full and meaningful life.
HOW AND WHY TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
I write a lot about simplifying life and try to give you some practical tips, encouragement and support to simplify your own life, step-by-step. But what does it mean to simplify life?
I thought it might be helpful to take a little look at what it actually means to simplify life, what a difference it can make and how you can get started for yourself.
The dictionary definition of ‘simplify’ is to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier, and that’s exactly how I feel about simplifying life.
Life can be complicated. Sometimes it’s because of our own making and sometimes it’s because of circumstances that we can’t control.
Nowadays we’re conditioned to want bigger, better, more. Our lives become complex and overstuffed as we try to fill them with everything we think a fulfilling and well-lived life is meant to be, have, do or achieve.
I think more and more of us are waking up to the fact that our bodies and brains can’t keep up with the pace or demands of modern life and we’re searching for something different and, hopefully, better. And that’s where simplifying life comes in.
Confucius had it right, a long time ago. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Let’s see if we can uncomplicate things a little, starting now.
One of the first steps to simplifying life is deciding that things need to change. Maybe you’re stressed by your long to-do list, lack of time, a poor work-life balance, ill health, financial worries, relationship problems, a cluttered home or just a feeling of frustration, unsettledness or resentment.
Whether these signs and signals are minor or overwhelming, being aware that you want something different is a vital first step. After all, if you don’t know something needs to change, you’re not going to know to make that change!
Action point: See if you recognise these signs you might be too busy (+ what to do about them!)
Once you’re aware that things aren’t quite as you’d like them to be then you can set your intention to do something about it.
- Maybe your home is crammed full of clutter?
- Or your schedule is jam-packed and you never have time for yourself?
- Maybe your job isn’t fulfilling you anymore and it’s time for a change?
- Maybe your kids have left home and you need to find yourself again?
Change comes in many shapes and sizes but simplifying life is about firstly, awareness and secondly, intention. In short, intention means you decide things need to change and you’re actively seeking ways to make that change. It’s about being purposeful and deliberate, not just settling for the life you’re currently struggling in.
For example, you might moan about how busy you are and never get any time for yourself. Intention means you’re purposefully taking steps to decide how to be less busy, rather than just settling for dashing here, there and everywhere!
Action point: Try these journal prompts for self-discovery
The third step towards simplifying life is about taking action. Nothing will change unless you make it happen. This is your life and you are responsible for embracing and improving it – the good and the bad, the ups, downs, challenges and opportunities.
Simplifying life isn’t always easy. In fact, as Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
And it’s true, simplifying life isn’t an easy option but it’s definitely a worthwhile one.
Further reading: Try these quick ways to simplify your life – everyone loves a quick win to help us feel motivated!
You might ask why simplifying life is difficult? Surely, simplifying is meant to make things easier (just like the dictionary definition above)?
Well, the problem is that there’s no textbook method to simplify your life. It takes trial and error and finding what works for you. Just like the obstacles we face when we’re decluttering our homes, simplicity requires a change in your thinking and habits.
It might require you to say no when normally you would have said yes. You might need to go against the norm and stand firm, instead of following what everyone else is doing.
Some examples might be to:
- Decline an invitation
- Remove social media off your phone
- Pull away from a difficult relationship
- Get rid of some clutter in your home
- Have difficult conversations with your loved ones
- Put in place some rules or boundaries
- Cut up your store cards
All of these things are tough and require us to challenge comfortable old habits and familiar thought patterns, but the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term pain.
Free workbook: Try my fun free Shift Your Mindset workbook
So, what are the benefits? Well for me, here are just a few of the benefits:
- Less clutter in my home meant less stuff to move around, clear up, tidy away.
- I made space in my schedule by saying no to (or postponing) things I didn’t really want to do.
- I became more mindful of my shopping habits and social media consumption.
- I chose less fancy recipes that were quicker to cook and just as tasty.
- I created space in my home, my calendar, my closet, my brain.
Space that in turn gave me flexibility, calmness, peace and room for enjoying and prioritising the important things in my life – raising my kids and loving my loved ones (oh, and myself too!) – without trying to juggle ‘all the things’ just because I felt I should or it was expected of me. That’s not to say life was never difficult or we don’t have worries and stresses but generally, we have a better balance through simplicity to use the name of my website!
Further reading: The benefits of simplifying life
WHAT DOES A SIMPLE LIFE LOOK LIKE?
This is very difficult to answer. My simple life might look different to yours. What made my life complicated and overwhelming might be different to the stresses, strains, pulls and pushes in your life.
But, I suppose, a simple life is one where happiness, peace, flexibility, fun, fulfilment, meaning and contentment are key components for many of us. These are components that I can’t always find in the shops, my social media feeds, my overstuffed home, schedule or brain.
Here are some ways to simplify life:
- Less clutter – less stuff in your home means you have less to manage, think about and do. Read more about how to declutter your home and life.
- Less in your schedule – less demands on your time and more free time to do with as you choose. Read more about how to be less busy.
- More wiggle room – greater flexibility if something unplanned happens and you need to react.
- Less stress – a conscious effort to look after yourself and reduce potential stressors. Read more about how to make time for yourself without feeling guilty and selfish.
- More freedom – from trying to keep up with busy modern life and choose your own path instead.
In summary, a simple life is a life of priorities. You can’t do or have everything (or not without overstretching yourself) so you focus on what matters most. This doesn’t mean that a simple life is dull, empty or boring, it’s just filled instead with more of what you want and less of what you don’t!
Further reading: How to define your priorities and why it matters (+ get a free printable!)
One of the characteristics of a simpler life is the clearing away of clutter. Clutter isn’t just the stuff in our closets and cupboards. It’s not just the piles of paperwork that loom high from our countertops, or the stuff we trip or step over as we move room-to-room.
Clutter is anything that distracts, confuses and takes up space in our homes but also our schedules, hearts and minds.
To simplify life is to get rid of that clutter. We define what’s important to us and let go or part with the rest. We ask ourselves a series of questions such as:
- Do I use this?
- Do I need it?
- Do I appreciate it?
- Does it add value in some way?
Although these may be difficult questions at first, asking these questions and making decluttering decisions based on your answers becomes easier with practice.
And, don’t forget, they don’t just apply to our physical possessions. You could ask the same questions about your finances, or relationships, or clothes…
Further reading: What is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff
A MINDSET SHIFT
Once we learn how to declutter the different aspects of our life, the next step is to find ways to keep that clutter away. Simplifying life isn’t a one-off project, it’s a long-term lifestyle that requires a complete mindset shift.
We turn our focus away from the blings, buzzes and shiny things of modern life and towards the things that are truly, deeply important to us. These are the things that really matter and contribute to a meaningful life.
Of course, money and belongings are a part of that, but they are only just a part. Memories over stuff, mindful shopping over regretted bargains, family time instead of screen time – these are just a few examples.
Further reading: The minimalist mindset – thinking like a minimalist
HOW TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
Before I suggest you grab a bin bag or box and declutter your home, I’d invite you to grab a notebook and pen instead.
- Ask yourself how you feel about your life right now. Does it make you feel happy, content and fulfilled or anxious, stressed and overwhelmed?
- If you feel anything negative, can you pinpoint exactly what makes you feel this way? Is it a place, a time, a person, a job, a task, a room? Can you identify the triggers?
- What makes your life feel complicated? What’s urging you to read this article now about simplifying your life? What would you like to simplify and why? Your home, your time, your finances, your self-care?
- How do you hope to feel about these things after you’ve simplified them? What do you hope to change or gain?
Asking yourself these questions can help you understand what you need to change and why. That will help you know how.
Maybe you need to start with simplifying your home, and then your time, then maybe your self-care or goals. Where you start and the journey you take, is up to you. Perhaps my website or signing up for my emails can help guide you?
Further reading: 20 ways to simplify your life
RESOURCES TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
You’ll find plenty of tips on how to simplify life throughout the blog and my courses and workbooks. I’ve listed a few articles and resources below to help you get started.
- How to declutter your bathroom – One of the best places to start simplifying your home and that you can start right now!
- How to declutter kitchen counters – The kitchen is the heart of the home and a place that often gets a lot of traffic and use. Feel the benefits of a clear kitchen counter and imagine what a clutter-free home could look and feel like going forward.
- 7 easy ways to start becoming minimalist – You may or may not like the label ‘minimalist’ but essentially, this article is about easy ways to start simplifying your life by having less clutter and more space, in many different ways. It’s a great way to explore a ‘more-is-less’ lifestyle for yourself.
- Simplify Your Life – A guided workbook to help you explore what complicates your life right now and how you can begin to simplify your life, step-by-step.
- Resources and workbooks – Check out my other resources to help you simplify different aspects of your home, mind, schedule, routines and clothes!
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Do you want to simplify your life? What’s making your life feel complicated right now? What tips would you give to others who are just starting out on their simplifying journey? What have you found most difficult to declutter or simplify? Let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!