In a bid live a more simple life, one that is edging towards minimalism, I have spent the last few years seeking small but actionable ways to simplify my life.
When we moved into this house in Birmingham 3 years ago we realised just how much STUFF we actually owned. Previously our belongings had been spread out between various parent’s homes, friends places, and even with our siblings. It was only when we finally decided to settle after being digital nomads for a while that we actually got the chance to consolidate everything we owned in one place.
It was a lot.
For the first 6 months we lived here we could barely get into our living room. This was for three reasons, the first was that I was so busy with work that I didn’t have the time to unpack, the second reason was that we didn’t have much spare cash for storage furniture to unpack the belongings onto/into. And the third reason was simply, there was too much stuff it was overwhelming.
And so, over the past few years, slowly but surely, we have worked at reducing the amount of things we own. We have worked on figuring out the best storage solutions for our home, and we made an effort to actively choose the ‘things’ that we kept in the house.
I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always been easy. I was brought up to be thrifty, frugal, and never waste anything. This meant I kept hold of so many objects ‘just in case’ I needed them again the future.
Little did I realise that the biggest hurdle to simplifying my life was actually changing my mindset. This took time. There were lifelong habits to break, and new ways to relate to objects.
However, I feel like we’ve made some headway and I’m proud of how we’ve managed to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ we own.
A rather pleasant side effect of reducing our belongings is that we are enjoying our space more, we feel good about not drowning in belongings, and it has changed how we think about buying for things for our home.
Furthermore, simplifying our home has led us to thinking about how to simplify our life as a whole. And the key to it all? Reducing choice.
The more choice you have, the more overwhelming it gets, and the more you drown in things. Too many choices can lead to poor decision-making.
So here are seven ways to simplify your life, using tips and ideas we’ve picked up after years of decluttering.
7 Ways To Simplify Your Life
1. Know your values
You can use my Word of the Year workbook to help guide you. Or spend some time brainstorming what your values are for life. When you come from a place of knowing what is important to you, you can make the right decisions going forward.
I go by the William Morris philosophy of only having the things you love or know to be useful. Everything else must go. Every object in your home ask it – are you beautiful or useful? If it is neither, donate to charity, give it to somebody who would want/need it, or recycle it.
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ – William Morris
4. Spend time cleaning
I know we are in the midst of a cleaning revolution a la Mrs Hinch. The Instagram star has spoken about how cleaning helps with her anxiety, and I’ve even written about The Monk’s Guide To A Clean House and Mind, cleaning is good for the mind as well as your physical wellbeing.
5. Consider slow living practices
Whether it is slow eating, slow driving, slow cooking, slow travel… (there is a whole slow movement worth looking up), the idea is to be more mindful of the world you living and how you are experiencing it. This act of slowness and mindfulness will allow you brain space to work out what’s important to you, what you have room for in your life, and how to simplify it in a way that is meaningful to you.
6. Create rituals
Rituals can help us feel more centered and productive. But they can also help us simplify our lives. For instance, creating a morning routine, or evening routine, will help simplify how you use your time, what you consume, and how you take care of yourself. You could create rituals around how you start your work day. Or perhaps you could create rituals around certain work tasks? Many of us probably have rituals around family time, celebrations and holidays. But it’s those daily rituals that can really help with simplifying.
7. Make a meal plan
You could start with a long list of 20 of your favourite meals and then each week, on a Saturday or Sunday, you can make a meal plan for the week ahead. If you can make time to batch cook some of the meals that’s even better. It frees up time each day, and helps free your mind from the daily grind of food decision-making.
8. Control your finances
This is a biggie for so many of us. But feeling in control of your money can help you simplify your life. Use a simple spreadsheet to track all of your regular expenses and figure out a way to budget each month. If you’re in a position to save, set aside that savings account. And if you have debt, decide on a fixed amount each month that you can afford to spend on paying down the debt.
The ideal is that we live debt-free and within our means, but that can take time and planning to get to that point.
9. Delete social media
Or at least have a digital detox. It’s a great way to figure out how much time you might waste aimlessly scrolling on social media, and it will allow you to use social media more intentionally when you re-install the apps.
10. Create a filing system
Being organised is a key step to simplifying your life. If you can stay on top of your filing you will be able to simplify other areas of your life.
11. Learn how to pack light
I wrote a list of tips of how to pack light for your travels. As somebody who notoriously wants to be prepared for all eventualities, it’s incredibly tempting to ‘take all the things’ with me whenever I travel. But through lots of experience going away, I have found that simplifying my luggage is a great way to feel freer on my travels.
12. Use online tools
There are loads of productivity and admin tools online that can help reduce your ‘stuff’ in the home, and can help automate processes quickly for you. For instance, use cloud software to save your documents, photos, files etc. You can use tools to scan and store receipts. There are tools for note-taking, budgeting, almost anything you can think of that will streamline your life.
13. Be picky with people
Somehow we’ve accumulated a lot of connections online, I’m pretty sure I don’t remember everybody on my Facebook friend’s list, so make a list of the most important people in your life. Prioritise your social time for those people. Build in networking and community time into your diary elsewhere, and keep them separate.
Accept that some people are toxic in your life, and it’s ok to let them go. Likewise, remember that some relationships are either for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
12. Allow for space
Build space into your diary, your home, your mind. We are prone to filling every minute of our day, likewise every corner of our home … but that doesn’t give us room to grow. So allow for space.
13. What is enough?
Finally, learn what is enough for you. This counts for everything.
What is enough food for you to feel satiated? What is enough money for you to survive, or be comfortable? What are enough clothes in your wardrobe? What are enough beauty products on your dressing table? How many friends are enough? How many work hours do you need to complete to be enough?
Understanding what is truly enough for you will allow you to simplify your belongings, your habits and your mindset to a place that is comfortable and from there you create room to live, grow, and breathe.