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As the years go by, I find more and more happiness in living a simpler life. Simple living is a way to cut out all the noise and be happier with fewer things and fewer commitments.
The 4 steps to live a simple life and be happy are:
- Stop more things from coming into your life
- Decide what’s really important to you and focus on that
- Get rid of as many things and tasks as possible
- Automate and make the rest as easy as possible
If you’re drowning in clutter, paper, things to do, and always feel left behind, there are a few ways to simplify your life. And the great news is that the more you simplify, the more the rest falls into place naturally.
Step 1: Stop more things from coming into your life
The first step to living a simple life and being happy is to stop more items and tasks from creeping into your life. You want to make things simpler with less stuff, so don’t even let them into your home.
Adverts and the media bombard us with all the things we should want and need in our lives, but the truth is that these things will probably never make us happy.
Sure, they may give you a short ‘high’ when you bring them home from the store or when you sign the slip from the delivery guy, but then it’s over. And you go off looking for your next high.
We are addicted and we need to take serious action.
Here’s how to stop more things from coming into your life, at least until you have things under control:
- Have a no-spend month, where you buy only essentials – food, gas, etc.
- Make a grocery list and plan meals for the next month. Try to use what’s in the freezer and pantry before buying any groceries.
- If you see something that you want to buy, delay buying it for 24 hours – you will probably forget all about it!
- Unsubscribe from all marketing emails and any newsletters you never read.
- Put your credit card in a Ziplock bag and freeze it in a block of ice, so you can’t just take it out and use it.
- Read articles that inspire you and remind you that there are more important things in life than things and being busy, such as this one about having big adventures.
Step 2: Decide what’s really important to you
The second step in living a simple life is deciding where you want to go and what’s really important to you.
Find pictures that inspire you for where and how you’d like to live, what kind of person you’d like to be, who you want in your life, what hopes and dreams you want to achieve, etc.
You can find inspiration on Pinterest or Google images.
Make these pictures into a collage on your desktop, print them out and stick them somewhere you can see them every day, or create a Pinterest board.
Take a look at the pictures you’ve chosen and look for common things.
- What common colors are in the pictures?
- What types of people are in there?
- Where are they and what are they doing?
- Are there animals or objects in there that make me happy?
- What else do I notice that makes me smile?
These are the things that are important to you, and the things to focus on in life because they will make you the happiest.
Actively make plans to do these things over weekends and to spend time with the people you love being around.
Steps 3 and 4: Get rid of things and make the rest as simple as possible
Step 3 in living a simple life is to get rid of all the items and as many tasks that don’t make you happy or aren’t things you want to focus on.
Here are some tips on how to declutter and make life simpler and more organized:
1. Make time to declutter
To take the daily throw-out declutter challenge, decide how many things you will get rid of each day and for how many days.
For example, I like to get rid of 10 things a day for 30 days.
Each day, I look for 10 things to throw in the bin or donate. I just grab whatever I can see, or I go looking through wardrobes and drawers until I have my 10 things that need to go.
Throw out papers, magazines, clothes, toiletries, whatever else is clogging up space in your home, car, and office.
Deleting emails, electronic files and photos counts here too – it’s all clutter.
If you throw out 10 things a day, you will say goodbye to 300 items in one month and 3 650 things in one year!
I even let myself throw away more items and tick them off for future days if I’m feeling energetic. So, if I get rid of 20 things today, I cross off today’s 10 and tomorrow’s 10 to give myself a declutter boost.
This one’s a game-changer, so I’ve created a free printable that you can use to track your daily declutter.
Just click on the picture below for a free, immediate download:
2. Start with areas that frustrate you most
Make a list of 10 areas or 10 tasks that frustrate you most.
Is it cooking every night?
Is it the entrance to your home?
Is there something you can’t find every day, like your keys?
Pick the one that frustrates you most and sort out the area or find a way to make the task easier or automated.
For example, if you don’t have time to cook, you could try batch cooking over the weekend, so you don’t have to cook all week, or try a meal delivery service.
If you can’t find your keys, you could hang a key organizer by the front door.
Once you’ve finished fixing a frustrating area on your list, move on to the next thing.
3. Keep 2 simple running to-do lists
Throw out all those to-do lists and keep 2 lists to simplify your life at home: 1 daily to-do list and 1 long-term to-do list.
Each day, write down what has to be done on your daily to-do list, such as appointments to go to and errands to run. This works well in a paper diary.
In your second list, your long-term list, make a list of things that need to be done at some point. When you find time during the day, look at your long-term list, pick something on it, and get it done.
I write this list on a piece of paper and use a paper clip to attach it to my paper diary.
4. Watch less or no TV
TV is a huge time waster and doesn’t add much value to your life.
If you must watch it, pick a show or a special movie to sit down and watch once your daily to-do list is completed. Don’t ever sit down to channel surf.
The average adult spends 5 hours a day watching television – that’s 35 hours a week!
If you spent that time decluttering, organizing, meditating, connecting with loved ones, or enjoying these self-care activities, you’d be much happier and living a simpler life much sooner.
5. Avoid social media
Remove social media apps from your phone and computer. Following everyone on social media and seeing only what they want you to see can often cause feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) and not feeling good enough. After all, why are they having so much fun and living such perfect lives when mine is nothing like that?
The truth is their lives are probably nothing like their social media profiles make you believe.
So, to live a simple life and be happy, remove social media from your life as much as possible and focus on spending time in person with real people you can connect with.
6. Get paper under control
If possible, move over to a paperless household by scanning and filing all your papers electronically. I’ve been unable to do this, so I use a tickler filing system to manage my papers and never forget anything.
In a tickler filing system, there is one file for each month of the year (January to December) and one file for each day in a month (1 to 31). Anything that must be done in a certain month goes into that month’s file.
The numbers 1-31 are used for the current month that you’re in. So, if it’s May, the numbered files represent the days in May.
If something needs to be done on the 15th of May, put a reminder into file number 15 along with any documents you need for it. For example, if you need to renew the car registration, put the car registration papers in the ‘15’ file so you have the papers ready to go on the 15th when it needs to be done.
Once you’ve renewed this, put a reminder and any other relevant papers in the May folder, ready for next year.
When a new month starts, check the month’s file and put any papers into the numbered files on the day they need to be done. Then check the numbered file each day to see what you need to do.
This works very well for annual tasks like pet vaccines, license renewals, etc.
7. Have fewer clothes to choose from
Get rid of any clothes that no longer fit you or that you simply don’t like.
If possible, move over to a capsule wardrobe:
A capsule wardrobe has 37 items of neutral-colored clothing and shoes in it, including black, white, gray and brown.
On a Sunday evening, choose outfits for the coming week. Put each outfit on one hanger and hang them in the order you’ll wear them.
Within a few minutes, you’ll have all your outfits ready at the start of every week, and you can grab a hanger in the mornings without ever wondering what you’re going to wear that day.
8. Drive slowly
Stop being in a rush to get everywhere. If you are then start leaving home earlier.
If someone cuts in front of you along the way, let them in and wish them all the best.
Studies have shown that adrenaline from stress on the roads stays in your body for up to four hours. That’s four hours of stress hormones in your body for one random person who pulled in front of you.
We don’t want stress. We want happiness. So, drive slowly and be kind to others on the road.
9. Be present
Make a conscious effort to be present where you are right now.
When you are at work, do your work to the best of your ability and don’t moan about your spouse, mother, or other things.
When you are with your family, put away your phone and don’t moan about work or colleagues.
Don’t be somewhere in your body, but somewhere else in your mind.
10. Keep your handbag light
Go through your handbag once a week and clean it out.
Keep things light and carry only the essentials with you. Use pretty little toiletry bags to organize what’s inside.
11. Tidy up until you find what you’re looking for
According to Pixie’s Lost & Found survey, Americans spend about 2.5 days a year looking for things they’ve lost! That’s 60 hours a year.
If you can’t find something, don’t spend time searching for it – tidy up until you find it.
Start in the room where you think the item is, and tidy up until you find what you’re looking for,
This makes more sense than just rearranging clutter that will later lead to losing more things.
12. Have a place for everything
Give everything a place.
When you bring something new into your home, find a place for it immediately. In fact, you should know where it will go before you walk through the front door with it.
If you don’t have a place for it, then it shouldn’t come home with you.
13. Give yourself more time to do things
Things usually take longer than you think they will. Rather over-estimate and over-deliver, to yourself and to others.
If you are given a job to do, pad the deadline with a day or two. That way you have time to fix things if they go wrong without upsetting your client or boss.
If you finish before the padded deadline, then hand it in and impress them! If you finish in time for the padded deadline, they will be happy you handed it in when you said you would.
14. Practice gratitude
Being thankful for what you have goes a long way in giving you inner peace and happiness.
Being grateful reminds you how much you already have and how far you’ve come. This sets a great foundation for the rest of your life and how you approach what comes your way.
Every night, before you go to sleep, spend a few minutes giving thanks for the people in your life, the experiences you had that day, and for having luxuries like a soft pillow to put your head on.
15. Focus on one goal at a time
What bigger goals do you want to work toward?
Choose one to focus on, break it up into smaller steps and write these steps on your long-term to-do list.
Then take it step by step to cross the finish line and make your bigger dreams come true. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to reach your goals.