Simple living is the intentional focus in all areas of our lives on relationships, actions and belongings that bring the most value and joy to us as individuals.
What we value is subjective, and will look different for each of us. Simple living involves looking deeply into your everyday actions and interactions, and recognizing what to let go of, what to keep, and why.
Introduction to Simple Living Guide
Simplifying life requires asking yourself questions about what motivates you everyday, and recognizing the true answers, making adjustments along the way to simplify possessions, habits, thoughts and sometimes even relationships that aren’t helping you be the best version of yourself.
There are areas in each of our lives that when simplified, create a life that brings increased happiness and contentment to ourselves, and in turn, to those with whom we interact.
What Is Simple Living?
Simple living means to remove all the excess from your life, in whatever form it takes, leaving you with a simplified version of life that focuses on what is important and essential for you personally. The term simple living is used interchangeably many times with minimalism, essentialism and intentional living.
Extreme minimalists are known for counting their physical possessions and keeping them under a certain number, while others live with only those items they actually use, but no numeric limit. All have their basis in removing the excess from life, with the differences being mainly to what degree.
Excess is defined by you as an individual. What items, commitments, clothing, foods or even relationships do you have in your life that are not being used, or are unhealthy for you or that you simply don’t enjoy anymore?
This is your excess and it will look different for each person depending on where they live, their income level, family status and culture. One thing that excess has in common for every person is that it will always take away from their overall satisfaction, enjoyment and personal fulfillment in life.
Common Forms of Excess-
Homes filled with too much clutter, duplicates of items and things rarely or never used.
Too many outside commitments and activities which leave those involved feeling overly tired and so busy they aren’t finding enjoyment in the activities.
Working too many hours at a job that isn’t fulfilling, or not maintaining the balance between work and leisure time.
Eating foods that are processed and unhealthy, not exercising regularly and constantly having to manage excess weight gain.
Feeling overwhelmed by life in general. Awaking each morning with a sense of urgency and stress at the upcoming busy day.
Unhealthy relationships such as those that are one-sided, based on negativity or those that drain you of emotional health and stamina.
If you recognize any of these as possible areas of excess in your own life, you are not alone. Most people have at least some excess in their life, the key is recognition and the desire to simplify your life, bringing it into balance.
Now that we have defined excess and some of it’s most common forms in our lives, what would a simple life look like when that excess is removed?
What a Simple Life Looks Like-
A home which contains only those belongings that are beautiful, used and enjoyed on a regular basis by those who live there.
Limited outside commitments and activities with a focus on just those that bring extreme fulfillment and joy.
Maintaining a balance between work and leisure time. Ideally, work would be considered enjoyable and fulfilling.
A healthy lifestyle including moderate exercise and a focus on eating whole foods instead of processed meals.
Starting each day with a feeling of contentedness and ease. Absence of stress, urgency and busyness.
Personal relationships based on mutual respect, understanding and love. Adequate time spent with each other sharing positive experiences and building trust and love.
Who should embrace simple living?
If you are here reading this, chances are you are searching for something beyond what your life currently looks like. Something more than all that you have collected in your home, beyond your daily commitments, a consuming career, unhappy relationships, stress from ‘the world’ and more.
You may be able to pinpoint the exact feeling, thought or action that is causing discontent, or it may just be a general feeling of something not right with how life is going, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. If any of this is the case, it is the exact reason why simplicity is so important. Simple living will help you identify the specifics of what needs to change in your life, and it will help you make those changes.
If you are here because somehow you just landed on this site about simple living while browsing the vast regions of the web, and there isn’t anything particularly troubling you about life as it is, you may as well learn about the possibility of what a simpler life could offer to anyone, including you!
More time. Simplifying everyday parts of life, decisions made and your routine all leads to an increase in time to spend on what is truly important to you. Simplifying could look like spending less time cooking, decreasing clothing choices, getting rid of furniture to open up floor space and spend less time cleaning. It could look like simplifying your morning routine and only washing your hair three times a week instead of everyday. It could look like using the crockpot or sous vide to make dinner a couple of nights a week, rather than spending hours in the kitchen. There are endless possibilities when it comes to making life simpler, and as a result, adding more free time to your day.
More money. Simple living usually leads to buying fewer items. You just don’t need them, and eventually you won’t want them filling up your space, either. Money that would have been spent on the latest phone, purse or clothing can either be saved, or spent on experiences and making memories, or both. You can also purchase high quality items when you do need something new, and you will have the monetary resources to do so. If you work a lot, making your wants simpler can give you the option of working less, as you won’t need the same income to support as many purchases.
Cleaner home. Reducing your possessions to include only those that you use regularly and enjoy, creates a simpler home that does not require nearly as much cleaning. Most of us live by the 80/20 rule in many ways without realizing it, and this applies to our belongings as well. We use 20% of our belongings, 80% of the time. Simple living helps you get rid of the excess and free up space and time you would spend cleaning, tidying and just dealing with ‘stuff’.
Deeper relationships. When you remove the excess in life that is using up your time, energy and attention, you can see the relationships in your life with others, and yourself, more clearly. You’ll notice if they are strong, if they need to be built up, repaired, or if you need to move on from them. You’ll have more time to spend creating new relationships, or to strengthen existing ones. You’ll have time to stop and think, to get to know yourself and how you relate to the world you live in and those around you. You’ll live with more ease and intention.
Consider the following statement and what it might mean to you personally-
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” -Henry David Thoreau
There are many benefits of living a simpler lifestyle less focused on materialism, keeping busy every spare moment and figuring out ways to earn more and more money.
Let’s take a look at 30 benefits of living a simple, intentional life. If you have more time available, I’ve linked to supporting articles I’ve written about the topics elsewhere on SimplyClearly.
- Living simply allows you to find more time in your life.
- Living simply gives space, both physically and mentally.
- Personal reflection comes more often when you live simply.
- Spending more time with family is available when life is simpler.
- Slowing down and really listening to others happens when you live simple.
- Simple living helps you focus on experiences, not possessions.
- Living simply cultivates better money habits.
- Simple living promotes decluttering for a cleaner, roomier home.
- Simple living promotes the care of your body and exercising.
- Meditation comes more naturally as you live a simpler lifestyle.
- When you live a simple life, you are able to enjoy nature more often.
- Living simply helps us separate our needs from our wants, clearly.
- Simple living gives us permission to say ‘no’ to too many obligations.
- Your friends become a higher priority when you focus on the simple in life.
- Cooking simply and eating simple, natural food comes naturally.
- Getting dressed is easy with a simple wardrobe.
- Simple family activities like walks, camping and game nights are fulfilling.
- Spotting the hidden meaning of advertisements is much simpler.
- Appreciating the simple things like a flower blooming comes easier.
- Recognizing blessings is easier when life is simpler.
- Shopping is no longer your main entertainment when you live simply.
- TV no longer takes up the bulk of your evenings and weekends.
- Reading becomes one of your favorite past-times, a simple pleasure.
- Living simply increases your appreciation of creativity.
- A simple life helps you enjoy playing with your children, or grandchildren.
- Taking care of relationships instead of things becomes a priority.
- You appreciate the moment you are in, realizing life is simply short.
- Living simply helps you clear all the unimportant things from your life.
- Helping others becomes much more important as you live a simple lifestyle.
- A simple life makes room for you to be intentional in all areas.
These are just some of the benefits associated with purposely taking a simpler approach to life. There are many seemingly smaller, everyday benefits that when combined, add up to a life of more time, more resources and more contentment. Read on to find out how to start simplifying your life today.
Simple Living is for Everyone
It is not very often that something can be universally applied to the whole human family. The ideal of simple living is one of those rare things that is beneficial, and available to almost everyone to varying degrees.
It will look different for each person, family and possibly even culture, but the goals and ideals behind living simply will be the same.
Consider the possibilities if everyone in the world lived the following simple living principles-
- Prepare only enough food to satisfy hunger without throwing any extra away.
- Purchase only those items used regularly and made/grown in ethical ways.
- Get enough sleep and exercise for a healthy body.
- Recycle, and make an effort to purchase recyclables.
- Reuse, borrow and share.
- Value life energy and time more than things and money.
- Value relationships with people more than things and money.
- Value experiences more than things and money.
If people around the world intentionally made the shift to a simpler lifestyle, we could make a huge difference collectively by-
- Using the 1.3 billion tons of globally wasted food each year to feed the 805 million people who struggle with hunger around the world.
- Voting with our money and buying only those items that are made and grown using fair trade practices and by employers who treat their workers ethically.
- Getting enough rest to reduce car crashes by 100,000 per year (in the U.S. alone) due to drowsy driving, and exercising regularly would increase life spans anywhere from 3-7 years per person.
- Reusing and sharing our belongings, tools, vehicles, clothing and more with friends, family and neighbors would keep our production and consumption levels lower worldwide, as well as decrease the 3.5 million tons of trash we generate on a global level, everyday.
- Using our life energy to create and sustain relationships with each other, instead of being connected to electronic media for 11 hours each day.
- Valuing time over money.
Simple living isn’t just for people who are environmentalists or for those who have enough resources that they can ‘choose’ to live without.
It is for everyone in one form or another, and brings with it clarity and contentment in life, increased quality of relationships and the realization that physical possessions are meant to be purchased and consumed responsibly, used and loved, not just accumulated for status.
Internalizing this mindset and cultivating a simple lifestyle offers personal freedom, less is more.
How to start simplifying your life –
Let’s take a look at some ways you can get started with simple living today in each of these areas that will move you towards living a more intentional life free from excess in both possessions, and mental clutter. Incorporate some, or all of these into your daily habits to begin your own personal journey toward living a life with more contentment and calm.
- Begin by decluttering these 8 spaces in your home for quick wins and to gain momentum.
Make a Capsule Wardrobe
- Capsule Wardrobe: Fall in love with your clothes. Use these tips to quickly hone in on your favorite clothing and styles.
Simple Whole Food Meals
- Simplify dinner and use fewer ingredients to make evening meals enjoyable while spending less time in the kitchen.
Stop Spending Money
- Being aware and intentional about our spending impulses can help us make decisions that will leave us financially better off. Consider using some of these ideas to gauge your own spending habits.
- Finding balance in the expectations you have for yourself is important in that it gives you permission to do the right things at the right times. Sometimes you need rest, other times you know you should push yourself a little more. Don’t let the idea of perfection directed towards yourself, or others, cloud your expectations and happiness.
Digital Media Consumption
- Reducing the time we spend looking at our phones and computer screens when not necessary allows us the opportunity to be in the present. Most of the entertainment we use digital devices for involves reviewing past images, posts and information about people and events that have already happened. Reducing our digital distraction can create space and time for a meaningful present life.
Simple living is becoming recognized more and more as a fulfilling, peaceful lifestyle that brings meaning and purpose into people’s lives. Without the focus on a hurried, consumer driven lifestyle, full of activities and scheduled from dawn ‘til dusk, people are able to become more attuned to the needs of themselves, their families and those around them, as well as receiving benefits in their finances, health, relationships and really in every area of life.