Life is complicated.
Right now, it’s far more complicated than you’d like it to be.
You feel distracted, you feel rushed off your feet, and you’re constantly too tired to do anything meaningful.
You wish things weren’t the way they were and would do anything to change it. But everything around you feels so chaotic that you literally don’t know where to start.
So you press on, carrying an ache in your chest, the whole time thinking; there must be a simpler way to live…
Whether you’re new to minimalism, or have been living the lifestyle for many years, we all go through times when life becomes too complicated to deal with.
But that’s okay, because no matter your situation, it’s never too late to start (or start over).
How society hinders a simple life
We live in a society that puts so much emphasis on having and acquiring more of just about everything.
Not feeling happy right now? Go out and treat yourself to some new clothes or other material possessions.
Not enough space in your home for all your stuff? Then you clearly need a larger home or an offsite storage lockup.
But having more, does not necessarily lead to a simpler and happier life.
In fact, having more can actually complicate your life, as it brings about new problems that you have to deal with. Here’s what I mean;
• Spending more money on possessions leaves less money to spend on what you truly need
• Owning more possessions often brings about distractions and confusion of what actually makes you happy
• Living in a larger home means more time is required to maintain it (and likely more money to pay for it)
• Working longer hours as a way to deal with constant financial struggles makes you exhausted and throws your home and work life out of balance
• Spending so much of your time around people who hurt you will make you feel dissatisfied and miserable
If you want your life to be simpler, you have to do the opposite and focus on less. This means choosing less, having less and most importantly, being satisfied with less.
Here are some ways you can simplify and improve your life by focusing on less;
• Choosing to spend less of your time around people who make you miserable so you can spend more time with the people who mean the most to you
• Choosing to spend less of your money on material possessions (that won’t make you happy) and more on experiences that give you stories to tell for the rest of your life
• Choosing to spend less of your time doing things that drain your energy and instead devoting your time to activities that bring you long-lasting fulfilment
How your life could be simpler with less
When you make the decision to focus on having less, you ironically create more space in your life for the things that truly make life worth living.
If you happen to be unsure about whether or not a simple life with less is really for you, here are just a few benefits that might help you decide.
• More clarity – A simple life rejects meaningless distractions and mental clutter so you can focus more on what’s truly important to you
• More time – A simple life encourages you to be more deliberate with your time and so you can use it to do things that are meaningful
• More freedom – A simple life frees you from the trap of compulsive consumerism and spending your hard-earned money on meaningless material possessions
• More happiness – A simple life allows for more happiness as it encourages you to be satisfied with the what you already have
If I’ve just described how you’d like your life to look, then I’d like to help you take the first step towards it.
While this post won’t solve all of your problems, it should help you get started so you can enjoy some of the benefits of a simple life right now.
So, let’s talk about where you might want to begin (or pickup where you left off).
Simplify your possessions
It’s difficult to live a simply when your physical space (your home in particular) is cluttered by a ton of possessions that don’t bring you value and distract you from what’s actually important to you.
If this sums up your situation, then a good first step to take in simplifying your life would be to downsize your possessions.
Having a clearer environment that contains only the things you need will not only help bring more clarity to your physical space, but to your mental space as well, as you uncovered the person you truly are and the things you truly value.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your possessions:
• Sell, donate or give away items that don’t bring you value such as keepsakes or souvenirs
• If you find it hard to let go of possessions that make you feel nostalgic, take a decent digital photograph of them first and keep that instead
• Digitise things that don’t need to be in physical form such as certain paperwork
• When possible, buy products digitally (such as books, music and films)
• If you like to hang out with friends, go out for a nice coffee or dinner and enjoy a good conversation instead of a shopping trip
• Understand what you truly need and learn to be satisfied what you already have
Simplify your digital life
Sometimes your life can be complicated not through your physical space, but through your digital space.
And while it may be invisible, digital clutter can complicate your life just as much as physical clutter.
The Internet, and the devices that we use to access it have done a great job of providing access to vast amounts of information and ways to communicate with others.
And while there are benefits to this, living in such a connected way also comes with it’s difficulties and setbacks.
With this in mind, I’d like to ask you a question: Do you currently feel a great deal of stress associated with the devices you use (even if you generally get a lot of value from them)?
If you answer was yes, then your digital life might be a good place to start in simplifying your life.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your digital life:
• Unsubscribe from email newsletters that aren’t bringing you value
• Turn off notifications from smart phone apps that are constantly distracting you
• Learn to be bored; the next time you have five or ten minutes free time, go for a walk, have a face-to-face conversation or just sit down and think instead of checking email or social media
• Spend less time on social media other online communities that you take part in just to relieve boredom and more time improving yourself and your relationships with the people around you
Simplify your commitments
Few human resources are more precious than your time.
Yet, time is generally scarce among just about every person you meet these days. And no matter how much money you earn, you’ll never escape the fact that you only have twenty-four a day.
If you find yourself constantly having to pass up opportunities that you truly want to take part in, then it’s probably best that you reevaluate how what you commit your time to.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your commitments:
• Reduce your spending so you can afford to work less hours
• Politely turn down invitations to social meet ups that don’t bring you long-term satisfaction
• Quit memberships with clubs and communities that you no longer feel you’re getting value from
• Learn how to say NO to anything that doesn’t make you excited by the very thought of doing it
Simplify your habits
Your habits have a massive impact on how your life looks.
Some habits, such as exercising and eating healthily will naturally have a positive impact on your life. On the other hand, habits like drinking excessive alcohol consumption, smoking (excessive television) and overeating will naturally have a negative impact on your life.
Quite often, addictive and unhealthy habits can complicate every area of your life.
And very rarely does addiction lead to a satisfying and fulfilled life.
If your life is currently dominated by unhealthy habits, then changing this area could make your life a whole lot simpler.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your habits:
• Overcome unhealthy habits one step at a time instead of going cold turkey (for example; instead of trying to quit smoking at a moments notice, start by smoking a few less cigarettes a day before going a step further)
• Find others (whether online or offline) who are also struggling with the same unhealthy habit as you are and hold each other accountable as you overcome it together
• Announce your goals to quit unhealthy habits publicly to your friends and family to create social pressure to follow through
• If despite your best efforts you still can’t overcome an unhealthy habit, seek professional help
Simplify your finances
More often than not, it’s difficult to achieve a simple life when you constantly have no money left at the end of each month. The same can also be said if you’re currently in large amounts of debt.
Both of these situations will place a lot of restrictions on your freedom.
Do you always feel like you’re on a financial treadmill with no other option but to keep running just so you don’t fall off?
If you currently feel a lot of stress associated with money, then your finances are likely a good place to start in simplifying your life.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your finances:
• Cancel entertainment services (like Netflix) and seek out free ways to entertain yourself (like podcasts)
• Sell unwanted/unneeded items to help pay off debt
• If you need to buy something, buy used items rather than brand new
• If your location allows it, seek out more affordable public transport rather than owning a car
• Learn to tame unhealthy financial habits such as impulse buys
Simplify your relationships
The people who you choose to be around will have a huge influence on your happiness and wellbeing.
You want to do everything possible to ensure that you’re surrounded by people who are supportive and care about you.
Likewise, you’ll also want to minimise the amount of time you spend with people who take advantage of you and mistreat you.
One of the biggest challenges here, is when you encounter people who seem to feel like they fit into both of the categories above.
For example, you may find yourself around somebody who you consider to be a close friend who you’ve known for a long time. However, despite how long you’ve known them and whatever good times you’ve shared, this person also has a habit of saying and doing things that hurt you.
Does this sound familiar?
True friends (and family) do not hurt each other. They may take part in playful banter, but a true friend would never say or do anything that they knew would cause you pain.
If this describes your current situation, there are two things you can do (preferably in this order)
1. Tell the person how you feel – Sometimes the pain that others bring to you is unintentional and all it takes to make them stop is for you to talk to them.
2. Spend less time with less person – If that person continues to hurt you even after you’ve asked them politely to stop, then spending more time with that person will likely only bring more pain to your life. And if this is the case, you might be better off spending less time with that person…
I never said this would be easy… But there are some situations in life where you have to put yourself first.
Not to be selfish, but so you can do what’s best for everyone.
Here are some things you can do to simplify your relationships:
• Spend less time with people who seek to bring about or involve you in unnecessary drama
• Spend less time on social media (especially if all you see is negativity posted) and more time face-to-face with the people you care most about
• If you’re being constantly (and intentionally) hurt by somebody who you consider to be a friend, then it may be time to go your separate ways with that person…
• Remember that you are your own person and nobody can ultimately choose who you should be and who you should surround yourself with
You’ll never be finished…
A simple life is a journey, not a destination.
Even after you take action, there’s a strong chance that at some point in the future you’ll find yourself needing to simplify your life yet again. And this is normal.
But when that time comes, you will be far better equipped to make your life simpler once again because it won’t be the first time you’ve done it.
Your life is an ever evolving journey, but simplicity can make that journey far more meaningful. It will eliminate the things that aren’t important to you leaving only the things that are.
No matter how complicated your life may feel, there are always things you can do to change it so that things can improve for the best.
Craig Link is a minimalist and technology enthusiast with a passion for finding and sharing practical ways to live a simpler life with more time, money and energy for what’s most important to you.