Ways to Simplify Your Life

For the last few years, I’ve been on a mission: simplify as much as possible. The passion for simple living intensified when I discovered minimalism, a growing movement that advocates having less stuff so you can enjoy more of what life has to offer.

With four small children, simplicity promotes sanity. Clutter multiplies around here in the blink of an eye and it’s impossible to keep up with when we accumulate things we don’t need.

But simple living doesn’t necessarily mean you need to sell all of your possessions and live in a tiny house – though, I think that’d be pretty cool. :)

Here are some of the ways I’ve simplified over the last few years.

Simplify Your Life

Spending

The openness to make such a huge shift in our priorities came after being exposed to Dave Ramsey. Simplifying our finances so that we could get out of debt was the first step. As I began looking at things I thought we needed, I saw that they weren’t really necessities.

In fact, they distracted us from spending more time with our kids or enjoying time outside or any number of things that we felt were more important. Cutting out these expenses was a major eye-opener for me where I saw that living more simply could be better, much better.

Food

Since switching to the pantry principle (making a list of all the foods we eat regularly and shopping to restock those), meals have gotten much simpler. I’ve also become less concerned about variety and more concerned about quality.

Before, I would try to buy new and exciting veggies, only to be disappointed to find them moldy in the fridge, forgotten or ignored because I didn’t know how to prepare them.

Now, I stick to favorites, choosing organic when necessary, occasionally bringing in something new and changing things up on a seasonal basis. The same goes with other types of foods.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to eat our favorite foods over and over. And I don’t stress if dinner is a simple chicken and veggie salad instead of the elaborate meal that I used to think it should be. I love good food, but not so much that I want to spend most of my time in the kitchen.

Time

To me, simple living means being able to relax. It seems like such a foreign concept in today’s world, where we go, go, go all the time. But where is the joy in that?

I confess that I would go, go, go all the time, too, but I’ve been blessed with a large family that forces me to stop and play and appreciate the little things. This means that we try to keep as much free time as possible to connect as a family.

Sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t, but we try hard and appreciate the time we get together. It really helps when we don’t have a lot of obligations away from home.

Commitments

There was a time, not long ago, when I was pretty busy. I had a new friend that I loved hanging out with, we were being invited to lots of get-togethers and Spring sport sign-up was just getting started. Rather than feeling excited about this new pace of life, I was kind of distressed.

Spending a lot of time out of the house, separated from each other didn’t match up with the simple lifestyle we wanted. Sure we were all about cultivating relationships, but we envisioned doing it together.

So I had to take a step back and evaluate everything that was going on. And then I had to say no. Simplifying our commitments can be tough, but the end results are worth it. Peaceful contentedness beats busy obligations any day.

Simple living is a process, one where you continually evaluate where you are and decide if it’s good or needs to change. But it’s an enjoyable process that gives you the freedom to live life on your terms, with the people you love.

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Comments

  1. Hi Nina
    I enjoyed your article. Several years ago I commited to simplifying my way of life. At first I was motivated to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible and I achieved this but then I realised I enjoyed it so much it became a way of life. I make as many of the things that I consume as possible, especially food, skincare and all my own cleaning products. I’d love to become even more self sufficient by generating my own power and running my car on Biodiesel to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels and large corporations. There are so many benefits to simplicty and it can be really creative and satisying

  2. It seems my family is on a similar path as yours. My husband and I recently “graduated” from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We have been living a very simple life anyway…long story short…but are now focusing on the quality of our food, our fitness and fun! I fully agree with MOST of your post, except the “stock the pantry” method of shopping. My husband will tell you that our pantry always looks like we are about to move…you know, empty shelves with just the plastic wrap and a box of spaghetti noodles left. I have started meal planning and focus mostly on dishes that are colorful and brimming with fresh produce. I meal plan for 5 days, allowing for leftovers on some days. I grocery shop once a week and arrange my meals so that none of the produce (even the weird fruits and veggies) goes bad. I plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks…and because of a handy app I downloaded, I know exactly how much all my favorite brands and products cost at all my favorite stores and exactly how much I will spend on my shopping trip. Meal planning takes me about an hour, once a week. But my children are excited to try new foods. I cook Mediterranean dishes, Japanese, Thai, Latin, Chinese…all in the course of a week! Anyway, I just started my tumblr and will share more stories there! Thanks for your blog! I love it!

    • What’s the name of that app? That sounds like a great resource to have! Have you always shopped once a week? Where do you find the bulk of your recipes? I’d love to know more. I enjoy changing things up every once in a while, especially if it means trying yummy new foods. :)

      • I am always impressed with the planning out a meal for a week. That is one area I always have good intentions… And yes, what is your app. Being in a small town we have to make special trips for groceries that are affordable since our small store is very expensive.

        • The app that I have is called GroceryIQ. It’s fabulous because you can save multiple stores…rearrange the aisles as they appear in the store…save the prices of your favorite brands a products by weight or package-type. There is a favorite tab. You can download coupons from the app. It’s simply fabulous. I create my grocery list there and then am able to go from aisle to aisle, checking off what I’ve already purchased. It took me about a month to save the prices of all my favorite products and brands…but they are all in the app, saved and waiting for me to make my next grocery list.

      • I have always shopped once a week. It’s just always been a habit, I guess. The app (that I won’t leave home without) is called GroceryIQ – and I highly recommend it. (You can read my reply below for all it’s features…) As far as recipes, the grocery store that I shop at provides free recipes called Apron’s Meals. I use those 90% of the time and then hunt for yumminess on Epicurious or the SparkRecipes app from Spark People.

  3. Thanks, this has been very timely, I am trying to simplify our possessions we have so much junk. I have been a hoarder partly because I hate to throw things out and partly because being on a low income I don’t know if i will be able to afford to replace things if I suddenly need them. This time last year we though we may be moving to a caravan so I managed to get rid of a load of stuff, but not enough. (I haven’t missed any of it and I made some money out of it too). The process continues with the idea to simplify more in other areas too. I have just realised that to have 2 cars will simplify our lives enormously and may even save money. It seams a bit back to front, but take today as an example (there is no public transport where we live). My husband had to stay home till our oldest had been taken to school. Then the youngest, him, me and the dog piled in the car. First stop the garage to borrow a van, I went shopping, he went to work with the dog. Picked up him and the dog from dropping the van back to the garage and drove him to his next appointment, then I took the dog home with me and the youngest. Unpacked shopping etc. Next pick up the eldest from school and drive to take the children swimming, next do some more chores for my husband who has not been able to get to do them without the car, pick him up and home for tea. It’s crazy. I look forward to a much simpler life. Thank you so much for your post it has really encouraged me to keep going and not feel bad for not getting to every available play date etc.

    • Anna,
      Wow! We have one car right now and most times I love it – less gas, car insurance, repairs, etc. But there are times when we have to borrow a second one because we don’t have public transit. Have you gotten a second vehicle? Have you taken any steps to simplify more?

      • Yes, we have a second vehicle but it has broken down and been in the garage. Also in the meantime we had one weekend with no car, my husband had to walk the 5 miles and back to feed some of our livestock, he really enjoyed it but was glad not to have to do it everyday. I have got my head around home deliveries, much better than the stress of car juggling, and have simplified more by staying home more. The change of season and weather improvements have helped loads. Although I can’t wait to be able to plan things in the day without having to check what Rich is doing and if it fits with him.
        Simplificationwise I bought Simplicity parenting by Kim John Payne from Amazon. I devoured every word and found it really constructive. I now have a meal plan for the week, the family aren’t aware of it yet and it is the same every week. With scope for loads of variety such as a pasta night, a sausage night, a pizza night a fish night etc. This has really helped me I didn’t realise how much brain space went on “whats for tea”. I have decluttered more and Rich is getting in on the act too. The girls are playing loads more independently and together with less fighting, with less toys. They have only asked for two of the toys I removed, one they got back and the other I suggested and alternative. It has been so freeing I am getting quite evangelistic about simplification. Thank you

  4. I do a lot of bulk buying from a coop that has a truck that comes out of Oregon once a month. It has a better variety of foods than i can buy in our town and a better price. I have been stocking up on some items like dried beans and things like that. I saw yesterday a tip to buy dried beans and dehydrate them all at once and put them in user size bags in the freezer, and get them out the day you want to use them. They are so full of protein and other nutrients and so price friendly. Chickpeas are just dried garbanzo beans–and can be used the same way. They are all the rage these days. I like to roast them with a little spice to use for a nutritious snack. YOu can find a dozen ways to use them on Pinterest. I have appreciated a lot of the ideas you have had. We are also debt free–and working on our mortgage thanks to Dave Ramsey. I am so thankful for his ministry.

  5. When Dave was alive, the best part of our day was the beginning. We sat in the sun room, drinking coffee, talking of this and that. The next best part of our day was in the late afternoon. We’d sit on one of the porches, weather permitting, drinking a glass of wine, talking of this and that. We built a life by building memories; now that he’s gone, nothing can replace those memories. Not things, not stuff, not running hither and yon, not even friends or family…NOTHING!
    And I wouldn’t give up those memories for years of my own life.

      • Wow that’s so beautiful what you’ve shared from your heart and so true
        Our experiences and memories are what truly matter
        Thank you for sharing such a special part of your life

  6. I’ve always been more of a minimalist. I go through my home every 3 – 6 months and remove items that have accumulated or are no longer needed. I do that for my cupboards and attic as well.

    I am still on the path to debt free, but the end is in sight.

    As a homeschooling mother, I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do have a lot of time with my family.

    My bit thing I am in the process of doing is removing anything that has BPA or other toxic items from the home, looking into making my own cleaning products, and bulk buying organic foods. This process has been a bit overwhelming, but the end results will be worth it. Now just to retain all that I’ve been reading and learning.

  7. I simplify my life by getting up an hour early in the morning and writing down (the old fashioned way with paper and pen) all the thoughts that are on my mind. I just write down the stream of consciousness. This helps me to clear my thoughts, and invaribly I eventually focus on things that are important for me to do that day, and sometimes in the more distant future.

  8. I think these are some really good things to think about. As I’m slowly re-prioritizing things in my life, I’m finding more freedom, too :) :) Thanks for your blog post today :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  9. Everything you wrote about has already been in my family’s focus for the past several years. We have so many projects around the house to repair or make life simpler. I am hoping that this year we will finish all of those and try to enjoy them and relax a bit. We have found a few salvage stores that have helped us to lighten our grocery bill load. There are some things that you do not want to buy there but we have learned what is relatively safe. This has cut our shopping bill in half at least. We look for big ticket items at yard sales and craigslist. Our biggest help is to just be patient and compare prices and wait for the best option…sometimes we can just live without things we thought we needed:)