Simple living, minimalism or whatever you want to call is becoming pretty popular these days. It used to be that the simple life was though to be for simple folk but now all kinds of people from all walks of life are giving it a try in one way or another.
I have been thinking a lot recently about slimming everything down from debt, bills, spending to objects, routines and even my thought processes. Simplifying your life just makes things easier and more focused towards the right things as far as I can tell. So I thought it would be good to offer a simple and straightforward post with my ideas on how to simplify your life.
I plan to write more about a lot of these points in the future and will link to the articles from this post. So feel free to bookmark it and come back every week or so….
So here goes….
How to simplify your life in easy steps….
Most importantly when you approach any kind of change is that you take it slowly. Baby steps are key to implementing new ways of doing things and keeping yourself in the right frame of mind. Any big change will bring difficulties but I am sure you will find that simplifying almost all aspects of your life will leave you feeling fresh and invigorated.
So let’s tackle each aspect one at a time in this post for simplicity. You may find in real life it’s easier to do that too!
Simplify your home
I think having a clear space around you helps give you a clear mind. A clear mind is essential to tackle some of the harder aspects of your life so I think the home is a great place to start with.
1. Take stock. If you have ever worked in retail then you are fully aware of what stock taking is…. Yes it’s boring to sit there and write down every single item in your home but it really will be worth it in the long run. I would advise you list things room by room and literally list every last thing you can find. This may take a while or be done over a few weeks even but it’s not worth getting stressed over and just take your time to do it right.
2. Get some highlighters and start sorting the lists. Go through your lists room by room and literally mark everything with a color for different destinies of each item. Simply items should be marked in categories like this: Keeping, selling, giving away, recycling, trash, storage, re-purposing. Leave a space and add individual notes for each item if you like or do this as you go along at the next stage.
3. Work through the lists. This is the step where you will see progress. Gather everything that needs recycling and take it to the recycle stations. Next anything that absolutely has to be trashed can be taken to the dump in bulk. Then you can attack the items you need to sell. Ebay and Craigslist are excellent places to quickly get rid of things. Items you want to give away can be given to friends and family first and then after that you can try websites like freecycle or craigslist so people can come and pick the stuff up. Find somewhere appropriate to put your storage items. These may be treasures such as photographs or family heirlooms.
4. Re-purpose. Re-purposing projects can take some time. An old wardrobe may become a compost box or old clothes a patchwork quilt. Just get a new list together and work through these projects one small bit at a time.
5. Re-assess. It’s likely this whole process may have to be done 2 or 3 times before you achieve a really minimal space around you that you feel free and comfortable in. At the end of each process just re-assess and see how you feel.
1. Digitize and go paperless. This is an extra tip that may just help a little more. Paperwork causes an unbelievable amount of clutter. In most cases no more than 7 years of paperwork will ever be needed but many of us can’t part with it for fear of needing it for something. I would suggest all old paperwork is digitzed (scanned into the computer) and stored on hard drives to save large amounts of space. New paperwork can also cause a massive build up so take the opportunities to go paperless with all your banks, utilities and anything else. Just make sure you keep records backed up if it makes you paranoid having all this imporant stuff in digital form! This post How Long To Keep Financial Records may be useful. You may also benefit from digitizing things like old photo albums. They can then be neatly packed away for storage and you will have instant cataloged access to all your memories!
Simplify your wardrobe
You may not have correctly tackled your clothing situation in the home part of your simplifying so often this needs to be tackled separately. Especially if you are a show addict or feel you need 20 t-shirts all in similar colors. If you don’t wear a certain item more than once a month and it’s not for special occasions (cocktail dresses, tuxedo’s etc etc) then put it in a big bag and arrange to give it away.
Simplify your work life
If your job is draining on you this could be causing any number of complexities in other parts of your life. The drudgery of 9-5 could be responsible for you hitting the bar 3 or 4 nights a week. Working late nights may mean the Pizza Joint has a photo of you above the tips box. A stressful job may be costing you more than it’s worth. Likewise your job may only be hard because of the way you handle it!
1. Ask yourself questions about your job. Get a piece of paper and write down as many questions that you can think of about your job. Answer them as honestly as possible. If you want keep this paper from everyone else so you can really write some truths down. Questions could include: Do I like my job? Do they appreciate the extra hours I work? Am I getting paid enough? Can I easily get another job? Is my procrastination the cause of my work stress? etc etc…
2. Try making your job work better for you. Before going through the stress of finding a new job it’s always worth trying to make your current job better to see if it’s worth sticking out. Much like the home simplifying steps, simplify your work space. Get rid of those silly office toys, gagets or any distractions. I’m not saying drop the pics of your family but just have a really good clean up. When you arrive at work every morning sit down and write a list. Put the most boring or hardest tasks at the top and then work through them hardest to easiest / most boring to most fun. Schedule your breaks and be strict with these. It may amaze you how early you find yourself getting work done. If the bosses start putting more work on you, ask for a pay rise or refuse…. You can take control here.
3. If it really is the job, look for a new one. You may want to have some other things sorted here before you really go on the stressful path of looking for a new job. But if your job really is the culprit for your cluttered home, over-spending and depressing demeanor then it has to go! Really consider this long and hard but ultimately you have to think about you and your life in the long term.
Simplify your relationships
Relationships are also often a factor in how you live your life. This section is not a simple one for anyone to address but I really think it’s important to enjoy your relationships and address / iron out any issues that are making matters complicated.
1. Friends. Look at the people you spend your time with. Are they good for you? If the answer is no then I am not saying you purge them from your life forever (they may be old friends) but seriously consider finding ways to get some new friends that will positively impact on your life. If they are always borrowing money and never paying back or doing things that hurt your personally then they may just need to be put at distance from you.
2. Family. They say you can’t choose your family! For that reason this section of your life is impossible to fully address but like friends, if family are dragging you down and your help and advice falls on deaf ears then it really is time to put them at distance. Just realize that you can’t help everyone and just give the best help you can without creating too much more stress for yourself.
3. Partners. Many people stay in relationships for years for no particular reason. To get through life in best shape I think your partner needs to be your rock, and you need to be theirs. If they have issues, it’s your job to help but you need that solidarity in return. If your partner is dragging you down and making you miserable it may be time to cut the line! If you have kids and you are staying together for them, I always say… Don’t! As a child from a family with unhappy parents I really believe that happy and split is more constructive for everyone!
Simply your finances
This is the one area that most people genuinely feel they need to simplify. I really believe that going minimal in other parts of your life will help you tackle finances head on and get on the straight and narrow. For example, just think of the debt you could clear by selling all your old junk. So let’s address some key areas of finance.
1. Create a budget. I have to be honest. I don’t have a budget yet! So it’s a bit cheeky of me to be giving such advice but I know this is important for most people. I do need to create a budget but my life is so simple right now that I get by doing it mentally. Actually writing everything down will really help me hone my financial objectives.
2. Write an outgoings list and cut the fat. When you do your budget you will be able to sit there and see where all your money is going. Often you will notice a plethora of bills and expenses that go to here, there and everywhere. It could be that you subscribe to 3 or 4 magazines that you never read fully. You may be paying subscriptions for things you forgot about and many of your household expenses may able to be moved, consolidated with other bills or cut all together. Once you have a list it’s easy to purge and re-arrange things. Often you can find a much better mobile phone plan. You may find that a prepaid phone plans suit you better than your current contract. I use prepaid because I can’t owe any money at the end of the month and I know exactly how much I have spent. You can get your cable, telephone and internet on one bill from one company and likewise with gas and electric too. The goal is to cut expenses and simplify as much as possible, this makes future tracking much easier.
3. Cut the credit cards into pieces! If you use credit cards to supplement your income, stop now! You may have to work hard but most people can cut their outgoings down to less than they earn. Once this is achieved it’s important to start paying off the credit cards one by one and close the accounts. If you are responsible it may be worth keeping one for convenience but these days I have found my Visa Debt to be just as adequate as a credit card.
4. Get some savings / emergency fund. One way to really ease some stress with your finances is to build a cash reserve that can help you if any emergencies pop up. The main point here is to avoid using your credit cards for such things as they just re-enters you into the debt cycle. I recently started my savings / emergency fund with $1000. Dave Ramsey would be proud! Obviously though the more cash reserve you have the better.
5. Deal with debt! If you don’t have any debt then great! I would concentrate on savings. If you do have debt and it’s a little out of control then you may need help! I would suggest you avoid all commercial companies you see on the TV and look for government approved organizations. My debt was high and ended up getting it wrapped up in a debt management plan. This was arranged in co-operation with the UK government pushed program National Debt Helpline. I cannot sing my praises for them enough! For people in the US, the FTC provide a little info about debt management plans here.
6. Simply spend less by being aware. In your general day to day it’s important to be aware of what you are spending. An extra coffee each morning and lunch could be stopped by bring a Themos of coffee to work. Your health and wealth could be increased simply by not eating candy bars and chips anymore. Cutting out soda and replacing with tap water also does wonders for the wallet. Just be aware and question every expense.
Simplify your mind
A clear head is important for really acheiving all your goals in life. I think clearing out your tangible touchable life can go someway towards making this happen but to obtain real clarity I think you have to work on your own thoughts and mind.
1. Think about stress. Really think hard about what causes you stress. I often find when you analyze them most of the reasons for stress are no reason to be stressed at all (almost a tongue twister there!). Living in Cairo has really helped me learn the art of patience and not worrying when things don’t quite go to plan. I try and use the attitude of “Oh Well” to address most situations that would otherwise stress me out!
2. Exercise and eat well. I really think keeping your body in working order keeps the mind working well. I know, I know this thought is hardly revolutionary but I subscribe to it 100%! Look at your diet and really work on bringing in fresh foods and less of the junk that we often eat these days. Just replacing a TV dinner with a good quality home cooked meal once or twice a week can really start you in the right directions. As for exercise even just walking everyday is great. Personally I exercise quite hard and I am currently going through the Insanity Home Workout program.
3. Focus. For me the real aspect of all this minimalism and simplifying is to achieve focus on the things that matter. Once you start to feel free from the constraints of everyday life you will suddenly find time for things you really want to do. It could be something like a vegetable garden or something like reading all the major holy books (2 things I am aiming to do!).
I simply want your input?
This post is already pretty long but I want to make it better. I would love to know what you think, what I missed out on and if you have any articles that go into any subjects mentioned in a deeper way then please let me know. I would love to link to them.
As mentioned I plan to expand on many of these subjects in future blog posts so please subscribe in the sidebar and look out for new posts if you are not already a reader.
Thanks for reading.