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How to Live Simply

How do you live more simply and in ways that are right for you?

Key points

  • Many find greater well-being from owning fewer things, reducing the pressure to work to buy more and gaining time to do what brings joy.
  • Think about the things that you let into your life that don't need to be there and start saying no to them.
  • You'll quickly discover how much extra time and headspace you get when you set limits with technology.
Source: Omar Lopez/Unsplash
Source: Omar Lopez/Unsplash

Do you sometimes feel like life is more complex than it needs to be? Do you feel like society expects you to buy more than is necessary, own more things than you need, or do more work than you want? Then you may want to find ways to live more simply.

Wikipedia defines living simply as voluntarily engaging in a number of practices to simplify one's lifestyle. Others define this lifestyle as “a tool to eliminate life’s excess, focus on the essentials, and find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom” (Millburn and Nicodemus, 2016).

Some argue that living simply (or minimalism) is a reaction to materialism (Par, 2021). Others propose that it is a part of "alternative hedonism"—or a movement that arose in response to the destructive models of capitalist consumption (Caruana, Glozer, and Eckhardt, 2019).

Approaches to Help Us Live More Simply

  • Minimalism. This involves simplifying life by reducing one's possessions and consumption. Sometimes it also includes artistic minimalism (which focuses on clean, uncluttered design).
  • Self-sufficiency. This involves simplifying life by providing for oneself as much as possible without modern systems. For example, one might live off the grid, grow their own food, sew their own clothes, and make their own self-care products (like soap).
  • Digital minimalism. This involves simplifying life by reducing or eliminating access to certain technologies like cell phones, social media, or the Internet.
  • Connection with nature. This involves spending more time outside, camping, or in wilderness environments.
  • Slowing down. This involves simplifying life by reducing a sense of urgency or busyness. ​

Your definition of living simply can involve a mixture of some or all of these approaches. In fact, it may be helpful to try different approaches out to see how they make you feel so that you can adopt the new habits and lifestyle that you feel will best boost your well-being.

Why Live Simply?

A lot of people choose to live more simply after discovering that consuming and buying things doesn't make them happy. They find a greater sense of well-being from owning fewer things, reducing the amount of pressure on themselves to work to buy more things, and gaining extra time to spend doing the things that bring them true joy. Indeed, living simply can result in a variety of positive outcomes including the following:

  • Financial sustainability
  • Feeling less stressed about money
  • Better work–life balance
  • More quality time with friends and family
  • Increased spirituality
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Getting a better sense of what really matters (Talbot and Kaplan, 1986)
  • A greater sense of freedom
  • The ability to discover true passions (Cappetto, 2020).

In recent years, living simply has become a trend across numerous communities. So, people have tried lots of different techniques to simplify their lives. Here are some examples that you might want to try, too. If simplifying your life seems too overwhelming, you might just try one of these small things at a time to see how each one feels:

  • Bake things from scratch—bread, cookies, pizza, etc.
  • Make your own jams, yogurt, or fermented veggies.
  • Start a vegetable garden.
  • Go through all your possessions and donate anything you don't need.
  • Go camping for a week or weekend.
  • Stop buying new things you don't need.

How to Live Simply

Does the idea of living simply seem like a good fit for you, but you're just not ready to (or you don't want to) change your entire lifestyle? Here are some tips to live simply while still living in the modern world.

1. Say "no" more often.

Our lives often get cluttered and busy when we say yes to everything. Maybe we say yes to eating junk food we don't want to eat, to participating in consumer holidays that we don't want to participate in, to doing more than we can handle, or to invites to events we don't want to attend. By learning how to say no, we get back more of our time and we take back power over our lives. So take some time to think about the things that you let into your life that don't need to be there, and start saying no to them.

2. Disconnect from technology.

Whether it's turning off notifications on your phone, taking a break from social media, or just disconnecting from the Internet for a few days, you'll quickly discover how much extra time and headspace you get when you set limits with technology.

3. Do the wardrobe challenge.

To start, put all your unused clothing items in a box, leaving out just enough clothing to wear for one month. You're not yet getting rid of your extra clothing, but just putting it in a box. At the end of the month, open the box and decide what to keep and what to donate. Once you get used to the idea of living without all the extra clothing, it'll be easier to get rid of the extra stuff.

4. Set yourself a budget.

Setting a budget can help you live more frugally and prevent you from filling up your spaces with more stuff. Try decreasing your budget each month until you're down to just the bare essentials. For example, you might keep your food and medicine budgets but get rid of your clothing, online shopping, or coffee budgets. Then you'll end up with less stuff and more money for the things and people that matter to you.

In Sum

Living simply can be a great way to boost your well-being. Luckily, there are lots of small things you can do to start living more simply. Hopefully, the information and tips provided here gave you some ideas to help you create your perfect simple life.

Adapted from an article published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

References

Cappetto, M. A. (2020). The Impact of Minimalism on Health and Relational Satisfaction: Understanding Minimalism Through a Medical Family Therapy Lens (Doctoral dissertation, University of Akron).

Caruana, R., Glozer, S., & Eckhardt, G. M. (2019). ‘Alternative Hedonism’: Exploring the role of pleasure in moral markets. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-16.​

Millburn, J. F., & Nicodemus, R. (2016). Minimalism: live a meaningful life. Asymmetrical Press.

Par, T. (2021). Materialism to Minimalism. BU Well, 6(1), 5.

Talbot, J. F., & Kaplan, S. (1986). Perspectives on wilderness: Re-examining the value of extended wilderness experiences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 6(3), 177-188.​​

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