‘A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare. – William Henry Davies
I have been thinking about ways to live more simply for several years now. Life gets so stressful and I’m certainly not immune to it. For years I felt I was running around like a headless chicken just to keep up with myself.
I want to live more simply to reduce the stress in my life. Frugality sits alongside simplicity very well I find; if I can be more frugal and reduce my wants and needs I can not only simplify my home and my life, I can afford to work less.
Simplicity and needing less stuff also makes it easier to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. Our current need as a species to have more and more ‘things’, even if we are depleting the planet’s resources and putting future generations at risk, doesn’t sit well with me.
But how do you begin to live more simply? Here are some suggestions that I have found helpful.
Ten ways to live more simply
We live in a time when we rarely stand and stare, as the poem goes. Life goes by in a busy blur, with us reacting and dealing with situations on the hoof. We get to the end of the day and we have done loads, but not always what we really wanted to do.
Make time for at least one thing a day that will make a difference to your quality of life and the lives of the people you care about, whether it be reading your child or grandchild a bedtime story, phoning your mum, walking in the garden, chatting to your neighbours or having a drink with a friend. In other words, undertake actions that really matter to you and others. Life shouldn’t be just a series of tasks achieved and things ticked off your to do list.
On your death bed, you won’t look back in regret at the sheets you never ironed, at the car you didn’t wash enough or the dust you left on your desk. You might wish you had got to know your family better or made more friends, though.
Learning to appreciate what you have is crucial to beginning to live more simply. I don’t only mean possessions – things you own rarely give more than a temporary sense of happiness and fulfilment.
It is too easy to get into the habit of complaining about the things you don’t like – the traffic, noise, slow service, rude shop assistants, idiot politicians or whatever – without ever consciously giving your attention to things that make your life better. Why take for granted that you have fresh, clean running water? That your children receive free education, that you live in a country that isn’t plagued by war, that you have a car that works, trees outside your window, a loving partner, children…. There are many who don’t have any of those things that you assume as a given, so learn to appreciate and be grateful.
When I was driving every day to a job I really didn’t like, I would go over all of the things I was grateful for – my lovely work colleagues, the home made soup I had brought in a flask and would really enjoy for lunch, Mr Shoestring mowing the lawn whilst I was out, etc. It put me in a much better frame of mind to start my working day.
So you think your friends have bigger houses, better cars, can afford amazing holidays, etc? If they are any happier than you it is probably not because they have a healthier bank balance. For all you know, they have amassed huge debts to create what you perceive as a better standard of living.
Living frugally gives you the opportunity to tackle the financial complications in your life. You can start to clear debts, build up an emergency fund and save for experiences that really matter to you.
Being frugal is not the same as being mean or tight. It is about prioritising your spending and reducing it wherever you can. About not wasting food or fuel, making do and mending what you have rather than rushing to buy new. You can read my tongue in cheek post about how frugality will ruin your life here (it won’t!).
Take time every single day to get outside. I love to walk in the woods, to be surrounded by plants and wildlife. It feels as if it is revitalising my spirit.
However, I can’t always get out into the forest. We are immensely lucky to have a lovely garden so I walk down to the veggie patch to assess progress, or I have a coffee on the patio looking at the plants and flowers whilst listening to the birdsong.
When I was working I would leave the car down the road and walk the last 10 minutes. This took me through a quiet path where I could see the squirrels and hear the leaves rustling in the trees. This was in the middle of an industrial park! It set me up for the day and helped me to unwind at the end of it.
I am not exactly a Marie Kondo devotee, but I think she has a point. There is too much stuff clogging up our homes and lives. Most of it is gathering dust rather than sparking joy.
Less stuff means that there less to clean and maintain – more time for you! It also means that you will be able to find the things you need rather than having to search through drawers and cupboards of rubbish.
Fewer clothes mean we will wear and appreciate those we have rather than forgetting about them at the back of our cupboards. I am gearing up to my annual wardrobe declutter. It is so therapeutic! Even though I buy few clothes new, I still seem to find a lot of ‘new to me’ second hand items and my cupboards are soon chock-a-bloc again.
As I just said, a good declutter will instantly make you feel more in control and organised.
You can extend this mindset to the rest of your life. How about your finances? Doing an audit of your bank statements will give you the opportunity to see where your money is going to and where you can save. Are you still paying for an insurance policy for a gadget or item that you no longer have, for example?
It is hard to live more simply and happily under a mountain of debt, so getting your finances organised is important.
Ken over at the Humble Penny has loads of good advice on how to organise your finances.
Although I said previously that achievements aren’t just about ticking things off your to do list, a list certainly will help you to simplify and prioritise. In fact, I love a list, as I explained here. Just be realistic about what you can achieve and make time for rest and recuperation too.
Getting yourself organised is a good tool towards helping you live more simply.
Have a digital detox
It is too easy to get lost in the digital world, especially now that so many of us have smart phones. I am the worst for Instagram and can disappear for hours in the lives of people I don’t know at all!
It is also difficult not to react immediately to the many notifications that pop up on your phone, be it a Facebook or Twitter post, an email or an invitation to play a game.
Sometimes it is good to give yourself a day off, or to at least turn off your notifications. We discovered that, staying in Wales on a tiny small holding with no wi-fi, that not only could we live without it, it felt like a proper holiday! We knew that family could phone us on the farm landline if there was an emergency and could always pop into the library in town to catch up every now and again. It was liberating!
Read a book
Turn off the TV for a change in the evening and read an actual book. Getting involved in a great novel or something inspiring and motivating can take you away to a different place.
They say that all highly successful people read a lot. I don’t know if that’s true, but you can learn a lot from a good, old-fashioned book in my view.
There is a reason that so many people enjoy gardening. I can’t think of much that is so satisfying than planting some seeds and watching your plants grow. We grow flowers and vegetables from seed every year.
I particularly love growing things to eat. We are so removed from our food production these days and I love to get back to the simplicity of doing it from scratch.
It really doesn’t matter if you only have a window box or a couple of pots on the kitchen window sill. Grow cress with the kids! Regrow your vegetable roots. Zoe from Ecothrifty shows you how to do it here.
Gardening is a wonderful opportunity to live more simply and enjoy some time outside.
Spend time on your own
When my kids were little, finding time to spend on my own was tough. Much as I loved them, I relished the moments they were all asleep to get a minute to myself.
It’s very nurturing to spend time alone. For some, it is such a rare experience it may feel scary at first. Find a quiet cafe and read the paper as a first step. Go for a short walk and build up to a longer one. Find a corner and read a book.
I love to be alone for short periods – although I don’t like to be lonely.
I hope you enjoy my suggestions on how to live more simply. What do you do when life gets too complicated?