Simplicity definition and how to live a less complex life

Photo by Jovan Vasiljević on Unsplash

Do you crave simplicity but are unsure how to achieve it? Maybe you’re not even certain what it is.

The dictionary describes simplicity in a few ways:

1. Freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts.

The last bit intrigued me because it speaks to integrity. When you achieve simplicity, you’re no longer separated into parts but embody a cohesive whole.

You’re aligned with your authentic self, your values.

You’re no longer pulled in different directions, or doing things that aren’t you. You show up as yourself all the time, uncompromising and whole, not fragmented.

2. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.

I love how this definition combines material and psychological elements of simplicity. Status objects and fancy things are conflated with a pretentious mindset.

When we’re not sure who we are, we rely on things to give us value. Of course, it never works.

It’s a cover up for a lack of fulfillment. Misalignment with values is the usual culprit.

3. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity.

I love this one best of all. I want to print these words in lovely lettering and hang them on my wall. Simplicity equals sincerity.

And here we come back to the integrity piece. Knowing who you are, and letting the words of your mouth and meditation of your heart reflect that.

Setting healthy boundaries that let other people know where they end and you begin.

Healthy boundaries let other people know where they end and you begin. Click To Tweet

There are four ways to achieve this beautiful simplicity in your life. To build a life of integrity that keeps you whole rather than in pieces.

A life in which your value is not found in the things you own. Where you trust yourself and others trust you, too.

Because your decisions align with your true desires, not attempts to people please. Interestingly, they all involve saying no.

1. Simplicity means saying no to social pressure

Mom, resist the pressure to enroll your children in too many extracurricular activities. Two at a time is a good rule of thumb.

More than that and you’re running around, missing dinners together, and imposing unneeded stress on yourself and your family.

They don’t need to play the sports everyone else does. Why not find an activity unique to them?

My daughter, now grown, used to take horseback riding lessons. That was unusual in our suburban environment as the stables were a half hour away in the country.

She did something uncommon, an early alignment with her values. And time in nature with those magnificent animals had a profound impact on her.

Say no to the latest fashion trends and gadgets, both for yourself and your kids. This goes back to the second definition: refuse to derive your value from the things you own.

Teaching your kids how little those things matter is a wonderful gift. As a result, their character will grow as they embrace your value of people over things.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves or envious of others, they will feel called to something higher and more meaningful in their lives.

2. Simplicity means saying no to constant contact

Some people feel compelled to show up on every social media platform and run themselves ragged keeping up with them all.

Could you focus on one or two and delete the others? Simplicity means streamlining. Remember the first definition about wholeness and freedom from complexity.

You might feel obliged to answer every text or email as soon as it comes in. Guess what? You don’t have to. You can let that phone ring and answer that text later, even tomorrow.

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Click To Tweet

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Rather than reacting to every demand for your attention, set aside certain times in your day to sit down and mindfully reply.

This way, you remain in control of your life and teach people what to expect from you.

3. Simplicity means saying no to things that counter your values

Have you figured out your values? If not, now is the time. Say no to things that don’t align with them.

For instance, if you value solitude, say no to too many social events. Guard your time alone because your wholeness depends on you standing up for your needs.

Or maybe you value spontaneity. Say no to a rigid schedule marked in pen for the rest of the year.

Some people swear by a daily planner, but that feels confining and even depressing to you. Honor your need for surprise in your life.

When we say yes to things that don’t align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. That leads to self-soothing in unhealthy ways like overeating and drinking too much wine.

When we don't align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. Click To Tweet

When aligned with your values, you feel “full” and don’t need to turn to artificial helpers. In this way, simplicity keeps you both physically and mentally strong.

4. Simplicity means saying no to busyness

Busyness is different than productivity. Busy distracts you from what needs to change in your life.

Busy builds walls and keeps us from connecting with one another in meaningful ways. When you run into someone and ask how they’re doing, do they reply, “busy”? Do you?

What are you avoiding when you run down a litany of things you have done and have to do? You’re missing an opportunity to connect more deeply.

Do you have a feeling of pride over being busy? Be honest. Does it make you feel needed and important?

Are there other more authentic ways you could achieve that same need for significance?

Or maybe you feel inadequate because everyone seems busier than you. Refer to the dictionary definitions above. Your choice to embrace simplicity is a rejection of pretentiousness, deceit and guile.

You’re not deriving your worth from the things you do or own or plan. Your activities are driven by your values. That’s why you’re not overly busy.

You refuse to let life run you over anymore. Now, you live intentionally and that means doing less because you say no more often.

You experience the freedom and spontaneity of life without meaningless obligations. You know who you are and what you want and your life reflects that.

What have you decided to say no to?

How to simplify your life: 6 ways to reduce stress and stay healthy

simplify your life

My downsizing journey started in 2009 when I moved into a smaller home after divorce. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to simplify my life.

It’s taken courage to say yes to less when the world says more. It’s prompted me to get more clear on what I believe in and say no more often.

Some people love the idea of simplicity but are unsure how to get there. In some ways, it means questioning everything you’ve been taught.

Simplicity means questioning everything you've been taught. Click To Tweet

There are many things we take for granted or do because our parents did them. Consider whether you might live without some of those things everyone deems “essential”.

If you’re interested in how to simplify your life, rest easy. You don’t really have to DO anything. It’s all about letting go. Here are 6 ways to simplify your life.

1. Cancel your gym membership

If you’re an active person, you might not believe you could stay fit without a gym membership. You would be wrong.

The Minimalists have a great podcast episode with fitness expert Ben Greenfield. He tells you how to maintain a high level of fitness without ever setting foot in a gym.

Getting your fitness organically throughout the day saves you time on travel, money on membership fees, and frustration when you don’t get to the gym.

2. Declutter your closet

Okay, I said you wouldn’t have to do anything, but this one’s kind of fun. After you’ve pared down your closet using my 5-step guide, consider joining Project 333.

This is blogger Courtney Carver’s challenge to whittle down your wardrobe to 33 items every three months. (Including shoes and accessories; excluding pyjamas and workout wear.)

The now-famous challenge provides you with much-needed boundaries to keep your closet under control. And keeps you from growing bored with your minimalist wardrobe, because you switch it up every quarter.

3. Intermittent fasting

Keto diets, paleo diets, it’s hard to keep up and there’s a new one every month it seems. Whatever happened to the Zone plan Jennifer Aniston used to champion?

To simplify your life, let go of fad diets and do intermittent fasting instead. If you want to lose or maintain weight, simply reduce the window within which you eat.

Intermittent fasting generally means eating for eight hours a day and fasting for 16. But you can adjust the time to suit you.

Be aware there’s an adjustment period of a few weeks where you will feel hungry during the fasting period, but that goes away as your body adjusts to your new schedule.

4. Buy only what you need

Strike the word “shopping” from your vocabulary. Minimalists are intentional about how and when they spend their money. They only shop when they need something specific.

It’s not essential, but you might implement a rule that nothing new comes in your house unless something old goes out.

Great care goes into deciding whether an item deserves space in your life. You hone your values this way as you decide what’s important to you.

And, of course, less spending helps you reduce and eliminate debt, another way to simplify your life.

5. Streamline your to-do list

Maybe you’ve got dozens of things on your daily to-do list and wonder why you always feel behind.

Why not give yourself a fighting chance to feel successful? Be realistic about your daily to-do list.

Reduce your list to three to five items. Such a reasonable number gives you a good chance of completion. If you finish before the end of the day, reward yourself.

Set yourself up for success. Reduce your to-do list to 3-5 items. Click To Tweet

You’ll go to bed feeling victorious rather than frustrated. A simple but effective tool to trick your mind into feeling productive. It’s called being nice to yourself; give it a try.

6. Read

Have you noticed time moves more slowly when you read a book? Reading quiets the chatter in your mind and calms your body.

It keeps you in the present moment rather than flipping from tab to tab on a computer.

I believe reading a physical book has greater power than online media due to the distractions that tempt you with the latter. And something about reading online doesn’t have the same calming effect.

Reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic. Click To Tweet

Reading is the antidote to the fast-paced interaction we engage in all day online. Plus, reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic.

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These are just six suggestions to help you simplify your life, and there are many more. If it seems overwhelming, try implementing one at a time and see the difference it makes in your life.

How to know when you can trust someone: 3 ways

Do you ever have the feeling you can’t trust someone but you’re not sure why? Something about that person makes you close up and refuse to share.

Or perhaps you’re never sure whether plans with them will materialize because they’re unreliable. I’ve had friends like that.

Brene Brown started researching the topic when her daughter experienced a betrayal at school.

She told a couple of friends a secret which they then proceeded to spread around the classroom. The daughter proclaimed she would never trust anyone again.

Searching for a definition, Brown discovered this one: “Trust is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.”

Trust is choosing to make something that's important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else. Click To Tweet

And its opposite she described this way: “Distrust is when what I have shared with you as important to me, is not safe with you.”

Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of sharing important information with unsafe people and having them betray you.

To help you avoid that pain in future, here are 3 ways to determine whether you can trust someone.

1. Trust people who are there for you.

It takes time to count on someone and trust is built on a history together.

If someone is there for you when times are good, but disappear when you’re going through something hard, you lose trust in them.

Have you had friends who dismiss you or change the subject when you’re not relentlessly positive and upbeat? Have they abandoned ship when you’re going through a crisis?

Trustworthy friends show up to your father’s funeral even when they didn’t know him well. They’re willing to inconvenience themselves to support you.

Comfort is not the first priority in their relationship with you. They show up even when it’s not easy and you’re not as much fun to be around.

2. Trust people who take responsibility.

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. People you can trust own up to their mistakes.

They apologize for their wrongdoing and try to make amends. They don’t expect you to get over things too quickly.

They’re willing to wait until you’re ready to let them in again. They know an apology is not enough. It has to be backed up with a sincere desire to return to your good graces.

That might mean making some changes. Again, they are willing to sacrifice comfort to keep your trust.

A husband, for instance, who has an affair might allow his wife to check his texts until she feels ready to trust him again.

It’s his way of showing he’s willing to do what it takes to make her feel safe.

3. And who are vulnerable.

You can trust people who share things with you that make them vulnerable. That’s why it feels safer to share our own imperfections with someone who’s already told us theirs.

Trustworthy people don’t need to appear like they have it all together all the time. They are more interested in connecting with you than presenting an image of perfection.

Trustworthy people don't need to appear like they have it all together all the time. Click To Tweet

Vulnerable people are willing to ask for help. They know the art of give and take and are willing to receive from you when they need it.

It’s hard to trust people who only want to give and never receive. It starts to feel like a power play, as if they enjoy feeling strong when you are weak.

In her research, Brown quantified the elements of trust, using the acronym BRAVING.

This helps you understand why you mistrust a certain person when the feeling is so hard to define.

You can also use the metric on yourself to ensure you are someone people can trust!

trust

How to stop feeling busy and overwhelmed and start being happy

busy
Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

Feeling busy and overwhelmed holds us back from happiness. It stops us doing all the things we want to do. It prevents good health and well-being.

When we’re overwhelmed it’s because we’ve let life control us rather than the other way around.

We react rather than initiate and we do it way too quickly. For instance, we say yes to meetings and other commitments before we’ve even had a chance to look at our calendars.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Those our times in your schedule to do absolutely nothing. And yes you need to pencil them in.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Click To Tweet

If you’re busy and overwhelmed, you feel like you have no other choice. You’re too busy to even think of ways to change or imagine something different for your life.

Don’t wait for a brush with death or a nervous breakdown before you start taking care of your physical and emotional needs.

Here are three things you can do right now to promote more happiness and less busyness in your life.

1. Reduce your spending

Working for money is high on the list of reasons people are too busy. If you’re working too much to maintain your lifestyle, consider making some financial adjustments.

Are you drinking too much wine to cope with an overwhelming schedule? There’s something you could cut out.

Do you eat takeout too often because you’re too tired to prepare meals? Start packing your lunches and cooking dinners and watch your energy levels rise along with your bank balance.

Have you considered moving to a less expensive area? Urban environments are notoriously pricey and fast-paced which makes you feel more busy.

You could downsize to a smaller home. Less square footage is cheaper to buy, rent and maintain. While you’re decluttering to fit into it, you’ll make money selling things you no longer use.

Smaller square footage means less time cleaning. If you hired help to clean your larger space, you can save money by letting them go.

2. Slow down

slow down

Sometimes feeling busy comes from a lack of mindfulness. That means you’re not focused on the present moment.

John Eldredge has an app for that, based on the One Minute Pause chapter of his new book, Get Your Life Back. He calls it a simple way to connect with God in the middle of your busy day.

Prayer and meditation are other ways to slow down. Meditation means different things to different people.

For me, it’s taking time out to sit with my thoughts. I solve many problems this way and even make key decisions.

Take walks in nature if you can. Besides helping us slow down, nature is good for our health. Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier.

Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier. Click To Tweet

3. Set limits

Reject the world’s message that you have to be available at all hours because technology has made us more accessible.

Set limits to your work hours and stick to them. Even if you work remotely, shut down your laptop at 5 pm and leave it closed until 9 am the next day (or whichever hours you choose).

Answer emails once or twice a day rather than every twenty minutes. Rather than firing off half-hearted replies, sit down and take the time to give each message the attention and response it deserves.

Consider ignoring emails over the weekend, or even going offline completely on Sundays.

Reduce your daily task list. Stop creating long lists of things you won’t possibly get through in a day.

Stop creating long lists of things you won't possibly get through in a day. Click To Tweet

Some people recommend putting three things on your list and no more. Others say to write one thing on your list! Once that’s completed, you can replace it with one more.

I’ve also heard it recommended to do a brain dump instead of a to-do list. Write down everything you can think of that needs doing in your life. Then pick one or two or three of the most pressing.

The brain dump method is said to relieve overwhelm by getting everything off your mind and onto the page.

How to practice acceptance and gratitude without staying stuck

acceptance

Acceptance is important for avoiding frustration and impulsive decisions in our lives. But it’s okay to acknowledge when things aren’t okay.

If your husband ignores you and you say you’re grateful he doesn’t beat you, that’s unhelpful.

Acceptance taken too far will start to look like settling. Rather than acknowledging legitimate grievances and taking actions to change them, you avoid doing the work.

Acceptance taken too far will start to look like settling. Click To Tweet

When I first stopped drinking alcohol, for instance, acceptance helped me climb out of a self-pity party and appreciate all that I had.

But there came a point when I had to deal with the things I could no longer accept. Like the toxic people in my life.

What is healthy acceptance?

When acceptance crosses the line into passivity, it’s no longer serving you. Nothing changes when we keep telling ourselves to be happy where we are.

Here are three ways to avoid feeling stuck while continuing to practice healthy acceptance and gratitude.

1. Envision your future

Rather than saying “when x happens, then I’ll y”, act as if x has already happened. Take on the habits and routines of the person you want to become.

For example, you could say “when I get a job, then I’ll start waking up early.” But, setting the alarm before you get the job forms a good habit that makes you more like the person who already has the job. That mindset sets you up to snag the position.

Take on the habits and routines of the person you want to become. Click To Tweet

Or: “Once I get published I’ll call myself a writer and commit to a daily writing practice.” Truth is, sitting down to write every day makes you a writer.

And that discipline, often practiced in obscurity for years, is the only way to get the book deal and title of published author in the first place.

Acting like the person you want to be is the best way to invite change into your life.

Who is your future self and what do you need to do now to make that vision a reality?

2. Learn from your past

It takes humility to acknowledge past mistakes and learn from them. Before I knew God, I avoided thinking about my past. I stuffed it down or made excuses for bad behavior.

I had to justify myself because there was no one else to justify me. Thinking about my past transgressions made me cringe.

So, I avoided looking at them and, therefore, missed the lessons.

When I started drinking at 16 to deal with my problems instead of facing them head on, I stunted my growth.

When I finally recovered, my emotional age was stuck in the teens because I had never dealt with or processed anything in a healthy way.

I had to acknowledge and even write down my past mistakes. I learned quickly the importance of taking responsibility for your part in any conflict.

I grew more in a year than I had in the previous twenty. Learning from past mistakes keeps us grounded, humble and, moving forward with a growth mentality.

3. Focus on things inside your control

The serenity prayer says to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can. But how to know the difference?

We only have the power to change things under our control. Trying to change things outside our control, like people, is futile. It leads to frustration, anger, and hopelessness.

We only have the power to change things under our control. Click To Tweet

What you do have the power to change is yourself and your attitude. If you’re tired of hearing someone complain about the same problem over and over and refusing to do anything about it, you can stop listening.

Or, better, you can let go of any expectation that they will change and listen without prejudice. Or you can pray for them.

When I discovered the power of prayer, a whole world got lifted from my shoulders. Give it to God. He can handle it.