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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 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.

Intentional living: How to stop abandoning yourself and live a more authentic life

intentional living

You may have heard the phrase “living with intention” or “intentional living” bandied around lately. But what does it mean, really?

At its essence, intentional living means doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

You will find fancier explanations on the internet, but if you drill down, that’s a good working definition.

Are you doing more of what you want than what you don’t want? If so, you are living an intentional life.

Let’s examine three strategies that will help you live a more intentional life.

Notice it’s not about doing only what you want, but more of it. If, on balance, you derive satisfaction from your life events, you are living an intentional life.

1. Understand your values

In order to live a more intentional life, you must know what matters to you. If you are not clear on what you value, you will be tossed to and fro, rather than standing firm on your beliefs.

To live a more intentional life, you must know what matters to you. Click To Tweet

For example, if relationship with God is your highest value, your life will reflect that. You might decide not to schedule things on Sunday because you go to church.

Intentional living requires sacrifice. For example, many children’s sports leagues schedule games and practices on Sundays.

You and your family would miss out on those because you value God more than sports.

I once heard a mother in the schoolyard boast about telling her kids never to do anything they don’t want to do.

Now, it’s important to teach children about boundaries. Very important, in fact, because their safety depends on it.

However, coaching your kids to do only what they enjoy imprints them with a spirit of hedonism. Hedonism says the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain are the only goals that matter in life.

Spoiled Heidi Montag GIF by The Hills - Find & Share on GIPHY

Intentional living says instead, “I take care of my own needs while also caring for the needs of others. I accept my responsibilities and balance them with my unique longings.”

For example, most kids don’t like homework, but they do it because it’s required to succeed in their classes. They study for tests even though it’s unpleasant because they want the reward of a good grade.

On a deeper level, they’ll take time out to bring homework to a sick friend, or visit them in hospital. They spend time helping at a homeless shelter rather than doing something more “fun” with their friends.

2. Set good boundaries

If you never learned how to set boundaries, you might suffer from people pleasing. You were raised to put others’ needs ahead of your own. So, standing up for yourself feels wrong and selfish.

Intentional living requires letting go of that mindset. Examine why you say yes to things you don’t want to do.

Are you motivated by fear of rejection or disappointing someone? These are external rather than internal drivers.

External motivation is not always bad, but it’s worth asking whether it is the main one in your life and how that’s working for you.

If you feel depleted and unsatisfied with life, that’s a good sign you are in self-abandonment mode.

If you feel depleted and unsatisfied with life, that's a good sign you are in self-abandonment mode. Click To Tweet

If you’re turning to wine or other artificial soothers to help you feel better, that’s another sign you’re living without intention.

Here are two questions to ask yourself any time you’re unsure if you’re abandoning yourself this way.

i) “For what reason am I making this decision?” If the answer involves guilt, shame, fear, or other negative emotions, you might be in abandonment mode.

ii) “If I were the only person on earth, would I still want to do this?” This question removes other people’s influence from your decision-making, so you can determine how you really feel.

If you’re a conflict-avoidant person, it seems easier to say yes to things. You’ll suffer for a short time to keep the relationship, or avoid disappointing someone.

You’ll do it simply to sidestep an uncomfortable conversation.

But this mindset ensures you suffer and over-give in the long term. It never puts your relationships to the test.

Boundaries in relationships help you discern whether someone takes an interest in your needs, or only wants you around for what you can do for them.

Refusing to set boundaries is tantamount to pushing your head in the sand. You ignore reality and nothing changes, moves forward, or grows. Especially not you.

3. Recognize your unique needs

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? A highly sensitive person? Your unique personality will influence what you need and how you relate to the world.

If you’re a person who requires solitude, let people know. Don’t feel pressured to say yes to every social event just because it fits into your calendar.

Pencil alone time into that calendar before you schedule anything else.

On the flip side if you require variety and stimulation, take care of those needs, too. Spend time on hobbies that feed your passions, and projects that fulfill you.

If doing less makes you feel bored, then incorporate more exciting ventures into your life.

People don’t know what you need until you tell them. And if you’ve lived a life for others, you may need time to discover your unique personality.

if you've lived a life for others, you need time to discover your unique personality. Click To Tweet

You’ve buried your desires for so long, you have trouble remembering what they are.

In this self-discovery phase, you’ll spend more time journaling and writing down your likes and dislikes.

You might decide to vacation alone if that’s feasible for you. Or go on a retreat with like-minded women.

Feed your longing for creativity with some art projects. Take a class. Read books that inspire you.

Spend more time with God. He made you and knows exactly what you need.

When you learn about yourself this way, you’ll stop doing too many things you don’t want to do.

Your have-tos will seem far less burdensome when you take care of your want-tos as well.

How to declutter your soul by decluttering your space: 3 ways

declutter your soul

When I started decluttering eleven years ago, it was out of necessity. I had moved to a smaller home after a divorce and needed to let go of a few things.

I soon realized my material things held little value for me. Most of them represented a life lived for other people, or according to what I thought was normal or acceptable in our society.

I realized my material things held little value for me. Most of them represented a life lived for other people. Click To Tweet

As I downsized my physical space, I began to see other places in my life that needed decluttering. Reducing the number of household items led to a desire to live a more simple life.

It’s not uncommon for decluttering a room to lead to a life-changing journey toward simplicity. Here are three ways external decluttering leads to internal minimalism.

1. Time

As you determine what’s important to you and align your life with those preferences, you become more authentic.

You stop wanting to do things that don’t fulfill you. All of a sudden, you protect your calendar and only fill it with things that matter to you.

You say yes to fewer things which creates white space in your schedule. Now, you have time to sit and think rather than push away all your feelings to get on with things.

That time spent journaling or pondering your thoughts can lead to some pretty interesting discoveries. You might uncover a desire or dream that got buried long ago.

What did you love to do as a child that you no longer do? Now, you have time to work on projects or pursue hobbies that set your heart on fire.

2. Goals

It’s possible your goals have been put on hold or abandoned all together. Often this has to do with financial obligations that come from overspending on unnecessary things.

You’re stuck in a job that has nothing to do with your heart’s desire because you can’t afford to pursue something you love.

Once you start decluttering, you find out you can live with a lot less than you thought. You might even decide you could do with a smaller house and a less flashy car.

All these external changes lead to more freedom in the form of money in your wallet. Once you are out of the debt trap, you have room to think about what you really want to do.

Instead of distracting yourself with shopping or drinking wine to self-soothe, you pursue healthy habits that fulfill you.

You no longer seek to escape reality but find out how you can make it better.

3. Relationships

The hardest part of internal decluttering is letting go of relationships that aren’t working.

The hardest part of internal decluttering is letting go of relationships. Click To Tweet

Perhaps you decide to spend less time with those people whose values no longer align with yours. Or never did.

You might decide to set boundaries with some people who used to walk all over you. If you’re lucky, they’ll respect the boundary and the relationship will change.

But often, those difficult people won’t like your boundaries. They won’t accept that staying in relationship with you will require them to treat you better.

That’s when you have to make the difficult decision to cut ties, or limit your time with them.

When you stop spending precious energy on relationships that drain you, you’ll have more to give the ones that reward you.

Of course, some relationships by their nature require you to give more. Caring for children or elderly parents, for example.

But if you’re already depleted by those caregiver roles, do you want to give what’s left to peers who don’t appreciate you?

Spend more time on the relationships that fill you up and challenge you in a good way. Reduce or eliminate time spent in toxic relationships.

Now that you’ve decluttered your surroundings, it’s easier to see what else in your life needs to go. That’s how external decluttering leads to internal minimalism.