“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
Many people say they want a simple life, but it’s hard to know what exactly that means…or how to achieve it. Here’s a dive into what simple living really means, and how you can put it into practice.
About 5 years ago I was stressed out. I was a working mom, raising two boys with my husband, one-half of a dual-income couple working 40-50 hours/week. My husband worked even more hours and commuted to and from New York City daily. Both kids attended high school about a half hour away and had packed schedules full of activities. We were a busy family of four. The frenetic pace was beginning to catch up to me. Finally, my body said, “Enough!” and gave me a proverbial punch on the arm in the form of the shingles virus. I knew the weird rash on my shoulder wasn’t normal, but when the doctor said, “it’s shingles and it usually shows up when you’re stressed,” well, there it was letting me know something had to give.
That punch in the arm woke me up. I thought I was in pretty good health and shape. But in truth, I was ignoring my health in the pursuit of lots of external and, honestly, not-so-important things. That bout of shingles was my wake-up call to slow down and simplify. And luckily for me, as I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts in the car while driving to work, I was introduced to Joshua Becker, author of four books on minimalism and intentional living. As I listened to the interview, I discovered that Joshua’s situation was a lot like mine and I hung on to his every word.
What I learned by reading his blogs and digging into his website resources was this:
The pursuit of a simpler life is about rejecting what is unnecessarily complicated in order to focus on the truly valuable.
pursuing people over things
living with less
enjoying the small things in life
no longer chasing more, more, more
being happy with what you have
The benefits are both tangible and intangible, including:
learning more about ourselves – less distraction leads to more time for reflection
improved relationships – less focus on social media and more on our most important relationships
simple living boosts your bank balance
less stress improves your mental health
simplistic living means more focus on those things most important to you
living a simple life is a practice of sustainability and is good for the environment
If you’re experiencing an incessant sense of overwhelm that comes with today’s hectic pace of life, here is guidance excerpted from a blog post written by Joshua Becker as to how best to get started on getting back to basics.
“The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life”
“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.” —Thomas à Kempis
Simplifying your life will bring balance, freedom, and joy. When we begin to live simply and experience these benefits, we begin to ask the next question, “Where else in my life can I remove distraction and simplify life to focus on the essentials?”
Once we’re able to answer that, we will understand what is important in our own lives.
How to Simplify Your Life
Based on our personal journey, our conversations, and our observations, here is a list of the 10 most important things to simplify in your life today to begin living a more balanced, joyful lifestyle:
Your Possessions – Too many material possessions complicate our lives to a greater degree than we ever give them credit. They drain our bank account, our energy, and our attention. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values.
If you will invest the time to declutter the non-essential possessions from your life, you will never regret it. For more inspiration, consider Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
Your Time Commitments – Most of us have filled our days full from beginning to end with time commitments: work, home, kid’s activities, community events, religious endeavors, hobbies… the list goes on. When possible, release yourself from the time commitments that are not in line with your greatest values.
Your Goals – Reduce the number of goals you are striving for in your life to one or two. By reducing the number of goals that you are striving to accomplish, you will improve your focus and your success rate.
Make a list of the things that you want to accomplish in your life and choose the three most important. Focus there.
Your Negative Thoughts – Most negative emotions are completely useless. Resentment, bitterness, hate, and jealousy have never improved the quality of life for a single human being. Take responsibility for your mind. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Your Debt – If debt is holding you captive, reduce it. Start today. Do what you’ve got to do to get out from under its weight.
Find the help that you need and learn how to get out of debt. Sacrifice luxury today to enjoy freedom tomorrow.
Your Words – Use fewer words. Keep your speech plain and honest. Mean what you say. Avoid gossip.
Your Artificial Ingredients – Avoid trans fats, refined grain (white bread), high-fructose corn syrup, and too much sodium. Minimizing these ingredients will improve your energy level in the short-term and your health in the long-term.
Also, as much as possible, reduce your consumption of over-the-counter medicine – allow your body to heal itself naturally as opposed to building a dependency on substances.
Your Screen Time – Focusing your attention on television, movies, video games, and technology addiction affects your life more than you think. Media rearranges your values. It begins to dominate your life. And it has a profound impact on your attitude and outlook.
Unfortunately, when you live in that world on a consistent basis, you don’t even notice how it is impacting you. The only way to fully appreciate its influence in your life is to turn them off.
Your Connections to the World – Relationships with others are good, but constant streams of distraction are bad. Learn when to power off the phone, log off social media, or not read a text. Focus on the important, not the urgent.
A steady flow of distractions from other people may make us feel important, needed, or wanted, but feeling important and accomplishing importance are completely different things.
Your Multi-Tasking – Research indicates that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity. While single-tasking is becoming a lost art, learn it. Handle one task at a time. Do it well. And when it is complete, move to the next.
Becker, Joshua. “The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life.” Becoming Minimalist, 2017, Blog Post, https://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-10-most-important-things-to-simplify-in-your-life/. Accessed 1 November 2022.
Clare Broderick is the Director of Partnership Development at the WEforum Group and is the founder of Greener Cleaner LIVING, LLC, a sustainable home and lifestyle consultancy.