How To Simplify Your Life: 50 Actions To Foster Peace And Contentment
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“It all depends on whether you have things, or they have you.” ~Robert A. Cook
As I'm writing this post, I'm in the process of moving.
I've lived in the same house for nearly twenty years, and now my house has sold, and I'm moving to Asheville, North Carolina in two weeks.
It was a hard decision to leave this house that I love so much, the home where I raised my kids. Change is difficult. Letting go is difficult. But over the last year as I've prepared for this move, I've realized what a positive step I'm taking.
We become attached to things, routines, and environments. We allow our homes to become repositories for every new whim, and we accumulate more and more stuff over the years. Then our lives get so busy, we don't have time to enjoy or organize the stuff we've accumulated.
In deciding to move, I've had to change all of that. I've had to release attachments, let go of stuff (furniture, keepsakes, and things I thought I couldn't live without), and streamline my material possessions to the most essential.
It has been one of the most liberating things I've ever done. By simplifying everything and letting go of attachments, I've given myself the gift of freedom and peace of mind.
Would you like to live a more minimal life? If so, here are 50 ways to simplify your life and help you create inner peace and contentment:
1. Change your mindset.
If you want to simplify your life, you must believe that simplicity has merit. Adopt the mindset that “less is more” in all things. Cramming your life to the brim with material things, obligations, and distractions create stress and prevent you from truly enjoying your time on this planet.
2. Let go of things.
If you have things in your home that you rarely or never use, let them go. Give them away, sell them, or toss them out. Useless items, even if they are valuable, only clog up your physical and emotional space. Release them without looking back.
3. Clear the clutter.
Physical clutter makes us feel agitated and distracted. Take a few minutes a day, and do a sweep of your home to remove all of the clutter. Even if you have to throw it all in a basket to sort out late, at least it's out of sight.
4. Organize your space.
Organizing takes more time than clearing clutter, but it's an effort that truly helps you have a simpler life. When everything has a place, and you can easily access what you need, you don't spend time and energy searching for things. Pick one small space a day to work on, and over time you can organize every cabinet and drawer.
5. Create a sanctuary.
Create one space in your home that is your respite. It should be clean, clutter-free, calm and inviting. This is where you go when you want to be completely peaceful. Don't allow this space to get junked up or disorganized.
6. Keep surfaces clean.
Most of our clutter tends to accumulate on surfaces — countertops, tables, etc. Create a new rule that surfaces are sacred and can't be cluttered. Designate a drawer or cabinet in your kitchen for papers and keys. Keep a basket by your bed for books and other nightstand necessities.
7. Make your bed.
If you start your day by making your bed, you'll feel more organized from the get-go. A made bed makes your room feel tidy and sets the standard for the rest of your day.
8. Reduce paper.
Toss what you can. Take pictures of what you need and file electronically. Scan photos to save on your computer. Read books on your Kindle. Help the environment while simplifying your home.
9. Streamline your wardrobe.
If you haven't worn it in a year, give it away. Even if you think you “might” wear it one day, odds are you won't. Once you give it away, you'll forget about.
10. Purchase mindfully.
So often we make purchases out of boredom or the need for a little “retail therapy.” We bring things into our homes that lose their appeal almost as soon as it arrives. Before whipping out your credit card, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Will it bring me pleasure for longer than a few weeks? Can I really afford it?”
11. Shorten your “to-do” list.
Have you ever found yourself creating a list just because you think you should be productive? Does “empty time” make you nervous? Do you feel obligated to take on projects or run errands? Cut your “to-do” list in half, and leave space in your day for peace.
12. Prioritize your work.
First thing in the morning, define your top three most important tasks for the day. Work on those top three, and if you finish before the end of the day, create three more. Don't allow interruptions or distractions while you are working on your most important tasks.
13. Create personal boundaries.
If you are a people pleaser, and you allow others to cross your personal boundaries, you're expending a lot of emotional energy in resentment and agitation. If you haven't defined your personal boundaries, then take the time to do so.
14. Learn to say “no.”
People with weak boundaries often have a hard time saying “no.” The discomfort of saying “no” is far less draining than doing something you really don't want to do. People will eventually respect you more for standing your ground, and you'll find life is a lot easier.
15. Simplify your meals.
Simple, healthy, natural foods are the best for you and your health. You don't have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing elaborate meals. When life is complicated and busy, prepare something nutritious and easy, like steamed or roasted vegetables with pan-seared fish or chicken.
16. Reevaluate your relationships.
One of the most difficult, complicated parts of our lives can be people who are negative and draining. Simplify your relationships by spending less time with people who drag you down and more time with those who lift you up.
17. Stop struggling.
Do you find yourself agitated and struggling against something in your life? Are you upset because something isn't going the way you want it to? Just stop struggling and let life unfold. You'll find things eventually work out for the best most of the time.
Set aside an hour, or a day, or even a week where you unplug from television, computer, and cell phone. Spend this time in nature, reading a book, or with a loved one. Virtual interactions are draining, but real life is uplifting.
19. Limit social media.
Facebook and other social media can drag you into a whirlpool of distraction if you aren't mindful. Set a timer before you engage on social media, and extricate yourself when the timer goes off. You can waste hours of your day if you aren't careful.
20. Clean out your inbox.
A cluttered email inbox sits there, begging for your attention. It's distracting to have all of those old emails that may or may be important. Rather than spending time on social media today, tackle those old emails and free up some space and mental energy.
21. Find time for fun.
Do you do something really fun every day? If not, make it a priority. Life is too short to be serious and busy all day long. Enjoy it.
22. Be in the moment.
This is my favorite mantra — “be here now.” The present moment is all we own. Whatever you are doing, do it mindfully with your full attention. Get your head out of the past or future, and be fully present with the task at hand.
23. Be present with people.
When you are with someone, be with them fully. Put away distractions like your phone or computer. Don't scan the room to look for other people if you're talking to someone at an event or party. Listen attentively. Look them in the eye. Share a moment with them.
24. Spend time alone.
Being alone can feel so, well, lonely. So we try to fill every minute with other people or other distractions. Learn to be alone and to enjoy your inner world. Take walks in nature. Sit with your thoughts. Examine the contents of your brain. You'll eventually find peace in your own presence.
25. Count your blessings.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy life is to express gratitude for all that you have. Gratitude allows you to experience the pleasure of your blessings over and over again.
26. Take side roads.
Avoid traffic, busy highways, and long commutes. Take peaceful, scenic side roads as often as possible. Rather than rushing to get from here to there, enjoy the ride.
27. Clean as you go.
Whatever you do (cooking, showering, changing clothes), clean up after yourself as you go. It will save you a lot of time and energy.
28. Clear your desk.
It's hard to focus on work when you can't see your desk for all of the clutter. Before you begin working, take five minutes to get everything off of your desk except the essentials. If you don't have time to organize the excess, just put it in a drawer or plastic bin (out of sight) until you do.
29. Teach your children.
Teach your children from a young age the value of living simply and living with less. Don't indulge them with every desire or purchase they want to make. Set a rule that for every new thing that comes in the house, they must get rid of something old. Enlist their help in organizing their toys and possessions.
30. Manage holiday excess.
One of the times when we tend to spend too much on things we don't need is during the holidays. Rather than spending on things, consider giving a trip or other experiential gift to your family instead. Keep the holiday season simple, peaceful, and fun.
31. Walk or ride your bike.
If you have the choice, walk or ride your bike rather than taking your car. The exercise is good for you, and you'll enjoy being outside in the fresh air.
32. Indulge less (alcohol, food, etc.)
Remember the old saying, “All things in moderation”? Apply that to any choice that might have an unpleasant consequence if you indulge too much. Save yourself from feeling hungover, sick, guilty or unhealthy.
33. Define your values.
It's hard to make the best choices for yourself if you haven't defined your core values. When you know your values, you have a barometer for everything you do in life. Here's a list of 400 value words to help you.
34. Plan your meals.
Save yourself the stress of trying to figure out what to prepare for dinner when it's already 6:00, and you're starving. On Sundays, think about what you want for every meal of the week, and then go to the grocery store and buy the necessary items.
35. Have an inner life.
Whether you're religious, spiritual, or contemplative, have some kind of inner life where you practice prayer or meditation. Both have been proven to reduce stress and increase peace of mind. Practice daily.
Related: 10 Practical Steps to Inner Peace
36. Be creative.
Paint. Draw. Garden. Sew. Build. Write. Dance. Do something every day that engages your creativity, even if you are really bad at it. Just be in the flow and enjoy the creative process. The more freedom you allow yourself, the more peaceful and enjoyable you'll find it.
37. Resolve conflict.
Interpersonal conflict is so draining and disconcerting. Initiate conflict resolution, even if you aren't at fault. Don't allow these problems to hang over your head and steal your energy.
Part of resolving conflict might require that you forgive another person. Offer forgiveness quickly and freely, even when it's not asked for. You'll liberate yourself from resentment and pain.
39. Expect change.
Change is part of life. It will happen whether or not you want it. Learn to expect and embrace change, no matter how uncomfortable it feels at first. Try not to resist it. Over time, you'll discover how much you've learned and grown from it.
40. Age gracefully.
Part of change in life is aging. None of us like it, but it's a reality. There are many positive benefits to getting older. Embrace the richness that years of experience have afforded you. Learn to accept the changes in your appearance and relax into them.
41. Cure your adrenaline addiction.
It's easy to get addicted to a fast-paced, highly stimulating lifestyle. Once your adrenaline is pumping, you want to maintain this false “high” because it feels empowering. But it drains your energy and creates stress on your body. Be aware of the adrenaline rush of your life, and consciously pull back and breathe.
42. Create rituals.
Routines and rituals help us organize our lives and make sense of them. They give us comfort and security. Have a morning and evening routine that helps you streamline your life so you don't have to expend too much energy thinking about what to do. Create rituals around family events and holidays that give your life meaning and purpose.
43. Clean out your car.
Are those old french fries under your seat? Is that dry cleaning still sitting in the back of the car? Can you write you name in the dust on your dashboard? If you spend more than a few minutes a day in your car, clean up this space that's your part-time home away from home. Put a car trash bag and wipes in your car for quick clean-ups.
44. Get your finances in order.
Nothing is more stressful than being in debt or not knowing where your money is going. Set aside an afternoon to work on your finances, including coming up with debt plan if necessary, so you can get out from under the dark cloud of financial worry.
45. Don't plan everything.
Don't plan out every minute of your day. Leave space for the unexpected or for just doing nothing. Free time isn't a vacuum that must be filled.
46. Put family first.
Your close relationships are the most important aspect of your life. Do you spend more time with work, hobbies, or distractions than you do with your family? Will you look back on that choice with regret? If so, start changing that right now. Make your family your #1 priority.
47. Define “enough” for you.
How much stuff exactly is enough for you? How many obligations are enough for you? How much time in front of TV or on the computer is enough for you? Define this for yourself, and then live by it.
48. Reduce stressors.
What is causing you stress in your life? What can you do right now to reduce that stress? If it's complicated (your marriage, job, etc.), find a therapist, coach, or mentor to help you navigate solutions for addressing and eliminating the stress.
49. Think before you speak.
Before you open your mouth, mentally consider your words. Will they cause harm or good? Will they be spoken in anger or kindness? Don't say things you may regret or that can cause others pain.
50. Accept yourself.
Practice loving and accepting yourself, flaws and all, and acknowledge the value you offer yourself and the world. Don't spend time and emotional energy thinking disparaging and negative thoughts about yourself. Treat yourself like you would your best friend.
What actions have you taken to simplify your life? Have you been able to let go of material possessions and declutter and organize your home? Can you cut back on your obligations? Share your experiences in the comments below.