Let’s face it – life can be complicated and even overwhelming at times. But does it have to be that way? Maybe not. What if you could simplify your life? Chances are, you’ve thought of it. I know I have. Let’s explore some ways we might create a bit of breathing room in our everyday lives.
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20 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life
My love for simple living was likely inspired by some of my favorite childhood television programs – Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons, for instance. Later on, I discovered Thoreau. Perhaps most influential was the way my grandmother lived her life.
I’ve shared before that Grandma led a life of simple routines, peacefulness and contentment. I’m grateful for her example and often think of her as I work to streamline and simplify my own life.
As life seems to get more complicated and challenging by the day, it’s wise to take a step back and find ways to simplify where we can. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Create a weekly menu
Knowing what you’re having for dinner every night for the week goes a long way toward making you feel like you’ve got at least part of your life under control. Take a few minutes once a week to jot down your menu plan and then go grocery shopping. Or better yet, have your groceries delivered. For more about meal planning, read this post:
2. Create a routine shopping list
This will take a bit of time up front but consider making a list of all the items you regularly purchase from the grocery store. Sort by categories such as meat, produce, dairy, canned items, etc. Then, when you are making your weekly grocery list you can skim through this to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. You can also make one for other stores you shop from regularly such as the drug store/pharmacy, pet supplies, etc.
3. Consider subscription services for regularly purchased items
I’m a huge fan of Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” service. The first item I subscribed to many years ago was toilet paper. Having a case of toilet paper delivered to my front porch every 6 months is a convenience I didn’t fully appreciate until early 2020 when it became almost impossible to find. I had a nice supply at home and didn’t have to join the masses trying to score a 4-pack of this precious commodity.
Over the years I’ve added many other items to Subscribe and Save. Everything from toothpaste to the low-mercury tuna we like but can’t get in our town…knowing that these regularly used items will be delivered directly to me means that I can keep a well-stocked home easily. I buy cleaning products and a few other items from Grove Collaborative. I also get my favorite moisturizer via a subscription from L’Occitane. There are subscription services for nearly anything you can think of these days and I find these to be a huge help in purchasing needed items.
4. Declutter your home
There are a multitude of reasons that decluttering your home environment contributes to a simpler life. You’ll spend less time searching for items. You won’t re-buy things you already own but can’t find. It will take less time and effort to clean. Most importantly, a tidy, well-organized home is more serene and contributes to a peaceful life.
5. Develop a cleaning routine
Whether you follow an existing cleaning program such as The FlyLady or Clean Mama, or create your own, having a regular cleaning routine will help you keep up with your home care. I firmly believe that keeping up is easier than catching up. Handling cleaning tasks on a regular basis will make your home a comfortable and relaxing place to be.
6. Consider a capsule wardrobe or daily “uniform”
Pare down the excess in your closet and make getting dressed each day a breeze. Whether you create a capsule wardrobe, choose a simple daily uniform, or just make sure everything in your closet fits and is appropriate to your current lifestyle, you can shave time off your morning routine by making your closet work for you.
7. Lay out your clothes each night
As part of your evening routine, choose your clothing for the next day. Make sure it’s ready to wear – unwrinkled, no stains, loose threads, missing buttons. Go ahead and pick out shoes, jewelry and accessories, too. Anything that makes mornings less frantic will simplify your life.
8. Make a weekly plan
Back in the day, Grandma had a rhythm and routine to her home life. She did laundry on Monday, ironed on Tuesday, mended on Wednesday, marketed on Thursday, cleaned on Friday, etc. Our modern lives may have moved on from a strict devotion to routine but honestly, there is something to be said for it.
Take a look at your calendar. If it’s similar each week then a consistent weekly plan for these basic tasks will be pretty easy to determine. But even if your schedule changes week to week, you can set aside some time on the weekend to plan the coming week.
The FlyLady recommends a Basic Weekly Plan:
9. Fewer choices
It’s easy to believe that having a lot of choices is a good thing. But when you consider how many decisions we typically have to make each day too many options can actually become a chore. When my husband comes home on Friday evening after making decisions at work all week, the last thing he wants to do is choose a restaurant or pick a movie for date night. Decision fatigue is a real thing!
Take a look at aspects of your life where you can eliminate some of the need to choose. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about ordering my groceries is that I am not confronted with rows and rows of options in a store. Instead, I search for each item on my grocery list, add them to my cart and check out. After 40+ years of homemaking, I don’t need to browse 40 cereal options.
The same principle applies to many aspects of our lives. Try to make some choices once and then free yourself from the need to constantly seek out new options.
10. Create a system for incoming mail and paperwork
I’m old enough to remember the advent of the personal computer and its promise of a paperless home and office life. It didn’t quite pan out that way, however. Still there are ways to eliminate some of the paper that enters our home. It pays to spend a bit of time setting up such things as auto-pay for bills. Contact senders of catalogs you aren’t interested in and ask to be taken off their mailing lists.
Get in the habit of sorting mail immediately as you bring it in. If your mail is anything like ours, the majority is trash. Shred or toss in the recycling bin immediately. Have a place for mail that requires action and schedule a time each week to handle it.
11. Turn off notifications
Do you really need your phone beeping and buzzing at you all day? Do you need to see all those red dots on the screen? Unless you absolutely need a specific notification, turn them all off.
12. Consider your news and media consumption
I think we can all agree that the 24 hour news cycle has contributed to societal anxiety. Few of us truly need to know the latest breaking news on a continuous basis every day. Choose a few reputable news sources and check in once or twice a day. I like to listen to NPR News Now on Spotify each morning (a 4 minute update of major news stories). I then check a few news apps in the evening. I think that’s good enough. No need to be awash in stressful news stories all day!
13. Is there too much on your calendar?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who experienced at least a little relief when our calendars were basically cleared in 2020. But it shouldn’t require a pandemic for us to re-evaluate our busy schedules. If yours is packed, consider which activities are truly important to you and your family. Then let some of the extras go.
14. Learn to say no
You will have to learn to say no if you want to remove some things from your calendar. We people pleasers may really have to work on this one. I just finished a one-year term on a board that I should have turned down. But it’s over and I’m more determined than ever to limit my volunteer work to causes I’m passionate about.
15. Embrace mindfulness
Our modern lives are often busy. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the chaos, constantly getting ready for the next thing and rarely taking the time to enjoy the present moment. Take time each day to practice meditation or even just simple mindfulness.
Focus on daily tasks such as brushing your teeth or washing dishes instead of letting your mind race ahead to all you have on your to-do list. Even housework can be a time for mindfulness.
16. Evaluate your online life
For many of us, our online life can be a source of clutter and distraction. Take some time to seriously consider which aspects of the digital world are essential and/or add value to your life. Then let go of the rest. Do you need to be on every social media platform or can you focus on one or two? Be intentional about your time and actions online.
17. Decrease visual clutter
Whether you are a minimalist, maximalist or fall somewhere in between, consider decreasing visual clutter in your home, office and anywhere else you spend a lot of time. Make your spaces visually peaceful and appealing by removing clutter AND considering aesthetics.
This may not be the same thing as the decluttering mentioned in number 4 above. I’ve seen some homes that are fairly minimal by my standards yet still look a bit messy or just visually unappealing. Try taking photos throughout your house and analyze them. Look for things like visible electric cords, crooked artwork on walls, drapes or curtains not hanging straight or even, utilitarian items that might be better put away or at least confined to a basket (i.e. remote controls), and anything else that detracts from the appearance of a room. For some reason, it’s easier to spot those things in a photo.
18. Simplify your goals
Self-improvement is a good thing. Usually. But in this competitive world it’s all too easy to let our goals overtake our lives to the point that we are never satisfied. We find ourselves constantly striving for the next thing. As soon as we meet a goal, we set more, not even pausing a moment to enjoy our success.
Consider scaling back to just one or two goals at a time. Then take time to appreciate life just as it is. You can do both – love your life AND work toward something better.
19. Create a series of routines
Try not to reinvent the wheel every day. At a minimum, a morning routine and an evening routine will simplify your life and free up some bandwidth. Once these routines become a habit, you won’t even have to think about those portions of your day. But don’t stop there. Consider other routines as well. An afternoon routine, an office shut-down routine, a Saturday or Sunday morning routine, a self-care routine…
20. Practice gratitude
Gratitude can improve almost every aspect of one’s life. It’s easier to live simply if you are grateful for what you already have.
Simplifying Resources for further study…