Ten Top Tips for a Simpler Life
As a family, we’ve been trying for a while to live more simply, and we’re on a journey from being intent on accumulating material things to becoming more intentional about only keeping what’s important, useful, or brings us joy. This isn’t something we always succeed at, but this is the aim. The more we can all adopt these principles and aim for a simple life free from physical and mental clutter, the more we can focus on the most important things: connection, relationship, appreciating. the moment. So, here are ten top tips to help you (and remind us) to do exactly this!
1. Be careful with what goes into your home; it’s your space, not other people’s. I’ll let you into a secret: that weird ornament from Aunt Mildred that you held on to because it was a gift, you don’t have to keep it! Aunt Mildred doesn’t live in your home, she doesn’t get to choose what you surround yourself with each day. She can choose how to spend her money, and it’s right to be grateful for her gift to you, but it’s ok to enjoy it for the time you want to and then let it bless someone else. (Little tip here: taking a photo of sentimental objects and keeping an album of them electronically means you get to keep the memory without having to hold on to the physical object.)
2. Be careful with what goes into your mind. Adverts are everywhere, and we are not obliged to watch them. Why not text a friend during the ad break on tv, or pop your phone on airplane mode to get rid of mid-game adverts? This puts you more in control of what you see, which influences what you want, which then influences what you buy.
3. Live with an attitude of ‘what around me do I have the opportunity to be generous with?’ Would your friend love that bowl you don’t use any more? Is there someone that would love reading that book that’s been gathering dust on your shelf? Or maybe you just want to bless your local charity shop with objects you no longer need? This attitude benefits others but also ourselves, as we live free from the desire to hold on to our belongings, able to focus on more important things.
4. Set solid boundaries on your work time. Whatever your ‘day job’ is, whether it’s paid or voluntary employment, housework, parenthood, recovery, or study, it’s easy to let it become all you’re about. Set parameters and stick to them: leave your laptop at the office; section off time for quality time with your friends and family; aim to give yourself a day off each week without getting caught up in housework.
5. Enjoy nature. It’s in our nature to enjoy the beautiful world around us. This doesn’t have to involve a long trek or going to somewhere spectacular; it could simply be taking the scenic route home, or pausing on the grass near your block of flats for a few minutes before going in, or even placing a small houseplant on your windowsill.
6. Try not to rush. This is definitely easier said than done, but too often we find ourselves hurrying through life at a break-neck speed which stops us being present and enjoying the moment we’re in. For me, rushing is usually caused by being late. One thing I like to do is ask myself, “What will really happen if I’m late?” There will be some instances where it might really matter, but for the rest of the time the result will hardly be life-changing: we’ll apologise to our friend for running a little behind; our boss might be slightly disappointed that they’re getting a task completed a little later than they wanted. These outcomes don't define us or alter who we are. And sometimes it’s feeling like there’s just too many jobs to do that we can’t possibly slow down even for a moment; remember though that one’s to-do list is never truly complete, and prioritisation is key if you're to avoid heading towards burnout. If you need to, just do what’s most urgent and most important and let the rest of your tasks wait while you rest and recharge.
7. Be intentional with your time; how you spend it communicates what we value most. Think: is there anything you do that you could cut out? It’s okay to say no to something good to make time for the best thing. Technology is really important here too: is deleting a hundred spam emails a day really a good use of your time? Unsubscribe from everything you’re not interested in; set yourself intentional times to use social media so it doesn’t become unhealthy; give yourself and your family a set amount of technology-free time each week. Make sure technology is working for you and not the other way around!
8. Look for little mindful moments. Take a 10 second appreciation of the sunlight through the trees while you’re stopped at traffic lights in the middle of the school run; take some slow, deep breaths and notice the effect on your body as you do so.
9. Keep your mind decluttered as well as your cupboards. You could write things down in a diary, a notebook, or on your phone, and even better, you could make yourself a note of when you’re going to deal with them. That way you don’t have a thousand things swirling round in your head: “I need to book the cat into the vets; don’t forget to pay the childcare bill; I need to pick up my tablets from the chemist; did I remember to add ice cream to the shopping delivery?; what should I buy my mum for Christmas?” and so on and so on. If we let them, these thoughts will consume us and leave no space for being in the moment or being aware of other people’s needs. For us as Christians, we are aiming to love God and love the people He’s put in our lives, and if these thoughts are left to whirr around unchecked, it certainly makes it harder to do that!
10. Be present! Life is so full of stuff to do and have, we’re so often thinking about the next thing rather than what we have now. Let’s aim to focus on our present moment instead; finding the joy in time with our children, in nature, and with our friends, so we don’t let them pass us by while we’re dwelling on less important things.
If, like us, you’re trying to live simply and decluttered, it’s likely there will be seasons of your life where you’re not able to do it as well as you’d like, and that’s ok. Just be kind to yourself, remember your ‘why’, and do what you can.
-- Laura and James