simple living

52 Obtainable Ways to Simplify Your Life

I shuttled laundry from one room to another, the theme song of Strawberry Shortcake playing in the background.

♪ Life is sweet, life is good 

♪ Life is anything you want… 

♪ Just believe what I say… 

♪ It’s a beautiful day 

“Life is anything you want?” my five-year-old son piped up. “That’s not true at all!”

Mid-step, with a basket of dirty laundry on my hip, I was struck by the profoundness of this observation from a five-year-old boy.

IS life anything you want?

Or is life what we work for, plan for, and pray for? To me, life is one part the decisions we make and one part the decisions made by the people around us. To me, life is something we can control… and something we can’t.

But with all the control we do have, why not fill our lives with the things that really matter to us—and let go of the things that don’t?

With that comes a never-ending focus on simplifying. If you’re looking to do life at a comfortable pace and to spend more of your days with the people you care about, I hope you find inspiration in these 52 obtainable ways to simplify your life.

52 Obtainable Ways to Simplify Your Life

Mental Clarity

1. Clear some space in your mind by doing a thought download.

2. Have a “do nothing” day. (Regularly.)

3. Design a morning routine that helps you start each day peacefully and efficiently.

The first hour is the rudder of the day. Henry Ward Beecher

4. Read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. (My top 5 takeaways here.)

5. Read any of these powerful books on living simply.

6. Choose an intention or a mantra for the week. For example,

  • Less is more.
  • “Elevate the important.” Joshua Becker
  • May I practice with what I’m given—rather than wish for something else.

7. Institute power hour: one hour to hammer out all the tasks you’ve been procrastinating. One hour to a clearer mind, according to author Gretchen Rubin.

8. Single-task.

9. Set timers to help you work with more focus and produce results you’re proud of.

10. Write a family purpose statement and live by it, letting the extras fall to the side.

11. When you’re outside, listen and try to identify every sound you hear. The distant wail of a baby, the hum of nearby bees. More mindfulness exercises for you and your kids here.

12. Learn to connect with your instincts by writing to your intuition. More info in this episode of the Lively Show podcast.

13. Believe that your worth isn’t based on your productivity. Your worth is inherent.

14. Plan a trip. Whether it’s a day-trip, a weekend road trip, or an exotic vacation, nothing reminds you to value experiences over things like travel does.

15. Evaluate if there’s anything you can hire out. For example, having the dry cleaner iron dress shirts, signing up for a meal or cleaning service, hiring a CPA to do your taxes, or having a friend teach your kids the piano (instead of trying to do it yourself). {9 Practical Ways I Reduce Noise in My Life}

16. Take a good look at your to-do list and cross one thing off that just doesn’t REALLY need done.

17. Double the time you spend outside.

Are you looking to do life at a comfortable pace and spend more of your days with the people you love? 52 Obtainable Ways to Simplify Your LifeOrganization

18. Utilize over-the-door, task oriented storage. (Like a hanging shoe holder used for kids’ craft supplies.)

19. Stop switching purses. (Except when really necessary.) :)

20. Keep a tote in your car with things you might need (extra diapers, chap stick, bandaids, sunscreen) but don’t want to carry in your purse.

21. Designate a permanent place for your keys (or any item you continually lose), and develop the habit of keeping them there.

22. Every night when you’re in bed, think through what you’re going to wear the next day. {20 Things You Can Do to Reduce Friction in Your Home Life}

23. Focus on using things up and wearing them out before you buy a replacement.

24. Learn to prioritize quality over quantity. (Both with belongings and experiences.)

25. Don’t stack appointments or errands back to back. Give yourself enough time on either side to get from one thing to another comfortably.

26. Switch towel rods in your home for hooks, which are easier—especially for kids—to use. (Meaning, fewer wet towels on the ground!) And if you’re concerned about towels drying fully on a hook, try quick-drying Turkish towels.

27. (Reader idea!) Donate one item per week. Some weeks, it may be a whole bag, other weeks just one thing. The point is getting into the habit of weeding out your belongings.

28. Choose one surface—one—that you can declutter right now. The kitchen counters, your dining table, a desk or dresser, your catch-all drawer.

29. Donate extra towels and keep only one set per bathroom. This compels you to wash and re-hang quickly, without getting backlogged by laundry.

30. Search your car for trash, and throw it out, every time you fill up with gas.

31. Practice the 1-minutes rule: anything you can get done in one minute, do. Pick up the stray Lego you keep passing on the stairs, put a digital file into the right folder, etc.

32. (Reader idea!) Have a “toy cleanse.” Temporarily store all of your kids’ toys out of reach, except for outdoor play equipment and art supplies. This is a perfect exercise for summer, because it forces you to get creative at home or to get out and enjoy this beautiful season. Re-introduce toys slowly when you’re ready.

33. Only buy building / imaginative play sets for your kids. Legos, gears, train tracks, fort-building sets, doll houses, circuit kits, etc. (Donate most everything else.)

Health & Food

34. Eat a salad every day for lunch. It’s healthy, and it eliminates lunchtime decision-making.

35. Take some time to make three two-week meal plans with corresponding grocery lists. Re-use and rotate them at will. (Bonus idea: Put them on laminated index cards so you can grab on your way to the grocery store!)

36. Regularly double your recipes and freeze half for a (metaphorical) rainy day.

37. Utilize paper products for some meals. Reader tip: In certain cities, paper products can be placed in your compost bin. (And if this particular tip or any others aren’t for you, by all means, disregard and carry on!)

Are you looking to do life at a comfortable pace and spend more of your days with the people you love? 52 Obtainable Ways to Simplify Your LifeTechnology

38. Take 10 minutes to unsubscribe from any emails you’re not interested in.

39. Automate a few bill payments.

40. Listen to music that makes you happy. My favorites? Here.

41. Clean up your inbox. (It feels so good!)

42. Clean up your computer’s desktop. (Also, SO GOOD!)

43. On your phone, delete apps you don’t use and organize others into folders.

44. Set alarms on your phone for any positive habits you want to develop, such as taking vitamins, drinking water, or stepping on the scale.

45. Check your credit card balance often to help you keep unnecessary purchases in check. (Maybe a set an alarm to remind you!)

46. Go through the photos on your hard-drive or in the cloud and delete duplicates.

47. Synch your online calendar with your spouse to simplify your communication.

Social

48. Unfollow ten people on social media.

49. Unfollow ten more.

50. Warmly decline a social invitation.

51. De-complicate your gatherings. Invite people over for dessert instead of a whole meal, meet up at a fun restaurant so there’s no prep, barbecue and dine outside to minimize cleanup, etc.

52. If it aligns with your values, set aside the well-intended idea of mailing thank-you notes and instead send thank-you texts or emails the moment a grateful thought crosses your mind.

So maybe my five-year-old was right. Maybe life isn’t anything we want.

But like a writer who doesn’t leave her manuscript until every character’s story has been told, or a gardener who prunes until the right form emerges, we shape, sculpt, prunedesignthe lives we want.

And that is a privilege.


PS. If you enjoyed this post, you may appreciate my 10 Questions to Discover Your WHY, designed to help you find more personal clarity and pare back to the essentials. Learn more here or sign up directly, right here.

Tevi Hard Photography

For people who want to spend more time on the things that matter—52 *obtainable* ways to simplify your life. * Anybody else want to do one a week during 2017? What a great exercise / resolution for the new year!

45 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary Leigh
    June 27, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Great post, Erica! These are all easy tips that can have a big impact! We are constantly trying to weed through our things to get rid of what we don’t need and trying to prioritize to-do lists to keep them to the necessary things. I hope your week is off to a great start!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      It is an uphill battle, isn’t it, Mary Leigh. Lots of re-calibrating and re-doubling our efforts. But as you know, it’s worth it! I hope your week if off to a great start as well! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Reply
      Lillian teska
      July 26, 2016 at 5:12 am

      I did enjoy reading – please keep me in your mailing list

  • Reply
    Lisa
    June 27, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    #20!!! I can’t believe I’m 4.5 years and 2 kids into parenting and I’ve never thought of this! Genius!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      This comment – it kills me! I love the enthusiasm. :) :) I just may have to use it down the road to introduce this post on social media. :)

      Enjoy that car tote, Lisa!

  • Reply
    Anna C
    June 29, 2016 at 8:34 am

    For simplifying emails. you HAVE to use unroll.me . It’s amazing – you’ll quickly sort out what you don’t want at all, what you’re happy to see in one rolled up email, and what you want to keep in your inbox. Check it out!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 29, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      Anna, THANK YOU! Now that you mention it, I remember someone mentioning this a while back, but I’d totally forgotten. It sounds like an amazing service—and right up my ally! Thank you!

      • Reply
        Elena
        April 6, 2017 at 7:51 pm

        Wow! That’s a really great service! Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    o rapoo
    June 30, 2016 at 1:26 am

    I will try to practice some . Thank you

  • Reply
    Jodi Blackman
    June 30, 2016 at 2:41 am

    It’s “right up my alley” not ally. Darn spellchecker won’t pick up correctly spelled words in the wrong place.
    But there are some useful things on this list. I am going to explore more of your writing.

  • Reply
    Amy Clark
    June 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I love that these are all practical ideas that I can put into motion easily.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      June 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Amy!! Yes, that was the whole point. Not a checklist of things you MUST do but a resource of ideas from you can pull at anytime. Best to you!

  • Reply
    Verity
    June 30, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Found your lovely blog via your post on Becoming Minimalist. I am an instant fan–thank you!!

  • Reply
    Heather
    July 1, 2016 at 4:24 am

    The “do nothing days” remind me of something I do which is to keep a NOT to do list. With so much to do all around, whether work or home related, it helped me to remind myself of the things I was not going to do that day. Made for a simpler and more effective day.

    My “do nothing days” used to be what I called zombie days – but I abandoned that idea because it spoke to my exhaustion and not my freedom from tasks. Thanks for these!

  • Reply
    Marc
    July 1, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    I love the list… but would you clarify #26. Switch towel rods in your home for hooks…. I’m guessing “easier hang ups”… but I’m wondering if I’m missing something.

    • Reply
      Vicki
      July 9, 2016 at 6:33 am

      I wondered that, too. Easier hang ups? Takes up less space?

      • Reply
        Erica Layne
        July 9, 2016 at 7:41 am

        Hi vicki! Thanks for the question – Yes, easier hang-ups, especially for kids! And if you worry about a towel drying well on a hook, we bought Turkish cotton towels for our kids, which are quick-drying.

        Best wishes!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 9, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Hi Marc! Sorry I’m late getting back to you, but yes, easier hang-ups! I think this one mostly applies to people with kids, who tend to have a hard time actually getting a towel over the rod. :)

  • Reply
    Inspiring Simplicity. Weekend Reads.
    July 8, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    […] 52 Obtainable Ways to Simplify Your Life | Let Why Lead by Erica Layne. With all the control we do have, why not fill our lives with the things that really matter to us—and let go of the things that don’t? […]

  • Reply
    Liisa Jay
    July 9, 2016 at 11:49 am

    My two teenagers and I are living in Sweden for the summer, I brought one large size suitcase with us and, we have a sparsely furnished tiny apartment. I love it, nothing to clutter the space, no build up of laundry as we have four outfits each only. No computers, only phones but with no data or ability to call or text. We have bikes but not a car. I hope to incorporate some of this lifestyle when we return home in the fall. Although Sweden makes it easy, there are grocery stores close and bike paths everywhere. Life seems simpler and easier here.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 9, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Liisa Jay – This sounds amazing! What a great experience in re-thinking how you want to live. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your experience here!

  • Reply
    Erica Yin
    July 9, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Nice site you have. My first time visiting and I want to give a thumbs up to this article. I’ve been decluttering and I love how my wardrobe is filled only with the clothes which fit me well and i feel confident in.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      A resounding yes to what you said about your wardrobe, Erica! Doesn’t it make life less stressful? Thanks so much for visiting, and I hope you’ll stick around!

  • Reply
    Jessica Mironon
    July 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I love many of these ideas, but number 37 makes me sad. One of the benefits of simplicity in my view is reducing our impact on this beautiful planet. Even if you compost used paper plates, they are still very expensive, environmentally speaking. I would go the other direction. Only use reusable items. I’m working to avoid paper napkins and paper towels. We use cloth replacements for each and just throw them in the laundry. It’s not much harder, and it’s worth the effort.

    • Reply
      Claire
      July 24, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Totally agree! Love this list, but using paper plates? No, just no. Better to use the same plate twice or something, but to advize people to add to the depletion of the planet’s resources? I couldn’t concentrate on the rest of the list after reading that one.

      • Reply
        Erica Layne
        July 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm

        As with anything you read on the internet, I say, take what applies to you and what fits with your values—and skip the rest! No harm done!

  • Reply
    Pam
    July 15, 2016 at 10:07 am

    53. Stop spending time reading blogs that give you 52 things to do.

    I suddenly realized hat I am spending more time reading about simplifying and minimalism than just living it. You should do the same…without a list or all this verbal advice. Going to enjoy a walk now…

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      July 15, 2016 at 10:27 am

      Hello, Pam. The community here is almost always SO positive that it always catches me off guard when I get a comment like yours, which to be honest, felt a bit mean-spirited. I’m sorry this post didn’t speak to you, but I hope next time you might consider keeping it to yourself. I personally have benefited from doing the small things on this list, gradually, over time, and I hope people find little ideas within it to try implementing in their lives. If it’s not for you, that’s okay!

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    Mr Home Maker
    September 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    I believe I can have anything I want….just not everything I want. Choose. Be.

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    Asha
    October 23, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    This is great! Thank you.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      October 23, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks so much, Asha! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  • Reply
    Vidya Agarwal
    December 29, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Erica! Keep writing your posts.There will always be some naysayers. Fact is all good things have been written and we now need to ACT on them.While this is true it is also true that we humans need to be reminded again and again about some timeless truths. And if they are put in a readable and organised manner they may actually goad a person into action. I too am reading many posts on Pinterest about minimalism and simplifying life: perhaps too many! But by constantly being reminded of this I intend taking ACTION the minute I get back home. Was in a short vacation just now.

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    Sephora Couturier
    January 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Erica, This is incredible! I loved your post so much. Thanks for writing nicely.
    One quick question- how can I start my day more peacefully? It’s a complete mess at my house.

  • Reply
    Emily
    January 31, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Very helpful!! I read a lot about mininalism, yet found some new ideas here. Thank you so much.

  • Reply
    Sara Christensen
    February 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    So many great tips here! I have heard great things about the Essentialism book- but I need to check it out myself :) I am also all about my power hour!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 27, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      It really is great. And from a peek at your site, I bet you’d like it! Thanks so much for reading, Sara!

  • Reply
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