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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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 we do get to shape, sculpt, prune—design—the lives we want.
And that is a privilege.
Totally on board but need a place to start?
I always recommend starting with your home. Once you’ve made visible progress in your physical environment, you’ll have caught the fire and will WANT to continue simplifying and decluttering other areas of your life.
Download my free PDF and get decluttering!
Photo credit: Tevi Hard Photography
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.
Very helpful!! I read a lot about mininalism, yet found some new ideas here. Thank you so much.
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!
It really is great. And from a peek at your site, I bet you’d like it! Thanks so much for reading, Sara!
I just wrote down #27 and have it sitting on my desk. I am terrible at getting rid of things, and just today my daughter was asking me what I am doing with all of “that stuff” in the basement. Thanks for the motivation!
#27. Some cities have non profit places (Cincinnati has Vietnam Vets nonprofit) that will pick up your donations off the front porch. All you do is pick a date online…which is extra motivation to actually go through and get rid of things!!