298: 28 Ways to Simplify Your Entire Life
Monday January 4, 2021

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“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” —Hans Hofmann


Far different from minimizing, simplifying requires that we consciously explore what is of value in our lives and then thoughtfully edit in order for what we deem most important to shine as fully as possible.

Take for example sight. Eyesight that is. As someone who wears contacts in order to see clearly objects in far distances, when I put on a dirty lens or my lens happens to have an eyelash or spot of makeup on it, not only does it hurt, but frustratingly my eyesight is impaired. My #1 priority is to clean the lens properly in order to see. Why? Understandably, so that I can clearly, safely, peacefully, go about my day without having to actually think about the gift that is 20/20 eyesight.

Such a truth comes into play with our everyday routines, homes, and overall lifestyles. If we don’t clear the clutter – literal and figurative – the quality of our lives decreases. What we love, what we value cannot grow, shine, fully blossom. Whatever the analogy is, the full growth, the full maturation, can’t possibly be experienced.

Multitasking our lives not only when it comes to the tasks we do each day, has become an approach to living in the 21st century (and was as well in the late 20th century) which was applauded. In many ways 2020 has forced us to recognize how much we missed in doing so – we missed our relationships, we missed simple pleasures, we missed the gift of appreciating well-made, seasonal food, we missed the gift of truly connecting. Now that so much of what we thought we valued but did not prioritized has been forcibly taken out of our lives, are we questioning whether we lived in accordance to what we swore was true to living well.

Let’s talk about clutter. What is defined as clutter for you may be different from what someone else may define or label as clutter. My kitchen for example has many tools handy, surrounding my stovetop – canisters, pots hanging, salt and spices within arms-length. For someone else, such a sight may be exhausting to the eye and look terribly cluttered when viewing my kitchen. Organizing my kitchen in such a way makes my cooking fluid, more enjoyable and simple, but that may not be the case for someone else.

More figuratively speaking, how much time with our own and only company we need will depend upon not only our temperaments but as well where we are along our life’s journey. There are times in my life where I have needed far more time alone than others, and I am thankful I finally was able to find it as I needed to figure certain things out, things that I didn’t even know I needed to sort through. However, once we learn the direction we want to travel, the skills we want to improve or learn, we may reduce the time alone, but I would argue, as you will see in the list today, we will always need regular alone time or as it is often described – solitude.

Since the inception of TSLL blog, simplicity has been a fundamental component of living simply luxuriously. In order to choose well, in order to invest wisely, we first need to know what is of value to each of us, and the only way to do that is to simplify our lives. (View a list of posts focused on simplifying here and here and be sure to check out TSLL’s 1st and 2nd book which have specific sections focused on simplifying in a variety of areas of your life.)

Upon recently rereading Carl Phillips’ book 22 Ways to Simpler Living and a couple of other books which help me to assess how simplified I have kept my life or where I need to check-in and adjust or make improvements, I was inspired to make a list to serve as a refresher. I have a feeling each reader/listener stopping by today’s post has simplified their lives in some way at some point if not multiple times throughout their lives, so today’s post is a check-in so to speak. An opportunity to ensure we are each truly living a simple life for ourselves so we can then live truly simply luxuriously and find true contentment in our everydays. Let’s take a look at the list.

~Tune in to the audio version for more conversation about each of the following points shared below.

1.Leave space in your day

Less work time, yet more efficient and productive work time leads to more fulfillment in your lifetime.

2. Absorb the truth that less is often more

3. Limit the time you spend in or with your inbox

  • write rules
  • streamline folders
  • make the view format easy to navigate
  • make it easy to see how many emails you have to motivate you to keep your inbox tidy

4. Have a courageous conversation about the truth behind the statement “I don’t have time.” (aka “I’m too busy.”)

Instead of leading others to believe you want to say ‘yes’ when it is clear another priority supersedes the opportunity presented, let them get to know you and if you don’t like this prioritizing of your life, have an honest conversation with yourself and make the necessary changes.

5. Understand what ‘self-full’ is and refrain from seeing honoring your journey as ‘selfish’ because it is not.

6. Stop trying to keep up with life and start living your one and only life

7. Be honest about what you allow into your life as a distraction from living fully

(which includes being vulnerable, be truly loving toward yourself and others, being truly content in your everydays, feeling an undercurrent of calm in your life which keeps you grounded and at peace with life’s unknowns which reduces the worry)

8. Live a life that doesn’t exhaust you, rather a life that energizes you

9. Give permission to yourself for your hobbies and passions to be priorities

It is within your hobbies and passions that we are honoring our gifts and fueling our spirit so that we might share our unique gifts with the world – either directly as we emanate joy affecting those we love or the larger world.

10. Keep good health of body and mind

11. Stop the hurry

If you find yourself hurrying, access and edit. Carl Phillips suggests asking yourself these two questions: (1) Is what I am ‘hurrying about for’ important to me (or the approval of someone/something else)? (2) Is the hurrying getting me closer to my goals?

12. Check your email less frequently, but more regularly

Set boundaries on your attention and time. You will reduce worry, you will communicate clearly and set expectations which do not overwhelm your life and increase your stress. In many ways you will reduce not only the stress in your life, but the stress of those trying to communicate with you as there will be clear expectations of when they will hear from you.

13. Book-end your days with walks

Long or short, go outside, take in the fresh air as it will clear your mind, help in ways you may not expect, even if you think it cannot as it brings you to the present. One foot in front of the other, just walk. Walk to work it out and calm your mind.

14. Find time to meditate daily

Sometimes meditation and praying are mentioned as alternatives to each other; however, I would argue they do separate things as they are two separate actions. Meditation is an observance of our thoughts, a stepping away from our thoughts (not stopping thinking) and letting them be without our engagement with them. Meditation is not a conversation, but an observation. A practice of exercising the mind so that we are the master of it, not the other way around. A way to calm down, a way to let go, a way to find peace and get out of our own way.

15. Play regularly

For me, gardening has become my favorite act of play during nine months of the year (and in the winter months when I am sowing seeds in my potting area indoors). Diving into a creative project or playing with my dogs – fetch or chase or anything that brings a bounce to their steps.

16. Rest and be still

Active rest or deliberate rest as shared in detail in episode #139 is similar to #15 – playing, thus letting the mind go and not constricting or limiting where it want to go. Literal rest – a nap, not having plans and just being, taking a getaway where you aren’t a tourist, but rather a traveler or lounger is a must.

17. Teach others how to treat you by modeling

When you respect your time by protecting your time without apology regarding when you are available and don’t bend like Gumby to work with their schedule, you are modeling. It is when you do say yes that those who observe your practice will understand you value them, and they are more likely to respect showing up as planned.

18. Understand what tension is and when it is helpful and when it is hurtful

  • Good tension: when you are growing, learning something new, stretching yourself by making change or changing because you need to change to meet your goals
  • Bad tension: when you won’t allow yourself to be who you are and instead are trying to fit into someone else’s or society’s box of what they want you to be

19. Turn away from the outside regularly to gain grounding

20. Savor regular small pleasures, aka Petit Plaisirs

Explore a four-part series full of more than 100 Petit Plaisir – begin with part one here.

21. Donate all the extra and unnecessary tools – exercise, cooking, technology

If you know the true mechanisms of good cooking, effective and life-long lasting fitness and how a tech device works best, fewer, not more, tools and devices are necessary. Learn and eliminate.

22. Reduce your overhead

What does it cost to run your life? Whether in business or in your personal life, what is needed for a life of contentment? Most likely, to return us to #1, less is needed for a more fulfilling life. The few things you need simply need to be quality – both in make and design as well as thoughtful selection to fit well with what you know about yourself.

Go through your bills, subscriptions, regular payments. Exam how you actually use (or if you use) what you pay for. When you reduce the overhead, you clear space which gives you more choice and therefore more freedom and peace. You don’t have to make more, you need to live below your means. We know this truth unconsciously, but we also need to live it.

23. Keep what works well and eliminate the mediocre

When it comes to skincare, clothing, tools and other items, be honest, invest in the best you can afford and let go of the rest. Quality over quantity – put it into daily practice.

24. Regular solitude

Listen to episode #91The Power of Solitude

25. Streamline incoming information sources

Edit the podcasts you have subscribed to so you can find the ones you want to listen to each time a new one is published, be honest about the news that is informative and helpful and inspiring, similarly the blogs and online sources if you have signed up for their newsletters, do you read it when it arrives or does it immediately get deleted or passed over?. What television programs and streaming services do you actually watch?

26. Identify false needs

The Simplicable blog aptly defines a false need as “a theory that societies create to keep a population in a state of toil, distraction and complacency. [False needs] are typically abstractions that are built on top of real human needs and sold with media and groupthink.” Examples of false needs – attaining a certain social status, acquiring certain material items – as small as a certain pair of glasses, to something as large as a house; competition and the need to ‘beat’ someone in order to feel what you have gained is of value; recognition and rewards.

Understanding to the core what false needs are is not easy, and requires each of us to be excruciatingly honest about what we actually need. I have been thinking about this idea quite a bit lately, and come to discovering some liberating ahas. I have a feeling you will as well.

27. Celebrate rather than compete with others regarding life’s journey

A secure individual — secure in their life journey, comfortable with the uncertainties of life, confident they will be able to handle what comes their way as they trust themselves — instinctively celebrates rather than competes. Sometimes they may even be inspired by those they meet, but never jealous.

28. Figure out what causes you stress, thereby grabs your focus, time and energy

Be honest and then get serious about making permanent changes.

As the new year rolls around, sometimes money and weight can creep to the top of resolution lists we wish to change or improve. However, looking more closely, what are we doing in our lives that cause these two areas to be filled with stress? Sometimes it is what we are not doing – we’re not removing self-deflating influences, we are not diving into what brings us joy and buoys our love of life, we are buying our way to a happy life when the contentment we seek is within. So much can be avoided by going deeper, being honest with ourselves and making simple, small changes – additions or subtractions – to eliminate such stresses on either these two areas or others that may be causing you pain.

Simplifying, as shown in today’s list, is not as simple as rearranging our furniture, or editing our closets. If we choose to truly simplify, we need to be fully present and absolutely honest with ourselves and how and why we live as we do. Sometimes we may want to seek out the guidance of a counselor to help us answer truthfully these questions for ourselves, but largely we can do the work ourselves. We just need to remember to do the work because it does pay off wonderful dividends that will remain in our lives for our lifetime.

Clearing the clutter, brightening our view, freshening the air to welcome the beauty that our lives have the potential to reveal to us. Yep, simplifying our lives is most definitely worth it. 🙂

Similar posts/episodes from the Archives you might enjoy:

Petit Plaisir

Blood Of The Vine, French mystery series on MHz (I misspoke on the audio version regarding the series’ name – “of” rather than “on” is the correct preposition)

  • 5 seasons
  • inspired by a crime collection by Fayard
  • travel throughout wine country in France for a cozy mystery series
  • and practice your French as well (English subtitles)

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #298
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate:  iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify

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13 thoughts on “298: 28 Ways to Simplify Your Entire Life

  1. This was such a good start to my day this morning – and really the start of my first working week of the year. Thank you! Exactly what I needed, when I needed it.

  2. As always – excellent! I think the part “In many ways 2020 has forced us to recognize how much we missed in doing so – we missed our relationships, we missed simple pleasures, we missed the gift of appreciating well-made, seasonal food, we missed the gift of truly connecting.” really hit home for me!

  3. Shannon, what a lovely prelude to the dawning year! I find that #14 (Meditating or some other form of stillness) at the start of the day sets the conditions for an uncluttered mental environment during the day. Focussing on the task at hand rather than going through the mechanical motions while thinking ahead to the next job or day (or week or year) becomes more meaningful and rewarding for me. That said, it’s never easy. Clutter of some sort occurs and, much like the tide, it ebbs and flows constantly. These are wonderful tools for the journey! Thank you!

    1. Thank you Jim for sharing why and how meditating helps as to begin your day well, and your comparison of the tide to the days is apt and helpful as well as it is everchanging, never remaining static. All the more an important reminder to savor the present moment as it will be gone soon, but not to dwell on those moments which may be not to our likely or preference as they too will be gone to all without more pain and suffering depending upon how we remain present. Thank you again very much for your comment. 🙂

  4. Tickled to hear my tip about not looking at social media for the first 2 hours of the day.
    Thank you for the post Shannon. It’s a lovely reminder to slow down and focus on what counts, which I endeavour to do but we get so caught up in life we often forget !
    Making space in the day definitely speaks to me! Work smarter not harder as they say.

  5. I have just been quarantined and now find myself with more time to really take in and enjoy my time here. This podcast resonated so much as I look to discover what really brings me pleasure and what have been just straw substitutes of what society may say should make me happy. I plan to listen to this again as I am sure I missed some things on my first listen.

    1. Wishing you good health and strong return after the quarantined time concludes. ? Thank you for stopping by. The journey into ourselves has so much to reveal to us that truly can improve the quality of our lives if we have the courage to explore AND make sense of what we find. So happy to hear this episode resonated with you. Thank you for your comment. ?

  6. Enjoyed this podcast immensely! With podcasts in mind what are a couple that align with your philosophies that you can recommend? Thank you for reading

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