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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

67 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and Feel Better Today

67 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and Feel Better Today

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you. In order to simplify your life, you have to know where your priorities lie.

“Simplicity is the peak of civilization.” –Jessie Sampter

Simplicity means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter’s guide.

The Short List

For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The Long List

There can be no all-inclusive step-by-step guide to simplify your life, but I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you — choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life.

One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.

1. Make a List of Your Top 4-5 Most Important Things

What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.

2. Evaluate Your Commitments

Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life: work, home, kids’ activities, hobbies, side businesses, personal projects, etc. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing.

Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things.

3. Evaluate Your Time

How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep?

Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.

4. Simplify Work Tasks

Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.

5. Simplify Home Tasks

In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list, and we’ll never get that done either. Focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).

6. Learn to Say No

This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much.

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You can learn how to say no with this article.

7. Limit Your Communications

Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it.

Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes. Limit phone calls to certain times, too. Set a schedule and stick to it.

8. Limit Media Consumption

The media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate everything else. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it.

9. Purge Your Stuff

If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss.

10. Get Rid of the Big Items

There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way.

11. Edit Your Rooms

One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else.

12. Edit Closets and Drawers

Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time.

13. Simplify Your Wardrobe

Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close. Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other.

14. Simplify Your Computing Life

If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly.

15. Declutter Your Digital Excess

If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you.

16. Create a Simplicity Statement

What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. 

17. Limit Your Buying Habits

If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it in order to simplify your life. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, and less freneticism.

18. Free up Time

Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.

19. Do What You Love

Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else.

20. Spend Time With People You Love

Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, or be intimate with them.

21. Spend Time Alone

Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.

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22. Eat Slowly

If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, but you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.

23. Drive Slowly

Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out, and endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful.

24. Be Present

These two words can make a huge difference when you want to simplify your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity.

25. Streamline Your Life

Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then, stick to it. 

26. Create a Simple Paperwork System

If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. A simple organization system will keep everything in order and simplify your life.

27. Create a Simple System for Housework

Another example of a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst.

28. Clear Your Desk

If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away.

29. Establish Routines

The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines.

30. Keep Your Email Inbox Empty

Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient, and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps.

31. Learn to Live Frugally

Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity.

32. Go Minimalist

A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else, so it’s a great place to start to simplify your life. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). You can find ways to be minimalist in other areas of your life, as well. 

33. Consider a Smaller Home

If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. If you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and it will greatly simplify your life.

34. Consider a Smaller Car

This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, is harder to maintain, and harder to park. Simplify your life with less car.

You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably.

35. Learn What “Enough” Is

Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes, but when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a never-ending cycle.

Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough, and then stop when you get there.

36. Create a Weekly Dinner Menu

If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly meal plan. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, and go grocery shopping for the ingredients.

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Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).

37. Eat Healthy

It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term.

We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots… you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly over the long term.

38. Exercise

This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it works to simplify your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better.

39. Declutter Before Organizing

Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk, filing cabinet or closet, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, but it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you declutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.

40. Have a Place for Everything

Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized after you declutter.

41. Find Inner Simplicity

This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.

42. Decompress From Stress

Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress. After you go through stress, find ways to decompress and relax.

43. Try Living Without a Car

OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think.

A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas, and more.

44. Find a Creative Outlet for Self-Expression

Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dancing, or skateboarding, we have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.

45. Simplify Your Goals

Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.

46. Single-Task

Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time in order to simplify your life.

47. Simplify Your Filing System

Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful.

48. Develop Equanimity

If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace.

49. Reduce Your Consumption of Advertising

Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure to advertising. You’ll want much less.

50. Live Life More Deliberately

Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing.

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51. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) List Each Day

Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. Use a simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something.

52. Create Morning and Evening Routines

A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day.

53. Create a Morning Writing Ritual

If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual.

54. Learn to Do Nothing

Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every day if you want to simplify your life and eliminate negative thoughts.

55. Read Walden

This book by Henry David Thoreau is the quintessential text on simplifying and can motivate you toward the same.

56. Go for Quality, Not Quantity

Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life. Instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love and that will last for a long time.

57. Read Simplify Your Life

This book by Elaine St. James is another great text on simplicity.

58. Fill Your Day With Simple Pleasures

Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day.

59. Simplify Your RSS Feeds

If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading.

60. Create an Easy-to-Maintain Yard

Plant clover instead of grass, for example, to cut out the need to mow.

61. Carry Less Stuff

Are your pockets bulging? Consider carrying only the essentials.

62. Strive to Automate Your Income

This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself.

63. Simplify Your Budget

Many people skip budgeting because it’s too hard or too complicated, but it can ultimately simplify your life by helping you know exactly how much you have to spend and when.

64. Simplify Your Financial Life

Get your debt under control, set up automatic bill paying, and cut it down to one credit card.

65. Learn to Pack Light

Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip?

66. Leave Space Around Things in Your Day

Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.

67. Live Closer to Work

This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do a great deal to simplify your life.

The Bottom Line

If you want to learn to simplify your life, just pick a few of the above to get started. Simple living can mean very different things for different people, so find what works for you. Ultimately, a simplified life will mean less stress, more time, and more fulfillment in the end.

More on Simplifying Your Life

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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Last Updated on March 17, 2021

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the present when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or planning for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of learning how to live in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present in the moment can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them is extremely difficult. How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions when you are living in the moment. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

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3 Steps to Start Living in the Moment

Follow these simple steps for more balance and clarity.

1. Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, you need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

2. Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

If you find that you’re easily distracted, you can begin to tackle this with lifehack’s Free Guide: End Distraction and Find Your Focus.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So, how do most people cope with painful emotions? By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born until the time we die, our body and mind are actively performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy, which does nothing to help us learn how be present.

3. Practice Mindfulness

How can we start living in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

What Is Mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day, and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here are some breathing exercises you can try to learn to help you: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking, but are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So, how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness as you start living in the moment. 

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. 

    More About Living in the Moment

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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