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If you are feeling overwhelmed and want to learn how to simplify your life and be happy you are in the right place. This is a tall order and I make no guarantees, but if you will hear what I am saying and take action, I think we can accomplish a lot. It might seem overwhelming, but you have more power to simplify your life than you may think.
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.–Charles Dudley Warner
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…
― Henry David Thoreau
The Meaning of Simplifying Your Life
This Thoreau quote is where so many of us start in our journey to simplify life. We take classes in log cabin building, follow homesteading blogs and start dreaming of living simply on a little patch of land with woods and a lake.
Suddenly simplifying your life sounds like a lot of work and a lot of buying new stuff that will end up piling up in our suburban garages until we sell it or toss it. A lot like we end up tossing the idea of simple living and just turn back to Saturday afternoons at Target buying more farmhouse chic home decor we don’t need or actually want.
But the real lesson of Thoreau’s quote is not that he went to the woods, even though that’s what he did, it’s that he went to live deliberately. You and I can make the same choice, no woods or move required.
That is the meaning of simplifying your life: to live deliberately.
Learning how to simplify your life is just about choosing how to really live your life, instead of just drifting through life on autopilot. There is no age or income or vocation requirement to live a simple life. You can choose a simple life in a Manhattan penthouse apartment as easily as you can in rural Minnesota. A simple life is simply about making mindful choices.
Minimalist Lifestyle vs Simplifying your Life
Minimalism and simplifying your life are not the same thing.
According to Elbow Room by MakeSpace, minimalism is intentionally living with only the things that you absolutely need. It’s having and being surrounded by fewer material items, so you can do more with your time and life.
Minimalism is focused on owning the absolute least amount of things that you need. Minimalism is a worthy goal, but it is not this blog’s goal, nor is it necessary to embrace minimalism to simplify your life.
A minimalist may decide not to own books and have only enough plates for each member of the family to eat off of at one meal (requiring washing dishes after every meal).
But a simple life may look like only one bookshelf or an entire room of bookshelves all devoted to the owner’s carefully chosen and most meaningful and beloved books. A simplified life might include an entire china cabinet of dishes for entertaining when that is something that the owner does often and enjoys and chooses to do. The difference is in the power of choice.
Simplify Your Life with Meal Planning
Now that we know that simplifying your life is all about the power of choice, it becomes an easy task to simplify your life with meal planning.
The first step is to get rid of kitchen tools and junk that you don’t use. Spend some time and clear out those drawers and shelves. If you’re not sure about keeping something, stick it in a box and tuck it away and if you haven’t used or missed the item within a few months or a year, it’s safe to pass it along to someone else.
Whatever you decide to keep, make sure it’s in an easy to access spot close to where you will use it.
Now that you have simplified your kitchen tools, think long and hard before you invite a new “must-have” gadget into your kitchen. I’m looking at you, Air Fryer.
Think about how you cook and how your family eats instead of listening to a TV chef or food blogger tell you that a certain tool is a necessity for successful mealtimes.
To get started with meal planning, just keep a record of a week or two of how your family eats already. This gives you a starting point for creating low-waste meal plans. Prepare a weekly shopping list. It can be a family organization app like Cozi (I am obsessed with Cozi!!) or as simple as a piece of paper. Make five columns, head them Produce, Dairy, Dry goods, Meat, and Spices. Write a list before you head to the store and stick to it.
Create 4 weeks’ worth of menus using your favorite recipes and rotate through. This method gives enough variety to end boredom but it also gives the stability of knowing what’s for dinner instead of staring blankly into the refrigerator at 5 pm before calling for takeout.
Keep dessert simple, opt for fresh fruit in season whenever you can.
As you gain experience in the kitchen with your recipe rotation, feel free to substitute ingredients and use your imagination. Recipes are guides, not rules. Use what’s handy and don’t sweat it.
Tips to Simplify Your Life with Kids
In learning how to simplify your life with kids, the great news again is that it’s all about choice. Everyone’s circumstances are different and you may need to work more than one job just to put food on the table, but one of the best gifts you can give your kids is time with them.
Time that is no rush. Time that does not feel like you are fitting them in. Just time.
You may need to simplify your own schedule first. If at all possible, free up some time by stepping down from current commitments or saying no to new commitments.
Give your child the gift of unstructured flow and you will start teaching them now how to live a simple life. Resist the urge to overschedule your kids with structured activities. Children do not need to spend their lives in a nonstop scheduled manner.
It is a temptation as an adult with an overscheduled life to give the same life to a child. Children need unstructured playtime with siblings and friends. It’s how they learn, it’s how their brains develop healthily, it is actually the “work” of childhood.
Most of the activities your child is in or that you are considering placing them in are enriching and worthwhile. But all the enriching activity in the world does not outweigh the need for calm, unstructured time. There is nothing wrong with activities but not at the expense of family time.
Consider scheduling activities for one day a week, or for after school only, not after dinner. The ultimate in a simple life is family dinner as many nights of the week as possible.
Does this mean parents don’t get a life or socializing while kids are at home if they want to simplify their life? No, of course not. Schedule your social life and activities around the family, not the other way around. Set an example and teach your children how to choose a simple life.
Great Books to Help You Start Learning to Simplify Your Life
Final Thoughts on How to Simplify Your Life
When you set out to simplify your life, think of it as a journey or a lifestyle. Not a destination. There will be plenty of roadblocks to your simple life. You may go off course for a few days or even years, but you can always come back, start again, and work to simplify your life, whatever it looks like now.
But the key to staying the course is to start small. A simplified life isn’t built in a day. Be consistent, take steps every day, but if you aren’t perfect, (C’mon! Who is??) don’t abandon the whole idea. Just start again where you are.
This one may be the most important lesson of all: don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
This is a great lesson for all aspects of life and it is no less true when beginning to simplify your life. Others around you who may be role models for a simplified life will be further along the path, that’s why they are your role models!
The only comparison you need to be making in your simple life is to compare where you were yesterday, or last week or last year.
Happiness comes with living the life you want that comes from making choices in line with your values. If you value a simplified life and take steps to simplify your life, happiness becomes an enjoyable byproduct of the result.
Learn More About How to Simplify Your Life:
What is your favorite way to simplify your life? Let me know in the comments below.
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.Charles Dudley Warner
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