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‘Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.’ Charles Mingus

More. More of everything. More people. More noise. More opportunities. More distractions. More entertainment. More stress. More information. More clutter.

At the same time, we are constantly bombarded by the message that this isn’t enough. That we need even more. That our life isn’t complete until we have the latest revolutionary cover-all make up, or the 5 minute ab-buster or the latest iPhone, Blu-ray, Hyundai i30…and it is easy to get caught up in this overcomplicated, over consumed lifestyle.

In response to the overwhelming clutter surrounding our everyday lives, there is a growing movement towards simple or minimalist living which fits into the frugal lifestyle perfectly. So what does it mean to live simply?

“It 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.” Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

There are numerous benefits to simplifying your life:

  • You save money. The less clutter you buy, the more money in your pocket for things that matter.
  • You are healthier. By decluttering your schedule and commitments, you have less stress, anxiety, fatigue and burnout. Less ‘stuff’ means getting rid of that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling that can come with having too much clutter. It can also potentially reduce asthma if asthma is a problem. Decluttering your diet of junk will reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  • You save time. Saying no to commitments that you don’t love or don’t serve a purpose give you more time to do the things that you do love. Less ‘stuff’ in your home means less time cleaning.
  • Learning to clear away the mental clutter leaves room for creativity and clarity. The best inspirations come during periods of rest rather than work. Meditation is one way to learn to clear mental clutter.
  • Less clutter means that you can focus on quality rather than quantity. For example, rather than looking for more time, you can make the time you have meaningful. Rather than eating more food, you can spend your money on better quality food. Rather than more clothes, you can focus on fewer, quality ‘timeless’ pieces.

Simplifying your life is a process, not a one weekend job. Just as it takes time to build up clutter in your home and in your time commitments, so too does it take time to break free of the clutter and simplify things. Below are some ideas on simplifying your life.

Decide what is important to you. Only you can decide what is important and what is clutter. Understanding what is important in your life gives you clarity. It allows you to cut through the noise, ignoring those things that don’t add value to your life, and focus on those things that do. Once you start asking is this going to add value to my life? it becomes easier to either cut out the clutter or ignore the temptation to add more clutter.

Pick one small aspect of your life and work on that until you’re happy with it. If you want to declutter your home, start with and focus on a single cupboard. If you want to declutter your commitments, ease out of one commitment at a time. If you want to declutter your day, start with your morning routine, and go from there. When you’re happy with the aspect of your life you’re working on, move onto something else.

Plan more. Planning ahead saves you time and allows you to be in control of your time so that you get to do the things that are important to you, and takes away the hassle of last minute rush and anxiety. Developing a loose and flexible routine helps to simplify life by making the commonplace predictable and allowing you to plan to spend more time on important things.

Find more efficient ways of doing mundane tasks. Create organisational systems to make everyday tasks as simple and efficient as possible. Streamline you routine, organise your house and create easy storage solutions that work for you.

Simplify your stuff. Get rid of what you don’t use and don’t need.

Simplify your commitments. It seems common today to have a full schedule of extra-curricular activities for ourselves and our children. Studies however have revealed that over-scheduling our children is actually doing them more harm than good. Do the activities that you love or that serve you and your family, cut the rest.

Say goodbye to superficial or unhelpful relationships. You can’t be all things to all people. If there are negative people in your life who are out of alignment with your values, it’s time to wish them well and say goodbye. Spend time building quality relationships rather many superficial ones.

Simplify your intake. Reduce what you allow into your body and your mind. The average woman, for example, is exposed to around 200 chemicals just though toiletries and makeup alone. There are thousands of different (and untested) chemicals in our homes: in our cleaning products, our personal care products, the plastics we use, in our furniture, our clothing our linen, the list is endless. On top of that, there is the various chemicals in the food and drink that we consume. Strawberry flavouring for instance, has over 50 ingredients alone, including acetate and solvent. Simplify your intake by reducing the amount of chemicals you absorb by making your own cleaners, buying natural products, reducing the amount of packaged food that you eat and opting instead for wholefood alternatives.

As well as the chemicals that clog our bodies, there is the input that clogs our minds. TV, video games and the internet are just three medias that bombard our minds with extraneous information or dull our immediate experience of life. Watch less TV. Live your life. Don’t spend your life watching others live theirs.