Recipe for Simplicity
10 Suggestions to Simply Your Life
“Simplify, simplify.” More than a century after Henry David Thoreau uttered these words, his plea for simplicity has more significance than ever before. We work hard and play hard, filling nearly every moment with activity. Most families believe they need two incomes to pay for a standard of living that has doubled in the past 50 years. But do we? Based on my three-year study of more than 200 people who have simplified their lives, I found that we can work less, want less and spend less, and be happier and more fulfilled in the process.
Following these 10 suggestions will simplify life. Rather than try to do it all in a few weeks or months, know that most people need an initial period of three to five years to complete this transition. Small, gradual steps are best.
1 - Don’t bring any material thing into your home unless you absolutely love it and want to keep it until it is beyond repair. Too much stuff is suffocating us. Purchasing, maintaining, insuring, storing and eventually disposing of our stuff sucks up our precious life energy.
2 - Live in a home with a cozy environment that you or someone in your family uses every day. It can be more satisfying than living in a museum designed to impress others. Spending time and money to maintain a home that is larger than you need diverts these resources from more fulfilling endeavors.
3 - Seek to limit your work outside of the home to 30 hours a week, 20 if you are a parent. To live a balanced life, we need downtime to daydream, relax, prepare a leisurely meal or take a walk. Surrounding activities with empty spaces whenever possible makes actions more productive and meaningful.
4 - Work no more than 30 minutes from home. Preserve your energy and money for more rewarding life experiences.
5 - Limit children to between one and three extracurricular activities a week, depending on their age. Otherwise, you will exhaust yourself, and your children may grow up addicted to constant stimulation.
6 - Live simply to dream big in a whole new way. Take a month or more every few years to go live in a foreign country. Living in a different culture fascinates, excites and vitalizes us. It teaches us to live in the present, a core practice of simple living. We gain perspective when we experience a foreign culture and learn how much we have to be grateful for.
7 - Spend at least an hour a week in a natural setting, away from crowds of people, traffic and buildings. Three or four is even better. There is nothing more basic or simple than the natural world.
8 - Connect with a sense of spirit in your life, whether through prayer, religious services, journal writing, meditation or spiritually related reading. Simplicity leads to spirituality and spirituality leads to simplicity. Cultivate a practice of silence and solitude, even if for just 15 to 30 minutes a day. Your spirituality will evolve naturally.
9 - Seek the support of others who want to simplify their lives. Join or start a simplicity circle if you enjoy group interaction. Living simply in our culture can be a lonely journey, one that friends and family still on the earn-and-spend treadmill may not understand.
10 - Practice saying “No” to things that don’t bring you inner peace and fulfillment, whether they are material goods, greater career responsibility or added social activities. Be vigilant with your time and energy; they are limited resources. If you say “Yes” to one thing (like a job promotion), recognize that you are saying “No” to something else (perhaps more time with family). Live consciously and deliberately.
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Linda Breen Pierce is the founder of The Pierce Simplicity Study and the author of Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World and Simplicity Lessons: A 12-Step Guide to Living Simply.