When we set out on a journey toward living a simple life, most of us start off inspired. We have big plans. We’re going to set ourselves free from stuff—free from the cycle of working too many hours to buy things we don’t need.
We plan to remember what’s important. We plan to focus on that. We decide to stop comparing ourselves, to follow our own path, to live our own lives.
Then we start noticing things.
Maybe you start noticing that one friend who always has the latest cool gadgets, while you’re still carrying around your old phone. Maybe you notice that other friend who has a whole new wardrobe for every season, while you’re staring into a very functional but not-brand-new capsule wardrobe closet.
Or maybe you’ve been trying to simplify your schedule, but you notice that being busy feels like being important. Being busy looks like being popular. It’s easy to forget why you were trying to forgo busyness in the first place.
The truth is, there’s always more to buy, more to do, more to chase, if you head down that path. The road to having it all isn’t a highway, it’s a treadmill—but how do we remember to stay off?
Creating a simple life means you’re going to be out of step with the culture around you. Sometimes being out of step feels awkward. Sometimes choosing less feels like being deprived. Sometimes the best choices take more effort than we had hoped.
“Simple” doesn’t always mean “easy,” but designing a simple life can fill your days with meaning.
Try these five practices to remind yourself of the purpose behind living simple.
1. Remember that you define “enough.”
Having it all looks exciting, but in reality, having too much of anything—too much clutter, to many projects, too many choices—is a distraction. The goal is to focus on the right things for you.
2. Look for community.
Find people in your life who share your simple living values, and remind each other of what matters. If you don’t have in-person community, get inspired by checking in with your favorite simple living blogs and books.
3. Give back.
You are creating margin in your life for a purpose. When you calm your schedule and clear your space, you find more room to give, to help, or to serve. You have more time to be present. Find a way to give away some of what you’ve gained: donate your stuff; volunteer your free time; give away money you would have otherwise spent on extras.
4. Focus on what you gain, not on what you’re doing without.
You may have chosen less in some areas: less stuff, less activity, less to do. But you’re choosing less to make room for more: more relationship, more connection, more replenishment, more wellness, more wholeness. More of what matters to you. When you’re seeing the “less,” count the “more.”
5. Think longer.
Imagine the long-term outcome of whatever choices you’re faced with today. What will bring most joy, most peace, most satisfaction? What will you want to remember, when you look back on this? What will make a difference? Making a difference in your life and your world sometimes means that you have to make a different choice than the people around you. But making your own best choices now means you benefit in the days to come.