The average home in the U.S. contains about three hundred thousand items. What on earth? What are we even doing with all that stuff?
If your house feels overstuffed, your days are crazy-busy, and you can’t find your desk under all that clutter: we understand. We’ve all been there, and making changes can be overwhelming. What should you work on first? How do you decide what stays and what goes? Three hundred thousand times?
If you love the idea of living with less but aren’t sure where to start, try these ten steps toward designing a simple life. (And if you’re already a master minimizer, pass this on to a friend who wants to get started simplifying, too.)
1. What’s your “why”?
Ask yourself why you want to simplify. Are you trying to relieve the pressure of an overfull life? Do you want the calm that comes with a decluttered space? Are you making space for big dreams? When you need extra motivation, remember that “why,” see how far you’ve come, and focus on where you’re headed.
2. Start with easy.
Even if you want to make big changes, start small. Clear out one junk drawer. Say no to one coffee date. Take one minute for quiet, relaxed breathing. Build up some small wins before moving on to bigger challenges.
3. Separate wants and needs.
You probably need less than you think. We all do. As you’re deciding what to keep in your life, ask, “Could I live without this?” If so, you know it’s more of a want than a need. Needs have to stay. You get to choose about the wants.
4. Look for the joy.
A good rule of thumb is to keep things you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. To find the beauty, Marie Kondo teaches us to ask if what we own sparks joy. If not: let it go. Maybe someone else will be overjoyed to pick it up.
5. Clear your schedule.
Designing a simple life doesn’t stop with your stuff. A simpler schedule can bring all kinds of peace to your days. Are there activities you need to let go of? Meetings you don’t need to attend? Dates to cancel? You know what to do.
6. Unplug everything.
You don’t have to unplug forever, but scheduling regular screen-free time can restore your perspective and bring more joy into your simple life. Use that time to get out in nature, connect more deeply with the people around you, and quiet the noise in your head.
7. Schedule rest.
As your physical space is becoming simpler, explore ways to build a rhythm of work and rest into your life, too. It’s hard to pursue “simple living” when your reality is more “exhausted living.”
8. Make it your own.
Simplicity is not a competition. Simplify in ways that make sense for you, and don’t worry about how you compare to anyone else. In fact, minimizing the comparisons will clear mental clutter like crazy.
9. Remember your relationships.
Don’t let your commitment to simple living get in the way of your most important relationships. Others may not be ready to make the same choices you make. You do what’s right for you, and enjoy the amazing people in your life without trying to change them.
10. Enjoy more, and less.
More time, more freedom, and more room to breathe. Less stuff and less stress. Less to organize, store, and take care of. Less hassle. Less hustle. Take a moment to practice gratitude for what you’ve learned from the things you’ve let go of, and for the new chapter you’re moving into.