When you think of a simple lifestyle, what do you think of? Do you think of someone living out in the middle of nowhere, in a cute farm house, off the grid, being completely self-sustaining? I know that I do…at least sometimes. The problem about that, while I like the picture my brain paints during those daydreams, I know that I’d be bored after about an hour. I’d miss having places to go and things to do and people to take care of. That doesn’t mean, though, that I want a complicated life.
Simplicity means different things to different people. For me, a simple life means a relatively drama free life or, at the very least, a life with enough personal space that I can handle whatever drama happens to pop up. Other people will take a more literal approach to the idea. What I’ve found as I’ve talked to people (and done a bunch of reading on the subject) is that, while there are infinite methods of establishing a simple life, typically a person’s actions fall into a few large categories and I thought I’d talk about those here.
Simplifying Your Debts
Somehow, in spite of your better efforts, you’ve managed to accumulate a dozen different monthly bills and a mountain of debt. It’s amazing how quickly debt piles up. What matters now, though, is not how you got here. What matters is how you get rid of it. Experts across the board agree that living a debt free life is an important part of reducing stress and living a simpler life.
A great idea on simplifying debts is shopping for kids clothes when they are on sale or at great prices. A great place to do that is at FabKids. In all the pictures in this post, my daughter is wearing a FabKids outfit that can be bought together for a very low price!
Paying off debt is important and there are different approaches to it that you can take. Some people prefer to do everything themselves, paying off their largest and most interest heavy debts first. Others focus on paying off smaller debts and then using that momentum to make tackling the larger bills easier. For still others, reducing the number of bills they have to pay each month is the key.
A lot of my friends have found that turning their debt over to a professional manager has made their lives much better. Rather than attempt to run the gauntlet of debt negotiation and reduction themselves, they’ve hired professional credit repair services to do all of that for them. They send in a single payment to their credit/debt manager and then that manager distributes that payment across their various debts and makes sure that every creditor gets paid on time. They say over and over that the commission fee they pay (it’s folded in to that single payment) is worth it because it means they don’t have to deal with the details themselves.
Simplifying Your Spending
Not only do you want to pay off your debt, you need to take steps to keep it from building it back up again. There are a variety of different methods that you can use to manage your spending and to train yourself not to go overboard or talk yourself into something unnecessary “just this once.” A lot of people I know have gotten a lot of mileage out of the Dave Ramsey envelope method. I’ve heard over and over again that “being able to literally see whether I can afford something or not has made making spending choices much simpler and much less stressful!” Simplifying Your Obligations
This is where things get trickier. We all have those days when we’re convinced that we have to be everything to everybody all the time. For some of us, that is our daily lives. This is where figuring out how to simplify your life becomes more complicated and personal. For some, figuring out how to properly manage a to-do list might be the trick they need to feel like they have control over their lives.
For others, though, the process is more complicated. An article about simplifying on Inc (of all places!) says that the reason people have trouble simplifying is because they are trying to change their pasts. The article recommends focusing on where you are now and what is important to you now. Identifying your current priorities and organizing your life around those and then letting everything else fall away naturally is much less stressful than trying to play catch up every day.
Simplifying Your Every Day
Believe it or not, for many people, reducing stressful habits is much more difficult than exploring loftier and more expansive lifestyle goals. This is because changing a habit takes a ton of work and focus. The best way to start is to write down each and everything you do every day for a week or two. Then, go through that list and look for ways to save time and effort.
For example, let’s say that every morning you’re running around after your kids, trying to find lost homework assignments, fix breakfast for everybody, make everybody’s lunches and get everybody out of the house fed, fully clothed, completely organized and on time. It makes me tired just to type that.
Instead of doing this every morning, why not do most of that the night before? Kids over the age of seven can be put in charge of finding and managing their own homework (in fact, a couple of days of forgetting something at home might be exactly what they need to make them more focused on staying organized). Have them get everything together and put it next to the door as part of their bedtime routines. You can make lunches and get breakfast ready in the evenings when you have quiet and space to focus on what you’re doing. Right there, you’ve reduced your morning stress by three tasks!
Zen habits has a great (and long!) list of habits that you can change to make your daily life simpler and less stressful. Why not see how many of them you can apply to your own life?
Remember, though—nobody gets to decide what “simple” means to you. Maybe you thrive in a certain level of chaos. That’s okay! You do what’s right for you. The trick to simplicity is not taking on more than you absolutely have to. Good luck!