How to simplify your life

20 things you can do today

Our days are relentlessly busy and stressful and we long for a simple, uncomplicated life. It’s a challenge in our modern world where we are bombarded by more things to buy, more opportunities to pursue and more ideas to understand. Here are some practical ideas to help you simplify your life and find some calm in the space simplicity provides.

Just a hint… I saved the very best one till last!

Life is busy and stressful. Here are 20 practical things you can do today to simplify your life and find calm in the space simplicity provides.

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Digital

We spend so much of our lives in the digital space these days. Some technology adds value to our lives and keeps us connected with the people and information that we care about, but it is also a source of stress and distraction. Here are some simple things you can do to simplify your digital world.

 

1.    Unsubscribe

Unsubscribe to any unwanted emails that show up regularly in your inbox. I often subscribe to something because I am interested in a free download or discount offer, but then the emails keep coming and coming. If you find yourself just deleting, or scrolling, without engaging in the content, unsubscribe.

 

2.    Notifications

Constant notifications constantly distract us from focusing on a task or resting from a task. Every app gives you the option to turn on notifications. You can keep up to date with news, Facebook, Instagram, and your friends game scores. But why? There are probably very few, if any, notifications that add value to your day. Spend a few minutes to go to the notifications centre in settings and turn them all off.

 

3.    Email inbox

Take some time to set up folders for your emails and keep your inbox to a minimum. Only handle an email once. Read it, if you don’t need to do anything else delete it or move it to the relevant folder for future reference. If you need to follow up the email with an action or reply, add it to your to-do list and file the email away.

 

4.    Computer desktop

Create document folders for your digital files and keep your desktop clear. Go to Unsplash or a similar free image site and choose a beautiful image that brings you joy and make it your desktop background. Keep the desktop clutter off your beautiful image. 

 

5.    Phone apps

Spend 10 minutes deleting any apps on your phone you haven’t used for ages. Groups the left-over ones into folders. I have mine colour-coded: a folder for the blue apps, a folder for the red apps etc. Choose whatever is going to work for you. Make sure the apps you use regularly are on the front page.

 

You can read more details in this post: The ultimate digital declutter.

 

Declutter

We spend our lives accumulating more and more stuff. Things are new and shiny, on sale, recommended by friends, given to us as gifts, etc. This is great when we are surrounded by things we love and use, but there becomes a point where we have more than we need, and our possessions become a source of stress rather than joy. Here are some decluttering wins that will make a big difference without too much effort.

 

6.    Kitchen

Grab a donation box or a sturdy bag. Don’t think too hard. If you’re having trouble deciding what to do with something, move on and come back another day. It’s time to let go of the dishes you don’t like, servers you never use, and backing trays that sit in the back of the shelf.

 

7.    Utensils drawer

Open the utensils drawer in your kitchen and grab things that you haven't used in ages. Go for the duplicates (how many potato peelers do you need), and the randomly accumulated things that live in the back corner of the drawer. How often do you use your melon baller? Let it go.

 

8.    Cups, glasses and mugs

These also accumulate easily. Consider how many you use. Look at the amount of space is on the shelf your drawer where they live. Keep the ones you use all the time and get rid of the ones that don't fit easily in the space.

9.  Linen

Is your linen cupboard full to the brim? Linen is another thing that is easy to accumulate an excess of. We buy more and never get rid of the old. Keep two sets of sheets and pillowcases for each bed in the house. Choose two towels for each person in the house and add an additional set for guests. Donate the rest.

 

10.  Makeup and skincare

Go through your makeup and skincare and throw any products you don't use, things you bought to try and didn't really like, samples you were given that have been sitting in the drawer for ages. Toss lipsticks that are the wrong colour, nail polish that you don’t use, old mascara and makeup brushes.  

For more detailed information about decluttering you can check out this post: High impact decluttering.

 

Clothes

We accumulate clothes pretty easily because we tend to buy a few new things each season, and just add them to our wardrobe. When we have more to choose from, we can be stressed by decision fatigue first thing each morning just working out what to wear to work. Simplifying your clothes makes for a more peaceful start to the day.

 

11.    Wardrobe

Go to your wardrobe and take out anything you haven’t worn in ages, or things that don’t fit anymore. Sometimes we can have a lot of duplicate clothes such as multiple white shirts or pairs of jeans. Although we may have several, we usually wear the same one or two and leave the others for when our favourites are in the laundry. Keep the clothes you love and donate the things that just add clutter.

 

12.  Undies drawer

Throw any that are worn, the elastic is going, aren’t comfortable. Get rid of the ones you never wear. They are just taking up space.

 

13.  Shoes

For the shoe lovers who collect shoes because they bring you joy, skip this step. For the rest of us who wear shoes for fairly functional reasons, donate the ones you rarely wear, duplicates and any that aren’t comfortable. 

You get the idea. Repeat for your jewellery, accessories, pyjamas and work-out clothes. 

Now, for the clothes left hanging in your wardrobe, turn all of the hangers around to face the wrong way. As you wear your clothes, return them the correct way around. At the end of the season, you will be able to easily see what you haven't worn and you can declutter again. 

You can read more about simplifying your wardrobe in The benefits of owning less clothes and Planning a minimal wardrobe.

 

Meals

Simplifying your meal planning and cooking can have a big impact. Preparing three meals every day for a family, or even just for yourself, can be a big undertaking. Keeping meals simple and planning well can make a big difference.

 

14.  Plan

Sit down for a few minutes before your grocery shop each week and plan your menu for the week. Keep things simple. Eat fresh seasonal food. Go for one-pot recipes and meals you can freeze and reheat.

 

15.  Double up

Cook double. You can either eat the same thing for two days in a row and cook every second night or freeze the leftovers for a meal the following week.

 

16.  Grocery shopping

We have some great services in our city. I ‘click and collect’ my groceries. I do the order online based on lists of regular purchases I have saved on my account, and then my husband drives through and collects them each week. It is much quicker and easier than walking the aisles, and I’m less inclined to buy things I don’t need on impulse.

 

Recruit the kids

Family life is hectic and relentless! As busy mums, we can get into some bad habits that complicate our lives more in the long run. As your kids get older, learn to delegate responsibility, not just tasks, to your kids.

 

17.  Laundry

Most washing machines are pretty simple these days. When your kids are old enough, give them the responsibility to do their laundry. Mine were 12 when I taught them. Give them lessons about the different cycles, wash temperatures and separating colours, and let them learn this valuable life lesson. There were a few casualties along the way, but they learned from their mistakes.

 

18.  Meals

Take the time to teach your kids how to cook simple meals and give them the responsibility to cook one night a week. 

 

19.  Chores

It takes a lot of work to keep a family and home running smoothly. Find a way that works for your family to include everyone in the jobs that need to be done. Use a chart or a roster, set a timer on Saturday morning, put on some great music and all work together, or delegate tasks to people who enjoy a particular task. My husband likes vacuuming. Go figure?

 

20.  Brain space

This was an important lesson for me that had a huge impact on our family. I read the book, How to have a new kid by Friday. It describes how kids know exactly what they need to do each day, but they have a running commentary from a nagging mother, so they never learn to remember things for themselves. Our mornings were just like the book described. I would wake up each of our three kids, and then yell a running list of what each one should be doing for the hour and a half until I dropped them at school.

“Come down and eat your breakfast. Go and brush your teeth. Get dressed for school. You took your shoes off in the laundry yesterday. Don’t forget you have sport today. Come and get your lunch. Don’t forget your hat.” On and on it went, at a gradually increasing volume and frustration level, until we all finally made it into the car, cranky and exhausted.

After I read the book about getting the kids to use their brain rather than mine, everything changed. Our morning became much more peaceful. I warned my kids. "Tomorrow I am going to wake you up as normal, and then I will give you a five-minute warning before I leave at 8:30 am. If you are not in the car on time, you will need to walk to school."

The book was correct. They all knew exactly what needed to be done, and they were all perfectly capable of organising themselves to be ready on time. No yelling needed. 

Sometimes my son had to walk to school, and sometimes he had detention for being late. Sometimes there was forgotten lunches and hats. But we all survived, and they learned from their mistakes. Teaching our children responsibility makes our lives simpler, and our family time calmer. It also sends a valuable message to our kids that we trust them and value their capability. 

Find more ideas for simplifying family life in this post: 20 hacks to simplify family life.


Simplifying life is an ongoing and constant challenge. I have been on this journey for a long time now, and I still fall back into bad habits and find myself mindlessly accumulating more things and holding on to things I no longer need or use. But I know that following these principles help keep my stress levels down and bring joy and peace into my life. 

Excuse me, I need to go and turn my coat hangers around, again.