‘In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
Post written by Leo Babauta.
The tendency of life in our society is to become more complicated: Internet, television, shopping, work, family commitments, possessions, eating, debt … these things pile on top of each other endlessly.
This is a rather bad formula, as our days have a limited capacity, and so do we as humans. We can only do so much, only handle so many tasks and possessions and social commitments, and filling ourselves to those limits means we stress our breaking points.
It takes a bit of conscious effort to simplify, but it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever learned to do.
Simplify everything. That might sound hard, but with practice it’s actually fairly easy, and leads to a quiet, content, lovely life full of space, with only the things in it that matter to me: my family, my writing, with some reading and workouts thrown in.
So how do you simplify? As simply as possible.
Here are a few ways:
- Block off some disconnected time. The Internet is amazing, but always being connected means you’re always pulled in a thousand directions at once. It’s hard to focus, hard to connect with others, hard to get out into nature and be active. So schedule some time every day for disconnection: maybe a block in the morning where you get your best work done, and a block in the afternoon when you get out and active, or connect with friends or family.
- Start eliminating commitments. List your commitments, and pick one to eliminate today. It’s a simple matter of making a call or sending an email explaining that you can’t do the commitment. Trust me, they’ll find a way to live without you. You’ll start to free up time for what’s more important to you.
- Start purging possessions. Every day, find 5 things to donate or give to friends. Or clear an entire shelf or countertop, leaving only the things you actually use, getting rid of the rest. Slowly your possessions will be simplified to just the essentials.
- Ban shopping for 30 days. You can do this. Don’t buy anything except the essentials (food, toiletries, basic supplies). If you think you really need it, put it on a list to be evaluated after the 30 days.
- Wash your bowl. When you’re done eating, mindfully wash your bowl. When you’re done with anything, get in the habit of pausing before moving onto the next thing, and cleaning up after yourself. Put your food away. Put your clothes where they belong. Put your keys in one spot. Clean the sink before you leave it. This simple habit will keep you mindful while saving you lots of cleanup later.
- Schedule time for what’s important. What’s most important to you? Your spouse or kids? Creating? Reading novels? Cooking, gardening, crafts, carpentry? Make the time for it.
- Get outdoors once a day. Too often we are stuck at a desk or on the couch. Get outside, take a walk, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Go for a hike or a run with a friend. Play some sports. Run around and play tag with your kids. These simple activities will change your life.
- Eat some plants. Learn some simple recipes that incorporate super healthy foods you might not be eating: kale, spinach, broccoli, quinoa, berries, flaxseeds, lentils, avocados, black beans, squash, raw almonds and walnuts, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon. These simple plants will make you strong like oxen.
- Drink tea. Green tea brewed from relatively fresh whole tea leaves is calming, healthy, and wonderful. A daily tea ritual keeps you grounded and mindful.