Minimalism

20 Ways I’ve Simplified My Life

May 7, 2016

I’ve considered myself a minimalist for the last four or so years, and over that period I’ve simplified my life in many ways. Some of these changes have been huge and other not so much, but overall it’s the sum of these choices that have led me to the life I’m living today.

If you’re curious about minimalism (or maybe just about my version of minimalism) then please enjoy this list of 20 ways I’ve simplified my life. I hope something here will inspire simplicity in your life too.
Curious about minimalism? Here are 20 ways I've simplified my life over the past few years. I hope something here will inspire simplicity in your life too.

Two quick things before we dive in…

First of all, please understand this is not a definitive list of milestones every aspiring minimalist must ‘check off’ on their journey to minimalism. I know for a fact that many of my choices aren’t suitable for everyone—and that’s cool because we’re all doing our own thing, right?

I’m sharing what works for me, because it might inspire something that works for you. That’s how communities work and it’s awesome.

(So on that note, if you’ve got an idea you’d like to share with me, please do so in the comments!)

Secondly, I’ve created a free challenge called 7 Simple Days designed to inspire simple and intentional living. If you’d like to join, pop your details in below!

Now, on to the 20 ways I’ve simplified my life …

LIVE SMALL

Since embracing minimalism I’ve chosen to live in:

  • a studio apartment with a shared kitchen and bathroom (furnished)
  • a room in a friend’s basement (semi furnished)
  • a studio apartment with private facilities (furnished)

This is a huge change from my pre-minimalism/post-college years when I lived in two or three bedroom apartments (and always used one of the spare bedrooms as a walk in closet!)

I knew that by living small I’d save a ton of money and be able to afford living closer to the city, but I’ll admit that I was surprised by how much I actually love small living. There is something so liberating about knowing you’re only responsible for a small space!

RENT VS BUY

I was a homeowner for six years (I lived in my home for two years and then I was a landlord for four after that). I finally sold my house last year and let me tell you—I am in no hurry to buy again anytime soon, if ever!

It is so much simpler to rent than to buy: goodbye mortgage (and all that interest), ongoing expenses (taxes, insurance, maintenance) and just a general feeling of being weighed down!

In full disclosure, where I live it’s much cheaper to rent than to buy. Obviously, my opinion on this might change if the rental market changes too.

DO LESS HOUSEWORK

There is no clever life hack here. I just do less housework. My home is not a wreck and the world will not end if you add an extra day to your vacuum cycle. (And by the way, your clothes will last longer if you wash them less!)

Curious about minimalism? Here are 20 ways I've simplified my life over the past few years. I hope something here will inspire simplicity in your life too.

By the way, this is a stock photo + not my home! But I’ll be sharing a tour of my real home when I move in a few months! x

GOODBYE TV

I haven’t owned a TV since 2012. Granted, I have a laptop and I spend a lot of time on it, but I still think it’s different from having a TV mindlessly blaring in the background.

Not owning a TV means I watch less TV and it’s also one less big, heavy, expensive thing to own, clean, move and worry about.

HELLO SIMPLE FOOD

This may be controversial, but I don’t meal plan. I don’t really do ‘meals’ at all—I just buy simple food that I like and eat it. The result is I save money on groceries and spend less time in the kitchen.

You can read the full details of my simple eating philosophy here.

AUTOMATIC BANKING

Almost all my bill paying and savings is done automatically online. I go to the bank maybe once a year. I don’t have a chequebook (I don’t think I’ve seen one in person since I’ve moved to Australia. Are they still a thing?)

SAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND

I know this isn’t very glamorous, but as someone who spent the first fifteen years of her adult life living paycheque to paycheque, I can tell you that having a nest egg in the bank makes life so much simpler.

DRESS WITH A SIMPLE WARDROBE

My simple wardrobe philosophy is very similar to my simple eating philosophy—I stick to what I like most and I don’t bother with anything else. As a former shopaholic (with a 100+ shoe collection) I can tell you this is SO freeing!

If you need helping creating a simple wardrobe check out this post, where I share the method that finally worked for me (after many, many failed attempts at downsizing my closet.)

Curious about minimalism? Here are 20 ways I've simplified my life over the past few years. I hope something here will inspire simplicity in your life too.

MAKE LAUNDRY DAY EASIER

I don’t buy clothes that require dry cleaning or ironing. I also don’t buy anything white because I only do one load of laundry a week (so no sorting!)

PLAN TO SHOP

I only go shopping when I know I need something specific and I have a clear picture in my mind of what I’m looking for before I go. This means I spend less time in the shops and I make less impulse purchases.

(When I’m travelling I ease up on this rule a bit because wandering markets is part of the experience, but I still try not to get caught up in it all.)

I share 5 other tips to stop mindless shopping in this post.

NO MORE WOMEN’S MAGAZINES (OR FASHION BLOGS)

I used to obsessively read both, but I’ve realised that neither contributed anything positive to my life. Instead, both women’s magazines and fashion blogs made me feel self conscious about myself and inspired me to buy things I didn’t really need.

My friend Lani wrote a full post about why she doesn’t read women’s magazines and I completely relate.

PS: I recently discovered and subscribe to Holl & Lane Magazine, which is a great alternative if you need new reading material (this isn’t sponsored or an affiliate link, just something I love and enjoy!)

STOP EXPERIMENTING WITH BEAUTY PRODUCTS

I use to obsessively browse the beauty aisle and I was always picking up new ‘miracle’ products to try.

But I’ll be 35 next week; I’m old enough now that I know what works for me and I know what doesn’t. I’m not saying I’d never try something new, but I also know the odds are I’m not going to pick up something new in Target that going to revolutionise my beauty routine.

USE RULES TO MANAGE YOUR INBOX

In almost every email management system (Google, Outlook, Apple Mail) you can set up ‘rules’ to help you manage your inbox.

For example, I get promotional emails about flight deals from several airlines (which is how I found $70 flights from Australia to Thailand.) But I don’t need to see these emails all the time, so I’ve set up a rule and now they are automatically forwarded to a folder called ‘Promotions’, which I review when it suits me.

These articles will help you set up rules in Gmail / Outlook / Apple Mail.

Curious about minimalism? Here are 20 ways I've simplified my life over the past few years. I hope something here will inspire simplicity in your life too.

USE TIME BLOCKING

Time blocking is a fancy schmancy word for doing one thing at a time, for a specific amount of time. I started using this productivity hack a few months ago and it has definitely helped simplify my workflow.

FIND AWESOME PEOPLE

I don’t have a lot of friends, but the people I hold close to my heart are the ones who support me and encourage me (even if they don’t always understand me.) Don’t be afraid to let go of relationships that aren’t supporting you this way.

RELATED POST: 15 Things to Declutter that Aren’t Things (Ideas + Mindsets to Let Go)

DRIVE ONE CAR

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need a car at all, but for now deciding to be a one car household instead of two makes life much simpler (and cheaper.) Less insurance, less registration fees, less parking permits, less petrol—you get the picture.

SPEND ON THINGS THAT MAKE LIFE EASIER

I’m a minimalist, but that doesn’t mean I’m frugal. I often spend money on things that make my life easier; in the past this has included a personal trainer, a blogging course, a house cleaner, and really expensive Italian leather boots (comfortable, stylish shoes are worth every penny.)

RELATED POST: 7 Things You’ll Never Regret Spending Money On

GO OUTDOORS

Spending time outdoors simplifies my mind (and now that I’m not shopping every weekend, I have more time for adventure.) I swear to you that when my mind is busy and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, getting out into nature is like hitting the reset button on my brain.

QUIT FULL TIME WORK

Last year I quit my full time job and at the moment I have no plans to go back to permanent 9-5 work (although I may do some temp jobs over the next few months.)

I’m not 100% sure if this belongs on this list, because while not having a full time job makes me happier, I’m not sure if it’s truly a simpler option! At the moment I’m starting to explore freelance work and I do a lot of side hustles to make this work for me.

Still, I only have the freedom to experiment with my life because I’ve simplified my life, so I’m keeping this on the list for now.

SELF ACCEPTANCE

Finally, I think perhaps the biggest way I’ve simplified my life over the past few years is I’ve started to accept myself for who I am.

For a very long time I was trying to be someone that wasn’t really me, and, to be honest, it was completely draining. Right now my future has a lot of question marks but despite this, I feel secure and comfortable with the person I’ve become, and it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

UPDATE: READER TIPS

Update 16 June 2016

Wow, this post has had a huge response and I’ve received so much feedback from readers about how they’re simplifying their lives, so I wanted to share these ideas with you!

“I’ve become more conscious of and comfortable with my body in a more natural state. I own very little makeup now and only apply it when it’s a special occasion or I feel like it, never because I feel pressure to do so.” – Melissa

“Less clothing for all family members. Not over scheduling my kids. Not eating in the car. Not driving my kids far places on a regular basis.” – Nikki

“Cut down on jewelry pieces. I have 2 necklaces, 1 ring, and 1 watch that I wear on a regular basis. Pearl earrings for special occasions.” – Allie

“Minimized jewelry altogether. Minimized furniture altogether. Minimized the kinds of books I read. Give up on buying music…the radio is just fine. Give up cable/tv.” – Zee

“We sold a car, automated all of our finances, got rid of cable. I personally got rid of all but 10 books (ones that I haven’t read yet,that fit in a small basket) and started using the library to get both digital and paper books (Hoopla, OverDrive, OneClickDigital, and Zinio.)” – Karla

“For children’s clothes, I have inventoried everything in a spreadsheet that I can access from my phone. It’s divided by size and has columns for each type of clothing (pant, shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt). This way when I’m out shopping I know what I already have and what is still missing.” – Melissa

“Practice saying no a lot.” – Rebecca

Whew, that was a long post! Thanks for reading. What are some of your tips for simplifying your life? Big or small, I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments x

photo credit : kaboompics.com / unsplash.com / me / kaboompics.com used with permission

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  • Thanks for including me in such a magnificent post! I certainly can relate in many ways. I found minimalism (intentionally) when we moved from Thailand to Cambodia, when we had no choice but to downsize, but for sure, the biggest deal was getting rid of my clothes and all the stuff I had accumulated here through friends leaving. “Oh, I’ll take it.” was my motto for years.

    It is incredibly freeing to have less and to take care of less as well. I hope I can maintain this lifestyle because, I fear, it would be all too easy to go back to buying/having/spending.

    • My motto was “I deserve it” or “oh, what a bargain!” haha, so yours isn’t too bad. I’ve had the same fear – I’ve downsized before when travelling and then gone back to my old ways, but I embraced minimalism before going on this trip so I think I’m pretty safe. I’m sure you will be too no matter where life takes you – just focus on what you want most out of life (or at least that is what worked for me!)

      And thanks so much for stopping by (and for writing such an inspiring post yourself!) x

  • You’ve really encouraged me with this post as I develop minimalism in my own life, Jennifer! (And I adored Lani’s post too.)

    I’ve become more minimal in my relationships myself and I’ve noticed it’s made them more meaningful. Self-acceptance is also something I’ve learned and it’s freeing. Minimalism in general is freeing. ❤️

    Thanks for the links to how to do rules in email btw! I keep thinking I’ll get around to doing it but never make the time. I’ve bookmarked them to work on when I get back in the office tomorrow.

    • I only started with the email rules a few years ago, but it makes inbox clutter so much better! I’m glad you enjoy this post and I definitely agree – minimalism is freeing! xx

  • Carmen

    Your post inspired me to make up a list of my own. Thanks for the inspiration! I could not agree more about magazines and beauty products! =) Here’s my post, I could only come up with ten: http://shenandoahchurchmice.blogspot.com/2016/05/ten-ways-weve-simplified-our-lives.html

    • Hi Carmen, that’s awesome, I love your list! I think I’m going to steal quite a few of your ideas (I like how you describe your kitchen set up and definitely the fruit water thing!) I also have pretty simple hair although it’s long. Because it’s thick I only wash it about twice a month, which saves me SO much time and energy. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • Unaiza

    Loved your list!
    One thing I would like to add is to systemize things! That makes us focus on one task at a time and thus get better out of our lives 🙂
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article.

    • Hi Unaiza – yes, I totally agree about systems! But I didn’t mention them on this list because it’s one thing I’m not very good at … yet. I’m hoping to get there though – thank you for the reminder and for the kind words about my post!! All the best xx

      • Unaiza

        Oh yeah that’s the best part, isn’t it? to be always learning and adapting new things 🙂 I am always always learning and learnt a lot from your article as well. Thanks 😀

  • Jennifer, I love this post! You have inspired me to see what areas of my life I can simplify that I haven’t considered before now. Thank you for that!

    • Thanks so much Erin! I’m glad you enjoyed this list (and I’m super sorry for my slow reply to your comment!) xx

      • Please do not apologize for a slow reply! I am working on not jumping onto my phone each time I think someone may have commented on a post. The distraction takes away from living in the present, which is something I am working hard to rid my life of.

        • You’re awesome 🙂 I’m trying to get into a routine – say 3 mornings a week – for replying to comments/emails. It’s a work in progress though… ?

  • Becky Goddard-Hill

    really inspiraional thankyou

  • Mel G

    I found your blog through Pinterest, I am so glad. You have set a “tone” in your writing that is light, welcoming and as if we were friends chatting over a cup of hot cocoa. I enjoyed this article, and have deactivated my Instagram and Facebook as a way to cut the unnecessary noise in my life.

  • Hi Mel, thank you so much for your kind words!! They really mean a lot to me ☺️

    Wow, I’m so impressed that you’ve deactivated your social media accounts! I try not to use mine too much (except for ‘blog’ related things) but it’s a challenge. That is really inspirational, thank you! x

  • I always love stumbling onto your blog posts because they are so thoughtful and useful. I love how you’ve simplified and even found some areas I can think more about!

  • Such a great post Jennifer and a confidence boaster. Simplicity really does make our lives a hell lot easier but unfortunately we try making it as difficult as we can by indulging too much in material possessions and negative thoughts. I am 34 and have been interested in a more simple life for the last couple of years. I am convinced less time/money spent on things will result in more time for the Kingdom. Your post may be just what I need to take the plunge. (I hope my husband want to jump in with me).

    Alina ♡ http://www.alwaysinspiredlife.com

  • Varela Melissa

    Great post! I came across your blog on Pinterest and its heaven sent! You truly have inspired me into wanting to embrace minimalism! Thank you!

    • Hi Varela – thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so happy to hear that I’ve inspired you and good luck on your minimalist journey! ❤️

  • Raza Hasanovic

    I’m so happy I found your blog. I’m just starting out with my own and I aspire to make it as helpful and meaningful as yours!

    I’ve been transitioning into a more minimalist lifestyle this past year and I have genuinely found greater happiness. On top of that, I’ve been exposed to more and more information on intentional, minimal living. What an awesome community!

    If anyone wants to check out my blog and connect, I’d absolutely love that!
    My minimalist bedroom post just went live – Check it out on http://www.simplyraza.blogspot.com 🙂

    • Hi Raza, thank you for your sweet comment! And I LOVE your minimalist bedroom – looks like such a relaxing oasis! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • These are great tips! Thank you. I just stumbled across your blog and I love it. I look forward to reading more of your content.

    http://www.divaandthedivine.com

  • That’s just an amazing post! 🙂 I actually want to try make my life quite minimalistic and these steps will help me. Thank you. 🙂

    Lucie // http://www.inbluebox.com

    • Hi Lucie! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you found these tips helpful 🙂 xx Jen

      PS: Your blog is beautiful!

  • Connie Gilbert

    At age 72, I am pleased to read young women simplifying their lives. You are wise before your time.

    Time blocking vs. multi-tasking: This one alone will be changing for the better.

    Trust my years of experience as a nurse, mother/grandmother, administrator/employer, teacher, choir director, and more.
    #1 There is no such thing as multi-tasking, Our brains focus on only one thing at a time. So we keep forcing it to change focus instantly from one thing to another. I cannot even imagine how much energy this takes.
    #2 Multi-tasking leads to mistakes, overlooks other possibilities and definitely is not efficient in the long run.
    #3 Employers that demand multi-tasking are setting you up for failure making it easier for them to deny pay increases and other advancements and fire you at will.
    #4 Honing your skills and talents will reap many more advantages vs. being “jill of all trades.”

    Jennifer, keep writing!

    • Hi Connie, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and advice! I especially like #3 – I think it’s important to be mindful of how other people use your time. Thank you again and have a great day! 🙂

  • Great post, really enjoyable read, especially reading some of the comments after! For me living a small space has been one of the most revealing and surprising aspects of moving towards a minimalist lifestyle. I have lived in a Tiny House (my own), tiny garage apartment, and am about to move into a small two bed apartment. I just love smaller spaces (I think it appeals to my inner efficiency freak :). Cycling everywhere is another big money saver, a plus on the health front too. A big next focus is getting better at time blocking. For the first time in years I will soon have a big fridge freezer so the batch cooking sessions shall begin again too. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Hi Jim! Thanks so much for reading. Living in small space has definitely been amazing for me over the past 4 years – having a lower cost of living has given me SO much freedom to travel and explore a career change! As I mentioned in another comment, I’m about to move to a 2 bedroom place from my studio in a few weeks, which is an upsize, but I feel like now it’s a more mindful choice than it would have been pre-minimalism 🙂 Cheers Jen

  • Kathleen Kauffman

    Was wondering? Do I have to live in a studio to be a minimalist? So, maybe I am, but what if I get married, and he likes big houses? I haven’t discussed this change yet.

    • Hi Kathleen! I absolutely think you can live in any size house and be a minimalist; in fact, (I’ve lived in studio apartments the past 4 years, but I’ll actually be moving to a 2 bedroom flat in a few weeks! The key is being self-aware, knowing what size space you need, and being mindful of the tradeoffs your making when you upsize/downsize. For example, if you have a bigger house that you need and it takes time/money/energy away from things that matter most … that’s not being a minimalist. But sometimes a bigger house is necessary or something you personally value more – this is ok too! If this confuses you a bit, check out this post: http://www.simplyfiercely.com/what-it-really-means-to-be-a-minimalist/ I think this will help clear things up 🙂

  • Love these tips! I’m definitely going to look into setting up rules for my email inbox!
    Thank you <3