When you hear the phrase “simple living” what’s the first thing to come to mind?
I think for most people, it’s a feeling: the afternoon sun on your skin, a mug of coffee resting gently between your palms, or the eager anticipation of starting a new book. We crave time and space to enjoy the simple things in life.
Unfortunately, these little pleasures often feel just out of reach. Despite our best intentions, we’re consumed by busy schedules and cluttered minds. Days turn into weeks and it’s easy to feel like life is just passing by.
At least, this was my experience. Even after discovering minimalism and decluttering my life, I still struggled to appreciate everyday joys—until I realised that slowing down requires intentional effort.
It turns out simple is rarely easy but with time and practice, you can learn to enjoy the little things in life. Here are some tips to help you get started.
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Enjoying the Simple Things In Life
The first and most important lesson I learned about “enjoying the simple things” is that it’s nothing to do with having enough time.
I made this mistake for years. I wanted desperately to slow down and enjoy the moment—but I told myself I had to get everything else done first.
My to-do list was my priority. I had to clean the house, stock up on groceries, go to the gym … you get the idea. I had to do ALL the things and only then could I put my feet up for a few minutes.
Sound familiar? I’m sure I’m not the only one who was taught to work first and play later! But it turns out there are several problems with this approach.
First of all, it’s not a very nice way to live.
Most of us have a lot on our plate and that’s real life. There are bills to pay and families to care for. If you wait until everything’s “done” you might end up waiting for a very long time, and that surely leads to an unfulfilling life—don’t you think?
But there’s actually an even bigger problem.
If you can’t enjoy the little things when you’re busy, then you won’t know how to do it when you’re not.
I know this firsthand because as a minimalist, I’ve spent years decluttering and simplifying my life. After a lot of hard work, I found the free time I was so desperately craving … but I still struggled to enjoy those slow, simple moments.
Looking back, it’s clear that my free time (or lack thereof) wasn’t the real issue.
Instead, it was my mind. Life’s small joys were always there but I didn’t know how to see them. It didn’t matter if I had five minutes or five hours to spare.
The following exercises helped me open my eyes and I hope they’ll help you too—but first, we have to dispel the myth of not enough time. It’s a truth AND a necessity because no matter what life throws at us, we all deserve to enjoy the simple things.
WHAT ARE YOUR “SIMPLE THINGS”?
This might sound obvious but what’s simple and enjoyable can vary considerably from person to person. Despite the cliche, stopping to “smell the roses” might not bring you any joy! The same goes for reading books, long walks or watching sunsets.
So … what are your “simple things”? What are the little joys that make life beautiful? Take a few minutes to think it over and if you can, go one step further and write a physical list.
Writing leads to increased awareness—you’re more likely to remember what you write down and in turn, more likely to pay attention to those special moments.
Here are just a few things of the things on my list:
- The smell of coffee brewing
- A deep breath of fresh air
- Wiping my kitchen countertops (I know, I’m odd!)
- Watching my babies smile
PRESS PAUSE + BE PRESENT
As we’ve already discussed, time is not a barrier to enjoying the simple things. After all, if you’re able to read this blog post then you can find at least a few spare minutes every day.
The real issue is your attention.
What happens when you have free time? Do you feel guilty because you’re not working? Annoyed because things aren’t moving along faster? Distracted by a mess waiting for you at home?
If your mind is racing at a hundred miles per hour then you haven’t truly slowed down, no matter what you’re physically doing at the time. You need to quiet your thoughts first in order to create space for simple pleasures.
Being present is a skill that requires considerable practice, so why not get started this week. Challenge yourself to press pause at least once every day this week. You might not be able to fully appreciate it (yet) but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
If you’re not sure where to begin, why not try:
- Sitting quietly in your car for a few minutes after parking
- Pausing for a deep breath before opening your front door
- Taking a moment to stare out the window
- Reflecting on a happy memory while waiting in a line
TAKE NOTE OF NATURAL BEAUTY
It’s been said that nature is our greatest teacher and that’s definitely the case here. The natural world offers so much understated beauty.
Everything from wildflowers on the side of the highway to the stars in the night sky—whatever your preference, there’s sure to be something in nature that speaks to your heart. Whatever it is, make an effort to pay attention.
Practice makes perfect and the more you notice natural beauty, the more you’ll notice all of life’s simple pleasures.
DO SOMETHING NEW
If you’re struggling to slow down, then here’s a helpful tip that will help you pay attention to the simple things: do something new.
It doesn’t have to be life-changing, just a simple change to your daily routine can make a big impact. Trying going to a new coffee shop or driving a different route to work.
This is a tip from A Book That Takes its Time (An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness) by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst. The authors explain that:
“Doing something new requires your full attention because it’s unusual, leaving little room in your mind for worrying. Small things that might normally bother you start to become unimportant and tend to disappear.”
In other words, going to a new coffee shop means you’ll be less likely to think about your overflowing inbox and more likely to pay attention to the smell of freshly ground beans.
PLAN TIME FOR SIMPLE PLEASURES
I believe that life’s simple pleasures are all around us. If we look hard enough, even seemingly mundane tasks like sitting in traffic can be joyful.
Before you roll your eyes at me, know that I’m writing this as someone who spent an hour waiting for my car to be towed last week, with a toddler and newborn along for the ride. And did I mention that the toddler vomited everywhere five minutes before the car broke down?
So trust me, I know that it’s not always easy! But I still truly believe that beauty is always there if we look for it.
Having said that … it’s OK to make things easier. If you want to enjoy the simple things more often then plan for it and create those experiences.
It can be as easy as taking five minutes after work for a walk or as detailed as planning an afternoon beach trip. Give yourself permission to do something fun, put it in your calendar, and then make it happen.
More Resources for Slow + Simple Living
Ultimately, the key to enjoying the simple things is letting go. Stop worrying and don’t overcomplicate it. Instead, practice being in the moment and let it be fun!
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to simplify your life but remember that simplicity is a journey, not a destination. It’s a lot nicer if you learn to enjoy the ride!
If you enjoyed this blog post you might also like:
- How to Create a Culture of Slow Living
- Don’t Wait to Enjoy the Simple Life
- 10 Ways To Slow Down a Busy Day
- 5 Essential Mindsets for Simple Living
What are the simple things that make your life joyful? And what are your tips for slowing down and enjoying them? Let us know in the comments!