Simplify Your Life in 5 Easy Steps

You don’t need me to tell you that we live in an incredibly busy society.

Whenever I talk with friends or colleagues, they each tell me a different version of the same story: we are constantly jumping from one meeting, soccer practice, or class to the next, and it’s often a scramble to get it all done.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to slow that down. If you’re with me, here are 5 easy ways to simplify your life.


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5 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life

Why simplify your life?

For starters, simplifying helps uncover what you truly value in life. It frees up your schedule to spend time with those you love and (re)discover your passions. In short, it helps you recognize your most important goals and highlights where you should invest your energy.

Family

1. Make a list of the top five things most important to you.

This list can be anything. Perhaps it’s keeping a strong relationship with your partner, making time for your close circle of friends, talking with your family regularly, maintaining a consistent fitness schedule, and allowing time to learn Spanish. Whatever those top five things are, write them down and keep them at the forefront of your mind.

This is your priority list.

These are the five things on which you need to focus. Often times we fill our calendars with back-to-back activities or meetings that don’t necessarily enhance those five objectives. Instead, they suck you of your energy and leave you feeling drained. Don’t do this! Save your energy for what matters to you.

What does this mean? Next time that you’re asked to join another committee, take on an extra work assignment, or coach another year of middle school soccer, stop and ask yourself, “Will this strengthen one of my top five priorities?” “Do I actually want to do this?” If the answer is no, politely decline. You only have one life – fill it with the things you love as much as possible. This leads me to #2.


It's Okay to Say No

2. It’s OKAY to say no.

Saying no can be a very difficult thing for some of us – myself included. Perhaps we don’t want to disappoint a friend, perhaps we think, “If I don’t do this, it won’t get done!” Maybe we’re worried about how others will respond. I have a secret for you. It’s okay to say no.

As Rob Bell explains in one of his early Robcasts, “You can say no because you’ve already said YES.” You have said YES to the top five priorities in your life. You already spend your invaluable time saying YES to enhancing those five things. That is enough.

Want to learn more about saying no? Check out my simple strategy to say no with grace and increase your productivity in return.

Fill each minute

3. Stop feeling like every minute should be productive.

This might sound strange coming from a blog whose tagline is “Maximize your productivity,” (and even more strange if you know me personally) but hear me out…

How many of you find yourselves waiting in the checkout line for groceries and immediately pulling out your phone? You check your email, answer a text, scroll through Facebook…anything to keep yourself busy. (You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand right now.)

After dinner is done, how many of you try and relax with your family but instead end up thinking, “I should really get something done right now…maybe I could do XYZ (fold the laundry, grade some papers, answer a few emails) during this downtime.” (My other hand is raised now, too)

NO! While we might think we’re being productive, in reality, we’re wearing ourselves down and simply adding unnecessary stress to our lives. If you’re constantly striving to fill each minute of every day, you will inevitably burn yourself out. It might take a while, but it will happen. Trust me, I speak from experience.

I’m slowly discovering that if I create separate blocks of time for “getting things done” and “recharging,” I am more productive during those work hours. And this makes sense. By letting ourselves slow down and simply BE during our downtime, we allow our bodies and minds to reboot. Then when the work hours return, we’re ready to go. Give it a try.

4. Minimize choices and get rid of stuff.

I can’t speak highly enough about getting rid of unnecessary stuff; you not only reduce stress-inducing clutter, but you also reduce your choices. Do you know what this means? Decision making just got So. Much. Easier.

Here’s a real-world example: one spring (Declutter 2017) I decided to completely gut my closet. I donated over 10 garbage bags filled with clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, etc. Guess what’s left in my closet. Only the things that I love. 

Yep, when I wake up in the morning and open my closet doors, I know I like everything in my wardrobe. Although this may seem like a small step, I can’t tell you how much time I save each morning. And as an added bonus – all of my clothes fit in my closet with room to spare. Woah! (Did you hear that cheering? It’s my husband celebrating his newly gained space.)

Want to learn more about decluttering? Check out my 5 easy steps to declutter your closet here. Then, learn how to create a capsule wardrobe here! This is such a simple way to simplify your life!

Planning menu


5. Create a weekly or biweekly dinner menu.

Question time. When 5:00 rolls around, how many of you think, “ACK! What the heck are we having for dinner tonight?” and then proceed to hunt through your refrigerator for something the whole family will eat? Been there.

Ryan and I recently started sitting down once a week to plan our meals for next 7 days. We try and keep them simple – no more than 30 minutes to prepare – and we take into account which meals will have leftovers, which nights we won’t be home for dinner etc.

By making this simple plan, I can go to the grocery store ONCE a week, get everything I need, and completely avoid the frazzled dinner rush. I’m telling you,  5 minutes of planning at the beginning of the week saves a whole lot of stress and wasted time on the other end.

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So that’s it, friends! Those are the first five steps to simplify your life. Are you ready to give them a try?

What are your tips for simplification? Have you jumped on the minimalist bandwagon? Let me know below!

Related Posts You May Enjoy:

3 Key steps to a minimalist life: the minimalist’s guide to minimalism.

Declutter your kitchen in 10 easy steps.

Maximize your bathroom storage in one simple step.

76 thoughts on “Simplify Your Life in 5 Easy Steps”

  1. Such great advice!! I’ve been doing some soul searching lately and I’ve recently decided to start making some better changes into my life and this was exactly what I was looking for! Thanks! 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yes, filling every second of the day with “work” is so draining. We need time to relax and recharge.

  2. YES. Now that we’re all moved in I plan on really going through all of our stuff this fall and hoping to start the new year fresh and rid of all this clutter!

  3. Love these tips! Saying no is definitely something I need to work on, for sure. I have been slowly getting rid of things in my closet. Just went back through and got rid of another 20+ summer items I didn’t wear.

    1. Saying no is such a challenge, isn’t it? 20 items? That’s fantastic! It feels so good to get rid of all that extra stuff 🙂

  4. I used to have the hardest time saying no but once I learned to do that, it made life better because I didn’t feel obligated to do things or show up somewhere. I am trying to “minimize” my stuff but I used to be a teacher before having my daughter so I have tons of stuff I kept “in case” I needed it for a project. Most of that stuff I never touched! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I completely agree. It is so hard to say no, but once you do, it really relieves a lot of unnecessary pressure. I can totally relate to the “just in case” mentality. I try to follow the one-year rule – have I used it in the past year? No? It’s time to donate. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but for every day “stuff” that causes clutter, I try and stick to it pretty closely 🙂

    1. Yes, exactly! We go – go – go – and never give ourselves time to rest, which is so important.

    1. I’m so glad you found the post helpful, Jereann. I think #3 is a stickler for many of us. Stay tuned for new minimalism posts 🙂

    1. It’s really easy to overlook the simple things and get bogged down in the unimportant details. I think we all struggle with that in some form or another.

  5. Oh number 2 and 3. I am so so bad at saying no and because of that I end up spending every single moment doing something.

  6. Yes! I have recently implemented minamilism in my life and it has drastically changed my outlook on stuff. I no longer feel held down by stuff and free to do more! Thanks for these tips I still have more to do 🙂

    1. That’s wonderful, Kristen! It’a amazing how getting rid of stuff can change the way we see things.

  7. Be You and Thrive

    I’m ALL over simplify!!! If we can make a conscious effort in this hustle world of ours, it really does help eliminate stress! xo~D

  8. kaitlindcuevas

    I have a TERRIBLE habit of feeling like every minute needs to be productive. Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever even considered this notion – does that sound weird?!?! Thank you SO MUCH for bringing this thought to the table…you are so, sooo right that we don’t have to be accomplishing something all day, every day.

    – Kaitlin
    kedgotwed.com

    1. I don’t think it sounds weird at all – I was the same way until a few weeks ago when I was listening to a podcast that talked about our balance of time. I’m still working on the iea myself, but I think becoming aware of it is an important step in the right direction 🙂

  9. Hey Paula,

    Great insight! I love that you mention saying no, in a way to minimize we have to say no to ourselves and the urge to get more stuff. I know I do!

    1. Yes, it does take a lot of thought, but I really think it helps put things in perspective. I hope you’ll join me on the challenge!

  10. Saying no is the hardest one for me, also sitting down and taking a breather is what I’m working on. It is not easy but I’m doing it!

    1. I agree – it’s definitely a challenge. The most important thing is that you’re doing it! Good for you 😀

  11. I do most of these things and you’re so right it does simplify my life so much. I think the one that I have the hardest problem with is saying no to people. I always feel like i have to say yes no matter what.

    1. It’s so great that you already practice these things – I am glad to hear they’re simplifying your life 🙂 I hear you – saying no can be such a difficult thing to do.

    1. Thanks, Gabby! Yes, learning how to say no is such an important (yet DIFFICULT!) thing to do.

    1. It’s fantastic that you’re already crushing these steps! I’ve heard great things about the minimalist podcast- I’ll have to check it out:)

  12. Over the past few years I have totally been concentrating on donating and decluttering. I am finding that life is happier when I keep it simpler! Less stuff=less stress!

  13. “Stop feeling like every minute should be productive.”

    Oh my word…YES. I struggle with this hardcore, and feel like if I’m not working on my blog constantly, I’m being lazy. But sometimes resting is exactly what KEEPS us productive in the future. Trying to learn that lesson. 🙂
    Good thoughts, Paula!

    TendrilWild.com

    1. Thanks, Bria. I am the same way about work. I think it’s a difficult lesson for lots of us to learn – we can do it, though!

  14. 21flavorsofsplendor

    Great tips!! I have been working on all of these on and off for the last few months, but I definitely need to be more consistent.

  15. All great tips! Since I work out of the home now, I’ve had to completely reorganize my life and schedule. Planning is key. If I don’t plan things ahead , they just don’t happen! Thanks for these smart ideas.

    1. I hear that! I work from home a lot, too, and it is so easy to get distracted if I don’t have a plan. Good luck 🙂

    1. Yeah, I think it’s a challenge for a lot of people – myself included. I think if we’re mindful about it, though, we can do it!

    1. It’s amazing how much time it saves. Give it a try this month, let me know what you think!

  16. Those are great tips! I started doing weekly meal plans a few years ago and it made such a huge difference. I love only having to go to the store once and having everything on hand when I’m ready to start cooking.

    I’m working on decluttering right now. I’m a big fan of the Happier podcast and one of her quotes is “Outer order contributes to inner calm”.

    1. YES – I am quickly discovering how much time you save only going to the grocery store once.
      I haven’t heard of the happier podcast before, but it sounds right up my alley; one of the things I say is, “Less mess, less stress” 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  17. This is honestly such good advice. I often feel like I dont have enough time and am guilty of trying to make every minute productive. I also have been wanting to try meal planning for a while. Glad to know you recommend it too!

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful. Give it a try for a month – I think you’ll be happy with the results 🙂

  18. You have inspired me to join this challenge. I’m going to right my top 5 today and really focus on those this month. I thin this is especially important as August will go by fast and I don’t want to feel like I missed it. Thx for the great ideas.

    1. Thanks so much, Yolanda. I’m excited you’re going to give it a go. I hope it helps us soak up every minute of August doing the things we love 🙂

  19. This post is really thoughtful! I think a lot of these tips would help with anxiety too. Lately I have been very guilty of trying to make every minute productive. Like you said, I think I just need to accept some open blocks of time!

    1. Yes – that is my biggest struggle too. If we can recognize those open blocks of time actually allow us to recharge, and are actually beneficial for productivity, I think we’d all be in a happier place 🙂

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