Why have you chosen to seek a simpler life?
Is it peace that you’re after? Joy? More time to spend with loved ones? Freedom to serve your community? A life with fewer regrets?
I ask because if you’re clear on your “why,” you will have an easier time letting go of patterns and possessions that stand between you and a simpler life.
Transformation begins when we make small changes. This is good news because—wow—transforming a frenzied life into a simple one is a Herculean job. Small changes are about all we can handle at the beginning when we’re still dashing through busy days.
That’s why this week’s focus is taking baby steps toward simpler living.
Here are a dozen practical ways to inch ahead and experience peace ten minutes at a time. These aren’t shortcuts—they’re catalysts, quick ways gain momentum and create breathing room.
Without breathing room, chaos reigns. Most tension we experience is a result of systemic issues. Things like misplaced priorities, poor time management, lack of boundaries and forethought—these issues don’t go away overnight. It takes a clear head and a clear goal to overcome the big hurdles.
So to seek clarity, we suggest these baby steps. Gain momentum with a few small changes first.
Inching toward simplicity
This is a perfect time to lock eyes with your core values and personal manifesto. (If you haven’t worked through those yet, we can help.) Keeping these priorities front and center will motivate you to make the most of your time.
We’ll address life on the three fronts:
- Digital space
- Physical space
- Inner space
Choose one activity; choose more. It’s up to you.
We suggest setting a timer to stay on track. Maybe throw on some music and race the clock for fun. This is about making space for joy, right?
Regardless of how far you get, be at peace knowing you took small steps today. You can always chip away more tomorrow. Simplicity will come together one day at a time.
Let’s start with baby steps for clearing digital space. You’re at a screen, after all. With a few strategic taps, you can amplify joy and turn down digital noise. Here are some suggestions.
Did you know that according to Linda Stone’s 2007 study, roughly 80% of people hold their breath or subconsciously practice shallow breathing while checking email? She calls it email apnea. Investing ten minutes to cut back on future screen time will literally have you breathing easier. Here’s how.
1. Engage in a rapid-fire unfollow session. The goal here is to act fast and streamline your social media feed. Doing the complete job across all channels is daunting. Start small and don’t overthink it. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. One platform. Ten minutes.
Some things worth pondering as you go:
- Does this account push me in the direction of my values?
- Would I be excited to talk to this person at a party?
- Why did I choose to follow in the first place?
- Does this add meaning to my daily life?
- Does this make me question my self-worth?
- Would I want my kids to spend time looking at this?
- Does this tempt me to buy things I don’t need?
“When in doubt, don’t.” This mantra tames bad shopping habits but the opposite is true with social media. When in doubt, do it immediately. Unfollow. The internet isn’t going anywhere. If you experience withdrawal, you know how to fix it.
Remember to set that 10-minute timer so you don’t get sucked into a black hole. Hustle and see how much lighter you feel when you’re done.
Indulge in a notification cleanse. Maintaining a – ding! – clear head when – ding! – you are perpetually interrupted by – ding! You get it. Ironically, push notifications were designed to keep people off their phones. Not so. Take the direct road to sanity. Turn off all non-essential notifications.
There’s no shortcut but depending on the number of apps you carry, you can likely cut notifications way back in ten minutes. You’ll need to immerse yourself in ‘Settings’ and do it manually. If you’re unfamiliar, use these guides for iPhone and Android.
On the fence? Consider this article from Wired. Axing notifications will clear your head faster than you can say “you’ve got mail.” Speaking of…
3. Take an email staycation.
You can dial back Reply Anxiety (and spare yourself from email apnea) in ten minutes or less by writing a simple vacation response. Managing expectations is far easier than managing an inbox.
Something along these lines works well.
“Thanks for reaching out. I’m keeping email to a minimum these days. If your message is urgent, please feel free to call me at 555-555-5555. Otherwise, expect to hear from me in 48 hours. Talk soon.”
Now you won’t feel pressured to check email 37 times a day. Walk away and see how you feel by the end of the day.
The spaces in which we dwell impact our well-being. Simplifying your home is a must but forget about garage sales and thrift store donations for now. Set your timer and master one small corner of your home in ten minutes. Tidying these unexpected spots will deliver a tiny hit of satisfaction.
1. Your fridge door. If anything’s been there for six months and no one’s touched it, evict it. Rinse, recycle, and try not to fill the empty real estate.
2. Your medicine cabinet. Start with removing cough syrup because it doesn’t do much anyway. Pitch expired products and unnecessary prescriptions.
3. Your bedside table. Stray hair elastics, tissues, and cough drop wrappers hardly elicit joy.
4. Your kitchen junk drawer. Ah, the clutter graveyard. Have fun.
This one’s the hardest because we tend to get stuck living in their heads. There’s no mortgage and it’s safe up there.
Except it isn’t. And mental clutter is robbing you of precious time and energy.
Take ten minutes and clear your head with one of these activities.
1. Bow out of a low-priority appointment or social gathering. Knowing something is off the books is good for the soul.
2. Eat a meal slowly. Put down your fork and savor every bite. Zero distractions.
3. Sip a hot drink in peace and extend yourself ten minutes of silence and solitude.
4. Write down your values and tape them in an unusual spot: on your dashboard, beside your bed, on the back of your bedroom door, above your kitchen sink, on your laptop.
5. Breathe. Your inner space could do with some fresh air. Don’t let email apnea take your breath away.
Ten intentional minutes can work wonders. Sometimes a little spark of accomplishment is enough to inspire a serious overhaul. It’s a commitment to making small changes that will get you there.
. . .
Elissa Joy Watts is the Managing Editor of Simplify Media. She believes in sincere community, radical kindness, and piping hot coffee. She channels the power of red lipstick and her love language is almond croissants.