I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like life can become a long list of to-dos, should-dos, should-bes, and should-feels. There was a point when I felt so busy that I wasn’t able to soak in and savor my everyday life anymore. Then I sat back and thought to myself, what the heck is the point of doing all these things if I can’t slow down enough to just ENJOY. So I decided to figure out how to simplify my life. And I want to give you some actionable tips so you can simplify your life too.
Have you ever felt like you should…
- Do certain things that don’t bring you joy
- Be something that doesn’t align with who you really are
- Feel a certain way when you actually feel the opposite
If so, you are not alone because I felt this way for a long time! And I believe there are a ton of people who feel overwhelmed by (1) who they think they should be and (2) what they think they should be doing. I was definitely one of those people.
And I thought it would make me happy.
That’s the thing – I thought being busy would make me happy. Especially during college. I did all these extra-curriculars that honestly gave me anxiety. Spent time with people who I didn’t really click with. Worked jobs that weren’t a good fit + made me miserable. Thought I had to eat a very specific way that really just ended up stressing me out. The list goes on and on.
Now, my life is simpler than ever.
However, simple does not mean responsibility-free. I think it’s safe to say that I have more responsibilities now than ever before, yet my life is more simple and uncomplicated than ever, and it feels really good.
That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes become overwhelmed by those same old patterns of thinking. Where I believe that I need to be someone that I’m not or do something that really isn’t ME. But overall, my life just feels lighter and more freeing than I would have ever thought possible.
I understand that everyone has different life circumstances – some that make it a lot harder to simplify.
So I am just here to tell you how I personally simplified my life with five actionable steps so that I can actually ENJOY it.
Here we go.
1. Say no + set boundaries.
I’m just going to be honest, this one is so hard. I’m still not good at saying no or setting boundaries, and it is a constant learning process. But the little bit that I have exercised my “no muscle” and communicated my boundaries, the more my life and happiness have flourished.
What has that looked like for me?
- Passing on some social gathering invites. Instead of making up an excuse, I will be honest that I already had plans to have a chill night in. I hate the feeling of letting other people down. But saying no sometimes is truly what I need to feel recharged + like the best version of myself. We can’t go around feeling guilty for advocating for ourselves.
- Saying no to certain things at work that simply are not my job. I’m not at all saying not to give 100%. But when tasks have been pushed onto my plate that are very much not my role, I try to communicate that.
- Communicating boundaries with someone who I have experienced conflict with + who I want to have a healthier relationship with. In my experience, doing this made things harder at first and 1000x better later on.
To sum this one up, saying no + setting boundaries has helped me simplify my life in so many ways, including…
Giving me time back to do the things that fill up my cup. Minimizing any resentment or negative feelings that come up when I feel obligated to do something. And decreasing toxic relationships that leave me feeling drained.
Saying no more often really just means I get to say a big, fat, capital letters YES to the life that I want.
2. Meal plan + make easy recipes.
Pretty much every Sunday, I create a grocery list and decide what David and I are going to eat for dinners that week. Then, David picks everything up on Monday after work. We have some go-to meals that make meal planning waaaay easier. (You can find those here, they are delish!)
But I also like to change things up pretty frequently + try new recipes. I know myself though and have discovered that I typically won’t make more than one recipe per week. Sommetimes two. While scrolling through Pinterest it’s easy to think I’ll have the time + energy to make ALL SORTS of new things this coming week. But Wednesday rolls around and I’m like “uhhhh, I am exhausted. I want to sit back + relax, what is the easiest thing we have to make??”
I feel like a lot of people struggle with figuring out what to eat for dinner during the week. It’s kind of this universal problem we all share with no perfect solution. But I’m going to share the system that works best for US:
- Figure out a handful of dinners that fit the following qualifications:
A. You love eating it.
B. It makes you feel good (aka it should leave you feeling satisfied and nourished).
C. You don’t need to read a recipe to make it.
–> These dinners will be your go-to meals. The no-brainer, minimal effort required meals that you feel good about eating and truly enjoy. These meals will prevent you from ordering takeout multiple nights a week because you’re too tired to cook.
- Make enough food so that each dinner can also be lunch the next day. (Or multiple days if you’re not picky like me).
- Only plan on making 1-2 new recipes per week max. I rarely pick out complicated ones, but they do require more effort than one of our go-to meals. This prevents food from being wasted, especially herbs or veggies that go bad if they aren’t used up that week.
- Try to commit to only eating out once per week. Sometimes we eat out more than that, and we don’t beat ourselves up about it. But setting the intention has helped us save money, find new recipes we love, and build up a larger repertoire of go-to meals.
- I create the grocery list, see what staples we need more of, and do the meal planning. Then David does the actual grocery shopping. Basically, since there’s two of us, we play to our strengths. I love finding new recipes + meal planning, so it doesn’t feel like work to me. David doesn’t mind going to the grocery store, while I would rather do 100 other things. We make a good team 🙂
Cooking + meal prep can take up a huge chunk of time + energy, but it doesn’t have to. For me, this has been a huge way to simplify everyday life. The name of the game here is to create a system that makes cooking + meal time FUN, delicious, and not difficult.
3. Stop trying to be perfect.
Like I said, I used to have a lot more should-dos, should-bes, and should-feels. And I think a lot of that stemmed from me feeling the need to reach some level of perfection. But perfectionism doesn’t exist and it. is. exhausting. It complicates life and makes everyday decisions seem bigger than they are. Striving for perfection makes it pretty much impossible to simplify your life.
Here are some ways I am learning to let go of perfectionism:
- A simple, little walk outside instead of going to the gym five days a week is okay. And actually has become one of my absolute favorite things.
- I don’t have to do my makeup every day, and approximately zero people will notice or care.
- I can wear what I’m most comfortable in + get rid of all the stuff in my closet I don’t even enjoy wearing. I’m learning that there is no need to feel pressure to dress a certain way.
- Following every trend or what’s popular is not necessary or bringing me joy. My house doesn’t have to look like Pinterest, I don’t always have to have my nails done, and I don’t have to try intermittent fasting or the keto diet. None of these things are bad AT ALL. I personally have just felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I accept that I don’t want to keep up with all the latest trends, yet I can still love my life.
Letting go of the need to be perfect is probably the most meaningful way I have simplified my life (along with #5). It has been the quickest way to discovering who I really am + what matters most to me. Letting go has stripped away the opinions of others, societal standards, and the things I have been telling myself for years that just AREN’T TRUE. I now realize how much pressure I put on myself to be something or do something that simply doesn’t make me happy. And isn’t in alignment with the life I desire.
I’m learning that I need to let go of unattainable standards in order to truly simplify my life.
4. Identify an area of your life that feels cluttered and commit to not buying any items in this category for a set amount of time.
For example, I felt like I cleaned out my closet at least once a year. So I decided to commit to not buying any pieces of clothing for an entire year. While I did end up buying a few things (my wedding dress – lol kind of a big one, a few new swimsuits, and a couple other items), I became soooo much more mindful of my purchases, and not just my clothing purchases. It also made me realize how many things I buy that I don’t 100% love.
We bought our first house the same year I tried this, and I think it’s why our home is relatively minimalist. I just became much more intentional about my purchases across the board – home decor, clothing, food, and random things on Amazon.
Minimalism and getting rid of *things* has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. And I’m 100% on board. I think it’s a great area to start out with when you are figuring out how to simplify your life.
You can try this little experiment in any area + make it as specific or general as you want. It can be for an entire year or just a month. No matter how you decide to do it, your eyes will open up to how easily we buy things without a second thought. If you decide to give it a go, drop me a note – I would love to hear what you try + how it impacts your life!
5. Focus on your zone of genius or what you enjoy + are good at.
This one has honestly TRANSFORMED my life. I think this concept is powerful for anyone, but if you are a type one on the enneagram or an INFJ myers-briggs like me (where my personality nerds at!?), this last point is especially powerful.
My life became a lot less complicated when I stopped trying to fit myself into boxes not meant for me. For example, I do NOT enjoy public speaking. While I’m not bad at it, I don’t experience enjoyment from speaking in front of a group. When we’re good at something, I think it’s easy to think we’re “meant to” do it. That has led me down a lot of paths not meant for me…
Anyway, I finally decided to communicate this with my colleague, and we discovered that the things I don’t enjoy doing are things that she really loves, and vice versa. I think there is a ton of pressure in society to “get out of your comfort zone” + push yourself to do things you don’t want to do. However, I believe that advice is often taken out of context.
In my opinion, every single human being has innate gifts + talents. Every human being also has things they enjoy doing + things they would be happier not doing. For the longest time, I thought I needed to (1) do the things I’m good at, and (2) “push myself” to get good at all the things I didn’t enjoy doing. And for what??!
Life is too short to not be doing the things you love. Maybe for certain personality types, the advice to get uncomfortable is helpful. For me, it has honestly been horrible advice. It has done the opposite of simplify my life. I am a naturally curious, intrinsically motivated person, so trying new things that I’m interested in doesn’t make me “uncomfortable”. It’s just not the right word. It challenges me, it helps me grow. But maybe for some, the word uncomfortable is exactly what you feel when you try new things, even if they’re things you’re interested in.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that my life became much simpler when I stopped pushing myself to get uncomfortable all the time. Because uncomfortable for me looked like anxiety, stress, and worry – and those negative emotions are not conducive to a simplified, lighter-feeling life. They create a heavy, complicated life. My life was cluttered with negative self-talk, such as “I should be good at this” or “I should feel less nervous about this”. When my life could be filled with POSITIVE self-talk, like “I love doing this, I could do it all day long” + “I feel completely in alignment when I do this!”
So let’s embrace the sweet spot – what we love love love doing + are absolutely GREAT at. That’s our zone of genius.
So to recap the 5 specific ways to simplify your life so that you can truly, deep down ENJOY it…
- Say no more often + set boundaries.
- Eat simply + meal plan.
- Let go of the need to be perfect.
- Commit to not buying items in an area of your life that feels cluttered for a set amount of time.
- Figure out what you love doing + are really good at, and do more of that + less of the other stuff.
Alright friends, I’d love to hear how you are simplifying your life in more ways than Marie Kondo-ing your house (even though I actually do love her method). To me, a simple life is much more than decreasing the amount of possessions you own. It’s about intentionally creating a life that is shaped by YOUR values, not the values of your parents, your friends, the people you follow on social media, or society.
A simple, intentional life means stripping away the excess. The excess opinions of others. Obligations you don’t want to be tied to. Thoughts + feelings that aren’t serving you. And anything else that isn’t contributing to a life that makes you happy. To me, a simple life is a happy life. So cheers to finding your simple.