There are a lot of things that we don’t have control over in life. But if you’re looking to reduce your stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful existence, then it’s worth putting effort into living more simply.

The idea of purposeful simple living is nothing new. Many religious and spiritual leaders, including Gautama Buddha, Muhammad, and Lao Tzu, preached living simply and peacefully as central tenets of their doctrines. Plenty of secular examples exist, too, from the ever-growing zero waste movement to minimalist interior design and architecture. And at the heart of all of these practices is the idea that there is legitimate fulfillment to be found in learning to live with less.

What Is Simple Living?

Living more simply means different things to different people. But ultimately, it comes down to letting go of the unessential and adopting a less consumption-driven lifestyle.

Cup of matcha latte with heart in drink.
The less clutter in your life, the less clutter in your mind. (Photograph by Skillshare student Ram D.)

Fortunately, there is no one right way to do this. For example, simple living could mean deleting the majority of your apps, swapping out your smartphone for a basic mobile phone—or even opting out of technology altogether. It’s all about figuring out what is essential to you and making a conscious decision to change your relationship to the things that aren’t.  

Various ways you can choose to simplify your life include:

  • Reducing consumption
  • Living more frugally
  • Downsizing to a smaller home
  • Working less
  • Practicing minimalism
  • Reducing your reliance on technology
  • Becoming more self-sufficient
  • Growing all or some of your own food
  • Shopping second hand
  • Repairing or repurposing items instead of throwing them out
  • Going zero waste

It’s your call what you decide to let go of and what you decide to let in in your pursuit of everyday minimalism and simplicity. What’s most important is the intention behind your efforts and that the changes you make actually serve to make your life easier. As you learn more about how to live a simple life, try to hone in on the practices and ideas that really speak to you—and that are realistic in your current circumstances.

Benefits of Living Simply

There are so many benefits to living the simple life. Here are some of the big ones.

  • It’s less stressful. Stress isn’t always avoidable. But living simply means giving yourself permission to let go of stressful things, relationships, and situations when it’s possible to do so, meaning less overall stress in your life and a lot more agency over your mental well-being.
  • It’s better for the environment. The less you consume, the better it is for the world around you. By working out how to live a simpler life, you do your part to use less energy, limit your share of resources, and coexist more peacefully with the planet—all of which result in a smaller natural footprint.
  • It’s cost-efficient. Cutting out non-essentials means cutting out wasteful spending. It also leaves you with more money to spend on those things that you do deem to be essential, including experiences and giving to others.
  • It frees up your time. Simple living can’t give you more hours in a day, but it can help you do more with the 24 hours you already have. That’s because it asks you to reprioritize how you spend your time and give more of your energy to the things that bring you joy. If you’ve been wanting more time for creativity, relaxation, and hobbies, this is a way to make it happen.

A simple existence isn’t for everyone, but many people find it integral to living their best life. If these are the types of benefits that you’d like to experience more of, it’s worth exploring ways to simplify your life and focus your energy on the things that really matter to you.

Sunflower in front of red brick building.
Open yourself up to enjoying the small and simple things in life. (Photograph by Skillshare student Bird Larter.)

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How to Start Living a Simple Life

Here are some of the steps you can take as you figure out how to live a simple life—and what that looks like.  

Create a Vision

What does a simple life look like to you? Is it a self-sustaining homestead in the country? A minimalist apartment on a quaint city street? A solo camping trip in the mountains? Creating a clear vision will help you set your intentions and take direct action toward what you ultimately want to achieve. If you’re not quite sure yet how to define your ideal outcome, look to images instead, creating a visual mood board with pictures that speak to your idea of simple living.

Edit Down Your Belongings

From your kitchen to your closets, go item-by-item in your home and get rid of anything superfluous. This includes things you don’t use and won’t use, as well as things that simply feel heavy to have around. Try to donate, repurpose, or properly recycle anything that you can, keeping in mind that you can find a home for most anything so long as it’s in good condition.  

Simplify Your Style

Minimalism and simple living aren’t the exact same thing, but you can use the principles of minimalism to reshape and simplify your style. Work on gradually building a capsule wardrobe rather than regularly buying new clothes or hopping onto trends. And bring more serenity into your space through minimalist interior styles like Japandi or Scandinavian design.

Schedule Time to Do Nothing

Slowing down can feel unnatural, especially if you’ve been taught to idealize hustle culture and all that comes along with it. The longer you live simply, the easier it will become to relax and do nothing, but in the beginning it could be helpful to actually plug time into your schedule to be quiet, still, and present.

Reduce Your Reliance on Tech

There’s nothing simple about living your life on a screen. Social media and constant communication are both a type of noise that can stand in the way of inner peace, so use your devices as little as you can (or ditch them entirely). It can be a difficult cord to cut, but this is one big life change you’re unlikely to regret making.

6 Simple Living Ideas to Try Right Now

There are many ways to go about living simply and peacefully. If the idea of going all or nothing sounds overwhelming to you, pick just a few of the ideas below to start with, making decisions based on what’s right for your finances and your future. From there, you can start to simplify even more areas of your life as opportunity allows.

Little girl swinging on swing in her yard.
The easiest way to start living more simply? Spend more time outdoors. (Photograph by Skillshare student Anthony Issa.)

1. Buy Local

Commit to buying as much locally as you can, including food, clothing, and furniture. Even better, shop second hand in your neighborhood in thrift and antique stores and online (Facebook Marketplace and Buy Nothing groups are a great place to begin), and disengage with the general consumer economy as much as you can.

2. Exercise Your Green Thumb

Try your hand at growing your own food from seed, plant, or even scraps. Beginner-friendly edible plants like herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and leafy greens require less space than you think (and can often be grown indoors in containers if you don’t have a yard).

3. Learn to Say “No”

We tend to let a lot more into our lives than we actually want just because of the guilt associated with saying “no.” Learning to turn things down is a fantastic superpower though, and one that you’ll need to cultivate to live more simply. If you don’t want to do something, just say “no, thank you,” and don’t feel like you need to offer any excuse to go along with it.

4. Spend More Time Outdoors

Connecting with nature is an essential part of simple living. So sip your morning coffee on the porch, or treat your dog to longer daily walks. Whatever ways you can find to spend more time outside, embrace them and experience firsthand the calming effects of immersing yourself in the natural world.

5. Rethink Your Relationship to Email and Texts

It’s a total myth that we need to be available to others 24/7. Unless something is truly urgent (and it so rarely is), don’t stress yourself out trying to reply right away—even if you have the time to do so. Instead, designate a set time for catching up on correspondence and give yourself permission to leave people on unread.

6. Don’t Give Into Pressure to Spend

Only you can decide how you allocate your resources. As such, you never have to spend money on something that isn’t important to you, even if society or tradition tells you that you should. This applies to things like pricey Christmas and birthday presents, as well as those things that we’re told to want without any real reason, like the newest versions of things we already own.

Living simply isn’t about depriving yourself. It’s about figuring out what serves you and letting go of everything else. Start to incorporate some of the ideas above into your day-to-day, and look for other ways to cut back and redirect your focus for good.

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Written By

Laura Mueller

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