Ten quick wins to help you get started on your journey to simple living, whether you live in the suburbs, city, or anywhere else.
So you are ready to live just a little more simply but you don’t know where to start. Does it mean moving out to the middle of nowhere and growing your own wheat? Becoming a part of the tiny house movement and owning four plates? Should you be shopping for a bonnet? Relax! There are. little changes you can make, wherever you are. No craziness required.
What is simple living anyway?
Simplicity is a combination of taking away and adding. The best way to simplify your life is to get rid of things that are causing chaos and stress in your life: a job you hate, activities that are wasting your time, shopping habits that are destroying your savings. It means you are home more and not spending money. So improving the feel and function of your home is a big part of simple living. This list is not meant to be an addition to your already packed to-do list. It’s an invitation to slow down, stay home, and nest.
Day One: Simplify Your Paper
Let’s start in the junk drawer. Clear it out to the essentials. Find a few small, shallow boxes for rubber bands and other small things, or start using a divider. Keep only ten pens and pencils. The rest can be thrown out or saved for another time. Make this drawer look so good that you are occasionally opening it just to look. Every day, get it back to that state. It probably takes less than one minute a day.
Tackle the piles of paper on your counter. Throw most of them out. Find a designated spot for them, and pick a day of the week that you will sort through them.
Set up reminders in your phone for recurring bills, appointments, and other things. Commit to putting new commitments in there, or in one designated place, and set a reminder for a day before and an hour before each one.
Day Two: Home Happiness
Schedule three times a day that you are relaxing. Maybe it needs to work around the kids’ schedules and it’s early morning, nap time, and after bedtime. Maybe it’s after they leave for school, or after lunch. Pick three times that you know you can relax.
Set up a few spots for yourself to relax, doing something other than being on your phone. It’s depressing. Make a reading spot in a room you spend your time in. Wipe down the kitchen table and chairs and organize a drawer for you to make a cup of tea in the afternoons. Whatever appeals to you.
Research a few new skills you would like to learn. Baking bread, crocheting, making soap, woodworking, whatever. (See a list of my favorite home skills here.) Write down a few things, save some projects to Pinterest, think about where and when you can to this in your home.
Day Three: Plan to Eat at Home
Go to that pretty and organized junk drawer, and take out a pen. Get 5 pieces of paper and write down some master food planning lists:
1. Thirty meals your family will consistently eat without complaining.
2. Meals that you only eat occasionally due to the seasons, the expense, or family pickiness
3. A master grocery list so that all of your meals on list one can be made at any time.
4. Things that can be ahead of time and put in the fridge or freezer: salad dressings, casseroles, rolls, meatballs, cookie dough, whatever. Make sure it’s what you will really eat!
5. Things you’d like to try. Recipes that interest you, or restaurant meal you’d like to copy.
Day Four: Pretty Mornings
Organize the bathroom drawers you use on a daily basis. Make it look like your new junk drawer: beautiful, breathing space for each time, a spot for each item. Get some cleaning cloths and a cleaning spray and put them under your sink. Clean it every single morning after you get ready.
Empty out your underwear and sock drawer. Throw out everything old and gross. Don’r buy anything new. Just use what you have.
Do something pretty for your bathroom. A few house plants, some glass jars filled with soap, a photo on the wall.
Day Five: Handmade Home
Go ahead and buy or borrow whatever you need for the new skill you decided on earlier, within reason and within your budget.
Pick a day of the week that you can work on the new skill, and do crafts and projects you already enjoy. Give yourself a designated spot in the house to do these things, and make it tidy and pretty.
Start a running list or Pinterest board of projects to do. Make them realistic, so that when you look at it you can get started on something instead just reading it and feeling defeated.
Day Six: A Working Kitchen
The best rule of kitchen organization is to put your most frequently used items closest to the working area of your kitchen. If you have one of those big pantries with wire shelves that aren’t even in the kitchen, you are making your life hard. Get your pantry staples and baking ingredients IN the kitchen, in cabinets, drawers, or canisters on the counter.
Put anything that’s infrequently used in that weird pantry, or above the fridge, or in high shelves you can barely reach. Or the basement, or give it to someone who would use it more.
Organize the rest of the kitchen so that things you use all the time are handy. Don’t be afraid to have things out on your counter, in crocks, or on the stove. Put herbs in glass jars filled with water, wooden rolling pins resting on the counter, eggs in a pretty basket, a cast iron skillet resting on the stove. It’s a kitchen. Food is part of it, and it’s still beautiful. From now on, buy beautiful and functional things that can be out without shame.
Day Seven: Consume Less
Cancel one thing that you pay for monthly: cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime, a subscription box, whatever. Just try it. If you really miss it, you can always get it back.
Trying making a food item that you usually buy: bread, yogurt, dried herbs. Add to this list as your confidence and experience grow. Just start.
For the love of Pete, stop stopping online so much. When the urge hits, go do something else that does not involve the Internet. Remember that craft spot you set up? What about your reading chair or tea nook? Go there! With a book!
Day Eight: Join a Community
Look up where your closest Farmer’s Market is, and plan to go there every weekend with the whole family. It’s fun. Even if you have a big garden and don’t need anything from there, just go. Try a new vegetable that you don’t grow. Ask around to see if there are sources of local milk or meat you can buy. It’s fun!
Invite a new person to your house. A mom and friend of one of your children, a friend of a friend, whatever. Be brave.
Volunteer at your church or children’s school. Be very selective about what you do. I can only do a couple hours every few months, and I’m totally fine with it. If you already do a lot of this and it’s stressing you out, cut back.
Day Nine: AM & PM Rest and Routine
Get up early. Like, really early. Before 5. I promise you will love it. You are up before the kids and you will have HOURS to yourself to drink coffee, putter around, and either get work done or relax in silence. This means you will go to bed by 9. It’s good for you.
Devise an AM and PM housekeeping routine. Make sure the house is put to bed at night- dishwasher loaded and set to run, floors swept, rooms tidied. When you wake up the house should welcome you, not repel you. In the morning get into a routine of unloading the dishwasher, starting laundry, whatever works for you.
Day Ten: Priorities
Are you living your life like your number one priority is money? Be honest with yourself. I was for a long time, and sometimes I feel it creeping back in. Acknowledge it and think about what is important to you. Live accordingly.
Maybe you shouldn’t be worrying about growing your side job. Why are you focusing so hard to grow your blog/ Instagram/ pyramid scheme/ whatever? I’m not saying give up on your own plans, but maybe you can scale back or take a little break. Maybe your family needs you right now. Maybe you have enough right now already.
This was a strange combination of deep and shallow steps to a simpler life. But life is a strange combination of small and large decisions. Cook more, spend less, stay busy, be happy.
More reading on simple living:
Frugal for Beginners by Leila Lawler at Like Mother, Like Daughter
My Facebook page, Old Fashioned Mama, shares simple living tips and articles from all around the internet.
Streamline That Household Budget by Kate Singh
Simplify Your Life: Amish Style by Tracy at Our Simple Homestead