21 Small Habits That Will Help You to Live a Simpler Life

by Henrik Edberg

Make Life Simpler this Summer
Image by Sanna R (license).

.“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

I love simplifying my life. It makes me more effective and life less stressful. It makes me calmer and happier.

But where do you start? Or continue if you are already on your way?

In this article I’ll share 21 small habits that help me to live a simpler life. I hope you’ll find something helpful here and that you get started with one of these suggestions today and continue doing it until your new habit sticks (that usually happens after about 30 days).

  1. Breathe. When stressed, lost in a problem or the past or future in your mind breathe with your belly for two minutes and just focus on the air going in and out. This will calm your body down and bring your mind back into the present moment again.
  2. Do one thing at a time. You’ll get better results and feel better and less stressed while doing those things.
  3. Write it all down. Use your mind for better things than remembering what to do. And the mind is often like a leaky bucket. So write down all your great ideas, insights, and thoughts before they go missing somewhere and add what you need to do to a to-do list.
  4. Do all your food shopping once a week. You’ll save time, energy and possibly money.
  5. Stop doing what you don’t like doing anymore. Life changes and so do you. If you you don’t like doing something anymore then stop doing that (even if it may take some time before you can do so by for example switching jobs).
  6. Stop trying to please everyone. There will always be people who you don’t get along with or that do not like you for some reason.
  7. Stop trying to do things perfectly. Go for good enough instead and when you are there you are done. Get things all the way to done this way and then move on to the next thing.
  8. Pack your bag before you go to bed. Then you don’t have get stressed out by that in morning and you are less likely to forget something.
  9. Throw out the things you haven’t used in 1 year. Go through what you have and ask yourself if you have used it in the past year. If not, give it away to charity or a friend or simply throw it out.
  10. Ask yourself simplifying questions every day. Questions like “What is the most important thing I can do right now?”.
  11. Keep everything in its place. If everything has its own place then it is whole lot easier to keep your home reasonably ordered and decluttered from day to day. This also helps you with your inner stillness as the outer environment affects how you feel on the inside.
  12. Cook more food than you’ll eat. I usually make two or three servings of what I am about to eat. This cuts down on time that you spend on cooking and you’ll have to do less washing up in general. Plus, it’s good to have portions of food to bring to work to save some money.
  13. Write shorter emails. I tend to write emails containing only a few sentences, usually between one and five. If you focus on keeping it short and focused then you’ll probably discover that this is a good solution in most cases.
  14. Ask instead of guessing. Reading minds is hard. So, instead ask questions and communicate. This will help you to minimize unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, negativity and waste or time and energy.
  15. Use a minimalistic workspace. My work space is just a laptop on a small black desk made out of wood. I use a comfy chair and there is room for my glass of water beside the computer. That’s it. There are no distractions here. Just me, the computer and the water.
  16. Check everything just once a day. I check my email inboxes, blog statistics, my online earnings, Twitter and Facebook just once a day. I combine all that checking into one small daily ritual at the end of my work day so I don’t slip and go checking it more during the day and waste my energy and attention.
  17. Choose small daily acts of kindness. Instead of small acts of judgment and criticism towards the people around you.
  18. Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Before you you start thinking too much about something and building it up something big in your head, ask yourself “am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? And if you get lost victim thinking in some way then ask yourself “does anyone on the planet have it worse than me right now?”.
  19. Spend 15 minutes each Sunday to plan the next week. Write down your plans for the week, organize your prioritized to-do list and get ready for the week before you are in the middle of it all. This will help you to find more clarity, get more of the most important things done next week and minimize stress.
  20. Cancel subscriptions for things you rarely get around to watching or reading anyway.
  21. Spend more time with people that help you to keep things simple. And spend less time with people that drag you down into overcomplicating everything and creating unnecessary drama.

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{ 39 comments }

Taz @ Climb the Rainbow June 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I’m getting better at simplifying my life, but the one thing I still have trouble with is throwing out *everything* I haven’t used in a year when it still has sentimental value to me. That being said, I usually find that I’m able to part with it a couple of years on.

Thanks for the list!

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

Thank you! I know what you mean, I am so far keeping some things out of sentimental value too. Love your Gravatar image, by the way. :)

Andy June 15, 2011 at 7:39 pm

I’ve done this recently and there are many benefits like my room being cleaner. Not only that, most the things I threw out I didn’t really need and it.

Allen Loomis June 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Wonderful Post and I especially like the Leonardo da Vinci quote!

Sometimes when things are frantic and overwhelming we need to sit back, take a deep breath, and take things one at a time, and look at them as simplistic as possible.

Thanks for this Article!

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

Thank you very much! Yep, I agree, it’s a wonderful quote.

Courtney Sperlazza June 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Blaming my forgetfulness on pregnancy, I recently started writing everything down. You have no idea how this has changed my life! Well, you may have an idea, since it’s #3 on your list ;) I went from feeling like a space cadet to feeling much more together.

Now to work on planning the week, instead of putting everything off until Friday…

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:22 am

Yes, I do have an idea. :) Writing everything down has made a huge difference for me too. Hope your new planning habit will be another positive life-changer.

Geraldine June 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

This is an excellent list Henrik, thank you! I particularly like the ones about only writing a grocery list ONCE a week and getting rid of stuff we haven’t used in a year (give away or recycle always the best choices!) You have a wonderful site, I’m glad I found my way here.

http://www.takeahappybreak.com

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

Thank you and welcome! Hope to help you make your life even simpler in the future.

Clint Cora June 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Thanks for this useful set of tips to simplify life. This is one of the things that they suggested at T. Harv Eker’s Millionaire Mind Intensive. As part of the steps to achieving financial freedom, they suggested that we must learn to save money better rather than spend it and simplifying our lives would be the key to do that over the long term, especially in the beginning. Many of your steps are tied to saving time and therefore saving money as well.

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

Good tip, thanks for sharing! :)

Justin | Mazzastick June 9, 2011 at 3:08 am

Hi Henrik,
Great list that you provided here. I’m looking at my workspace/desk right now and I need to do some clearing here.

Stop doing things that we don’t like anymore is a real good one for me.

Debbie June 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Gota agree, My workspace also needs some clearing,

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

It’s small thing that makes the daily work easier. I recommend creating a place for everything that usually winds up on your desk after a few days. I usually put those things in my drawer beneath my desk.

Geoserv June 9, 2011 at 4:53 am

Excellent list, will try and do a few of them.

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:26 am

Thank you, good luck!

Riley Harrison June 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm

A very useful list. “Do all your food shopping once a week.” This one that is a new habit for me and I’m pleasantly surprised how well it’s working and how much time it saves. If I run out of something I have to wait for my weekly shopping trip to replenish. It re-enforces the habit of weekly shopping and makes me better organized when it comes to planning my shopping list.
Riley

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Yes, I haven’t been doing it for that long either, but it really saves time and helps me to become better organized and conscious about where my money is really going.

Vetsutoi June 10, 2011 at 2:58 am

Wonderful list. I will start doing all of it right now.

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Thank you! I would however suggest starting with one habit instead of them all at once. :)

Al Pittampalli June 10, 2011 at 3:39 am

Henrik, if I could just get myself to go food shopping consistently once a week, I’d be the happiest person alive! Great list, especially your point of perfection. Perfection creates complexity and delay. Sometimes you just have to be done and move on.

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Al!

One thing that works well for me when it comes to the shopping is to sit down during Sundays and plan what what I will eat during the next week and write a shopping list and then to go out and get that quickly at the supermarket. Perhaps something similar could work for you too. :)

TheHappyOne June 11, 2011 at 8:58 am

Hi Everyone,

I could not resist sharing my experience of weekly shopping sprees that I have been doing for last few years. If I am spend with some part of grocery during the week than I try to find some replacement which invariably turns up and helps me try something new menu. Now I have also started my 2 monthly trips to for major dry grocery, toiletries,etc. which I stock up and relax. Invariably making a list and planned trips saves on time and money.

Thanks Henrik for this useful post:)

Heather June 10, 2011 at 5:58 am

I have been practicing the tossing of items. I sit them by the curb & sit on my closed in porch waiting for the pickers to enjoy! I always avoid the day before trash day. I know someone out there needs my clutter:) I recently placed 200 DVD movies with the stands on the sidewalk. It was so freeing.

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

Sounds good!

Irene June 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm

About a year ago, i started to simplify my life, it started with de-cluttering my house (by buying a shredder first)….and just consolidating bills and actually making a plan to pay them off and quickly, sleeping on a routine schedule and just so much more…it’s working wonders in all aspects of my life…
Just came across your blog and its amazing, thanks.

Edwin Bartolome June 12, 2011 at 2:04 am

Thank you very much for this list, Henrik. I am so glad I stumbled over to this blog.

Positivity is something I find lacking in my neck of the woods. I hope everyone adopts a little positivity in their lives and attitudes. They’d be surprised at how confronting daily challenges can get a lot easier with it.

marc van der Linden June 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Interesting Point. Thanks for you sharing.

Especially point 10. It inspires me to ask in the beginning of the day: What is the most important thing I can do today?

Marc

Sibyl June 13, 2011 at 7:37 am

Henrik: Really great list. I especially love #17. It is amazing how your daily experience just improves when you stop focusing on negativity and instead look to putting out good energy to the people you come into contact with. Loved this list.

John Sherry June 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Very true Henrik that simpleness needs to make a comeback. In this modern technological digital age it’s amazing that we can only do complicated, the simple things almost beyond our comprehension now. The truth is though that simple will never go out of fashion even if it’s gone out of our minds!

Andrea June 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

Henrk Thank you very much for this reminder of list. I used to do shopping once a week before, and had the supper menu planned for the week which also helped. Then I changed things and I disturbed my routine. I should get back to it. I like also 15 and 16 the minimalistic workspace and the checking things once a day. I need to put this into practice soon. Thanks again

Prof.AlokMishra June 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

Really helpful. Regards.

Poul Andreassen June 19, 2011 at 10:44 am

The uniqueness of your article is indeed something that is influential in nature.Thanks for sharing it in such a delightful manner..!

Joy Lovegold June 21, 2011 at 4:19 am

I noticed a similarity with another website I was just on telling what True Beauty is, and it also said to do daily acts of kindness and to stop being around people who put bad energy on you. It looks like if you are happy, you will also be beautiful. By the way…if you want to read the other blog, here is a link: http://www.livehealthyforless.com/category/blog/

Nabil Gulamani June 24, 2011 at 5:56 am

Henrik,

Great post..For point 1 I usually use a technique called “observing the ego” to make sure that I am aware of my emotions even when I feel stressed..I am in sales so sometimes I have to deal with really difficult clients. When you are aware of how you are feeling and in the moment you will less likely get stressed and over analyze.

For point 2, when you focus on one thing at a time it is better then multi-tasking since the mind takes 20-30 minutes to get back in track. I have also realized that your mind will stop making useless mental chatter and will have less mental images that don’t really matter in the moment.

For point 3, I am a big believer in writing down goals. The subconscious mind is so powerful. I also read my list 10 times the night before I go to bed and imagine my ideal day for the next day. I picked up a book called The Power of Awareness, by Neville and he writes about how to gain awareness and consciousness and imagine that your goal has been accomplished ahead of time even if it is not accomplished yet.

Thanks for the helpful post:)

Arlene Marie Daniels June 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm

This is a very helpful list. Just like what it aims to make our lives, the list contains very “simple” things. But they are all very effective and doable! :) Very inspirational.

Social Natural June 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm

This list should go on everybody’s refrigerator. I definitely love number 7. I always find myself procrastinating due to my incline towards perfection. Get it done and perfect later.

Jonas July 19, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Hi Henrik,

Thank you for a very wise list of ways to simplify things. I love them, now it is “just” a question of actually implementing them ;)

I would like to add one (to me crucial) point to your list: Forgive yourself, accept the way you are and go from there.

“”Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Then act!” — Eckhart Tolle

Jonas

Mentor July 20, 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi, thanks for the post..really eye opening. It was good to know I have been doing some of the things already (like writing everything sown, yipee!)
However number 4 is tough when you live in the part of the world that I am in: Tanzania!!! electricity comes like the rains-seasonally! Its a shame (and probably shocking to you that there is a country still with electricity problems at this age n time)! But yep..will work on that when things change-hopefully!
Number 5: another smiling face..I just quit my job on monday…and guess what! another job opening starting August 1st!!!
number 8…oooops!
Hey wanna kip this short…so no more comments..nyc tym n stay blessed!!!

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