5 Simple Living Strategies

by heather

7596759If you’re anything like me, then sometimes the world can get to be a bit much. I know when I’ve reached the “overwhelmed” point when I start dreaming of tree swings, my family’s farm, and spending hours doing nothing but hunting for four leaf clovers.

In short, I start dreaming of simplicity.

I’ve taken several steps in the past year to simplify my life; it’s definitely an on-going effort. With each step my life gets a little less complicated and a little more wonderful, which is proof to me that I’m on a path worth pursuing.

I wanted to share 5 simple living strategies that I’ve used in my own life to free up my time and find a bit more sanity in an often-deafening world.

Simple Living Strategy #1: Cut Down On TV

According the Neilson Research, the average American watches 4 hours and 35 minutes of television everyday. And 50% of all homes have more than 3 televisions.

I know this is a cliche suggestion, and you’ve probably heard it about a million times by now, but cutting out television truly is a wonderful way to free up your time and do something meaningful instead.

I cancelled my cable TV months ago. And, I don’t have bunny ears either. When I watch TV I watch a movie I really care about.

Do I miss it? Never.

Simple Living Strategy #2: Feel Grateful For What You Have Right Now

With all the uncertainty that comes as a result from living in a recessed economy, it’s all too easy to dwell on everything you don’t have.

If you subscribe to the belief (like Law of Attraction) that you get what you focus on, then this means that you’re going to get more circumstances that you don’t want.

Personally, I believe that our thoughts have a force and power of their own. When all we do is think about negative things, like those bills we don’t want or that job we don’t have, then we’re going to keep getting more of the same.

Instead, why not think about one thing every day we’re truly grateful for? When you shift your thinking from lack to gratitude, you can almost feel the change in your heart. Thinking of things you’re grateful for is very positive and powerful. It will remind you that even though things may seem lousy, there are always bright spots of joy…if you stop to look for them.

Simple Living Strategy #3: Stop Watching The News

Every time I bring this up it sparks a fierce debate.

On the one hand, the news keeps you in the loop with what’s happening in the world. If you want to be an active, involved citizen, then it’s important you stay on top with what’s going on.

On the other hand, the news is often violent and depressing. After watching the news, many people feel lower emotionally than they did before they turned it on.

I’d stopped watching the news months before I cancelled my cable. Instead, I listen to it on NPR while I cook dinner in the evening.

What’s the difference? Well to me, there’s a big difference.

Getting my news from a place like NPR means that I’m not subjected to the “sensationalism” that television networks thrive on. I also don’t have to see the images of local trauma (like accidents and murders). NPR is objective, balanced, and calm. I get great analysis, and I feel informed without being bowled over by talking heads and horrific clips.

I want to stay informed and involved in the world I’m living in. Listening to the news, rather than watching it, is my best solution for doing that while still staying positive.

Simple Living Strategy #4: Learn To Say “No”

Do you ever feel that you’re so busy doing things for others that there’s no time left to do anything for yourself? Many people do. We live in a “Do Do Do” culture, and when we can’t say “no” our time can get frittered away by a million little errands and commitments. And the good stuff? It gets passed by.

It’s important to analyze your life and identify what gives you value, and what doesn’t. The stuff that doesn’t give you value needs to go.

What have I given up?

Well, I gave up visiting a gazillion different stores to get a cheaper price. For instance, I used to visit the dreaded Wal-Mart for one item: Eggos. Then I’d hit Target for things like toilet paper, soap, and Amy’s Burritos. You see where this is going…I’d spend a whole afternoon driving around simply to get a cheaper price on some items.

Although this was saving money, it was stressful because I hated doing it, and it was bad for the environment (because of driving my car more and using more gas).

So, I quit. I get all my groceries from one place. Paying a bit more for some items is worth it to me because I save time, save gas, and save my sanity.

Simple Living Strategy #5: Start DOING Simple Things

When was the last time you let the laundry go and instead spent the afternoon loafing in the sun staring at cloud animals?

When was the last time you went swinging at the playground, or jumped on a trampoline with your kids?

I’ve found that it’s often the simple things that give me the most pleasure. Looking for four leaf clovers, baking bread, swinging, making S’Mores, walking my dogs, these slow things are almost like a meditation. They allow the chatter in my mind to calm down, and I get back in touch with the girl who still loves to lick the brownie batter off the spoon and walk barefoot.

Find the simple things that bring you joy. It doesn’t matter if it seems silly to someone else; if it makes you happy, that’s all that matters. Find those things, and start doing them.

A Boost of Simple Living Love

If your mind is blank, never fear. Here are three ideas…download-2

  • Eat your favorite simple meal. Want to see mine? It’s on the right. Cheap red wine, crusty bread, kalamata olives, and Midnight Moon Cheese. Eating these things is simple (although not very frugal), and never fails to make me happy.
  • Go for a bike ride. But, not a sedate one. Find a hill, and fly down it like your hair is on fire. It’s better than a roller coaster!
  • Read an old book. And, not a new old book, like buying “Pride and Prejudice” at Borders. I mean find an old book in a junk shop, a book that everyone else has forgotten about, bring it home, and read it. You never know what treasure you might find.

Your Simple Living Strategies

What are all of you doing to simplify your life? What are some simple, silly things you love to do to unwind? I’d love to hear what you have to say on this!

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Simple Living News Update: Week of May 4th
May 11, 2009 at 7:06 am

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken May 3, 2009 at 9:25 am

Great article! Until I cut out the TV I didn’t realize how stressful it was. (Now to cut down on the leisure Internet time…) Ideas that I have used to live a simpler life are:

1. Take up a hobby. Something that you find relaxing and interesting. I’ve taken up Ikebana which is the art of Japanese flower arranging. I took a class on a whim and was surprised at how relaxing it is.

2. Clean up and cook at home. I have been cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and the frig of old food. Giving them a good cleaning before stocking up and getting ready to cook makes the kitchen a joy to be in.

3. Drink coffee from a actual “tea” cup. It is much more enjoyable to drink coffee this way than to gulp it out of a mug or thermos. It’s a nice ritual that I look forward to each morning. I also use real cream. Use a little bit, those few extra calories aren’t going to kill you and it’s worth the simple pleasure.

4. Breath. How often do we simply sit and breath? Open the windows for ten minutes every day no matter the weather. Let some fresh air inside.

5. Don’t be bitter. It’s not pretty and no one except other negative people will want to hang around you. You may have legitimate reasons for being this way but seriously, don’t. There is always someone who has it worse than you do. I mean, watch the news. Oh wait! Don’t do that!

6. Slow down. Which pretty much sums up the above. Do one thing at a time. Focus on what you are doing. Be present. I like your suggestion to make time to watch the clouds or play with the kids or pet.

Enjoy your life!

Melissa M. May 3, 2009 at 11:42 am

I like your favorite meal. Mine is something my mom used to make for me when I was a baby: brown rice, avocado, sesame seeds and a little bit of soy sauce drizzled over the top. comfort food & it’s nutritious.

Michele May 4, 2009 at 8:43 am

I’d like to second the tv recommendation! I don’t own one, and really don’t miss it (though we do watch dvds on the computer). Lots of people arrange their living spaces around the tv, and I wonder if organizing furniture to facilitate conversation instead of passive viewing might help folks cut down (alternatively, conversation-inducing furniture arrangements are one benefit of not having a tv at all!).

Heather, I totally support your view of sensationalist news broadcasting. My favorite sources for current events are radio and the internet, and I’d strongly recommend Democracy Now! (http://www.democracynow.org/) for anyone who supports independent journalism.

Great post!

heather May 4, 2009 at 9:07 am

Ken,

Thank you so much for those wonderful suggestions! That’s one of the best comments I’ve ever gotten. I definitely am going to try drinking coffee out of a tea cup (with real cream!). It would make me slow down in the morning, and really savor my morning coffee.

Thanks again for those great suggestions!

heather May 4, 2009 at 9:09 am

@Melissa- That sounds really yummalicious! I’m putting that on my menu this week to try. I love all of those things; thanks for writing that in!

@Michele- Thanks for the Democracy Now! link. I hadn’t heard of them, but I’m going to go check them out.

And, that’s a great point about the furniture arrangement. Feng Shui says you should never center your furniture around the television. I’d forgotten that until you brought up that point, and realize my furniture is totally centered on our TV. I’ll see if I can change that this week.

Thanks!

Steven@hundredgoals May 4, 2009 at 10:49 am

Great list! I agree with each and every item on there! Keep up the good work.

payst to live green May 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Great tips. TV is a huge part of many people’s lives and is a great thing to cut back on. There is a whole beautiful world out there and we should enjoy it in person instead of on our tvs.

heather May 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Pays To Live Green,

I totally agree. My challenge now is to make sure I don’t fall in the habit of watching a movie every single night, which is usually 2 hours.

Why is TV so darn addicting? I’m halfway tempted to just get rid of the whole thing. Now that my cable is gone I’m definitely watching less, but I can still see myself slipping into that bad habit.

At least now that’s it’s getting warm out I’m outside much more, but I might have to do something drastic come Fall.

Thanks for writing in!

RowdyKittens May 4, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Great list Heather! I’m going to include this in my next Simple Living News Update; very timely and helpful tips. I agree with the TV policy. We donated our TV a few years ago and it’s changed our life. We read, write and spent more time together now. It’s lovely. We love NPR. They keep us informed about world events… 🙂

Maybe you could get rid of your TV and watch a movie once in a while on your computer? We take that approach and it works really well…

Cindy May 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I’m lovin’ your site. I too love to dream about the simple life. . . Thanks for sharing your insights. You are very wise.
First, I’m receiving as many free reusable grocery bags as I can and have finally gotten to the place where I don’t forget them every time I go shopping. It feels so good not to bring home all those plastic bags.
Secondly, Our youngest daughter and I have begun sewing. We love making tote bags and coming up with new ideas to create a simple home.
Relaxing and enjoying what we have is a must ~ Who really wants the anxiety that comes from trying to “keep up with the Jones’s”? We also keep our T.V. off most of the time and have started a Family Movie Nite. The children choose from our DVD’s/VHS’s, we pop corn in our popper and have a great nite together. Ken, You hit the nail on the head with this one: Bitterness ~ It will eat you up and it is so not worth it.
We are so blessed! Yes, I like stuff but it does not equal happiness and true joy.

Jennifer March 10, 2010 at 10:34 am

Our lives can become complicated in so many ways that I find many people have a difficult time sorting it all out and gaining control. But it is possible and I encourage people every day to simplify their lives and how to do it.

I went through a period of time where I felt like I wasn’t able to manage things the way I really wanted to. I was overwhelmed. I had to learn skills, take responsibility, and make changes.

I learned and applied parenting skills while my daughter was 2 1/2 years old and we lived in tantrum city. (We both had our fits) Ha! She’s 4 years old and a joy (still strong-willed, but so thoughtful and a great kid) and our home is much, much more peaceful. 🙂

I also overcame general anxiety disorder, practice good money management, and am organizing and decluttering my home. It’s also important to stay on top of anything that lodges itself in between you and your spouse.

We have started watching less TV. It easily steals away hours. My husband and I (going on 10 years) enjoy spending more time talking, playing with our daughter, or whatever else we can do that’s more productive than watching re-runs (or even our favorite shows on DVD every single night).

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