A lot of people don’t realize the true value of what it means to live simply and how it can help you save money and get the things you need or want out of life. The problem is, we usually think simple = deprivation, doing without.
Most of us think when it comes to learning ways to save money we need to cut out everything in your life that you enjoy. No more cable TV, no more eating out, no more driving cars, no fancy house, no double latte at the coffee shop every morning. And while it’s true you want to minimize a lot of the extra “stuff” and “junk” out of life, that doesn’t mean you can’t have any of the things you really want or enjoy, either.
A lot of experts will tell you all types of suggestions on “simple ways to save money” – and they’ve got all kinds of ideas for you: write out meal plans each week and clip coupons for hours to save at the grocery store. Analyze every penny spent in an Excel spreadsheet. Do something yourself, even if it does take longer, to save a few dollars. And while sure, these things might help you save a little here and a little there, do any of them sound simple to you? Will doing these things make you happy?
None of these things are going to make you happy – or save you money. Why? Because they’re not simple. You don’t achieve a lot from these habits. Staring at receipts and bank statements is not going to solve your problems of being in debt or not having enough money for the things you enjoy.
I define simple as this:
Simple is achieving a lot with very little.
There is a principle that I truly believe in that author Deepak Chopra introduced me to and explains in his book the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. It’s called the Law of Least Effort. Most people who talk about this simple principle go into a great tangent trying to explain what it means and how it works. They use a lot of big and complicated words.
It’s not that hard. “Accomplish more with less” sums it up pretty easily.
This doesn’t mean you can do absolutely nothing and see a change. But it does mean that you can find a way to accomplish what you want without needing to go to the extraordinary. It’s about finding ways to do things that require the least amount of effort.
We waste a lot of energy on things we don’t have to. Have you ever spent hours contemplating about something and unable to reach a decision? Have you ever argued with someone about a subject you both feel strongly different about? Have you ever driven all over town to run errands? Had to wade your way through piles of paperwork?
What if you could save this energy spent by doing meaningless things and you could instead use it toward doing things that are meaningful to you? Not only would it make life more simple, but it could help you achieve the things you want to achieve as well.
Applying the meaning of living simply in your life can be broken down into these parts:
1. Live in the Moment: We waste a lot of time and energy looking at the past and into the future. While yes, to a certain degree we must think about the future (such as: I have an appointment at 4 o’clock), there is really no need to dwell on past happenings in any great length. Think only about what you are doing right now. Set aside a special time where you will be thinking about the future – but don’t think about it during everything you do each and every day. If you’re thinking about what you are doing tomorrow every minute of today, you lose today. You need to take action – not just think about it.
2. Declutter: Our lives are filled with a lot of unnecessary clutter. Is your desk at work a mess of paperwork and folders? Does your kitchen have a lot of things on the counter tops or stuffed into cupboards and drawers? Are you afraid of opening your closet doors? All of these things lead to two things: over stimulation and stress. It’s very difficult to focus on only one object or item when you have several things in front of you. You may be unable to concentrate if you have distractions and interruptions. These things can lead to stress, which is only going to make it more difficult to achieve your goals. It’s not easy to declutter, but don’t worry, there will be A LOT of posts about that to come
3. Remember the Basics: We get so caught up in many things in life that we forget about the basic rules and principles we should each follow, such as respecting and loving others. Have you ever read the poem “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? It is true. If you have the basics, your potential is unlimited. A framework is often better than a complete and complex system.
4. Practice Acceptance: We waste a lot of time and energy trying to change things that we have no control over. You wouldn’t get upset that you can’t make the sky purple would you? So why do we day in and day out constantly use our energy in thinking about how things could be different or what we want? When you accept things as they are, and you start channeling your energy into things you can do (not just think about) then you are making progress and you can start achieving the things you really want and need. Acceptance can help propel you into Action.
5. Think Small: Seth Godin wrote a book called Small Is the New Big and its a statement that is becoming more and more true. When you look at things in the grand scale, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or to miss important details that might be affecting the way you live. But if you break things down piece by piece and step by step, you will likely see much better results and a difference. If you can’t find that big giant answer at first, look at it on a small scale – you might just find what you’ve been looking for all along.
6. Don’t Work Hard: You probably think in order to get what you want, you need to work as hard as possible. But in a logical perspective, this doesn’t make any sense. If you find an easier route to achieve something, wouldn’t you be able to accomplish more? You could cut the grass with a pair of scissors, or you could use a riding lawn mower. The pair of scissors would be a lot of hard work and would take a long time. The riding lawn mower is going to take some time and effort, but think of how much more grass you would get cut – and there wouldn’t be any difference in the quality. You don’t have to work hard to be successful – you need to work efficiently.
7. Abandon the Baggage: We carry with us an enormous amount of unnecessary baggage: emotions, and thoughts that prevent us from achieving all that we want to achieve. Like in my last example of how most of us think we have to work hard to get the things we want – most of us are programmed with preconceived notions that simply aren’t true. Do you ever feel like if you get rich something bad will happen to you because “money doesn’t buy happiness”? Of course money doesn’t buy happiness – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have money or can’t be happy. There is no relationship between money and happiness – happiness has to come from within you. Getting money and having money isn’t going to determine that you’ll be miserable the rest of your life. Carrying around your emotional baggage will make you miserable – whether you have money or not. You’ve got to let go!
Living simply takes awhile for people to understand and really practice. You’re not going to read this list, start doing all of these things, and in no time see the results you were hoping for. But, it does give you an overview of the things necessary to live a more simple life – and it can be done, one step at a time. I’m even going to show you how with every blog post I write here.
What are your thoughts on living simply? How to you define living a simple life?