Like many people, I love the idea of living a simplified life. But I also love my stuff, and simplifying is easier talked about than done.
A great example of my love for stuff is my thought process as I look at Pinterest:
That skirt is adorable. Where is it from? $200!? Am I good enough at sewing to make it? (The answer: probably not) I’ll give it a go! *PIN*
Bacon wrapped grilled cheese sandwiches?? Who thinks of these things and how can I be his/her best friend? *PIN*
Homemade kale chips. That’s better for me; I should probably pin that, too, just to balance it out. *PIN*
I’ve been on Pinterest for 2 hours, have accomplished nothing, and feel like a need a nap. Search naps … Oooooo, a full-body bean bag! *PIN*
Sure, I may not be creating physical clutter, but things like Pinterest can often lead us to a sort of online clutter that leaves us wanting more, more, more. I want all the cute clothes. I want all the yummy food. I want. I want. I want.
As Christians, this is not the way we are called to live. One of the greatest models of simplicity we have is exemplified in the life of Jesus, who not only lived simply, but commanded His disciples and us to do the same.[Jesus] told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt” (Luke 9:3).
This simplicity that we’re called to should stem from an authentic inward desire to be like Jesus that is reflected as an outward lifestyle and reality.
There are two big steps to simplifying your life:
1. Identifying what’s most important to you
2. Eliminating as much of everything else as you can
But since it can be hard to know how to practically apply those principles, here are five ways you can simplify your life right now:
1. Cut Out TV/Movie Time.
Do you really need to binge-watch Breaking Bad every day after work? Start out small with cutting your time down to 10 hours or less a week and work your way down to 5 hours or less.
2. Get Rid of Unnecessary Clothing.
You don’t have to have a new outfit for everyday of the year. No one expects that of you unless you’re some crazy fashionista blogger. Start by going through your closet and getting rid of two of each item—two tops, two bottoms, two pairs of shoes, two ties, etc. If you’re feeling ambitious, get rid of everything but 10 or 5 (*gasp*) of each item that you can mix and match—that’s still a lot of stuff.
3. Cut Down on Social Media.
I know you’re really excited about what all your friends from 10 years ago are doing with their lives, but wouldn’t your time be better spent calling up your best friend from college and talking to her about her adorable 1-year-old rather than “liking” the picture she posted on Facebook? Try to cut it to less than one hour a day on all social media. Make it less than 20min/day if you’re feeling especially ambitious!
4. Clear Out the Clutter.
Look at your shelves—around your computer, on your desk, in your kitchen. If you’re like me (hopefully you’re not) you have piles of stuff everywhere. Get rid of that clutter! Be merciless. You don’t need the notes from your college English class or that pile of magazines you’ve never looked at—yeah, you should probably cancel that subscription while you’re at it. This goes for your computer and digital clutter, too!
5. Let Go of the Past and Stop Wishing Your Life Away.
I still struggle with this one all the time. Who doesn’t think back on missed opportunities and wish exciting things from the future were here now? But when we do this, we’re missing out on what’s happening now, and it’s complicating our lives.
You’re not going to be able to do this all at once. It would be overwhelming. Try tackling one of these a week, or devoting 15 minutes a day to simplifying life. Or set aside a day to purge your life of un-necessities. Think through it. Journal through it. Share the burdens with friends and family. It’s liberating.
Simplicity is More
Simplicity isn’t just about less mindless and needless stuff; it’s also about spending that time and money in ways that will enrich your life and the lives of those around you.
Nearly half the global population lives on less than $2/day. That’s 2.8 billion people. And nearly 1.2 billion live in extreme poverty at less than $1.25/day.
Consider giving the money you save in simplifying your life to a charity or nonprofit that you care about that’s helping the impoverished.
Living with less allows us to do more to help those in need. And that should be one of the goals of simplicity.
And what are you going to do with all that extra time you’re not spending watching TV or on Facebook?
Why not read a book with your family? Have some friends over for dinner. Paint. Write. Volunteer. Pray! Travel. Go for a walk outside. Find something you love that brings you joy and do that. I can assure you that it will be much more fulfilling than watching that episode of Friends for the 14th time. Be present in the here and now. You’ll be thankful for it later.
is an activist and writer living in Portland, Oregon.