Downsize Your Life: A Guide To Simplified Living

Live a simple, uncluttered and productive existence

Everyone is talking about “finding your dream and living your passion”; it has become the buzz phrase of the millennium. However so many people are talking about it, but so few are actually living it.

All the gurus are saying the same thing: Do more. Become More. Create More. Start new habits. Get more disciplined. Do, do, and do. But seriously…. what if that’s not an option for you?

I mean most of us our maxed out, exhausted and growing increasingly tired with all those promises of ‘the good life’ that we read so much about and see splashed over the television and billboards. The truth is most of us just don’t have the time, energy or resources to spend on ‘doing’.

But maybe ‘doing’ isn’t the way…maybe there is another way. Maybe it is about doing less and having less, removing the chaos and clutter of doing and having, so that you have the space to really move and be free.

My definition of the ‘good life’ is about not having the stress of ‘having to do’. Not ‘having to’  work in a job I hate just to pay off a mortgage I can’t afford. Not ‘having to’  do something just because everyone else thinks it is ‘the way’. You get my drift…

When you are ‘not having’, you create freedom and space in your life to be able to do the things that matter to you. Sure your life may be more simplified and filled with less stuff and activities; however it also gives you the opportunity to dedicate your time and resources to living a life that is aligned with your true values.

My message in this challenge is to do less and have less, and spend your time and resources on quality rather than quantity. Downsizing your life, your debt, your stuff, your activities and your expectations of others/yourself is what will put you on the path of ‘living the good life’.

Don’t use a lot where a little will do –Proverb

The more you react then the less you create. Reacting can be anything from feeling pressured to say ‘yes’, feeling the need to over explain or over apologize or allowing yourself to play the victim in the whole ‘life’s not fair’ game.

In a life that is full of options, it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget what truly matters. After all, we live in a culture where we supposedly get our comfort from an abundance of stuff. With this culture it is therefore extremely challenging to simplify our own life. Here are just a few ways to help you remove the clutter and prioritize your life so that your days are filled with quality and not quantity.

Ways to downsize your life

  • Make time: Where does all your time go and why don’t you have enough of it to do things you love with people you love? Look for simple shifts and micro-actions that you can take to help you reduce the unwanted or unnecessary, so that you can fill your week with moments of spare time. Having moments of spare time in your week will give you breathing space and the opportunity to mindfully choose activities that bring substance to your week. Simple shifts may be getting up 30 minutes earlier, seeking out more productive ways to do things or choosing more simple recipes to cook at night. Rethink your activities. Do your really need to help out at your kids school three times a week? Maybe you don't need to meet up with your girlfriends for dinner two times a week - maybe once a week is enough?
  • See past the gloss: I think the reason that so many of us want things is that is looks glossy and fabulous. It tricks us into thinking that our life would be better if we just had that ‘one thing’ – that ‘one thing’ can be anything from designer handbags, the promotion at work, the relationship that's not good for us, popularity, fame and so forth. The truth is that nothing is ever what it seems. So look past the gloss and glamour of what may appear and choose to follow your more earthy and raw origins. Reconnect with culture, nature, the arts, the planet and serving others. Dare to challenge society ‘norms’ and recreate a vibrant life that is filled with flavour, colour and substance.
  • Downsize your living: We live in houses with rooms that we don't go into for weeks on end (surely you have a hoarding room - most people do), the average home has at least two cars, we throw away food on a daily basis and we buy things just because they are 'on sale'. Our culture has become one of excess, we take more than we need and as a result we are wasting natural resources and our own hard earned money. Embrace the 'less is more' philosophy and only ever take/buy what you need - no more.
  • Explain less: We are a society that has a need to fill the void with fluff. Most of us have a tendency to over-explain, over apologise, send lengthy emails, and book hour-long meetings that only have 20 minutes of real content. There is power in being short, sweet and concise. Not only do you hold the attention span of others but you also leave little room for doubt or misleading messages. Have a rule where you listen more than you explain, and then when you go to explain – do it with substance and real words -drop the fluff and un-necessary niceties.
  • Spend less: Buy less stuff so that you can save money, get free of debt, and align your work/lifestyle with your values. Through buying less stuff you will need less money, hence not have to work so hard in life. From today forward set yourself goals to help you get to that point where you work less and play more. It is obtainable, I promise.
  • Reduce your ecological footprint: Be mindful of measuring how much nature is needed to supply all that you consume, absorb and waste. Virtually everything we buy, consume and use drains the natural resources in some way – whether it is the factory emissions, transport emissions, clearing of natural habitat, poisoning the land with toxic pesticides, water wastage and so on. Make an effort to try and choose more sustainable and recyclable options. Just like we have to look after our own health to help prevent disease, the planet is also a life-force that needs to be nourished and well-looked after, for it to can become so riddled with toxicity that it ceases to live any more.
  • Choose relationships wisely: When it comes to friends, less is more. Choose friends who have your best interest at heart and will be there for you throughout the tough times.Remove toxic people and choose to surround yourself with people who are positive, happy, sincere and uplifting. Remember, never make somebody else your priority if you are only an option to them. This includes family also - if a certain family member is having a negative impact on you - never feel obligated to keep them in your life.
  • Spend less time indoors: To thrive we need fresh air and sunshine. Escape the concrete maze and connect with your raw origins by spending some quality time alone in nature. This time will rejuvenate your soul and open you up to another reality where you view humanity as one species among many on a complex and inter-related planet. It will gently remind you that we are all interconnected on this planet. Take time to sit in the sunshine, walk in nature, garden or go for a bike ride.
  • Unplug: Turn off your phone, laptop and television. Unplug from the noise of the world and spend some quality time unwinding, breathing, and connecting. The quiet time will remind you of what is important to you, helping you to stay in touch with your own opinions and values.
  • The power of pause: In our busy and reactionary lives, we don’t take time out to simply stop, breathe and ‘just be’. We live on the seat of urgency, feeling that we have to take advantage of momentum and get lost in busyness. Our thoughts, worries and fears keep us on high alert. Our to-do lists, email inboxes and the high expectations that we burden ourselves with, is initially what fuels our day. Some may say that we have too much to do to slow down, but I’d like to suggest that we are afraid to slow down. We are afraid that we will become irrelevant, won’t measure up, won’t get enough done, people won’t respect or appreciate us or we will miss out. Making time to pause gives you the opportunity to quieten your mind, check in with your well-being and reminds you to appreciate the present moment. Take time out daily to drink tea, photograph, take baths, read, garden, paint or do whatever else brings stillness and calamity to your mind.
  • Let things happen organically: Conventional wisdom suggests that the more we strive for what we want the higher chance we will be met with success. Yet I’ve found the opposite to be true. How many times have you found yourself constantly striving yet never arriving? Its not about being better or competing with others to get on top; it’s about fostering an appreciation for the here and now, knowing deep within that you are exactly where you need to be right at this moment. It is about releasing the need to control outcomes and instead trusting that things will unfold how they are meant to. When you allow yourself to become more breezy and relaxed the universal energies understand this energy and it is in this relaxed space that syncronicities start to appear in life.

When we focus on doing less and doing it well, instead of doing more and assuming it’s better, we’re less scattered, more deliberate, less harried, and more present – Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha

Resources across the web:

  • Read the short list over at Zen Habits about how Leo mindfully slows down and downsizes his life. There are some great take home tips that you will love. Read here.