I’ve been striving to simplify my life for many years now, and have recently (through my writing) been advising others how to do the same. In the process, I’ve learned that making little changes in our attitudes, habits, and environment can have a big impact. So today, I thought I’d compile a list of 100 ways to simplify your life – from the practical to the philosophical, and everything in between.
Of course, not every item on the list will work for every person reading it. However, I hope that you’ll find at least a little something that speaks to you, helps you save some time, space, and energy — and perhaps even increases your serenity and happiness!
AROUND THE HOUSE
1. Ditch the TV (or at least turn if off). If you’re an average viewer, you’ll save over a hundred precious hours each month. An added bonus: less exposure to commercials means less desire to buy stuff, and more money in your pocket.
2. Cancel magazine subscriptions. Read the content online instead, and avoid accumulating a pile of reading material.
3. Read news online, instead of on paper. You’ll save plenty of time, and plenty of trees, by reading only the articles that interest you.
4. Get rid of excessive furniture, so there’s less to walk around, trip over, or move when you have to clean.
5. Opt for multi-functional furniture, so you can satisfy your needs with fewer pieces.
6. Get rid of excessive décor, so you’ll spend less time and effort cleaning around stuff.
7. Digitize your music. You’ll eliminate the clutter of CDs, and have easier access to your music library.
8. Download movies instead of renting DVDs. You’ll avoid the hassle of picking them up, dropping them off, or mailing them back.
9. Put items away immediately after use. It takes a lot less effort than cleaning up piles of stuff later on.
10. Have a place for everything. It makes it much easier to find things, and put them away.
11. Clean as you go. Wipe up spills, and take care of little messes before they become big ones.
12. Devise a cleaning routine. Streamline your chores into an ordered set of tasks for maximum efficiency.
13. Do laundry in large batches, instead of small ones. It’ll save you time, and reduce your energy (and water) consumption.
14. Buy enough socks and underwear to make it through a full laundry cycle, to avoid doing small “emergency” loads.
15. Wash towels less often. They don’t need laundering on a daily basis; you’re clean when you use them, after all!
16. Consolidate hobby items in designated containers. That way, all your supplies will be on hand when you need them.
17. If you start a new hobby, drop an out-of-favor one (along with its equipment and supplies).
18. Adopt the “one in, one out” rule: when you purchase something new, get rid of something old.
19. Don’t start collections. Avoid the clutter, and save your money, by channeling your energy and creativity into something more productive.
20. Get rid of one item every day. At the end of the year, you’ll have 365 less things to worry about!
WARDROBE AND STYLE
21. Hang up clothes, or put them in a hamper, as soon as you take them off. Avoid starting a “floordrobe” or piling them on a chair, and you’ll have less straightening up to do later.
22. Organize your clothes by category. For example, hang all your pants, skirts, or shirts together so you can quickly find what you need.
23. Use containers to corral accessories like jewelry, watches, or scarves, instead of scattering them about.
24. Choose versatile clothing. The more ways you can wear something, the fewer items you’ll need.
25. Don’t be a fashion victim. Chasing trends is a waste of time and money.
26. Know what flatters you. You’ll avoid accumulating a closet full of wardrobe “mistakes.”
27. Don’t buy “fantasy” clothes. In other words, if you’re not a social diva, skip the cocktail dresses – reserve your closet space for the stuff you’ll actually wear.
28. Get a simple, no-fuss haircut; it’ll save tons of time in the morning.
29. Embrace your natural hair. Don’t make it straight if it’s curly, curly if it’s straight, or brown if it’s gray.
30. Keep makeup as minimal as possible, or go without. Most of us don’t need to look like supermodels on a daily basis!
31. Use multi-purpose products (like a shampoo/body wash, or moisturizer plus sunscreen) to save time and eliminate bathroom clutter.
32. Standardize your grooming routine, so you can get ready each morning with a minimum amount of fuss.
33. Don’t buy hope in a bottle, and clutter your cabinets with half-used “miracle” lotions and potions.
34. Avoid unhealthy habits, like smoking, drugs, or drinking in excess. You’ll look better now, and avoid a boatload of health problems down the road.
35. Let your inner beauty shine. A pleasant countenance and radiant smile will make you more beautiful than any cosmetics.
KITCHEN AND DINING
36. Love those leftovers. Cook extra for dinner, and have it for lunch the next day.
37. Cook a week’s worth of meals at a time, and freeze for later (Google “batch cooking” for recipes and instructions).
38. Plan your meals in advance. You’ll spend less time staring into your refrigerator, wondering what to make.
39. Shop with a grocery list. You’ll avoid making extra trips for forgotten items.
40. Make one-pot meals, and drastically reduce your after-dinner cleanup.
41. Pare down your dishes, cups, and utensils to what you regularly use. It’ll limit the amount of dishwashing that piles up in the sink.
42. Purge unnecessary gadgets and seldom-used equipment. A large variety of meals can be made with basic pots and implements.
43. Eat healthy foods (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), and you’ll avoid a wide variety of medical problems.
44. Keep your countertops clutter-free. Cooking is so much easier when you’re not moving stuff out of the way to do it.
45. Develop a set of standard dishes (like a pasta, chicken, or tofu dish), and vary the sauces. That way, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel each night.
OFFICE AND TECH
46. Stop as much incoming paperwork as possible. Get off mailing lists, cancel catalogs, and sign up for online billing and statements. The less physical mail you have to deal with, the better!
47. Print as little as possible. Don’t give yourself more stuff to file. Instead, print to a PDF file using free software like cutePDF or pdf995.
48. Digitize your paperwork. It’ll take up less space, and give you easier access to it.
49. Backup to the cloud. Use an online storage service, as an alternative to DVDs or an external hard drive.
50. Pay bills online. It takes much less time than writing and mailing a check, and you won’t need to buy envelopes and stamps.
51. Bank online. Transfer money without going to the bank, or standing in line waiting for a teller.
52. Automate recurring transactions. It’s a great way to pay your rent, mortgage, or insurance payments without lifting a finger.
53. Automate investments. Set up your brokerage account to buy a fixed dollar amount of a certain investment (like an index fund) on a regular schedule. It’ll smooth out the effects of market volatility on your portfolio, and keep you from making emotional decisions.
54. Stay out of debt. Life is much simpler when you don’t have to worry about interest charges and minimum payments.
55. Purchase bundled services. Buying telephone, tv, and internet services from the same company reduces your number of bills (and likely the amount you have to pay).
56. Telecommute. Arrange to work from home at least once or twice a week, to save time and commuting costs.
57. Don’t let junk mail enter your office. Keep a recycling bin by your front door, and dump junk mail and solicitations (without personal information) straight in.
58. Sort incoming paperwork immediately. Separate it into “file,” “act on,” and “dispose of” piles for efficient handling.
59. Organize your digital files. Develop a logical system of folders, so you won’t have to wade through hundreds of random files to find what you’re looking for.
60. Purge your bookmarks regularly. The stuff you found interesting last month, or last week, may be of no use to you today. Don’t waste time scrolling through irrelevant stuff.
61. Quit Facebook (or don’t join). It can be a huge digital commitment, and a major time sink. At the very least, limit the time you spend on it.
62. Limit the number of blogs you read. When you subscribe to a new one, drop an old one, so as not to increase your time commitment.
63. Reduce your Twitter time. Constant digital “chatter” can significantly reduce your productivity.
64. Check and answer email during defined periods. When you’re distracted by constant incoming messages, it takes longer to complete the task at hand.
65. Take digital sabbaticals. Disconnecting for a period of time – be it an hour, a day, or a weekend – can be quite liberating!
66. Learn to say no. It can be difficult, but will ensure you have enough time and energy for the stuff that really matters.
67. Delegate. Give up trying to do everything yourself; get employees to help with projects, and children to help with chores.
68. Limit your commitments. Don’t increase your number of obligations; drop old ones to make way for the new.
69. Right-size your expectations. When you expect too much of yourself and others, disappointment and stress are often the result.
70. Choose your battles. There are thousands of little things that just aren’t worth fighting for – let them go.
71. Go with the flow. Instead of trying to control things, let them happen as they may.
72. Be flexible. Adapt to the situation at hand, rather than insisting on doing things “your way.”
73. Forget about perfection. For the vast majority of tasks, good enough is good enough.
74. Fix little problems before they become big ones. A little effort now can save a lot of headaches later.
75. Consolidate your tasks. It’s more efficient to do your ironing, pay your bills, and answer your emails in one sitting than in bits and pieces.
76. Consolidate your errands. Plan your visits to the grocery store, dry cleaners, post office, etc., so you can take care of all of it in one trip.
77. Declutter your To Do list. Purge any unimportant, unnecessary, or unfulfilling activities.
78. Ask for help or advice. Reaching out to someone with more expertise can often save you hours (or days) of muddling through on your own.
79. Share your expertise with others. An open exchange of information makes things easier for everyone.
80. Make it a goal to do less, not more. Increase your productivity to free up your schedule, rather than jam more stuff into it.
81. Keep an open mind. Life is infinitely more interesting and pleasant when you’re willing to consider opinions and viewpoints that differ from your own.
82. Accept others for who they are. Live and let live, and you’ll have much less to worry about.
83. Live in the present. Don’t spend excessive hours pining for the past, or fretting about the future. Be here now.
84. Don’t meddle in other people’s business. Concentrate on keeping your own life in order, and don’t worry about everyone else’s.
85. Forget about the Joneses. Conspicuous consumption benefits nobody but the companies selling the goods. We’d be happier, more relaxed, and more satisfied if we disengaged from it entirely.
86. March to your own drummer. Don’t feel obligated to follow the crowd, or live according to others’ expectations.
87. Think before you act. We can often save ourselves a lot of trouble if we think about the consequences before acting on impulse.
88. Think before you speak. Once you let some ill-considered words out of your mouth, you can’t get them back. Better to hold your tongue than have to deal with the fallout.
89. Don’t be overly sensitive. Sometimes others don’t think before they speak. Let careless remarks roll off your back, not ruin your day.
90. Don’t hold grudges. Forgiveness eases your stress and tension, and frees up your time and energy for more positive pursuits.
91. Don’t be a drama queen. Making mountains out of molehills unduly complicates life.
92. Have an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful for what you do have, instead of stressing over what you don’t.
93. Realize that you’re not living in the spotlight. Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to care (or notice) what you own, what you’re wearing, or how you look.
94. Embrace the concept of enough. Once our needs are met, there’s usually little utility (or happiness) in acquiring more – by contrast, it often leads to cluttered homes and empty bank accounts.
95. Enjoy without owning. Admire the objects in a shop window, the art in a gallery, the plants in a garden, without acquiring them for yourself. You’ll often get more pleasure from things when you don’t have the responsibility of ownership.
96. Downsize your digs. A smaller home means less to maintain, less to clean, and less to pay in mortgage, utilities, and rent.
97. Go car-free. If you can walk, bike, or take public transit where you need to go, consider ditching your car. If you’re in a multi-car household, consider whether you can get by with one less car.
98. Avoid advertising like the plague. When you don’t know an item exists, you won’t stress over desiring, acquiring, or paying for it.
99. Don’t shop unless you need something. In other words, don’t browse stores, catalogs, or websites looking for something to need.
100. Make your own definition of “success.” Raising a happy family or excelling at your job are better measures of success than status symbols and material accumulation.