Today, people tend to work longer hours, have their kids involved in more activities, and generally maintain a busier style of life than even a few years ago. This can be exciting and enriching, but it can also lead to a feeling of constant stress and chaos. If you’re looking for ideas on how to simplify life, you’re not alone -- the concept of 'voluntary simplicity' has been gaining popularity since the 1990s because so many people have felt the same. Here are some of the main ways you can reduce the stress of a life that’s packed to the hilt while still maintaining the activities that are important to you.
Many stressed people live in cluttered homes. But, house clutter is both an effect and a cause of stress. Clutter can bring a general feeling of uneasiness, and can literally drain your energy, but getting rid of it is difficult for stressed people with busy schedules. One strategy to simplify life by clearing clutter is to take 15 or 30 minutes each night to tackle one pile at a time, decluttering your house space by space. Another strategy is to take several hours one weekend and just be done with it. Either way, you’ll remove a subtle but significant energy drain from your life, and replace it with the feelings of relaxation that come from having your home be a haven from stress. (Be sure to maintain order once you achieve it.)
Cut Out Negative Relationships
You may already be aware of the value of solid, supportive relationships in your life -- the friend who picks you up when your down, celebrates with you when you’re happy, and shares events your life as they happen. You may not be as aware of the effects of conflicted relationships -- the critical, unpredictable, or uber-competitive friend. It turns out that these 'toxic friendships' actually drain us more than purely negative relationships. This is because we don’t always have strong defenses against the people who are sometimes nice to us, so we can get taken off-guard. If you’re wondering how to simplify life, save yourself grief, frustration and drama if you take an honest look at the relationships in your life and decide which are worth maintaining and which should be let go. (For help with this, check out our Social Assessment Quiz.)
Automate What You Can
Getting some of the daily, weekly and monthly work of your life into an automated system can help simplify life and relieve stress in two ways: You don’t have to take time to do the work, and you don’t have to clutter your mind by remembering to do the work. Making little changes that take steps out of your daily routine like setting up automatic timers to water your plants or turn off your lights, signing up for automatic bill pay options, or getting off junk mail lists can be an easy way to simplify life. By putting in a little initial work, you can then forget about it. (See this article for more on automatic stress relievers.)
Live Within Your Means
To say that money can’t buy happiness is cliché. We all pretty much know this, and research has supported it as well. The truth, in fact, is that money can’t even buy you out of financial stress if you don’t spend less than you make. Many people who make large amounts of money simply spend more, and carry large amounts of debt, leading to feelings of stress rather than abundance. The key to avoiding this type of financial stress is simple, but not always easy: Live within your means. This can be a difficult change at first, but one that will bring great rewards, and can significantly lower your stress levels if you’re not living within your means already. (Check out this article for some ideas on how to move closer to living within your means.)
Learn To Say No
While many people spend as much money as they possibly can, leaving themselves feeling stretched to the limit, too many of us also budget our time this way. With demands from work, school and life in general, it’s easy to become overscheduled these days. However, if you’re always rushing from one place to another, you may find yourself exhausted, but with no time left to relax. While most of us have busy schedules these days, it’s important to schedule in time for exercise, hobbies and other stress relievers, as well as time for our relationships. One way to find this time is to get better at saying no to time demands that aren’t serving you. After you trade some of your more taxing obligations with some more self-nurturing ones, you should see a lasting change in your stress level, and find yourself living a more simplified life.