Top Ten Simple Living Tips

Ten colored pens.
Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski at RGBStock.

This my 100th post. As such, I wanted to make it a special one. I thought about “Top 100 Simple Living Articles,” but then I realized that might take 100 hours to compile. Then I thought maybe I’d embark on a quest to own only 100 things (yeh – that ain’t happening). Finally, I thought I could collect the “Top 100 Simple Living Tips,” but the problem is that nobody would read this (and at least half of it would be fluff). So, I decided to take the square root of that idea and here we are.

This is my list of the top ten simple living tips. I could give you some grand, theoretical simple living tips like “Quit Your Job” or “Sell Your Car.” However, these are not practical for most people and, thus, not useful. So I’m going to give you only tips that are tried and true (by me).

1. Buy Only What You Need

To me, this is the most fundamental simple living tip. Simple living for a better world is all about taking only what you need so others can have enough. It’s not as hard as you think. Follow these steps to start living this idea:

  • Avoid malls, shopping sites, and other sources of temptation. (Bonus: You’ll have more time to do things you love!!)
  • If you must go to one of these places, bring a “things I need” list and buy only what’s on the list.
  • If you still find yourself holding a coveted item, ask yourself the question: “Do I really need this?” Most likely, you don’t.
  • If you decide you do need the item, put it back on the rack, wait a week, and see if you still think you need the item. Chances are you’ll have forgotten all about it.

Now, there are going to be times where you buy something you don’t need. We’re surrounded by stuff and shopping happens. It’s OK. The important thing is that you are shifting your mindset so that you buy only what you need most of the time.

2. Declutter Your Home

A simple, concrete way to embrace simple living is to declutter your home. It will give you a sense of what you own and allow you to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. You don’t have to take this to the extreme right away (unless you want to go cold turkey). Clean out your closet. Declutter the kitchen counter or your work desk. You’ll feel lighter and freer and be less inclined to bring more stuff into your home.

Leo Babauta and several other authors have written outstanding articles on this topic so I won’t spend more time on it here. Check out this decluttering article for great resources.

3. Eat Sustainably

There is a lot of junk on the grocery store shelves. If you are eating a lot of processed food, conventionally-raised meat, and fast food you are not doing our planet (or our global family) a favor. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to purchasing and eating food:

  • Favor farmers’ markets, CSAs, and cooperative grocery stores (co-ops) over chain grocery stores.
  • Minimize the amount of miles your meal traveled from the source to your plate. This means buying locally-grown and raised food as often as possible.
  • Pay attention to the season and eat accordingly. You know why many fancy restaurants have seasonal menus? Because it tastes better! Tomatoes in January? No. Oranges in July? No. You get the picture.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where the “real” food is. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, bakery, bulk foods.
  • Avoid fast food and chain restaurants. Read The End of Overeating and Fast Food Nation for lots of good reasons for this.
  • Eat less meat. If we didn’t use up so much land to grow food to feed animals that we eat, there would be plenty of food to go around and we wouldn’t have to stretch our soil to its limit.

4. Read Inspirational Books and Blogs

I may never have gotten started with simple living if I hadn’t read some highly inspirational and informational blogs and books. See the Library page for some of my favorite books on the topic.

5. Don’t Just Read – Live It

You could easily spend all your time reading blog posts, articles, and books about how to live simply. That’s not the point. Select one or two blogs that you really love and follow them, if you want to. Read a book every few months to keep the inspiration up and learn something new. However, spend the rest of the time doing what you love and being part of a community. That is simple living.

6. Do What You Love

One of the goals of simple living is being free to do what you love. It’s spending less so that you can escape the vicious cycle of having to earn more and more to support your excessive consumerism. You may not be able to leave a job you don’t love right this minute, but simple living will help you eventually to get out of an uninspiring job and find your vocation.

Read Your Money or Your Life to learn everything you need to know about getting there.

7. Simplify Your Schedule

If you are like most people, you have said “Yes!” one too many times and you’re over-extended and tired. Take a look at everything you do and cut out the things that are not meaningful. This will help you find time to do things you love and help others.

8. Give Back

Living simply enough means taking less and giving more. You need to figure out what this means to you. Giving money is good, but doesn’t really require much involvement. Volunteering allows you to get closer to the cause. Working part- or full-time for a non-profit or social business allows you to spend lots of time giving back. One of my goals for 2011 is to find an organization that speaks to me and get fully involved.

9. Uncover Your Creative Genius

I firmly believe that all humans are creative. This creativity may be expressed in many different ways: painting, photography, composing music, creating a beautiful garden, writing poetry, playing the role of Hamlet, designing clothes, fixing a car. The list is never-ending.

Unfortunately, as we enter adulthood and various responsibilities take over our lives, creativity tends to sink into the background. Your guitar sits untouched and dusty in the corner of the living room, journal entries are few and far between, choir practices take a back seat to driving your kids to their different activities.

Simple living is about using your creative genius for your own happiness and the benefit of others. In 2011, make it a priority to uncover one of your hidden gifts. Life without creative outlets is no life.

10. Find Your Community

What is a community? Some may say church. Others may say bridge club. Yet others may say neighbors. The point is you need one. For the last two and a half years, I haven’t really had this. We’ve been living in a temporary location for longer than we envisioned and I never made the effort to find my community. Not good.

This is my other goal for 2011. Our family will be moving and finally settling down this year. When that happens, I am going to spend significant time finding a community.

Why is this so important? When you have a community of people you know will always be there for you, you don’t have to rely on having lots of stuff and money. If you are sick, your community will ask what they can do to help. If you need to go out of town, you can find somebody to exchange pet sitting services with. If you get to know your neighbors, you can share stuff like lawnmowers, snowblowers, and sugar.

But it’s not just for selfish reasons. Being part of community involves doing the same for others in your community. And it feels good!


  1. says

    I never knew about shopping the perimeters of the supermarket.I ve stopped shopping except for food. I shop only twice a year for other things like clothing vitamins and replacment items like teatowels/lighbulbs/tealights.I ve stopped watching TVI ve decluttered my house (.took me five years!)Now I write and travel for six months of the year but I have nt done the community thing so thanks for this wonderful blog and ideas.I ve stopped buying “stuff ” so now I can afford to donate to the homeless and this makes me much happier than buying stuff ever did.


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