The 5 Steps of Simplifying


{ via Boy en Girl }
{ via Boy en Girl }

You want to start living a slower, simpler life.

You feel stuck. You’re overwhelmed, under stress, and struggling.

You can feel the weight of your possessions weighing you down. You are tired of feeling exhausted, strung out, stressed and cranky.

You know you want to change. You know you need to simplify. But you just don’t know where to begin.

What you need is a blue-print of sorts.

And while having a blue-print won’t actually do the work – that part is up to you – it will give you some guidance when you’re unsure of how to move forward.

I’ve listed the five steps I take when simplifying, wished I had taken when I started simplifying. It would have made the entire process a hell of a lot easier! Unfortunately though, I wasn’t so tidy and linear when I first began.

5 Steps to Simplifying Life

1. Find Your Why

You need to understand your reasons for change. Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:

Why do you want a simpler life? What benefits do you want to gain? Why is it important? Do you want:

  • more family time?
  • more control?
  • less stress?
  • less environmental impact?
  • less clutter?
  • less debt?
  • move to a smaller home?
  • quit your job?
  • start a family?
  • find happiness?
  • recover from illness?

There are really no bad reasons for wanting a simpler life. The key is understanding your own motivation.

You need to know why you’re making these changes – this is the encouragement you can always call on when things get too hard. If you don’t have a why, you may find yourself back at this point in 12 months time, wondering why your changes didn’t stick.

2. Shift Your Mindset

A simpler life is not simply decluttering or spring cleaning, it’s about embracing a whole new lifestyle. Simplifying life means you’re making space – permanently – for more joy, more rest, more contentment, more love, more connection.

Even though it begins with stuff, simplifying your life is not really about stuff at all.

3. Start Small – Really Small

Tackle some of your smallest tasks first.

This is helpful for a lot of reasons, namely, they don’t take long (10-60min), you get a victory, you gain momentum and you begin to see a difference almost immediately. That is often all you need to inspire you on, through some of the more difficult projects ahead.

Instead of heading directly to the overflowing garage or basement, first declutter your:

  • kitchen drawers
  • medicine cabinet
  • bathroom cupboards
  • under the lounge
  • hall stand
  • fridge
  • tupperware drawer
  • laundry shelf
  • cleaning cupboard
  • dry goods cupboard

Take time to appreciate those small, clutter-free areas before moving forward.

4. Decluttering

Like it or not, you won’t be living a simple life until you’ve decluttered your belongings.

You can take it at your own pace – room by room and surface by surface – or you can use checklists like those I’ve created for the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge.

However you decide to approach it, understand that sometimes it can be difficult to let go. This post gives you a never-fail decluttering technique, as well as tips and tricks to make the process much simpler.

5. Time and Iterations

Rinse and repeat.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have decluttered our wardrobe. It’s not that I’ve been buying tonnes of clothes (I definitely haven’t) but rather our circumstance and mindset have shifted. What seemed like a “must-keep” item three months ago is now a no-brainer for the donate box.

Simplifying life is a constant cycle of balance, boundaries and gently testing those boundaries until you arrive at a place you’re comfortable with.


Tell me, do you have your why already worked out? 

Interestingly, mine has shifted from when I began. Initially it was just about reducing stress in my life so that I wouldn’t completely lose my mind. But as I’ve experienced more – more joy, more clarity, more pleasure, more love, more fun, more health, more adventure – my why has shifted. Now it takes in almost every area of life.

I simplify to:

  • enjoy spending time with my kids and husband
  • allow myself an afternoon nap
  • be grateful for all that we have
  • dream big dreams, then go live them
  • feel peaceful in our home
  • spend more time with friends
  • spend less time cleaning
  • feel closer to myself

And it is hands-down the best change I’ve made.



12 Responses to The 5 Steps of Simplifying

  1. I have always travelled simply (5kg, carry on only) but for some reason never applied this to my home/handbag/life.
    Recently I have begun decluttering and your site is an inspiration, so thanks!
    This weekends plan is to tackle the kitchen drawers – wish me luck!

  2. #5 is so true and so timely for me. I know I own so much less than I used to, and my shopping/buying habits have changed dramatically, and yet this weekend I made not one, but two trips to Salvation Army with things purged in a recent kitchen decluttering.

    At first I felt a bit hangdog about it: HOW can I possibly have this much unnecessary stuff after all the changes I’ve made?!? Then I realized that it’s all progress, all good. And the kitchen feels so much better now. I kept reminding myself that entropy is the way of the universe.

  3. Hi! Thank you for your post! I find that I’ve always been kind of a possession purger although I still accumulate a little too much and the purge what I can again. But anyway, for me my need and desire to simplify my life has more to do with having so much on my plate and trying to finish projects (not all fun creative projects by the way, unfortunately) … but trying to finish projects so that I am not constantly stressing about how much I have to do. Because I end up stressing about it sometimes I end up not getting a thing done and so there they sit still waiting for me to finish! Anyway, just thought I would chime in on it not being only stuff that can clutter one’s life. Thank you for your post!

  4. Nice post! I know so many people who want to simplify but don’t know how to get started.

    Like you, my “why” has changed as well. I, too, started out wanting to reduce stress and housework. Now, we’ve found that having less gives us more freedom, so that we are able to pursue our dreams.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful post. It has helped me remember that the simplest actions are done by starting, making a change and stopping. That’s how I’m going to simplify this week: concentrate on completing the “start, change, stop” cycles, and reducing the number of unfinished projects I have.

  6. Our why was travel. In 2008 we sold our house and nearly all its contents to move into an RV and go exploring this great big country called the USA. It was a huge motivator so worked really well. But, I’m still decluttering all these years later as I find more areas of life to be cleaned out. Once you truly get started it is so easy to keep going.

  7. oh dear!
    simplifying and decluttering so i have MORE time for the people in my life? no way honey! THEY are the very reason we’re so cluttered and stressed. Every single time i get busy cleaning, organizing, purging, resting, whatever, i get interrupted with ‘drop whatever you’re doing and let’s go here, go there, do this, do that'(what HE / they want to do, NOT me!).

    The only thing i don’t get interrupted with is cooking meals!

    no, sorry but purging things so i have more time for people is doing it backwards for me – i need less time with people so i can purge, clean, get caught up!

  8. I think a lot of people can afford to sit down and have a good long look at their lives and work out what they can do to simplify things. Removals of all the stressful things is bound to have a good affect on people in the long run!

  9. Thanks for info to start..Now give me a push..Yes I too have way too many projects,tasks,warehouses and disorganization..Overwhelmed in Florida..A G..