X is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

X is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?


(Firstly, let me apologise for the ‘x’. Turns out it’s difficult to come up with a word beginning with ‘x’ that made sense for this series (xylophone? x-ray?) If you can think of a good one,  let me know in the comments!)

Fear holds us back in our efforts to simplify – don’t you think?

  • “What if I need this one day?”
  • “What if I offend someone by getting rid of their gift?”
  • “What if people judge me for wearing the same clothes regularly?”
  • “What if someone doesn’t like me after I say no to a commitment?”

I am as guilty as anyone of these fear-based responses. But in the search for a simpler life, I think we should begin to ask, “Why not?”

Why not try?Why not see how this goes? Why not experiment?


[n. ik-sper-uh-muhnt; v. ek-sper-uh-ment]


1. a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act for the purpose of discovering something unknown or testing a principle.

a chemical experiment; a teaching experiment; an experiment in living.

If we approach change as an experiment rather than a permanent lifestyle shift, there is really nothing to lose by trying something new.

But the key is to actually try something new. Because if nothing changes, then… nothing changes. Simplifying may not be the answer, but we won’t know until we try.

Start With a No-Lose Experiment

Just nudge yourself out of your comfort zone by experimenting with a small change, and ensure you can undo the experiment if it turns out not to work for you.

  • Follow the minimalist wardrobe challenge, Project 333. Courtney asks you to live for three months with only 33 items of clothing. Whatever extra clothes you own are put into storage while you see how far a minimal wardrobe can stretch. At the end of the three months, you’ve lost nothing and gained a whole new understanding of what clothes you really need, and what you can let go of.
  • Choose a flat surface in your home – a shelf, the top of a chest of drawers, a coffee table or the kitchen benchtop – and clear it of everything. All the stuff that was previously there can be packed away in a box. Live with the empty space for a month and see if you enjoy having somewhere empty to rest your eyes and the calming feeling of a decluttered space. After the month is up you can choose to keep the contents of the box or donate it.
  • If you use a smartphone, try removing your email app from it for a week. Use your desktop/laptop for email instead and see how you feel when you’re not constantly on-call. You lose nothing except time, stress and anxiety.

Try a Low-Risk Experiment

  • Say no. If you really don’t think you should join another committee or spend another night babysitting, then simply say no. You may be surprised to see the world continues to turn and your friends do not disown you. The small risk, of course, is putting noses out of joint.
  • Box up all that beautiful but unused glassware, silverware or home decor. (Weddings gifts, hand-me-downs from family and out-dated items are ripe with this kind of clutter). If it all remains in the box for 3 months and you do not miss it, commit to selling or donating it.
  • Scan all your old photos and store them on an external hard-drive and/or on the cloud. Place all the physical photos back in their box and commit to getting rid of the box in a months time if you haven’t needed to look at the contents. The small risk is a catastrophic tech fail, where all data is lost and your images can’t be retrieved. Not likely to happen, particularly if you store your images in two separate places.
  • Choose one room in your home, or one category of stuff (toys, sporting gear, collectables, books) and hold a packing party. Put all of it away in boxes and only pull items out as needed. Then, after a set amount of time, commit to donating the stuff still in boxes.

Of course you could also opt to go all-in and give away your possessions, move to a tiny home, go travelling for a year or shift your family from the city to a rural property. (Sounds fun!) But in the interests of making steady, small changes, the no-risk and low-risk experiments would be a good place to start. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.

What could you experiment with right now? What would push you ever-so-slightly out of your comfort zone? 


10 Responses to X is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

  1. Well it was certainly a surprise, reading your blog ( the best and most sincere simple living blog on the internet ) and seeing my name.

    So far the experiment is better than my expectations and I haven’t even traveled with the motorhome yet. Just the feeling of freedom, the simplicity, the beauty of living in a campground on the water – it is all wonderful.

    I must admit it was an odd feeling to watch someone drive off with nearly ALL of my possessions. We’re just not trained to live like that. After the awkwardness dissipated I felt totally free and it is the feeling of freedom that I’m basking in now.

    Dan @ Zen Presence – Ideas for Meaningful Living

  2. I’ve frequently told my husband we should just give away all of our possessions on Craig’s List. But it would take a few trucks… ;-)

    Moving toward a rather “crazy” dream of our own has been exhilerating, exciting, and terrifying all at once. But I have no doubt that it will be a major change for the better, when all is said and done.

    You only live once–don’t spend it walled in by possessions!

  3. I really want to find a tiny house that I could just rent just to see if my family and I could really handle it for 3 months and if we can then try and then see about buying one.

  4. Great article, and I like your photo from Chinatown too!

    Clearing surfaces such as tables and benchtops is always worth doing. It makes cleaning so much easier. And likewise I like to ensure there’s nothing on the floor either. Electrical gear, or anything with cables especially.

  5. Oh, how I would LOVE to have clear horizontal surfaces… unfortunately, I just can’t seem to keep them that way. It’s not that they are full of things that I purposely put there… it’s just that clutter seems to spill onto them.

    But… there is one thing – well, one being actually – who has pushed me further in this direction than I ever thought possible. One of my cats remains convinced that all objects were put on this planet to serve as toys for him to play with. This includes anything on ANY surface (even shelves 6 inches from the ceiling are not safe… don’t ask me how he gets up there) as well as pictures hanging on the wall. I’ve already hauled off about a dozen boxes of nicknacks to the thrift store and haven’t missed them. Anything of value got packed away in the basement, the house plants were all given away, and the rest just gets knocked on the floor on a regular basis. I don’t miss any of the crap I gave away, I just wish that more stuff wouldn’t breed to take its place!

    BTW – how about X for xeriscape? Or maybe that’s only “simple” here in the arid southwest.

  6. Don’t worry about the X. I have a dictionary next to me because I’m helping my third grader with homework, and the only remotely relevant word I see at quick glance is xeriscape which means a landscape design requiring little to no water. I like your solution infinitely better than trying to shoe horn in a word that doesn’t fit. Simplicity, right?

  7. I had an interesting experience with an unwanted wedding present. We moved overseas and had all our possessions in storage for eight years. Coming back and unpacking that unit was a shock, so much stuff we had forgotten or no longer valued. Trailer after trailer left our place with things we didn’t want or need anymore. Amongst it was a large set of silver cutlery, a very popular wedding gift when we married 33 years ago. I no longer loved it, it just meant lots of work to maintain it, it wasn’t good in the dishwasher and no longer fitted our life and taste. So I offered it back to the aunt who gave it to us. She was thrilled and uses it regularly. I think she always loved it more than we did. Of course, some people would be offended but I took the risk (experimented, if you will!) and in this case it paid off.

  8. Hi Brooke I have been a regular follower of your blog for some time now and all of your helpful tips have been a wonderful help in my campain to declutter my home and life. I am still doing this and popberly will always be trying to simplify our lives. I have just taken early retirement and have looked forward to finally geting all this things done on a very long list. Our youngest child has just moved from our large home and I really dont wish to move to a samll home as I love myn house but still feel I can create a calm area for the parts of the house my husband and I use. What has just happened which has been a real life game changer for us both is that I was suddenly stricken with a virus and within 48hrs I was in Intensive care battling for my life. I pulled through and during my recovery it gave me a lot of time to think and and now both my husband and my self full realise the fragility of life and intend to tackle these thing together. Again think you for all your posts I will always be an avid follower.

    • My goodness, Moya! I hope you’re feeling better now – what a scary time for both of you. And I agree completely that sometimes a big shake-up or change in perspective is what it takes to shift our priorities. I’m so glad to hear that things are moving in the right direction for you and have no doubt at all that you will get to the point in your home that you are working towards. I’m a big proponent of slow and steady, as I think our hearts often take a little longer to let go than our brains.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, and be sure to take care of yourself! xx

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