9 Tips To Simple Living While Working Full-Time

My idea of a simplicity is a slow-paced life somewhere in the countryside.  No one is rushing around.  The most common reply to “How are you” isn’t “I’m so busy.”  I have a lot of time for daydreaming, reading, volunteering, eating, relaxing, and spending time with family and friends.  I haven’t quite figured out how my husband and I make a living in this scenario but it would NOT include a 9 to 5 cubicle job with a long commute.  (I do envision some kind of work; it’s a simpler life, not retirement!)

When I read articles or blogs about people already living the simple life, I am filled envy and inspiration — an odd mix, I know!  Unfortunately many magazine articles make it seem so simple to just pack up and move to a rural area.   Sometimes one spouse has a regular job while the other does a homesteading/pioneer women kind of life.  Sometimes both eke out an existence via odd jobs.   What about family?  What if you’re so ‘poor’ that you can’t afford to visit them?  What if you’re too proud and independent to ask for help?  What if that level of frugality just isn’t for me? 

So while I wrangle with all those issues, I thought I would put together a list of simple living tips for those who are still in the working world.  These are things that I am doing right now, or try to do, not generic tips that can work for everybody.  An obvious tip is cutting your commute time but I’m not listing that because it’s not applicable in my life right now.

1 ) Buck tradition.  This will not work for you if you love weddings, baby showers and celebrations of all kinds.  You have to be honest with yourself.  If you want a big wedding, just do it and don’t say “I wish I had eloped” because you don’t.  For my husband and I, eloping made sense.  I don’t regret not spending months planning that single day.  No matter how simple you try to keep it, planning a wedding takes up a lot of time, time that could be better spent sleeping in and relaxing.

2 ) Limit Technology.  I love blogging and reading blogs but I refuse to go on Facebook or Twitter even though I understand the appeal.  The problem is that technology speeds up your life in a way that can be very stressful. When you constantly receive Tweets, email pings, instant messages and so forth, you forget how to slow down and enjoy the little moments.

3 ) Be a Late-Adopter or Never-Adopter:  Again, this is related to technology. Many new tech toys make life easier.  I really want a smartphone so I can check emails and browse the web like everybody else.  However, the more tech toys you have, the more time you have to spend maintaining it.  I have enough running around to do just to maintain my car, computer, dogs, self, etc..

4 ) Run Errands at off-peak hours:  This is more of an efficiency tip but saving time is important if you want to simplify daily life. If I’m really good, I can get to the market before work to grab a few lunch or snack items from my list. Since there are all of 5 customers in the store, I get to check out quickly.  I also noticed that if I head out to lunch just 15 minutes before noon, the parking lot is less full and lines are shorter.  

5 ) Keep A Few Close Friends:  Skip this tip if you’re a social butterfly.  It just works for me.  It’s a bit sad when no one I know is throwing a New Year’s party but overall I enjoy having fewer social engagements on my calendar.  Whether you’re more social or not, I would suggest distancing yourself from drama queens, frenemies or any ‘type’ that tires you out rather than enhances your life.

6 ) Pick 1 or 2 Hobbies:  A friend of mine spreads herself thin because she tries to learn too many things at once.  While curiosity is a great thing, trying too many new things  can be exhausting.  I have a long list of things I would like to learn/classes to take but I limit myself to one new activity at a time.  Plus, I’m generally happy with simple activities like cooking, eating, gardening and reading. 

7 ) Channel Your Inner Teenager:  No, I’m not talking about angst and rage…(or was that just me?)  I’m talking about letting things slide a bit.  There was a time when I didn’t notice dirty dishes in the sink or for that matter, clothes lying on the floor, a dirty bathroom, dust, unmopped floors, etc..  Now that I’m older and thoroughly brainwashed by home/design magazines, things like dirty dishes and bathrooms bother me A LOT.  I still don’t notice dust but it does bother my husband.   This works out in our household because he usually does the dusting and vacuuming while I clean up the sink and the bathroom.  And when I do get upset about some mess, I try to take a deep breath and think of that carefree, messy teenager inside of me.

8 ) Work 40 hours a week:  I have a heinous commute.  Sometimes I have to stay late or work through lunch, but I don’t work longer hours on a regular basis.  I rarely think about work once I get home.  For this, I’m grateful.

9 ) Automate: Get alerts from your bank, automate bill pay or set bills to go to your credit card, write less checks, set automatic money transfers, whatever it takes to take your mind off of little yet important things like money and bill-paying.

I would love to hear your tips and ideas for simple living, especially if you’re still “stuck in the trenches” like I am!

13 responses to “9 Tips To Simple Living While Working Full-Time

  1. Good advice once again.

  2. We’ve managed most of the things on your list no problem. But as we don’t like to eat processed food and industrially processed meat, this was one of our biggest issues to figure out how to streamline. Ok, it was mostly MY issue to figure out. 🙂

    I had to actually plan meals. Sunday became cooking day for making bread and large batches of things (i.e. soup) to carry us through the week because I just can not make myself cook after work. It was an understood stay at home day. I also had to give up canning to have tomatoes and such through the winter because it was just too time consuming and now we make do mostly with what we’ve stored (i.e. loads of locally grown potatoes and our own winter squash.)

    This is easier now that I’m unemployed, but we can’t maintain that status for long, at least not at this point in our lives. So I’m making friends with the crock pot and pressure cooker now.

  3. An excellent post. I completely agree with you on these points though I’m sad to say I am unable to apply some of them currently. It took moving into a large city and starting a stressful 5-year degree for me to realise that the simple life is what I really want. Although I’m still pursuing my degree I am trying to make the most of things eg keeping only a few close friends, regularly visiting home which is in the country and writing a simplicity blog myself. I’ll be interested to follow your blog to see what else you have to say on the subject 🙂

  4. @Stacia – I’m not sure if this is true for you but from your comment, it appears that you do most of the cooking. I wrote another post about how women stress themselves out when they take on the cooking duties. This is a time-consuming chore that also involves grocery shopping, meal planning and possibly packing lunches for the husband. Unless you do this as a team, EVEN if you’re better at cooking, it’s a huge obstacle to simple living. As you may know if you read more of my blog, my husband does the majority of the cooking. However, he made sure that I learned many good recipes so that I can step in if I’m by myself or he has the busier schedule.

    Many women will respond that they split the chore by having the husband mow the lawn, help with clean-up etc. but I truly believe that cooking is the most labor intensive, no matter how much you love it. You have to cook every day or plan it out with batch cooking. I know women who work and come home after their husband, who is so helpless that they have to either do take-out, fast food or cook after a long day.

    I would highly recommend making cooking a team effort even if he is only the prep chef and can only make 10 decent dishes.

    @Francesca and Barbara – thanks for stopping by my blog. I have many thoughts on this issue!

  5. Excellent post!

    I have to agree with your comment that cooking takes more time than other chores–although you can get around that by having leftovers and simple meals or skipping meals–to an extent.

    It’s a really good idea to make sure household duties are, in fact, divided evenly and it is SO hard to do. Damn cultural sexism!

    I also think that having less stuff saves a lot of time. So does having a smaller space. You have less need to clean, maintain, replace etc.

    Also, in streamlining hobbies, I like to combine more than one thing. So, if I like writing and being social, I’ll join a writer’s group. If I want to get exercise and hang out with friends, perhaps a walk is in order. . .

  6. @Simple In France: Yes, cultural sexism is difficult to shake! I know that it is probably easier for my husband to coax me into learning some recipes than it would be the other way around (although I acutally know at least 3 Italian husbands who work and cook even with SAH non-Italian wives). I think in that case a better food culture trumps gender?

    Yes having small spaces definitely saves time and simplifies life. We live in a small house and it’s hard enough to keep it clean as is. I can’t imagine cleaning up in a larger space.

  7. I agree with Stacia about planning meals. I definitely do more of the cooking than my husband, but I wouldn’t eat anything green if I didn’t. But he does cook at least 2 nights a week, which is great. There are many weeks when he cooks 4 or more. Without any real veggies, of course.

    The planning part is actually more important for me because of breakfast and lunch. My husband eats nothing but fruit for lunch and the same Trader Joe’s sugar cereal for breakfast (every day of the year, people!). So, for him, it’s easy. I need veggies and real food. If I don’t plan and cook a week’s (or more and freeze it) worth of breakfast and lunch, I’m screwed.

    ANYHOO, I love, love, love your tips. I need to pay attention to the technology one. Oy. Nothing more than a tool for procrastination (facebook!), which just leads to a whole host of other problems.

  8. @Consciously Frugal: I’ve heard the same comment from many of my female friends — if their husband cooks, they wouldn’t eat enough veggies! I’m on a mission to change this. I want to persuade my husband to start cooking classes for men!

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  13. Great post. I work 40 hours a week and have been looking for ways to simplify my household tasks so my evenings are more relaxed

    My goal this week is to prep dinner in the morning so less time is spent on cooking when I get home from work.That means I have to get up earlier. Such a struggle:(

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