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!