What is simple living? (Turns out, it’s complicated.)

If you’re asking, what is simple living really all about? What’s all the fuss? You’re not the only one. Here’s our no-nonsense explanation.

An interest in simple living seems to have exploded in recent years.

It promises a lot, and seems like the answer to all life’s dilemmas.

Who wouldn’t want an easier life, anyhow?

I mean, the very concept of “simple” seems that it would deliver exactly what it implies.

simple living tips and finding the simple life you crave

Yet, if you spend any time at all researching or reading up on just “what is simple living”, exactly, you might find yourself dismayed at first glance.

The truth about simple living

The truth is, simple living can be complicated.

The concept is not; getting there is.


Our modern world simply isn’t set up to live simply.

We left simple in the dustpan of history along with horses and buggies and pen and paper.

simplifying in a modern world

Technology is supposed to make things easier, and in many ways it has, but it’s also more complicated. (Ask anyone’s great-grandma.)

It’s hard to escape from the frenetic pace, automatic, digital-everything that has become standard in today’s culture.

It’s also hard, and often unpopular, to even try.

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Living a simple life in a modern world

So how do we pursue a simple life that’s truly…simple?

For me, the key has been to observe which lifestyle habits actually enrich my life– and which ones do not.

The fact is, there’s always a trade off when trying to simplify: time or money.

Take gardening, for instance. I have a vegetable garden because I love it, and I feel like it’s an important skill to have. And, it happens to make me happy.

But it would certainly be easier to buy my veggies at the store.

Of course, there are tradeoffs both ways, but this is one example where the trade off, for me, is worthwhile for multiple reasons.

relaxing ways to simplify your life

And then there are things that are meant to make our lives easier, like digital washing machines… that have a hefty up-front price and are notorious for needing costly repairs.

So unless you are ready to learn all the skills necessary to maintain all those devices that are supposed to make your life easier, you are simply going to have to choose.

Time, or money.

Simple Living Tips for Real People

With this reality in mind, let’s break down the concept of simple living a little further.

Below we’ll discuss how to make simple living truly possible- and fulfilling for you.

1| Determine your goal

First of all, what does simple living mean to you? What do you want to accomplish?

When some people say they want a simple life, they mean they want to leave their stressful career in the city, move to the suburbs or maybe have their kids in less extracurricular activities.

For others, choosing a simple life would entail leaving behind the modern world, maybe living off-grid, completely detached from the mainstream.

Choosing your simple life

For me personally, I fall somewhere in between. We definitely live a simpler life than many, by choosing to live in a rural area where simple pleasures abound and life is lived at a slower pace.

But, we also love our electricity and high speed internet. 😉

Where do you fall, ideally, on the “simple” spectrum?

Does your idea of a simpler life mean a drastic change like a cross-country move, or can you make small changes that will accomplish your goals a little at a time?

2| Know Thy Self

Although living a simple life can benefit nearly everyone, I do think personality is an important consideration in the simplification process.

For instance – does productivity and busy-ness and hustle-and-bustle really fuel you? If so, you’re going to need to take it slowly.

Taking on less commitments, activities, work…all the things; it’s a big lifestyle change for many.

Americans pretty much thrive on doing and going, and I’m assuming that’s true no matter where you live.

When you step out of that rat race you might feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

Adjusting to slow, simple life

The initial slow-down was a shock to me. When I left behind the 9 to 5 work world, I really didn’t know what to do with myself for a solid 3 months.

The good news is, few that taste the simple life ever want to go back.

And, you might find that you can fuel your drive and motivation into new tasks that may seem, well, simple — but even more fulfilling.

3| Count the Cost

There are definite costs associated with choosing a simple life.

Of course, there are costs of NOT living simple, but we’re so used to them they often go unnoticed for a long time. (Stress/anxiety, debt, poor general health.)

As I mentioned, if you move to the country seeking simplicity, there is the very real effect of being far removed from many conveniences and people.

Sometimes goods and services are harder to find, and you’ll find yourself with fewer choices.

But even if you’re already living rural, you might be hoping to simplify and realize that your friends won’t always understand your choices.

Not enrolling your kids in every sport/activity/event is pretty countercultural anywhere you go.

the joys of simple living

Choosing to work towards a debt-free life and learning to live with less can mean you’ll have to say no to a lot of things you used to be involved in.

You might find, though, as I have, that living more simply changes your priorities and you develop a new appreciation for living against the grain.

4| Document the Journey

There are several ways to measure whether you’re accomplishing the “simple life” you set out to find.

  • Journal your experience. Jot down what you’re doing, specifically, to simplify and how it makes you feel.
    • How is your stress level?
    • What about your family- are you noticing any positive effects on their life?
    • What things are you noticing about your change in activity level, or the type of activities you used to be involved in versus now?
    • Have you noticed any shifting of priorities, and what are the results?
Benefits of simple living
  • Start a video diary.
    • Record your initial thoughts about what you hope to accomplish, and why.
    • Take videos documenting how you, for instance: let go of belongings that were sucking your time; or how you learned a new skill or noticed things about the natural world that had escaped your attention before.
    • Be sure to capture your kids’ reactions as you make changes that positively impact them.

5| Be Realistic

Understanding that the world we live in is – again – complicated, realize that simplifying is a process that may take some time.

Most people have become pretty dependent upon our collective frenetic lifestyle and fast-food mentality.

When you start the process of letting go of some things (even when you know it’s for the best), it can feel overwhelming.

When I decided I wanted to leave a corporate job to work from home, have fewer expenses and raise my kids without childcare 5 days/week, there were setbacks.

It was hard to change our lifestyle so drastically even though we planned it for a while.

It took a lot of time to find that balance of time and money, and fulfillment in the life we really wanted to experience with our kids.

Simple living tips that are fulfilling

It’s still a journey, and I don’t believe there is ever a perfect balance.

Looking back, I can see that these changes we’ve made have been so positive – so much better than I had hoped – and we have carved out a simpler, and more meaningful family life than what we had before.

It just took patience and determination, and it still does. It took a re-alignment of priorities, relationships, activities, and financial commitments.

In the end, I don’t believe anyone really regrets discovering the answer to what a simple life might mean.

Because once you find it, you know its goodness — and your life speaks to its worth.

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