Geri McClymont believes that to move forward, we must be intentional about the decisions we make each day and learn from our mistakes.
Sometimes we’re so used to doing things the same way, we don’t stop to consider that we don’t have to keep doing them that way, that we can adopt new habits. Not only is it possible—it can be life changing!
Two of the most liberating things I have done are minimizing and simplifying my life.
Minimizing and simplifying have given me the freedom to devote more time and energy to more meaningful pursuits, such as engaging in hobbies and activities I enjoy, and spending real time with friends and family.
Added benefits have been reduced living expenses and a significant decrease in the overall level of stress in my life.
1. Update Your Contacts
Delete all old contacts on your phone. This will enable you to locate people more easily when you need to reach them, as you won’t have as many names to sort through.
Likewise, add all new contacts to your list and make sure all phone numbers and email addresses are current. Be sure to include less frequently called but critical numbers such as your auto insurance and homeowners (or renters) insurance companies.
Having updated contact info at your fingertips without the unnecessary clutter of old contacts is an easy start to simplifying your life.
Some Important Contacts
Barber or Hair Stylist
Credit Card Company
2. Clean out Your Email Folders
If your electronic mailboxes could use a good cleaning, stop putting it off. If the task seems overwhelming, make it a point to delete twenty emails per day until you get rid of all unnecessary mail.
It's so nice to only see important emails when you check your inbox, without the distraction of messages you'll never need.
Make it a habit to delete unwanted emails as soon as you notice them. Many of them have an unsubscribe option at the bottom—use it!
3. Use a Personal Planner
Record all appointments in your planner as soon as you schedule them. Make it a habit to always have your planner with you so you don't end up scheduling overlapping events.
Also record yearly reminders such as updating your computer security software and preparing your tax return, as well as more regular reminders like taking your car in for oil changes and attending parent-teacher conferences.
Writing down all events in advance enables you to plan accordingly and avoid the stress of sudden surprises later.
4. Silence Your Phone
I can't remember the last time I received a phone call that warranted my immediate attention. Silencing your phone enables you to listen to your messages at a more convenient time and to gather your thoughts before you call back.
If you must keep your ringer turned on, screen your calls, and be selective as to which ones you pick up. Allow the rest to go to voicemail so you can attend to them later.
5. Create a Birthday Calendar
Use it exclusively for noting the birth dates of friends and family. Post it beside your regular calendar and leave it there as an ongoing reminder of upcoming birthdays.
Reuse it each year and add names as needed, such as the birth of nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Record other special events on it too, such as wedding anniversaries or anniversaries for the loss of loved ones.
6. Purchase Greeting Cards and Gifts in Advance
Keep a file box of cards sorted by special occasion—birthdays, anniversaries, get well cards, etc—so they're handy when you need them.
If you prefer to send e-cards, preschedule their send dates—e-card sites allow you this option.
For gifts, take advantage of sales throughout the year. Buying items in advance not only saves you the stress and hassle of last-minute shopping, but allows you to purchase more thoughtful gifts for friends and loved ones, taking into consideration their unique tastes, interests, and personalities.
7. Shop Online
Crowded parking lots, busy stores, and long checkout lines can be bypassed when you shop online.
In addition, many items can be found online at a fraction of their retail price, even with shipping and handling fees included!
Stick to reputable sites, such as Amazon.com.
If you're an Amazon Prime member, shipping and handling fees are dropped altogether for thousands of items.
8. Enjoy Local Excursions
Traveling out of town can be exciting and refreshing, but most of us take for granted the cultural attractions and outdoor activities we can enjoy locally.
Visit your county’s website to find museums, nature gardens, hiking trails, and other hidden treasures in your own backyard.
Not only will you reduce the hassle involved with traveling, but you'll also learn more about your city and save a lot of money at the same time.
9. Get Rid of the Landline
Why pay twice for the same service? If you have a smartphone with good signal strength, a landline is superfluous. I’ve been living without a landline for years and never missed it. I especially don’t miss the extra phone bill.
For international calls, use Skype with or without the video feature. If both you and the person you're speaking with have Skype accounts, it's free for both of you.
10. Pay Your Bills Through Your Bank
Most banks have a user-friendly online bill payment option which enables you to enter all of your payees' names and contact information. For each payee, you can set up recurring payments or pay each bill manually whenever you want.
Paying your bills online through your bank allows you to pay all of them from one location rather than making separate payments via snail mail or through each of your payee's individual websites.
Things to Do Instead of TV and Social Media
call a friend
read a book
send a card
have a cup of tea (or coffee)
grow a garden
visit an elderly person
invite a friend over for dinner
write a letter
make a craft
take a walk
learn to knit (or crochet)
play with your pet
visit a museum
get rid of clutter
volunteer for your favorite cause
donate unwanted items
tutor a child
learn a new language
go for a bike ride
11. Give Up the TV
I know this suggestion will hurt many people’s feelings, but I assure you it will revolutionize your life. Giving up the tube will leave you with time to engage in more, dare I say, productive activities.
If you can’t give up the TV, try limiting how much time you spend watching it. Consider dropping cable and tapping into basic channels for free with only an antenna.
Always keep the TV in a room other than your bedroom so it’s less likely to interfere with your sleep.
12. Cut Social Media
Social media has become an obsession for so many people, some spending as many as 10 hours per day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.
Research shows that social media usage is directly linked to depression, anxiety, poor quality of sleep, and lower self-esteem.
Why would you do that to yourself?
Try cutting back gradually and engage in outdoor activities or an artistic hobby instead.
You may be amazed by how much lighter and at ease you feel when you step away from the highly stimulating world of social madness.
13. Get Rid of Clutter
Decluttering is a significant way to minimize and simplify your life. Most of us have more items than we need or even use just sitting around gathering dust. Getting rid of unwanted and unneeded items will lighten your load, free up space, and make cleaning your home much easier.
Here are some ways to start small:
- Make one trip to a charity or thrift store each week to drop off unwanted items.
- List one item to sell online per day.
- Call consignment stores in advance to schedule drop off dates for your items.
- Plan one big yard sale for the summer.
- Devote a few hours each day to decluttering one room at a time.
- If you can, solicit help from friends and family.
After spending time each day decluttering, reward yourself with something you enjoy, such as a long walk or your favorite drink!
14. Downsize Your Home
We often buy a larger house because we see it as a wise financial investment. What we don’t often foresee, however, are the hidden costs (time and monetary) of maintaining a big house.
Moving into a smaller home may indeed be the most effective way to minimize and simplify your life.
Think of how much money you could save with a lower mortgage or rent, and how much easier it would be to keep up with cleaning and general maintenance!
Advantages of Living in a Smaller Home
- lower mortgage or rent
- less square footage to clean
- fewer rooms to furnish and decorate
- less space to accumulate stuff in
- lower utility bills
- less maintenance and fewer repairs to stay on top of
We often overspend because we are trying to fill an emotional gap in our lives. No object will ever satisfy your soul.
— Dave Ramsey
15. Stop Buying Stuff
So often, the stuff we buy ends up in the garage after a few seasons because we never really needed it to begin with.
A Few Tips
- Instead of buying or paying to download books and music off the internet, check out books and music CDs from your local library.
- For free items, check out craigslist or other online sites. Sometimes people will leave items by the curb if they're pressed for time before relocating to a new city.
- Rather than buy new clothes, create new outfits with clothes you already have by mixing and matching pieces you've never worn together before. Accessories such as scarves and jewelry can bring an outfit together beautifully!
- Before you head out to the grocery store, check your freezer and pantry. You may have enough food there to create several meals.
16. Clean Your House Naturally
Avoid toxic chemicals found in most cleaning products by cleaning your home naturally.
Do you know that most items and surfaces in your home can be cleaned with distilled white vinegar? I use vinegar and water to clean my kitchen, bathrooms, and vinyl floors.
Vinegar can also be added to your laundry to help deodorize clothes and as a fabric softener. Coupled with baking soda, it can be used to unclog drains.
Baking soda is perfect for removing coffee and tea stains off mugs. Just mix enough baking soda with water to create a milky paste, apply it over the stains for a few minutes, and wipe it off with a wet towel.
Consider using Castile soap such as Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap, to wash your laundry, dishes, and body.
17. Make Easy, Healthy Meals
Prepare meals that require fewer ingredients and less time.
You don’t have to compromise on nutrition—the internet is loaded with quick and healthy recipes.
Stack up on your non-perishables, such as rice or canned beans, so you don’t have to go to the grocery store as often. Use spices to zest up your meals, and freeze extra portions for later use.
Give up soda and other drinks that may be sucking up a good part of your grocery bill while offering you no nutritional value. Replace them with water—it's free and so good for you. Add a slice of lemon, orange, or cucumber for flavor!
18. Grow Your Own Greens
When you grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables, you avoid toxic chemicals without paying as much for organic produce in stores.
You don’t need a yard, so apartment living works too; many herbs and vegetables can be grown on balconies or on windowsills.
19. Say No
It seems that everywhere we go, we are met with requests for donations for this or that. Many are good causes, but that doesn't mean we have to give in to all of them.
The next time you're asked for a donation, consider saying, "not today." This communicates that you may give tomorrow or next year, but just not at the moment.
You should never feel guilty saying no when you're asked to volunteer time or donate money you don't have. If you spread yourself too thin, you'll end up frustrated because you won't be able to give as much to the causes that mean the most to you.
Be selective about the causes you commit to. You can always reevaluate your situation as your circumstances change. For example, once your children are off to college, you may find yourself with more free time. Or if you get a pay raise, you'll have more money to spare.
20. Create Healthy Boundaries
Creating boundaries means not just knowing when to say no to requests, but also learning to keep people at a healthy distance when necessary.
We all have toxic people in our lives that are difficult to be around because of their negativity, critical nature, or otherwise difficult personality. Consider if you need to limit the time you spend with some of them.
The book Boundaries, by Henry Cloud, revolutionized my life as it taught me the value of creating healthy boundaries with people I loved but whose actions were impacting me in very negative ways. It was so liberating to know it's okay and even necessary to back away from people I care about in order to be the best me, and sometimes to help them be the best they can be, too.
21. Know Your Triggers
Learn what triggers your stress and then learn ways to manage those triggers.
For example, if large crowds exhaust you, be intentional about avoiding them. Instead of going to shopping malls, shop online. Do your grocery shopping in the early morning or after dinner, when fewer people shop for food. When attending large gatherings with family or friends, limit the length of time you'll stay, such as to an hour or less.
For so many people, their main source of stress is their job, primarily if it requires a great amount of multitasking. If you are in this situation, consider strategies you can apply at work to reduce your stress, such as walking away from your computer at intervals throughout the day or refusing to work overtime.
If Your Job is Too Stressful, Create an Action Plan
Sometimes a job can be so stressful that you just know you need to leave. Tap into your options and develop a plan of action so that you can leave your stress-inducing job for one that is more enjoyable for you.
Perhaps your dream is to pursue a creative endeavor such as music, painting, or writing. Why not pursue your artistic passion?
It may take several years for you to reach your goal, but the sooner you start moving towards it, the sooner you'll get there.
For example, you may need to take some courses or even get a new degree. It will be an investment of time and money, but your health and well-being are worth every minute and penny you put in.
You may be surprised to discover how much stress you can reduce in your life by simplifying and minimizing. Begin by making small changes. You may then feel motivated to make more changes. Don't be discouraged by past mistakes or by setbacks you've had in your life. Focus on what you can do today to reduce your stress and anxiety and to improve your overall quality of life. You may never want to look back!
Benefits of Minimizing and Simplifying
- More time to engage in hobbies and activities you enjoy
- More time to spend with people
- More overall productive use of your time
- Reduced stress
- Greater peace of mind
- Greater sense of freedom
- Highly cost effective
- Healthier mind and body
© 2016 Geri McClymont
Geri McClymont (author) on March 14, 2019:
I'm glad this was helpful to you, Ema. Thanks for stopping by.
Ema on January 20, 2019:
I find this article very useful.Thank you!
Geri McClymont (author) on January 07, 2019:
I so agree that the benefits of minimizing are well worth it, Audrey. I hope you have made good progress with downsizing. Life seems so much simpler with less!
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on May 30, 2018:
This is exactly what I've been working on for the last 8 months. These tips are just what I need. Circumstances have caused me to down size which gave me a good start.
The benefits of minimizing are well worth the discipline of making good choices. Thank you.