25 Ways to Simplify Your Life — Today


In a complex world filled with work demands, always-on media, family commitments, and general red tape, sometimes we have to make a conscious choice to simplify things. If you're beginning to feel like the world is bent on complicating your life, maybe it's time for a little inspiration. Here are 25 ways to start simplifying your life today. (See also: 12 Ways a Deep Declutter Can Improve Your Life)

1. Consolidate Accounts

Through the years, people tend to accumulate checking and savings accounts — even old 401(k) accounts from previous employers. Simplify your financial life by consolidating bank accounts and rolling over old 401(k) balances into a qualified IRA or current 401(k). After all, less paperwork and easier asset management are good things. Learn more about 401(k) rollover considerations from Fidelity's helpful primer.

2. Shop One Day a Week

If your budget and schedule allow, devote one day a week to shopping for essentials (groceries, health and beauty aids, etc.). It may mean buying more each trip, but it'll save you time, effort, and even a bit of fuel.

3. Get to Know "No"

Stress is often the result of overcommitment and schedules that are stretched paper thin. When possible, assert your right to say "no" and politely decline those activities, projects, and extra obligations that will only boost your stress level. (See also: How to Say “No” to Friends and Family)

4. Keep a To-Do List

Overwhelmed with professional demands and personal errands? Stay focused by making a detailed and effective to-do list.

5. Cook Double

The next time you fire up the stove or oven to cook your favorite meal, consider making double. If the menu is freezer-friendly, store it for a later date. If not, you've got a pre-made lunch for the next day!

6. Do Your Holiday Shopping Throughout the Year

Channel Santa all year long and score bargains on everything from gifts to wrapping paper. By the time December rolls around, you can dodge the panicked masses and enjoy a little eggnog by the fire.

7. Dump Your Landline

If you have an unlimited cell phone plan or a VOIP service, there's really no need to double-down with an old-fashioned landline. Cut the cord and cut your bills at the same time.

8. Clean as You Go

Staying on top of chores can make each one seem like less of a chore. Clean a bit as you go and prevent those little messes from turning into motivation-sapping nightmares.

9. Cut the Clutter

Have you ever noticed how physical clutter leads to mental clutter? Performing a deep declutter of our offices, homes, and cars can make room (literally and figuratively) for new experiences and ideas and give us a welcome refuge from the chaos of life.

10. Unsubscribe

From email to snail mail, our lives are filled with unwanted deliveries. Many websites require users to actively unsubscribe from email offers, meaning the opt-in boxes are pre-checked. In order to not be flooded with solicitations and newsletters, you'll need to uncheck those boxes or prepare for inundation of your in-box. To streamline your physical mailbox, cancel any auto-renewing subscriptions of magazines you no longer read.

11. Adopt a Zero-Accumulation Habit

For every new item you bring into your home, select one to toss, sell, or donate. A zero-accumulation approach simplifies your environment, prevents clutter, and means there's less to clean, store, and worry about.

12. Avoid Fashion Trends

Following trends is expensive and before you know it, you've got a closet-full of clothes that are perfect — for last year. Instead of being a slave to fashion, gravitate toward classic styles, timeless designs, versatile colors and fabrics, and quality construction. (See also: Wardrobe Basics for Women)

13. Use the Cloud to Backup Your Data

Hard drives fail every day. Simplify your tech life by avoiding the very complicating problem of permanently lost data. Leverage cloud services to protect your photos, work projects, tax information, and other personal files.

14. Work From Home When You Can

Having the option to telecommute allows you to shorten your prep time for work, avoid traffic, and reduce fuel costs. Working from home also lets you sneak in a few household chores during the day to lighten your schedule later. (See also: How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work From Home)

15. Decide to Become Debt-Free

Nothing complicates our lives quite as quickly as consumer debt. The dark cloud of interest taxes household budgets, stresses families, and often keeps us tied to jobs we hate. Commit to becoming debt-free and simplifying how you approach spending.

16. Set Personal and Professional Goals

Goals give us direction and help us outline a path toward achievement. Simplify your life by clarifying your goals and dispensing with distraction.

17. Understand the Nature of Things

Whether it's our pet, our best friend, our spouse, or our boss, understanding the nature of those closest to us can be liberating. Instead of fighting personalities (and getting stressed out in the process) accepting differences and giving up a bit of control can be immensely satisfying and simplifying.

18. Define Enough

Our culture is great at promoting the idea of more and presenting us with countless ways to go upsize and upgrade, but it's not so great at defining what enough is. Without a clear view of satiety (enough money, a big enough house, a nice enough car, etc.) many of us can end up on an endless and exhausting loop. Define what enough is for you personally and work toward it.

19. Downsize

Do the things you own, own you? If so, it may be time for some strategic downsizing. Large houses take time to clean, sprawling lawns demand our attention, and expensive cars can sap our resources. Take a critical look at the objects in your life that demand the most time and labor. Is there a way to scale back and be happier with less?

20. Toss Out Those Fashion Magazines

The fashion and beauty industry relies on disruption to sell products — and nothing is quite as disruptive as trying to achieve perfection. If you find air-brushed images more anxiety-producing than inspiring, toss them out and give your ego and pocketbook a break.

21. Clean Out Your Wallet or Purse

We pull out our wallets and purses countless times each day. Make it less of an archeological dig. Discard what you don't need and organize the rest.

22. Trade More Money for More Time

If you have a flexible enough budget, why not ask for more time instead of more money the next time you're up for a promotion or a raise? A more open work schedule, half-day Fridays, or more vacation time can often result in real quality-of-life improvements.

23. Automate Saving and Bill-Paying

Recurring transactions like making an IRA deposit or paying the cell-phone bill or can be automated to save time. Paying bills automatically also helps avoid those "oops" moments that lead to late fees and credit dings.

24. Choose Versatile Furnishings

Look for well-built and simple furnishings that can pull double duty in your home. Multifunctional items simplify our spaces, minimize clutter, and take the pressure off our decorating budgets.

25. Trade Perfection for Good Enough

Good enough gets things done, but perfection stops us in our tracks. Embrace the notion of the good enough in your life and free yourself from stifling and unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes complication is imposed on us; sometimes it arises from a failure to say "no" or draw a line in the sand with ourselves or with others. Look for those things you can control and begin to actively explore ways to reduce your time commitments, reset expectations, consolidate your energy, and find opportunities to just rest. Reclaim your weekends, your sleep, and your sanity — start simplifying your life today.

How do you maintain simplicity in your life?

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Guest's picture

What an excellent list! There a few things on this list that I could do better with, most specifically the ‘good enough.’ When I strive for perfection, I do tend to stall in my tracks or end up stressed out.

Guest's picture

My number one simplification tool: shop online as much as possible. Not only do I find it's generally cheaper but I also avoid multiple trips to the store and I never feel compelled to buy on impulse because I'm not tempted by stunning store displays.

Kentin Waits's picture

Stefanie -- a great tip and strategy. Thanks for passing it along.

Guest's picture

Learning how to say "No!" and having the guts to do it when you want to can be a great way to simplify daily life. There is often precious little truly free time, and if it's being taken away in order to please others, that just makes things complicated.

Guest's picture

Automating bill payment can work for and against you. I used to have a gym membership several years ago. The membership payments were automatically deducted from my checking account. The gym continued to debit funds from my checking account, even after the contract expired. I was so busy at the time, that months passed before I realized what was going on. The worst part of all, is that I rarely went to the gym. This method of payment is more convenient, but it can also be more costly if you're not on top of things.

Kentin Waits's picture

Susan -- very good point. I have a love/hate relationship with auto bill-paying. I use it only for those recurring charges that (most likely) won't change....and I do that for the very reason you illustrate in your example. :)