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A Recipe for Simplicity Print E-mail
Linda Breen Pierce   
Thursday, 30 March 2006


"Simplify, simplify." More than a century after Henry David Thoreau uttered these words, they have more significance now than ever before.

We work hard and play hard, filling nearly every moment with activity. Most families believe they need two incomes to pay for a standard of living that has doubled in the last 50 years.

But do we? Based on my three-year study of over 200 people who have simplified their lives, I found that we can work less, want less and spend less, and be happier and more fulfilled in the process. Here are nine suggestions to simplify your life.

  1. Don't let any material thing come into your home unless you absolutely love it and want to keep it until it is beyond repair. Too much stuff - it's suffocating us. Purchasing, maintaining, insuring, storing and eventually disposing of our stuff sucks up our precious life energy.

  2. Live in a home with only those rooms that you or someone in your family use every day. Create a cosy home environment that fits your family. You will find this is much more satisfying than living in a museum designed to impress your friends. Spending time and money to maintain a home that is larger than you truly need diverts these resources from more fulfilling endeavours.

  3. Select a home and place of employment no more than 3O minutes away from each other. The time and money you spend commuting to and from work is dead time and wasted money. It nourishes not the body, the mind nor the soul. Preserve your time, energy and money for more rewarding life experiences.

  4. Limit your work (outside of the home) to 3O hours a week, 2O if you are a parent. To live a balanced life, we need "down" time - time to daydream, to relax, to prepare a leisurely meal, to take a walk. If we surround our structured activities with empty spaces, those activities will become more productive and meaningful.

  5. Limit your children's extracurricular activities to one to three a week, depending on age. Otherwise, you will exhaust yourself and your children will grow up addicted to constant stimulation.

  6. Spend an hour a week in a natural setting, away from crowds of people, traffic and buildings. Three to four hours of nature time each week is even better. There is nothing more basic, more simple, than the natural world.

  7. Do whatever you need to do to connect with a sense of spirit in your life. Whether it be prayer, religious services, journal writing, meditation or spiritually-related reading. Simplicity leads to spirituality; spirituality leads to simplicity. Cultivate a practice of silence and solitude, even for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Your spirituality will evolve naturally.

  8. Seek the support of others who want to simplify their lives. Join or start a simplicity circle if you enjoy group interaction. Living simply in our culture can be a lonely journey. Your friends and family may still be on the work-n-spend treadmill and are unlikely to give you support. Participating in a study group will give you support and validation for your choices.

  9. Practice saying no. Say no to those things that don't bring you inner peace and fulfilment, whether it be more material things, greater career responsibility or added social activities. Be vigilant with your time and energy; they are limited resources. If you say yes to one thing (like a job promotion), recognise that you are saying no to something else (perhaps more time with family). Live consciously and deliberately.


This article was first published in Biophile, issue 8/2006. Visit for more information.

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