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5 Things I’ve Learned About Simple Living

Do you own a fondue pot? I don’t know exactly when fondue went out of style.  With the exception of a truly decadent cheese fondue I shared with friends last winter, I haven’t seen a fondue pot in use since the early 90’s.

Now what I have seen over all of these years are fondue pots hiding away in friends and family’s cupboards.  And fondue pots for sale at those shops in the mall that sell kitchen supplies in brightly coloured hues.  They’re still for sale, which means people are still buying them.  They make a great gift right?.

After moving out on my own, I was gifted not one, but two fondue pots.  I never used them, but you better believe I kept them!  I moved them across the province in 2006 and into three different apartments I lived in.  They stayed, in their boxes, because I never considered the idea of letting them go.

In 2008 when I began to clear away what didn’t serve me anymore, those two boxes finally left my life.  It turned out to be one of many small, easy decisions that made more room in my life and paved the way to letting go so I could live happily with less.

Since then I’ve become laser focused on what I keep and don’t keep in my life to live simply and abundantly.  I’ve donated clothes, sold sports gear, said goodbye to toxic relationships and more.  Six months ago I even moved out of my home to live a nomadic life!

I’m excited to share the following five lessons about simple living I’ve learned over the years.  I hope they’ll give you some insight into the journey of living your best life with less.

1. Simple Living Doesn't Mean Going Without

There’s a sweet spot between denying yourself nice things and being extravagant and wasteful where simple living can be just enough.

We’ve been lead to believe that we need more to be happy.  More to show the world how successful we are.  Like clockwork, we give physical gifts to show love for others on specified days of the year. 

It’s a shame because so many of us who’ve been raised with safe drinking water pouring from multiple taps in our homes and a never-ending supply of any kind of food we can imagine, still feel deep inside that it’s never enough.

When your life is cluttered with stuff that you don’t love it just becomes a distraction.  You lose sight of what you really love in life until you peel back the layers of excess.

Travel is my biggest priority.  It’s what brings me the most joy in life and it’s where I choose to spend the majority of my money.  So less stuff means more travel!

Since I removed the extra layer of stuff in my life that weighed me down, I’m content and feel richer and more abundant than ever before.

2. Decluttering Kind of Never Ends (and that's ok)

There’s a common misconception that one day your life will be decluttered and you’ll be “done.”  Usually until that point, it’s easy to guilt yourself and think you’ve failed.  Because no matter how much you’ve done, you’re still working on it. 

What if I were to tell you that since I moved into a 112sq ft tiny home, I’ve donated 3 bags of clothing and housewares.  Does that surprise you?

It never ends because my needs are always changing.

I always ensure that what I own fits my life right now.  If it doesn’t, it goes.  I accept this process as necessary upkeep so that my life stays simple and focused.

There’s no invisible finish line.  There is however, a confidence in your decluttering decisions that develops overtime.  You’ll learn to guard your life’s simplicity with each decision you make.  It’s like a muscle that grows stronger with each repetition.

3. Less Stuff Means More TIME

The amount of time you have to spend on what truly brings you joy is precious.

We rob ourselves of time.  We commit to things we don’t really want to do because we think we “should.”

Our houses, garages and storage units get filled with stuff that needs attention and upkeep. 

Never forget that the one thing you can never make back is time.  Time to yourself, time to learn, time to explore, and time to be with loved ones.

This can’t be emphasized enough.  How you spend your time is up to you.  It may not always feel like it, but when you get intentional with your decisions and spending you’ll see how much control you actually have in your life.

I choose to have less physical items in my life so I can spend less time taking care of stuff, less time organizing stuff.  This intentional simple living  gives me more time with my family to travel, explore nature and pursue new exciting projects like my online business.

Think about it, what would you do with more time? 

4. All That Stuff You Think You'll Miss? You Probably Won't.

My husband and I spent over a year sorting, selling and donating most of our possessions before we moved into our home on wheels.

There was nowhere to hide, everything faced the same decision- do we keep it or not

It was both a liberating and painful process.  But we knew in the end it would lead us to our goal of simple living and being free to travel full-time.

Do you have certain possessions in your life that you can’t imagine living without?  Not because you love them, but because you hold on tightly and can’t let go?

When you remove physical items, you essentially acknowledge your impermanence.  Nobody gets to live forever and you can’t take your stuff with you.

As for the items that we sorted, donated and sold?  I can’t even picture half of them anymore since we hit the road six months ago.  In the end, it’s just stuff and it will never define you, no matter how emotionally attached you are to it.

5. Simple Living Looks Different For Everyone

I saved my favourite lesson for last.

Your life is your OWN journey.  It doesn’t matter how big or small your house is or if you have kids or not.  This is an individual process that is highly personal.  It doesn’t benefit from comparison, jealously or longing.

You don’t need to move into a tiny home or a Sprinter van to get the sweet taste of the simple life.  You don’t need an impeccably clean home 24/7, a Pinterest worthy kitchen pantry filled with chalkboard labelled mason jars or a capsule wardrobe with an exact amount of clothing articles.

These will be the results of some people’s intentional living efforts.  They may even be yours, but they don’t have to be.

Learn to recognize the beauty in your own imperfect life and enjoy the process of designing it exactly how you want.

The wonder of it all lives in the smallest of decisions each and every day.

Anyone can benefit from simple living and there’s no perfect way to do it!

Now I’m curious, did one of these lessons strike a cord with you? Let me know in the comments below!

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This Post Has 112 Comments

  1. Em

    I love the part about it never ending – that’s actually incredibly freeing!

    1. Jen

      Yep. We’re so quick to be hard on ourselves and think we’re doing something wrong because it never magically stops. It DOES get easier but it’ll always be a work in progress xo
      Thanks for reading Em!

    2. Donale Chastain

      I agree with Em. About it never ending becoming incredibly freeing.
      I have been letting go of stuff since January. At first I kept a count of everything I let go of. Then my count list became a thing I was holding onto. LOL
      Some days letting go of stuff is actually Fun,! What can I let go of today?

      1. Jen

        Hi Donale, that’s funny about your count list! And good for you for finding the fun in letting go, everything is easier when we add some lightness and fun to it! Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. Kelli Lambiase

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jen

      Thank you Kelli, I’m glad you liked it!

  3. @hapy4u

    I like that you said it is different for everyone. I could easily live in a tiny home. However, I am married to a hang on to it all person and we love to entertain.
    I personally only hang on to what I love and use and find a place for my husband’s many things! 🙂

    1. Jen

      Yes, there’s no magical formula for living simply!
      My husband also loves his things a bit more than I do and we make it work 😉
      Thank you for reading.

  4. Kristi

    I also loved hearing that it’s a continual process! We have 5 kids so I’m setting very small goals and trying to find joy in accomplishing them, knowing it’s going to take time and deciding to persevere for simplicity!

    1. Jen

      Hi Kristi, one of my clients has two children aged 3 and 7. Once she acknowledged that the process didn’t have a magical “end”, she had so much success and enjoyed the journey/process even more! All great things can be accomplished in small, steady action steps. Best of luck to you and thanks for reading.

  5. Kim

    Agreed! The one about it be an ongoing process. I needed to hear that. I have come so far but I catch myself thinking how much further I need to go.

  6. Laura Stancliff

    The less stuff = more time and that it’s going to look different for everyone. My clutter keeps me from wanting to have anyone in our home. All that time that could be spent with family and friends and I am too embarrassed about the condition of my home. The looking different for everyone is so freeing!

  7. LOVE, and so agree with, your final point that we each have to find what simple means to us. As the owner of the Self-Reliance & Simple Life Experience, we say the exact same and hope to encourage folks to simply get away from the noise and start their own conversation about what self-reliance means to them. It looks differently for everyone. That conversation though is the first step to a more intentional life. Thank you Jen…I hope our paths may cross one day.

    1. Jen

      Hi Kiki, thank you for reading and I love what you’re up to with your project! Let’s definitely keep in touch.

  8. I like your lesson that it looks different for everyone. Living with less doesn’t mean living without anything.

    1. Jen

      Exactly Jamie! Depriving ourselves doesn’t help anyone. Life can be simple, abundant and supportive of others all at the same time.
      Thanks for reading.

  9. Mike Wanek

    It is a rare thing for me to find a person who actually has their finger on the pulse of LIFE. When we are not surrounded by stuff we can actually see the sunrise. When I was a young man there was a quip that was very popular, ” Whoever dies with the most toys wins!” I have found instead that whoever dies with the most toys just dies. You have found and expressed what this gift we call life is all about. Keep on living?

    1. Lynette

      I never thought of it that way. You gave me a new perspective on life. Thanks for sharing. Have a blessed day.

    2. Jen

      Thanks Mike! I love my toys, but will forever make sure that I don’t have any rotting away in storage, what’s the point in that?? 😉

  10. Peg Hedin

    Love the part of it never ending what we need changes.

    1. Jen

      Yes Peg, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
      Thank you for your comment!

  11. Kathy

    I like the concept, that we’re never done bc we are always changing and that’s ok.

    1. Jen

      The only constant is change, right? 🙂
      Thank you for reading Kathy!

  12. Suzanne

    I used to beat myself up over the fact that I couldn’t get it done in one day or one week. I have learned that chipping away at it when I have the energy and time is “enough.” I also find that over time it does get easier and I see my progress

    1. Jen

      Yes Suzanne! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, we all need to learn what’s best for our individual needs. Best of luck to you!

  13. Tracey

    I could really connect with each of the lessons you outlined, but less stuff equals more time stands out for me. The older I get the more precious time feels. Thanks for the inspiration Jen!

    1. Jen

      Thank you for the lovely comment Tracey! And I completely agree about cherishing time more as each year of life passes 🙂

  14. Valerie

    Fondue pot is symbolic of useless items manufactured and purchased often for gifts – items that circulate around in different homes, thrift stores and eventually add to landfill mass. If the focus is simple living, soul-enriching travel experiences, relationships, what a different and less resource-wasting society we’d have. I admire that nomadic life. Pleasant journey to you!

    1. Jen

      Thank you Valerie, living a nomadic life has opened up a whole new world of opportunity and challenge for me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it and share my experiences. Thank you for reading!

  15. Tiffany

    Lovely article and very uplifting! I work a little bit daily on the decluttering and feel so happy to be doing it. I am also glad that you emphasize that simple is different for everyone.

    1. Jen

      Thanks Tiffany! I’m happy to hear your daily efforts are helping you feel good. Such a great feeling 🙂

  16. Kris

    I love that the process is different for everyone, and that I don’t need to live in a tiny house to live a simple life. I am baby stepping my way to a much simpler life.

    1. Jen

      Baby steps are all you need! Best of luck Kris 🙂

  17. L

    I try to do alittle discarding the day before my garbage truck arrives! I start off great, then something sentimental comes by and I’m at a standstill. I’m torn! That’s when my decluttering process ends! I’m very frustrated.
    I applaud you all for being so successful.

    1. Ann

      May you find encouragement in knowing that your journey doesn’t have to end whenever you reach a sentimental item. You can save all the sentimental item and “put them to the side” and keep going! When I was a personal decluttering assistant for one who just lost both her parents and her now four kids were all out of the home, she had many sentimental items. I got to know her and which items really meant a lot to her and I would find places for those to be on display so she could see them and be constantly reminded of that wonderful memory(ies). The thought of others that were not as important simply sitting in a box was what got her to think of all the good they could do for others. Ex. she had some sets of friends who were going to be new parents and instead of keeping all baby blankets and clothes she was able to part with some and keep one outfit and blanket for each child. This meant the new parents got a gift that was useful for them, free monetarily for her, but very expensive in memories (and still in great condition) for the new parents to become part of the memory of those items. Sometimes you can think of the sentimental items you cherish less as a living thing in a way that has so many more memories it could be making with others and bringing joy to them, too.

      1. Jen

        What a beautiful story Ann, thank you for sharing!

    2. Linda Sand

      The thing about simplifying is you get to keep the things that have meaning for you. If you can find a way to display those things so much the better. The things on the walls and surfaces of our small apartment are now all things that have meaning for us. Ten years into this process we still have one box of sentimental things in our closet. And that’s OK. Because we all get to do what is right for us.

      1. Jen

        Agree agree agree with this supportive comment!

    3. Linda Sand

      We’ve been downsizing for 10 years and we still have one box of sentimental things other than what we have displayed. And that’s OK. After all, we each get to do what is right for us.

      1. Jen

        YES Linda! Keep what you love – and only you know what’s right for you.
        Thank you for the comment.

    4. Jen

      Hi L, looks like you’ve identified a wall you keep coming up against.
      If I can offer anything right now it’s this – as soon as you pick up a sentimental item, drop it! I assume that you still have items around that *aren’t* sentimental, so keep your focus there and keep your momentum going. Hang in there, it gets easier!

  18. L

    Love the article!

    1. Jen

      Thank you 🙂

  19. Linda

    A friend takes a picture of a item she is donating that is sentimental to her. That way she can look at it anytime she wants. Her daughter died suddenly at age 21 four years ago and this method of taking a picture has helped her clean out her daughter’s room recently. I like this idea. I have my Mom’s things in a Rubbermaid container in my basement that has been setting in my basement since she died 14 years ago. This will be my decluttering project this Winter. I will take a picture of any item that will be hard to let go of, but I must let go.

    1. Jen

      Hi Linda, taking photos can be an extremely supportive part of letting go of physical things. I wish you the best with facing your Mom’s items. That is not an easy task but it sounds like you are preparing well for it. xo

  20. Suzie

    I love the statement that we are never done and that is ok. I do think that for those of us
    who are serious about living a simple life, we need to have some sort of a time bound goal.
    However that being said, living a simple life no matter what that looks like for each individual,
    will always require some amount of maintenance. I found your article to be very reassuring
    and supportive. Thank you. Enjoy your travels.

    1. Jen

      Yes, accepting upkeep as part of the process can be the mental shift some people need to stick to it 🙂
      Thank you for reading Suzie!

  21. So much of what you wrote struck a chord with me. We went thru a purge over two years ago–got rid of a car, an rv, a boat, motorcycle, sporting equipment, tools, clothing, kitchen gadgets, furniture, then the 2700 sq ft house and moved into a small, 800 sq ft cottage by the sea–and I only miss two things: a mint green sweatshirt and a hand mixer that was a shower gift back in 1968 and still worked like new. In fact, “Simplify your Life” became the first chapter in a book I just published on finding happiness. Getting rid of all your stuff and reorganizing your finances, real estate and schedules is absolutely cathartic. It frees up time, money and space for new experiences, ideas, relationships and a fresh perspective on life. Great article!

    1. Veronica Morrin

      Helen you are living my dream!

    2. Jen

      Hi Helen, your cottage by the sea sounds absolutely dreamy! Thank you for your comment and I plan to check out your book 🙂

  22. Rebecca Shank

    Your article was inspiring! I am on the live simply journey. I continue to make progress then lose momentum but I am focused on letting go of all the stuff. Thank you for sharing, lots of wonderful nuggets.

    1. Jen

      Hi Rebecca, thanks for the comment! I think it’s very natural to lose momentum sometimes, it’s all in how we adjust to finding our focus and coming back to it. The gentler we can be with ourselves when we stray, the greater chance we have to come back with renewed energy! Best of luck in your journey.

  23. Ruta

    So very helpful! My favorite is, “What I own fits my life right now. If it doesn’t, it goes.” After my retirement so many things changed, the least of which was my wardrobe. Now it’s leggings and running shoes or flats and jeans.

    1. Jen

      Hi Ruta, it sounds like you are describing my current wardrobe 😉 Thanks for reading!

  24. J

    Your comment about never getting back time, and thinking about the time we spend taking care of stuff, fixing stuff, and more, really gets to the point of it all. Thank you.

    1. Jen

      I’m glad it resonated J, remembering this gives a whole new view on life. Thank you for reading!

  25. Heather

    “Never forget that the one thing you can never make back is time. Time to yourself, time to learn, time to explore, and time to be with loved ones“. This quote resonated with me so much that I added it to my email signature (with your name)! It is good to remember this when making decisions about commitments, and how we use our free time.

    1. Jen

      Wow Heather, I’m honoured that my words resonated with you so much! Thank you for reading and your lovely comment.

  26. “Learn to recognize the beauty in your own imperfect life and enjoy the process of designing it exactly how you want.” – I’m guilty of wanting to get to the finish line and peace, serenity will be waiting there. If I just….keep pushing. But that’s what we are lead to believe. Next, next, next. Instead of what’s here now. Thank you for this great article and sharing your journey.

    1. Jen

      Oh Josh, thank you so much for this comment.
      Wouldn’t we all be happier if we could stay in the present moment more? After all, it’s all we really have…

  27. Ann

    Ok – I rarely leave comments on blogs but this article struck so many chords with me that I just want to let YOU, Jen, know how awesome this article was/is. The following is what really resonated with me:
    First off you said there’s “a sweet spot between denying yourself nice things and being extravagant and wasteful” – you specifically said sweet spot and not ‘a fine line’ and I think that’s a really big difference. It’s not some hard-to-get-to place.
    You said “When your life is cluttered with stuff that you don’t love it just becomes a distraction. You lose sight of what you really love in life until you peel back the layers of excess.” – this is so true and the way you said it is perfect!
    “There’s no invisible finish line. There is however, a confidence in your decluttering decisions that develops overtime. You’ll learn to guard your life’s simplicity with each decision you make.” YEAS! Our lives are constantly evolving so our possessions should too if they are to support our lives. You hit the nail on the head for how we’re never really done decluttering but protecting our simple lives becomes easier and that confidence as you perfectly noted in our decisions is what makes the process less time consuming and more of a new natural skill in our lives.
    “When you remove physical items, you essentially acknowledge your impermanence. Nobody gets to live forever and you can’t take your stuff with you.” -THIS IS THE EXACT SAME THOUGHT I became acutely aware of in my own process of reaching a simple life. It really puts things into perspective and simplifying ends up becoming a more serious existential journey of what discovering for one’s self what life is really all about.

    I hope you keep writing – you’re thoughts are so right on key!

    1. Jen

      Well Ann, you just made this girl smile SO much.
      Thanks for reading and yes, I plan on writing and getting my message out to as many people as possible who need it 🙂

      1. Ann

        OH I’m so glad to hear that!!! Shine brightly far and wide!

  28. Ann Midgley

    I liked what you said about cupboards – they do not need to look like a photo shoot. I look at the pictures of beautiful minimalist houses and then get discouarged because even if I get rid of stuff my house won’t look like the picture.

    1. Jen

      Oh my gosh Ann, I used to get so discouraged as well!
      Imagine how many professionals it takes to make some of those pictures look like that, plus nobody’s really living in them!
      Again, I know some people do live like that, but it’s certainly not the definition of success.
      Thanks for reading!

  29. That last one, simple living looks different for everyone, struck me the most. I’m definitely a gypsy soul who would be perfectly happy living wherever feels like home at the moment. My husband and five kids however, like roots lol. While I may want to rid myself of almost every piece of furniture in the house (a house which in my opinion, is way bigger than we actually need), my family loves decorating and having nice things.
    I’ve learned that I can live simply with my own things, and allow them to define and revel in what it is that brings them joy. Maybe once the kids are all in college, I can convince my husband to hit the road with me! LOL.

    1. Jen

      Oh Vanessa, I love your point of view so much.
      Different seasons in our lives will call for different experiences.
      I do hope you get your travel adventure with your husband one day!

  30. Nicole

    2, 4, and 5 were kind of easy for me. Over decades of changing my life, decluttering and recluttering and decluttering; there are only 2 things I actually wish I’d kept: a beautifully hand-dyed tuxedo jacket (more subtle and beautiful than you are probably imagining) and my husband’s love letters the year we lived apart. I figured I had him; I didn’t need his letters – and we were moving across the country (with cats, a dog and a snake, oh my) in a pickup and a Nissan Sentra, so every item really counted. #1 means constant decisions and value judgements between wants and needs – where I struggle. #3 is tough because since becoming a (happy) empty nester and, moving again, I’m not sure how I want to spend my time. I’ve tried a few volunteer gigs, even got appointed to a board, enjoy my work and feed my creative passions now and then, but a meaningful pursuit of some kind has eluded me for a few years. Keeping my ears and eyes open and trying new things sequentially so I don’t over clutter my schedule by doing so much simultaneously.

    1. Jen

      Hi Nicole, I love how you described keeping your eyes and ears open and trying new things!
      I 100% believe this is the best way to find what you truly want in life. Best of luck 🙂

  31. Loretta S Witomski

    Oh what a wonderful article!!! The right words at the right time! Thank you so much!