The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life

“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.” —Thomas Kempis

Simplicity brings balance, freedom, and joy. When we begin to live simply and experience these benefits, we begin to ask the next question, “Where else in my life can i remove distraction and simply focus on the essential?”

Based on our personal journey, our conversations, and our observations, here is a list of the 10 most important things to simplify in your life today to begin living a more balanced, joyful lifestyle:

1. Your Possessions – Too many material possessions complicate our lives to a greater degree than we ever give them credit. They drain our bank account, our energy, and our attention. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values. If you will invest the time to remove nonessential possessions from your life, you will never regret it. For more inspiration, consider Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.

2. Your Time Commitments – Most of us have filled our days full from beginning to end with time commitments: work, home, kid’s activities, community events, religious endeavors, hobbies… the list goes on. When possible, release yourself from the time commitments that are not in line with your greatest values.

3. Your Goals – Reduce the number of goals you are intentionally striving for in your life to one or two. By reducing the number of goals that you are striving to accomplish, you will improve your focus and your success rate. Make a list of the things that you want to accomplish in your life and choose the two most important. When you finish one, add another from your list.

4. Your Negative Thoughts – Most negative emotions are completely useless. Resentment, bitterness, hate, and jealousy have never improved the quality of life for a single human being. Take responsibility for your mind. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

5. Your Debt – If debt is holding you captive, reduce it. Start today. Do what you’ve got to do to get out from under its weight. Find the help that you need. Sacrifice luxury today to enjoy freedom tomorrow.

6. Your Words – Use fewer words. Keep your speech plain and honest. Mean what you say. Avoid gossip.

7. Your Artificial Ingredients – Avoid trans fats, refined grain (white bread), high-fructose corn syrup, and too much sodium. Minimizing these ingredients will improve your energy level in the short-term and your health in the long-term. Also, as much as possible, reduce your consumption of over-the-counter medicine – allow your body to heal itself naturally as opposed to building a dependency on substances.

8. Your Screen Time – Focusing your attention on television, movies, video games, and technology affects your life more than you think. Media rearranges your values. It begins to dominate your life. And it has a profound impact on your attitude and outlook. Unfortunately, when you live in that world on a consistent basis, you don’t even notice how it is impacting you. The only way to fully appreciate its influence in your life is to turn them off.

9. Your Connections to the World – Relationships with others are good, but constant streams of distraction are bad. Learn when to power off the blackberry, log off Facebook, or not read a text. Focus on the important, not the urgent. A steady flow of distractions from other people may make us feel important, needed, or wanted, but feeling important and accomplishing importance are completely different things.

10. Your Multi-Tasking – Research indicates that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity. while single-tasking is becoming a lost art, learn it. Handle one task at a time. Do it well. And when it is complete, move to the next.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. hypocrisy says

    “Your Screen Time – Focusing your attention on television, movies, video games, and technology affects your life more than you think. Media rearranges your values.”

  2. says

    I think minimalism = LIFE SHOULD BE SIMPLE.

    As all individuals are different, focusing on what’s important to you is the biggest part of minimalism.

    Just stop wasting time and energy on the things that don’t matter and start focusing on what really makes you happy.

  3. Karen Maust says

    Minimizing stuff in this era we live in, seems so hard and yet I am very interested in living in such a way. Where to start is the big question, I guess first I need to convince my husband and 3 sons.

    My husband is an auctioneer and we work together helping others to close estates, down size for the “nursing home”, down size to move away. At an auction people buy things that they think they need, many folks get caught up in the moment of materialism.

    What we hear at every auction once the owners see everything they owned in the tent is this one question: “I can’t believe we had so much stuff!” Then next question is: “How long do you think this will take”? I work as the clerk, so I write each item down that sells, and often write for 6-7 straight hours. That’s a lot of stuff, and often stuff they forgot they even had.

    Then I think about what’s most important in life. God, growing closer to Him and our family, and so many things get in the way.

    Thank you for stepping out and making changes in your life, I hope to be able to follow this most important need for change and life choices in our lives as well. Karen

    • Exhausted says

      My father passed away seven years ago. As Executrix, I was left with the job of consolidating his Estate. My parents never got rid of a thing for 60 years and when my father shut down his business, he brought his office equipment, stock, etc. home. It has taken me seven years to get rid of things in the proper fashion and there is still stuff to get rid of. It would be interesting to see how many thousands of pounds of stuff I got rid of. They have a 1,500 sq. ft. home and the basement and garage were filled to the rafters. A burden beyond compare. I have decided that from now on I will be “travelling light” as I do not want to do to my son what my parents have done to me.

  4. Daniel says

    I wish it was easy to get rid of the debt, which I desperately need to do. A pile of medical bills 20 years ago, is still negatively affecting my life. Even working so much that I ended up in the hospital twice did nothing but add over $6000 of debt to my load after insurance.

    Yeah, there is so much I would have had the opportunity to do if it wasn’t for that pile of debt.

    • John says

      Have you considered not paying it?
      Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta keeps a fund to pay patients bill who are not able to.

  5. Jack Lord says

    Life is to short to worry about these things to much so live it how you think is right, be the best person you can be and focus on what u think is important because you only get one LOVE life !!!!

  6. says

    For Sure! No one can instill the feeling of contentment in you as it lies deep within oneself. Only you have the power to simplify your life. It is okay to get irritated when things do not go as planned and makes it really tough for us to stay positive and content with life.

  7. Geoffrey says

    “Media rearranges your values. It begins to dominate your life. And it has a profound impact on your attitude and outlook.”

    This is something I only realized not so long ago but it is so true. After reading so many online resources I suddenly realized that there are way too many of them and that my thoughts on certain parts of life change so rapidly because of all these influences.

    This is especially true on advice and self-help tips. After a while you are only focused on the hundreds of things you should do to “magically transform your life overnight” instead of just picking a few, see what works and try those for a while.

  8. Ana says

    I remember the feeling when I was moving out of student dormitory at the end of my study. Dormitory room was itself so small (two beds, two tables and two wardrobes and no place left to fit anything in) so you can imagine there was no place for clutter anyway. But still I remember the feeling when I sent all of my things by car few days earlier than I was leaving. I left only few neccesites with me to survive these few days and to fit them in the shopping bag size pack. The feeling of freedom was so present. Even thought at that time I have never heard of this minimalistic and simplyfing philosophy (it was six years ago in small east european country). So I can tell from the first hand that it really works: if you want to free your mind you gotta free your body.
    Living in materalistic world its easier said than done (when I think how many things do I need in one morning to get ready for work to represent me and place where I work in proper manner, etc…), but just thinking in this way and reminding when next time see really nice thing in store, and become concious of this truth, and to know in each moment to what should we strive is nice step forward that can make us live nicer.

  9. says

    An excellent post and straight to the point Joshua! All the points mentioned are extremely valid in simplifying life. From my own experience and in the course I teach about simplicity I emphasise the importance of changing our beliefs and mental models which is the foundation to simplifying everything else in practice. Hence I think that the points about negative thoughts and reducing the number of goals are extremely important groundwork.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. says

    My goodness I love the simplicity of your life.

    I will do it bit by bit.

    Yes, social media stuffs really eats our time..

    Thanks, I will repost it to my fb friends once I got home..

  11. Xiao says

    Hi,joshua,great article!!!,I it makes so much senses, I growed so much this year, I made so much positive changes, I became a vegetarian,and so into healthy living, started to go out hiking, only wanna spend money on stuff i really need ……etc. when I saw a video about minimalism, I knew that s the life I wanna live,the simplier,the better. I got some fancy boots,handbags,and new shirts I don’t even wear in my closet, what’s the point ? It is a waste, I can’t even get the same value I decided to put some old clothes in a bag to donate, I listed a few things on Craigslist to sell,I sold a roaster today for 10 bucks, my husband got it from his dad long time ago,we never used it, it takes space for no reason,I am so happy from the deep of my heart that I sold it , lol I wanna have as less things as possible to be able to fit all my belongings into one tricky part though, my husband is so different with me, he is a collector, he buy so much stuff all the time, it frustrated me.

  12. Barbara says

    Thank you for the tips. I don’t own too many things and am not materialistic but I want to become minimalist in all areas of my life including what I eat and my speech.

  13. Barb says

    Some thoughts on minimalist way of life.
    What is important… a thing or a person.
    What will you be remembered for… who you were or what you had
    Do you know the difference between a need and a want { I want therefore I need?} We have few actual needs but way too many wants.
    I would rather be wanted than needed.
    I would rather speak with you than to buy something that wasn’t a necessary.
    We all need love and acceptance as much as shelter, food and health.
    When is the last time you did something nice for someone with no expectation of gratitude or reciprocation
    What does success mean to you
    Who else is going to take care of the earth and everything on it

  14. Amy says

    LOVE THIS! But the first step is what I NEED most, so I clicked the link. It took me to Amazon to buy the book/kindle – i don’t have a kindle for starters but more possessions! seems ironic that I need to buy a book to tell me how to buy less…

  15. Vinod says

    There is nothing important. We humans are like some function which receives uncountable phenomena, assimilates them and produces so many ways of life, happy, loving, caring, hurtful, stressful etc. In the end we are just nothing. Its like nothing has been given 50-60 years of time to live in an illusion. No matter what you do. Who you are. Which lifestyle you live. In the end your consciousness will be taken back and once again you will become nothing. So stop worrying to much for too many things. Life in harmony with the nature. Do good to others.

    • Manohar says

      Very true Bryan Guiot, and well said. A year before I had a motor bike, I replaced it with a bicycle and I don’t miss the motor bike any more. I deleted my account in FB, I don’t miss being on FB anymore. I uninstalled whatsapp, and I don’t miss it.. I assumed that I would miss these things when I tried to distance myself from these, but I guess you start enjoying their absence or turn indifferent the more you practice it.. There seemed to be zero withdrawal symptoms.. :-)

  16. says

    Some great insights Joshua but one thing I feel like which is not stressed enough in the self-help world is the importance and benefits of meditation. Since I have been meditating, everyday I find myself more sharper and more in touch with emotions and feelings. My decisions are more conscious and I am now less and less on auto-pilot.I believe to live in the moment is such a simple yet vital advice for effective living.

  17. says

    This is wonderful! I have been following your advice on minimalism for over a year now and I am finding it to be a fabulous transition for me.
    I do have a little bit of trouble with clutter and sentimental items though so I would love your opinion on this topic! :)

    Also, one challenge I have had with my journey to declutter my life towards minimalism – is actually my partner. Now, I love my partner dearly – it’s just that he isn’t particularly concerned with the ideals of minimalism which can sometimes increase the clutter in my life (surroundings) – any suggestions on this matter?

    Thank you again for the lovely post! :)

  18. says

    People search for life’s meaning in many ways such as Wealth, Power, Status, Possessions, but people who achieve them are seldom satisfied.
    Often it’s not until our later years that we fully grasp the extraordinary value of our relationships.

    I am grateful to have been able to achieve much in life.
    Many would view me as “successful.” Yet my greatest treasures by far are my relationships—with my family, grandchildren and close friends—and with God, a bond that is absolutely unique.

  19. says

    That starting quote from Thomas really made me travel in my past when I used to practice mindfulness and purity of thought every single day, every single hour and minute!

    I started to miss that lifestyle and as I was reading through the article, all the points there like my time commitments, my multi-taskings, my negative thoughts that come from the stressful and busy lifestyle I’m living, all of it makes me nostalgic in a way.

    I definitely should be changing my habitual way of living. Thank you for the inspiration, this brief article with with golden nugget tips really made a trigger inside me!

  20. jeanie says

    “Avoid over the counter medicines, allow your body to heal itself naturally”. Apparently, you have never had any herniated discs in your back, a dislocated shoulder, knee, ankle, elbow, or finger, sinus infection, bronchitis, or had a kid with asthma. Don’t preach from on high when you don’t understand the ailments of others. God forbid that someone take this seriously, not get medical attention and die.

  21. says

    Trying and practicing minimalism is easier for a poor person is easy because ……obvious.right.
    Practicing minimalism by a well heeled person is by own volition.
    It is not easy for a mid income group person. He has to practice it. In imitating people around him he always tends to over do. If he succeeds in putting it into practice he has done himself a world of good.

  22. Saraa says

    when i a child, i had fever things , I used to hated. I always thought I need to be someone and get what I want. I did. I have beautiful family, caring and loving husband, 2 smart babies. Now I am Mom looking back. laundry is full dirty and clean … kitchen full dishes, kitchen counter full pf “stuff”. toys and books… clutter. My poor husband he does dishes everyday, never ending. Same here trying best cleaning , straightening up, turn around mess again. then I thought how my life was simple, i had so time. I had 2 peers shoes, one dress, one sweater, one pants, … my laundry is very easy, We had only 2 cups few other dishes, washing wouldn’t take that long. … very simple no stress. so i decide to live my life simple again.

  23. Paul Salerno says

    I’m working toward a simpler lifestyle, but I struggle to achieve minimalism. I have sold or donated many possessions. This has provided an income and I find many of the more valuable items gone. This is good for making me feel less tied to physical things and perceived value. However this experience in sales has left me more aware of the value of collecting items that have the most chance of increasing in price. Some new toys and limited edition items double or more in value soon after release. I feel not aquiring some these items is leaving money on the table. So I’m looking for value in what I spend energy on.

  24. Peter says

    Have step by step moved in this direction the last 20 years and still in progress. It has been and still is a long struggle.. It is difficult to find the balance that works for the hole family. But loads of stuff have been sold off, shopping has been reduced to mainly food. We eat a lot less and the quality, in all levels, food as well as the the much less items that we do pocess today has increased.
    But is is a work in progress and it will be for the rest of our lives.
    Because it’s not off grid grid we wan’t to live even if we have invested in a electric car and solar panels.

  25. says

    I live a minimalistic life but was not happy at all. I had too much expectations of myself. I think it is very dificult to find a balance. I try to follow my passion although i cannot make a living out of it. Hope I will one day.

  26. Manoj Krishnan says

    The article is really useful & reflective.
    When we are drowned to believe that “purity and simplicity doesnt really work in this world & is not practical in todays world” that shows the helpless condition where we stand now.
    We need to inculcate great faith in simple values and shake away these “bad habits” at whatever cost. More important, your kids are waiting there to follow you. So lets start believe in good and transmit values to next generation however hard it be so that the life has meaningful purpose. Thank you

  27. says

    I think that depends on your values and whether you feel powerful enough to change in your life. It won’t happen overnight but life can be simpler.-it’s a question of choice.

  28. John says

    Well it have to otherwise why do we live our lives for ourselfs or for others as well?!? Ofcourse for others life is not always about motivation speed sucess and goals but their are limits their is something called brake stop and fail in this life evil and good poor and rich dirty and clean etc etc god does not see our works only but our brakes and feared and fast stop that it happened in our lifes anyhow god can forgive the all also YOU SHOULD BE CLEAN PURE AND SMIPLIFIED AND EVERYBODY AS WELL SO THAT WE CAN ACHIEVE SUCESS IN THIS WORLD AND TO GO INSIDE THE HEAVEN Amen

  29. SHILOH says

    It is possible and realistic but very, very difficult. We live in a “if it feels good, do it” world. Anything that goes against the popular opinion or culture or anything that makes us “uncomfortable” is deemed as impossible or unrealistic. However, it has proven time and again…you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to. It all depends on what you truly want to do…

  30. Jeannie says

    Yes I agree…and you have to start somewhere and want to continue even thought there are obstacles that come in our way. Just start small~~one drawer at a time, an area in the Garage, whatever seems to make you feel stressed about. I know it is a long road but I am beginning and each time I accomplish another ‘bag of garbage or donations” I feel so much lighter and that encourages me to keep going. I know that it will take quite awhile… but things did not get way overnight so just keep pressing forward and ask God for Guidance along the way….you can do it!! :) What really helps me is if it is not “Beautiful” to me any more why keep it … that really helps me a lot!!

  31. ray howard says

    I can think of one great time in my life that made me appreciate the good things in my life . Big Hug Jeanne

  32. Amandita Johnson says

    I started actively shedding my stuff about 6 months after I started indoor rock climbing. If I were to understand myself, I had a phobia for heights, the same as my phobia for letting go of things. The 6 months of mental practice of letting go of the belay in order to come down to the floor has also mentally helped me let go of stuff I don’t need.

    The answers lie within us. We have to conquer our fears in order to be free. Nothing will happen to us if we give up our things, baggage and unwanted items. Nothing! But we become free and able to think clearly. This website has helped me in this journey of letting go. Thank you!

  33. Christopher Maguire says

    I just read this quote: “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you think you are”

    I have adopted the Minimalist principles of living with less…

    As a result, I have reconnected with my True self…I am so much happier and “Alive” knowing and practicing this lifestyle.

    I share it with everyone :)

    Thank you, for sharing this blog with us!

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