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The Simple Life

Photo by etringita
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

Don’t you just love the excitement you feel after coming home with a new TV? Driving home in a new car? Opening the box on a new pair of shoes?

I sure do. But, from watching the behavior of myself and my friends I’ve found that the new quickly becomes just another item. The excitement of novelty passes quickly.

As we become wealthier, people seem to be adding more and more things to our homes. We then use our homes, and our treasures, to justify that we have won the game of life. Growing up in a family of pack-rats, I spent many years in my teens and early twenties accumulating stuff. During this time, much of my self-worth was unconsciously associated with the amount of stuff I owned; the brand names, and the latest trends. I spent a lot of money on clothes and stuff that made me feel ‘superior’. They gave me a sense of identity. If I just removed these things without awareness, my ego would have suffered. I had grown so attached to that definition of myself, that my loss would have been much deeper than just the cute sweater.

Not only did I not find myself in all this, I’ve also accumulated a lot of clutter in my living space and my inner space. Ironically, the piles of stuff actually held me back from understanding and inner peace with myself.

We are so eager to fill our homes, yet so disinterested in cleaning it out. As a result, we now require larger spaces, more storage space, and more clutter for the mind. Did you know that there are more self-storage facilities in North America than there are McDonald’s restaurants? We find it difficult to reduce the amount of stuff we own is due to our attachment to these things.

Is Less Really More?

The joy and art of having less while enjoying more of life can be summed up, as follows.

  • The Zen of Space – There is beauty in space, but we fail to recognize it because we can’t see through the stuff we own. When we open up physical space in our environment, a tremendous feeling of peace can dwell within us. This is the principle behind Japanese style homes. Beauty in small spaces is the appreciation of minimalism, where less truly is more. We need to understand that space is to be enjoyed, not filled.
  • Conserved Energy – Fewer belongings means we have fewer possessions to worry about. I once knew a wealthy young man, who had anything he dreamt of. He had so many expensive things, and he was so afraid of losing them. Much of his energy was devoted to protecting his possessions and trophies.
  • Free Your Space – When we are reminded of something we own but never use, we can impose self-inflicted guilt for leaving it unused. For example, my mother owns a several exercise machines which are rarely used. Each time she sees them, she forces herself to feel guilty. Her guilt eats away at her inner, mental space. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. By cleaning out and simplifying our outer space, our inner space will open up like a flower.
  • Appreciation – The less we have, the more attention we can give those things we own and truly need on a regular basis. Appreciation is the seed for abundance; abundance of the mind and the soul. It’s pretty amazing how little we actually need. When we clear our homes and our lives down to the essentials, we are able to better enjoy that which we do have.

Nothing external to us can give us permanent and true happiness. We actually have all we need to be truly happy within us.

The art of having less but enjoying our lives more, involves a few simple changes in perspective. First, we must understand where our true values lie and focus on them. Then, we must take time to enjoy the simple things, and slow down and see what’s right in front of us.


How to Have More With Less?

The following are suggestions and tips for incorporating the having less mentality into your life:

Doing One Thing At A Time – Avoid multi-tasking. When our attention is divided between multiple thoughts at the same time, we cannot excel in any of them. It’s best to place all focus on one task before moving on to another. I’ve learned the hard way that despite feeling productive, with multi-tasking, I rarely am. Whenever possible, remind yourself to focus on the Now, and fully immerse yourself in the subtle joys of this moment.

Slow down – It’s easy to speed through your day and not notice the little things. Slowing down is a vital part of simplifying your life and enjoying what you have. With focus, you can get the same tasks done without rushing. The key to being effective and productive is to work strategically, not blindly, by understanding why you are doing what you’re doing.

Be The Important – The only time we are guaranteed to have is this moment. I know this may sound a little mystical, but just think about it for a second. Life is so precious, yet we spend our most valuable resource, time, on things that are not important to us. In my life, this means that I will include time in my schedule to do what I truly want to be doing. Since the only time we have is right now, make sure you’re using your right now the way you truly want.

Clear the clutterClearing the clutter from your home and from your life is easier said than done. We are often emotionally attached to our posessions. This attachment goes beyond our need and we find it difficult to let go of nostalgia. When we are free of physical clutter, it frees our minds as well.

Control Your Spending – You’ve heard the saying “The best things in life are free.” Do you believe it? Spending time with family and friends, laughing, enjoying the antics of a pet, seeing a child smile, experiencing intimate and heart-felt moments with a loved one – these times are precious, and free. Money brings comfort, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying that comfort. But it’s important to spend money on the things that matter to you and let go of spending that does not add value to your life. We spend on what we need, but we forget why we are doing what we’re doing, and the spending becomes a habit.

Enjoy What You Have – If you want to have more enjoyment in your life, enjoy what you have. It is said that in order to live the life you love, you have to love the life you have. We don’t have to seek beyond ourselves in order to find happiness. No one person has everything they want; but we all have some things worth enjoying. So focus on those things and enjoy them!


Be Gracious – Following the previous point. Take time to be grateful for what you already have, however much or little you own. Be content with all the small gifts in your life, things you might take for granted like your body, your home, your good health, the chair you’re sitting on, the computer you have, the respect of those you love most.

Think Simple – There are so many simple pleasures that we don’t always take time to enjoy. Have you taken time lately to be outdoors and watch the clouds? When was the last time you curled up on the couch with a good book? If you enjoy baths, when is the last time you took a bubble bath? Take some time to really focus on something simple – focus on your breathing, focus on drinking down a cold glass of water, focus on enjoying the simple things you do every day. We can find so much happiness in the small everything things. They are there if we seek them, and when we seek, we shall find.

What are some simple things that you enjoy? Share with it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and related topics.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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144 thoughts on The Simple Life

  1. Tina, I know I’ve said this before, but I’m really enjoying your new writing style and more indepth material. Really makes you stand out across the blogosphere.

    Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
    Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

  2. This article hit me on my head. The number of my possession keep on growing while my living space is shrinking.

    Though I am not a fan of branded stuffs but I keep on collecting unimportant stuffs.

    Thank you for the tips to guide me to the road of solution. :)

  3. Hi Tina,
    I’ve been telling my clients for quite some time.

    I could fit all of the “secrets” to being in shape on a “Post it Note”.
    1. eat clean
    2. train hard
    3. sleep enough

    Simplicity in fitness.


  4. As someone who also comes from a family of pack rats, I can totally indentify with this issue and the lessons that need to be learned. One of my short-term, immediate goals is to de-clutter my closet. *sigh* Thank you for the good tips and reminders.

    As for enjoyable simple things, I find nothing beats reading a good book with a good cup of coffee or tea.

  5. tina,

    i used to have the thought: “if i get this item, then i will feel this way.” i never really identified what “this way” should feel like, and most of the times, i end up feeling the same after acquiring the item for a brief amount of time. so the way i’ve run my life has been a bit different from yours; instead of feeling attached to my objects, i felt empty because of the objects i had. like you said, cleaning out superfluous objects greatly unclutters both physical and mental space. and i also love japanese architecture, or any zen-like space :) thank you for another enlightening post!

  6. Thanks Tina!

    This is an important issue to me, I am severely affected by my surroundings, too much stuff, unorganized messes and clutter give me tention headaches and completely stifle my creativity, I literally cannot think when my personal space is cluttered. I have recently been getting rid of tons of items I do not use and it’s truely extraordinary, my creativity and inspiration has returned, I feel free and energized and healthy. Thank your for the wonderful insights!

  7. I recently found a way that fits perfect to me in order to get energy and to rid off the stress. I get laid on a long seat near to beach, put my earphones and play Sigur Rös for 15 minutes… The mix of calm, cold wind and hot sun on my face works!

  8. Tina, you’ve hit this one right on. We need to enjoy life more and simplifying it is the way to do it.

    Great job!

  9. great article, i actually found almost the same article on the 3rd page, of

  10. This is a nice article and makes some good points, but, for the love of God, please stop holding the Japanese up as examples of simplicity and space. All those clean, clear, uncluttered spaces you see in magazines and architectural books don’t exist in 99% of homes. Look at the book “Tokyo Style” and you’ll see the overwhelming number of Japanese people live in cluttered messes rivaling most western homes.

  11. I have benefited from keeping things tidy, cutting downing buying and donating or throwing out crap accumulations. it is easy to be simple, or simple to be easy.

  12. Great post. I totally agree that lots of purchases today are unnecessary. I’ve been trying to simplify/reduce clutter for awhile; it’s easier said than done. I’ll keep trying one room (or drawer) at a time :-)

  13. Paul X

    I found a trick that works really well to avoid buying useless stuff.

    Whenever I am in a store (which is more rare these days), and I find something that I really want, what I always do is go home without buying it. And I think about it some. Very often, after a week or so I come to the conclusion I can do without it, and never go back to get it. Occasionally, I still want it after a week or so, then I will go back and buy. But the point is, most times not having it in front of you when you make the decision to buy or not, takes a lot of pressure off.



    That’s a nice trick Paul. Thanks for sharing.


  14. Matthew

    Excellent article that puts into words a lot of what I’ve been personally thinking and feeling myself lately. Thanks!

  15. Aaron Scott

    Love the article. I lived in East Africa, Tanzania for almost 2 years and loved my life there. People often ask me what I loved so much about it. It’s hard to explain but one of the things that I loved so much is that I appreciated the small things. Just getting to go somewhere with running water when I would leave my village, taking a hot shower when I would travel to the capitol. Spending 1/6 of my days salary on an occasional chocolate bar. Now that I’m back in America I feel like I don’t truly appreciate anything because everything is so easily accessible.

  16. A Zen monk may wash the floor as a practice to clean him/her self spiritually. What a wonderful change — expressing your self through your objects vs. being attached to your objects.

    I think I will go dust off my alter.

    Quiet Mind Cafe

  17. What a great read. I went through a “life simplification” about 6 years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did. I didn’t even have TV for two of those years. I own almost nothing, but I have all this great wide open space.

    I think the thing that helped me slow down and pay attention to thing I would have otherwise ignored is photography. People always tell me that I take such interesting pictures of things that they would have never seen. The truth is that they would see them, if they would just take the time. Take a walk, stare at the clouds, get down on your knees and look at things from a different angle. Stop, look and appreciate.

    The other interesting aspect of this is my children. My ex wife is a total pack rat and has stuff from one end of her house to the other. I walk inside and just feel uncomfortable. Like the house is closing in on me. Stacks, piles, toys from the kitchen to the living room. I see how see this affects my kids. At my house, they are calm, relaxed and they enjoy the space. At their moms house, they are crazy, out of control and have stimulus all over. It’s too much. I think they feel like they can breath when they are with me.

    Thanks again for your great write up. I enjoyed it very much.

  18. Often times we buy things that are supposed to make us feel posh or important because of an emptiness. This is an easy one to get caught up in (hence shopaholics)

    I love the tip about clearing clutter. It helps you grab the reigns on your life and your surroundings .. helps you focus on whats important.

    Consider this Dugg :)

  19. I’ve been thinking about so many of these things just recently, not quite sure why, maybe it’s just a stage in life, but I’m really starting to appreciate things other than physical possessions which really used to mean a lot to me.

    Now I can get rid and de-clutter my life, feel less stressed by doing it and also save money in the process of unnecessary spending in the future.

    One of my favourites is just watching and listening to the rain at various times of the day.

  20. Meridian

    I love this article and totally agree. I find i cannot relax unless the house is clean and uncluttered. And i frequently turn off every possible electronic device in the house (except fridge of course) including lights, open up the windows and read a book in the midday sun that shines through the window. ‘Stuff’ suddenly becomes very unimportant. But…..

    I have a library. Book shelves covering the walls. Books up to the ceiling. Shelves abound with useless items.
    With all this “stuff” in the room, i actually feel more relaxed in it. It is my ‘Den’, with a collection of items on the shelves that signify my life. Not items purchased from a shopping centre. Items that i’ve collected on my travels and items signifying achievements i have made. Everything in that room is very important to me. It has value to me beyond that of any item that could be purchased at a shopping centre. It is almost a summation of my achievements in life. That room signifies ‘me’, and is not filled with items i purchased so that i could feel a certain way. It is filled with items that i purchased ‘because’ i feel a certain way.

    To anyone else, the room is probably quite boring. But i would be quite lost without it.

    I don’t know whether these feelings are familiar to anyone. And i know they kind of go against the grain of this article. But i feel my life would lack something if i could not sit in my library, look around, and think: ‘Yes, i have achieved things, my life has a point’.



    Hi Meridian,

    You have a great point here. I could just imagine you reading by the window with the indoor lights off. I hear what you’re saying and I cannot label this as wrong. What I’m really trying to highlight with this article is that we tend to associate ourselves with the things we own… and we think this is where happiness can be drawn from. I can relate to what you are describing, I’m incredibly attached to my loft, without it, I think that I will not be well or creative. But to some extent, part of me knows that even the things I hold precious from memories I treasure are just things, they capture memories from the past… but, I can only live in the now.

    The question to ask is, “Can you feel that your life has a point without all your possession? Can you still be grateful for all that you’ve experienced in your life? And all the small miracles that comes your way?” :)

    Love & Gratitude,

  21. shwin

    Hey Tina,
    I love how fast your blog has grown. It shows the power of intention, absolute faith and working towards the goal…. I like this post, I’ve already realized the things you’ve said but still do the opposite. I must wisen up!




    Hi Shwin,

    Thanks so much. You are right, the power of intention and absolute faith works when I stopped thinking/pondering/analysing whether it will work.
    Don’t worry about doing the opposite, I too do the opposite. The key is sending out your intentions for how you’d like to live your life, and taking steps towards that (which rarely happens over night). I admire you for trying. :)


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