Life Lessons From a Year of Simplicity

You can focus your limited time and energy better with good habits and some helpful tips
By Mollie Donghia
Mollie Donghia
Mollie Donghia
Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.
October 12, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

What does it mean to live life more simply and embrace the practices of simplicity?

What’s simple to you may be different than for someone else. This difference lies in what motivates, encourages, and enriches your own life. Your journey should be unique, where the habits you choose and the routines you establish are meaningful to you and bring your life joy and contentment.

Sure, there are many great posts online about how to cultivate a more simple life, such as our 101 Simple Living Tips, but simplicity should be an opportunity for you to create a life of meaning and sustainability.

Over the last year, as we’ve been mindful to live more intentionally, we’ve realized some life lessons that have allowed us to grow and to create ways of living that were right and helpful for us.

What follows are 10 lessons that I’ve learned from simplicity. Living more simply is not a destination or a goal that has an endpoint. Rather, it’s a journey we’ve chosen, one that allows us to embrace the beauty and richness of life by being mindful to slow down, own less, and be more intentional about where we focus our energies.

As you read, keep in mind that these are personal lessons I’ve learned along the way. What’s worked for me may not be right for you in this season of life. Embrace what brings you joy and learn to be content with the journey you’re on.

10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Simplicity

1. Having fewer choices is less overwhelming. Each evening before bed, I open my closet to choose the clothes I’ll wear the next day (if you’ve never tried this habit, it’s one of my favorites). Seeing only options of clothes that I love and fit well is much less overwhelming than sifting through a sea of items I no longer wear but that remain in my closet just taking up space.

2. Leaving margin in your life allows more time to be present. Our days of being quarantined at home in 2020 resulted in several healthy insights. One of these was that leaving more margin in our week creates more opportunities to just be (be still, be less busy, be more rested). This allowed us to enjoy more of life’s free pleasures (like sunshine, nature, and loved ones) and create sustainable routines that we value.

3. Saying “no” to many good things leaves room to say “yes” to a few better things. Saying “no” can be hard—especially for people-pleasers like me. But I’ve learned that it pays off. You can’t do everything, and certainly not well. Learn to say “no” to opportunities, even if they are indeed good, to make room for what matters most.

4. Comparison is a thief of joy. When we allow comparison to enter our lives, we subconsciously admit that what we have isn’t enough. We begin to believe that if we could have what others have, it would make us happier and more content. I’m still learning this truth, but I find it so freeing to focus on my own journey rather than what others have accomplished.

5. Focusing on the journey, not the destination, brings more contentment. Minimalism isn’t the end goal that we have. There’s no finish line or gold star of approval once we’ve accomplished certain ideals. We choose to enjoy this journey that we’re on by celebrating the satisfaction that our habits produce. Such as enjoying the benefits of a less cluttered home by deciding to do things such as 2-minute habits (making our bed, clearing flat surfaces, and so forth), and doing them on a regular basis.

6. Self-reflection on your routines and goals is a healthy way to move forward. Taking time to evaluate and reflect upon the goals and routines that I’ve begun is healthy because it allows me to see if these practices are actually benefiting me or just adding something more to do. Our circumstances change from season to season, so what works today may not be as beneficial a year later. Learn to let things go if they’re not actually helping you, and keep doing the things that improve your life.

7. Fasting from some of life’s pleasures allows you to enjoy them even more. One of the most rewarding things in life is appreciating life’s novelty—such as sipping a hot drink from my favorite coffee shop, traveling to new cities, or eating out at a good restaurant. But if I do these things too often, it’s inevitable that the thrill it once provided begins to dwindle. Taking a fast from some of life’s pleasures for a time is one way that I’m able to preserve the pleasure that these experiences bring.

8. Impulse buying is too easy, so apply the 48-hour rule. Before we began our minimalism journey, I’ll admit I was a chronic impulse buyer. I wasn’t a shopaholic or hoarder, but if the idea of “needing” something nestled its way into my mind, I didn’t think twice about purchasing it. Today, I’m much more mindful of how I spend our money. Being the gatekeeper of our home, I try to apply the “48-hour rule” as often as possible. Hold off on purchasing an item (unless it’s essential) for 48 hours to see if you still feel the same need to purchase it after that time is up. Chances are you’ll change your mind and decide that you were able to manage just fine without it. Give it a try!

9. Quiet time is a daily necessity. Being a stay-at-home mom while also homeschooling has many beautiful benefits. One aspect I’ve come to realize is that I can’t pour from an empty cup. If I spend every bit of my mental and physical energy taking care of, teaching, and entertaining my children all morning, I need time to rest so I can continue doing it well. Our afternoon quiet time is a regular routine that benefits all of us. They get a chance to nap, read books, or do a quiet activity, while I get a chance to have the time and space I need to be rejuvenated.

10. It’s more important to take away than to add. When thinking about how to improve something, many people start by seeing what can be added or changed. But one important rule of thumb that we’ve come to rely on is called addition by subtraction. Instead of adding a new habit to solve a problem, you see what can be removed or avoided. We wanted to reduce the amount of clutter in our playroom, so instead of creating an elaborate organization system, we simply reduced the number of toys by half to solve the problem.

This article was originally published on This Evergreen Home.

Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.