5 Tips to Create a Simple, Intentional Life

How to live a simple, intentional life.

The older I get, the more I crave a quiet, simple life with less distraction and more satisfaction.

Less clutter, less frustration. More time, more energy.

Less stress.

Ah yes, stress. I think that's one of the top reasons people want to live a simpler life: to have less stress.

People are different; the "simple life" will look different to you than it does to me. And what causes stress in one person might not create the same reaction in another. Regardless of the cause though, stress gets to us all.

If you're like me and want to lessen the stress in your life and live in a simpler, more intentional, purposeful way, let's make some changes.

Along the way, let's identify the situations that cause the most stress and the things that are the most important to us, so we can create that simple life we crave.

How to reduce stress in your life

I woke up at 4:00 am this morning, my head spinning with things I needed to do and to remember. My solution to this is what's called a brain dump.

It's my #1 way to deal with stress, get things done, and identify what needs to change in my life. You might benefit from a brain dump too. You can do this as often as you need to or want to. It's easy (although you might have to get up in the dark and write by the light of a flashlight if you wake up at 4:00 am).

Find something to write on, and write on it. Don't try to categorize your thoughts, just write down everything in your head. Deadlines, worries, dreams, possibilities, things to do, things you want to do, things you don't want to do. Everything that comes to mind, such as:

  • The birthday card you need to mail before Monday, did you buy one yet?
  • When is the car insurance payment due?
  • Make a will
  • Call your best friend
  • Make a dentist appointment
  • Buy olive oil
  • Get a haircut
  • That report you need to finish at work

My own list is usually an entire page in a spiral notebook. Maybe more than one page. Some of the items are mundane and others are causing me major stress, but when I'm writing them all down, they all have the same importance.

When your thoughts finally slow down and stop, sort the list into categories. Use a new piece of paper and write down a shopping list, a to-do list, a list of dates to write on your calendar, phone calls to make, and so on.

Now make a plan to get those things done!

Make those phone calls, write those dates on your calendar. Buy that birthday card!

Perhaps you also have a project or two on that list. I hate to admit that "fix the chicken coop" has been on my to-do list for a number of months. I've been waiting for the weather to improve, but the coop has continued to, well, disintegrate in the meantime. I really need to plan a day to complete this project.

If your list included a goal or two (like "lose weight" or "walk more"), decide how you'll get started. Without a plan, it will remain a wish instead of a goal that you will eventually reach. Spend enough time planning this so that you can make it happen.

But chances are, there are some items left on your list that don't seem to belong anywhere, or that you can't do anything about. It might be something you're worried about, but can't do anything about. Or maybe it's an emotion, grief over a loss, a regret, a feeling of rejection.

Sometimes these items cause us more stress than an impending deadline. We might push it to the back of our mind, lock it away and try to ignore it, but eventually it can escape that lockbox and float to the forefront of our mind again.

In these cases, it helps to remember the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Accepting the things we cannot change might be central to living a happy life. At least I think so. Acceptance and forgiveness can be difficult, but they are important, even when the person that needs to be forgiven is myself.

5 tips to create a simpler life.

Create Margin

We all know that the margin of a printed page is the white space around the edges. It's the "extra," the buffer zone, the boundary between the printed words and the edge of the page. Imagine if the words and letters ran right to the edges of the paper. That would be confusing indeed, and very hard to read.

Our lives need margin too, extra space that makes life easier. A life without margin jumbles everything together. There are no clear boundaries around our money, our time, our activities, our relationships. Nothing is given more importance; it all runs together.

Instead, create margin in your life. Decide what's most important and what isn't important, and spend your time accordingly. Allow yourself some "white space."

  • Get up early so you're not rushed in the morning
  • Go to bed early so you get enough sleep
  • Decide what you'll wear the night before
  • Allow plenty of time to move from one activity to another
  • Don't overbook yourself; you can't be in two places at one time
  • Say no to things that aren't important
  • Make your relationships a priority

Create margin in your finances too.

While being debt-free is the ultimate goal of many who yearn for a simple life, we'll never be without bills. While they're not considered "debt," bills such as insurance, utilities and other recurring payments will always be with us.

Make a budget. Spend less than you make. Set money aside from every paycheck, even if it's just five dollars. Save up for things you really want - and for life's inevitable emergencies.

Five suggestions to help you live a simple life.

Reduce the noise

Noise isn't just what we hear with our ears. Visual noise can be just as distracting and distressing as sound.

While I'm not a minimalist (and probably never will be), I try to keep the clutter in our home to a minimum.

I can't make myself go through a room and clear everything out, but my goal is to evaluate our possessions every six months or so and donate what we no longer need. (If you can toss out everything that doesn't belong, you're way ahead of me!)

For me, paring down is a process, a journey rather than a destination. Like peeling an onion: I can go through my closet this month and get rid of a few things, then do it again in a few more months and be able to let go of a few more.

Turn off your smart phone notifications. You don't really need to know every time a new email hits your inbox. They'll wait until you're ready to read them and reply.

You can turn off notifications for each app you use, turn off the sound, or set your phone on "do not disturb." I love the DND function. Not only does it temporarily turn off notifications, my phone won't recognize calls or texts from numbers that aren't in my Contacts (like those obnoxious robo-calls).

Rest assured, calls and texts from your Contacts will still ring and ding when you're in Do Not Disturb mode.

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Silence is good for us, even though some folks are more comfortable with it than others. Personally I crave a good dose of silence every day, and I'm happy with solitude too. If you're not, try spending just a few minutes a day in quiet reflection. It's so good for your soul. Which brings me to the next tip...

These five tips will help you live a more intentional, simple life.

Be thankful

Gratitude is another cornerstone of a simple life. Be thankful for the roof over your head, enough food to eat, the people you share your life with. Gratitude helps you be content with what you have, which means you don't crave "more," which helps you stick with that new budget you made.

Be thankful for the dirty dishes that mean you have food to eat. Be thankful for laundry that means you have clothing to wear. Dog hair in the corners of your home? I bet you love that dog, right? Sweep it up and be thankful for your pet's love and companionship.

Spend a few minutes outside each day. Smell the roses. Watch the butterflies. Listen to the birds sing. Feel the wind on your face and smell the freshly-mowed grass.

There is always something to be grateful for.

Each day write down one thing you're thankful for, something that made an impression on you, that made you smile or that tugged at your heart.

I truly think that the key to a happy, intentional, simple life is being thankful.

On Sundays I share some of the simple things I'm thankful for in my weekly Silver Sunday post. (Yes, I often say that I'm grateful for air conditioning in summertime. That's because I'm really thankful for it!)

How to live a simple life.

Allow yourself to be YOU

Don't underestimate creativity. Make time for a hobby: paint, craft, knit. Learn how to play an instrument, how to letter, how to quilt.

Think you're not creative? I think reading and listening to music are creative pursuits too. They restore your soul, and stretch your imagination. Go ahead, sing along with the music.

Accept an offer to do something fun, even if it means changing your house-cleaning day from Saturday to Monday. True, I suggested that you learn how to say no... but you also need to allow yourself to say yes to things that make you happy, with people you love.

Be flexible. Have fun. Make memories. Be spontaneous.

Be you!

How to live a simple, intentional life.

Create a simple, intentional life that makes you happy. 

Simple living isn't about self-denial. It isn't necessarily about minimalism, although if that's what makes you happy, go ahead! Simple living is about removing the distractions from your life, the things that prevent you from living your best life.

Then replace those distractions with the things that matter most to you.

Go ahead. Give it a try.

Create a simple life with these 5 tips!   #simpleliving #reducestress

Do you want to live a simple life? These six tips will help you create a simple, intentional life you love!

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  1. Yes! I so relate to each of these elements - though I think I need to make a brain dump a more regular thing. Do you have like a blank notebook where you do it? I think I need one, and go back and cross things off when I get them done.

    Thank you! Coming by April J Harris :)

    1. Hi Sarah. I try to use the same spiral notebook for my brain dump sessions but if I can't find it, I'll use whatever's handy! It's nice to cross things off when they're "done" and be able to look back later to make sure I handled everything. It helps to keep things from getting lost in the cracks, although that does still happen sometimes.

  2. Great ideas, Kathi! I've learned to slow down and enjoy life much more. I do have a tendency to worry about things I can't control and am working on that! The brain dump is a good idea. Thanks for sharing on Farm Fresh Tuesdays!


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