5 Reasons Why Simple Living Will Make Your Life Happier

sunrise

Sunrise from our front porch, January 2011

As we continue to take steps to simplify life here at the urban homestead, I catch myself feeling increasingly satisfied about our choices. Author Duane Elgin describes simplicity as living in a way that is “outwardly simple and inwardly rich,” and I feel like we’re beginning to glimpse what he means. Here are some examples:

1. Less Debt Equals More Peace

Paying down and paying off debt is just a great feeling. With each payment the interest expenses get smaller, which frees up more money to save or accelerate the paydown. The debt snowball method is one popular and potentially useful method of independently paying off debt. Take a look at this article to see how it works.

The Bible describes debt as a millstone around your neck, and anyone who has ever been seriously in debt can no doubt relate to that analogy. Reducing debt and committing to save money puts you back in control of your finances instead of your finances controlling you, and debt-free living means a better night’s sleep and a whole lot less stress. We’re not completely debt free yet, but I can tell you that each payment we make feels mighty fine.

2. Healthy Eating is More Satisfying

Who doesn’t love good food? At our house, gradually reducing and eliminating processed foods and stocking more natural or organic ingredients has been relatively painless, and I find we’re enjoying our meals more because we’re eating fresh, healthy food. It might be my imagination, but I swear I can taste the preservatives and additives now when I eat something processed.

On the flip side, fresh wholesome food tastes great, nourishes the body with natural vitamins and minerals, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. When you can find sources for local, seasonal produce it’s usually fresher than imported, and buying locally grown food supports independent producers and keeps money in communities. I never would have predicted this a few years ago, but now one of our favorite family outings is a trip to the farmers’ market to pick out fresh produce.

3. Less Stuff is Better Than More Stuff

“When we started getting rid of things, it was kind of addictive,” says Béa Johnson, whose family was profiled in Sunset magazine last month in one of my favorite articles of all time, The Zero Waste Home. “In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite. The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down.” Anyone who has ever cleaned out a home after a relative passed away, or despaired at the amount of Stuff in the garage can probably appreciate this statement.

I once heard an organizing expert say, “Why do people leave their $30,000 car out in the driveway because their garage is jammed with $1000 worth of Christmas ornaments and sports equipment?” We still have a long way to go and the process takes both commitment and consistency, but we are making progress in reducing stuff and clearing out clutter. Every inch of space we gain feels like breathing room, and I love it.

4. Sustainability Feels 100 Times Better Than Reckless Consumption

Making eco friendly choices just feels better all around. It begins in the morning, when I pour a cup of coffee and feel good about the fact that it’s organic, shade-grown and fair trade. I used to give the coffee mug a quick rinse with water before I filled it, because I was worried about chemical residue from the “spot-free” rinse we used. No more. We use non-toxic, biodegradable, hypo-allergenic dish soap in recyclable packaging, and it’s not only healthier for our family, I’m saving water by skipping the extra rinse. The sum of dozens of little sustainable choices — from using programmable thermostats and CFLs to using all-natural toothpaste and sleeping on organic cotton sheets — reduces our carbon imprint and creates a healthier environment for our family, and it just feels right.

5. A Simple Life Frees Up Time for the Things That Matter

According to the most recent research, having time matters more than money for most of us. I’m not claiming to have this all figured out, but I’ve noticed that setting my intention to live more fully in the moment has caused me to be more thoughtful about my priorities and how I spend my time. Art Buchwald said, “The best things in life aren’t things,” and I bet most of us would agree with that sentiment. So why is it sometimes so tempting to overspend on things like new electronics and automobiles and home furnishings, when we know deep down that those expensive choices may chain us to debt, long work hours, and less time for the things that really matter? I’m living proof of this paradox; when I worked a high pressure job I used to pine away for more time with my family, even as I spent money on status items like designer purses and luxury cars.

The good news is that a commitment to a simpler lifestyle provides a lens through which those decisions can be more carefully considered. I don’t spend my hard-earned money on Impressive Stuff any more, and the trade-off of increased time and flexibility is a gazillion times more valuable.

How about you:  do you think simple living equals happy living? If you’ve been putting some of these ideals into practice, are you starting to enjoy the payoff? You know we’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

16 comments to 5 Reasons Why Simple Living Will Make Your Life Happier

  • Marcella

    oh i totally agree! for me living a simple life and be contented and thankful of what i have for now is the true meaning of happiness. never ask for too much.

  • Nayumigrante

    I am living a very simple life.. I am contended with my what i have now.. Thanks for sharing a very inspirational blog!

  • Kimberly

    Great article! Thanks for the tips.. Now that I know.. I can start a new life..

  • Bea

    Great post. So refreshing to read this after a very busy and stressful day. Thanks for this article.

  • rovecaliso

    Grasping what the world offers makes life more taxing and tiresome. Focusing only what one need only makes life more simpler and happier. It is less worry free since you don’t have to work much to gain material things.

  • dejay10

    It all boils down to CONTENTMENT,learning to say enough to oneself. Embracing what is within their means. I am now living a simple life and I loooooove it much.

  • Helen Chris

    I agree that it is still better to have a simple life because there is no complications…

  • crainson

    i believe that simplicity is the best kind of beauty! like chikko i also enjoyed the post.. thanks!

  • chikko

    very nice post! actually those are my principles, not all but most of it! i enjoyed reading it and knowing other people thought what i was thinking 🙂

  • hunts

    Simple is always beautiful. This article is very refreshing. It makes me realize to appreciate everything that i have… may it be small things or big things.

  • Great article! We purchased our home in September 2009, and so we’ve been in the “acquiring” phase for the last year and a half to make it a home. The good thing is that I am quite utilitarian and don’t need a lot of stuff. I feel like we are almost to the “it feels like a home” status, but am weary that it may continue until we become overstuffed! I will have to listen to my frugal gut:).

  • We are in the process of doing a massive declutter. So far we have gotten rid of over 900 items. I can’t wait until we make more progress so our home can feel more like a home and less like a storage facility. 🙂

  • Dan

    Thanks for your post, Eliza!

    It’s refreshing to read this in the middle of a long, cold winter in North Dakota. I can’t wait to spend a little more time outside enjoying nature, and eating healthier.

  • I’m SO with you on this, Eliza. Thanks for all the regular reminders that I need to keep working on getting RID of STUFF! My family has been through all this twice with my mother this year–

  • Your post just made me smile. I’m new on this simplifying journey but have experienced (a little) all five benefits you discuss. My favorite so far is freeing up time for things that really matter. Life is so much richer when we invest our energy in people and relationships.

    Laura’s Last Post: Let the Dust Settle

  • Fantastic post! It’s so true…living a more simple life is so much more fulfilling!

    We decluttered and moved furniture around in our living room, and it is like an entirely different world in there. We love that room so much more now! Clutter just holds back the happiness — plus it’s just so much more to clean!!

    We are on a mission to simplify and declutter…and to get rid of our debt. We are so sick of working for someone else’s happiness and profit. BIG goals for ourselves this year, but they all tie together. And so far so good!!

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