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How I Simplified My Life

A few years back I lost my six figure income and needed to make some serious changes to my lifestyle. I had to simplify my life.

The first thing I decided to do was to not to buy anything “new” for one year. No clothes, shoes, jewelry, furniture, books, knick knacks – nothing! The only exception would be food. I decided that if I couldn’t find something that I needed in a thrift store, I wouldn’t buy it.

At the beginning of this endeavor, it seemed as though it would be quite the challenge. I could always purchase whatever I wanted and did just that for most of my adult life.  Buying things on a whim was a common occurrence. In turn, I accumulated more junk than I knew what to do with.

I had always frequented thrift stores even though it was not out of necessity. They are a great form of recycling, and at the same time they help out the community (Salvation Army, Savers, and Goodwill).

During that first year, I purchased the following items at thrift stores: thirty books, three shirts, four pairs of shorts, and a few forks and spoons. I also donated a lot of items. I was on a mission to simplify my life and needed to get rid of a bunch of things too.

What I Learned By Simplifying My Life

As this challenge was coming upon the one year mark, I realized that it was not really that hard at all. I constantly asked myself these two simple questions about anything that I contemplated buying.

  • Do I really need this widget?
  • Is this going to make my life so much better?

Most of the time the answer was no, so I would pass on buying it. It felt good to leave those items on the shelf, even though they weren’t part of my personal challenge.

It has been almost 7 years since I took that challenge. My life has changed immensely since then, but I still ask myself those same two questions when I am shopping today. The journey that I took to simplify my life out of necessity, taught me that I don’t need any more “things” to improve my life. More is not better.  I feel a sense of freedom!

After writing this post, I was reminded of a piece that I had read and clipped from a newspaper many years ago. It was written by Craig Wilson and published in USA Today in 2005. Here it is:


Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Company Inc.

This image is quite old (scanned by me), you can read it here in the archives at USA Today.

keeping-it-simpleI don’t ever want to go back to my old ways so I decided to implement my own reminder.  Here is my favorite penguin that keeps me company as I plug away at my laptop. He is now adorned with a new sign:

Keep it simple!


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