4 ingenious ways to simplify your life

Speaking from experience, living with less is rather liberating.

When we have too much stuff, then we have to maintain it, and build fences around it, and pay storage fees for it, and we can’t actually park our cars in our garages because of it.


Photo by hannah persson on Unsplash


There were three significant paring-down stages in our marriage.

The first was devastating at the time. In the middle of a two-year period of unemployment, we sold our home and cashed out our retirement investments. My husband, Gary, and I started over in our middle years, having lost everything we had worked for against retirement.

The second scaling back was more heart-wrenching than devastating. We downsized into a smaller rental. Not wanting to pay storage fees, we gave away years of accumulation, including the beautiful old upright grand piano that my parents bought when I began piano lessons at age five, that I later taught our kids on, that our preschool-aged grandkids pounded on – that piano.

The third paring down was neither devastating nor heart-wrenching. After Gary died, friends offered to move me closer to my daughter and her family. The catch: Everything needed to fit into their 10-foot cargo trailer. And—after more giving away of stuff—it did, much like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle.

Plans changed, and a miracle of affordable housing opened up, and I got to stay in that place where Gary and I made so many burbling memories, the place where we lived more fully than ever before because cancer indicated we should probably live while Gary still had life.

While most of my earthly possessions are still in my friends’ cargo trailer parked on their property, I’ve managed to survive these past couple years without all that stuff.

Based on my experience, here are 4 ingenious ways to simplify your life:

1. Fall in love with less.

I cleared out Gary’s side of the closet shortly after his Celebration of Life service. Not because I was eager to get rid of his things, but because I knew there were men at Shepherd’s House—the men’s homeless shelter where Gary volunteered—who could use winter coats, and hiking boots, and flannel pajama bottoms, and warm plaid shirts.

I kept my grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine, not because I’ll ever use it, but because it’s in gorgeous condition and my grandmother once sewed on it.

William Morris said this:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

2. Simplify your schedule.

Do you chase all over town with kids in multiple sports and activities throughout the year? Do you say Yes to every invitation that comes your way because you don’t want to disappoint anyone?

My daughter, Summer, crazy mom to six kids, er … I mean, mom to six crazy kids, didn’t take on any big projects this past summer. Instead, she planted herself daily at the backyard picnic table with reading materials — available as question-answerer, comforter to tearful children, and overall referee. And most of their meals were served at that same outdoor table.

This thought from my daughter in the middle of that season:

Now that summer break with my six kids is in full swing, I’m learning to breathe, to enjoy the little moments, to stay positive and to be grateful … even in the mundane.

3. Get outdoors.

You may wonder what in the world getting outdoors has to do with simplifying one’s life. But follow my logic here:

If we cut unnecessary busy-ness out of our schedules, that affords us time to get outdoors. And the outdoorness—climbing tall trails, cycling, or simply sitting with a book on a park bench—goes far in alleviating stress.

And less stress is an important part of a simpler life.

4. Prioritize.

This wisdom from Lynn G. Robbins:

Simplifying our lives increases the probability of achieving the most important things in life – the best things.

Listed here are what a few of those best things look like:

1. The true give-and-take of relationships, including relationship with our Creator God

2. The ability to see, through different lenses, how wealthy we truly are

3. Creating a safe and nurturing space for the people we love — that place we call home

Simplifying our lives allows time for relationship-strengthening, and gratitude-list-making, and home-building.

In exchange for less stuff, I have more freedom. I’m set up well to say, Yes, to invitations that come my way. And so many splendid, resounding invitations have come my way in these widow years.

Let me leave you with this bit of wisdom by an author unknown:

Less is the new more.


P.S. If you know someone who needs to declutter his/her life, please share, tweet, or pin!


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  1. sally

    Dear Marlys, as always, wonderful!

  2. Lonnie

    If only people could learn this Marlys, I have a saying that “When you have to much, you have nothing”. This comes from me having had a barn with lots of deep shelf’s and filling them up over the years with stuff that “I will need or even might need”. Then when I go to look for something I need, I can’t find it and finally figure out I don’t have it, I go to the store and buy it. Usually within days, when looking for something else, I find two or three of what I just bought because I didn’t have any. A bit the same with a VERY full fridge, I am SURE there is something in there I want to eat, but I can’t find it and I’m not going to empty the whole fridge so I go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, only to fine what I wanted a week later, with mold on it.
    Less IS more most of the time : ).
    Having said that, it IS nice when at the ranch, to have things there that you need when you really need it, so I tend to overstock those shelves as I can’t just run to the store up there.
    Great post Marlys!

    • Well said, Lonnie: “When you have too much, you have nothing.” And definitely less is more if we use the ‘saved’ time and energy to build upon what’s most important in life, isn’t it?

  3. Tanya Neelon

    Great message and lesson as always, Marlys!

  4. Grace Lawson

    Dear Marlys, I love your posts. They are always so well thought out and so inspiring !! I agree, less makes life much simpler !!! I am learning to do with less and I am just fine !!!

    • I’m enjoying this “doing with less” season, as well, Grace. I’m surprised every time I think about what’s left of the stuff that represented 42 years of marriage, and how I’ve missed very little of it in the 3 1/2 years since I last laid eyes on it.

  5. Great piece. I’m learning this too, that to say yes to simplifying is to say yes to peace. I like that you brought up going outdoors. Spending time outside renews my perspective so I see my “stuff” in its true light. Thanks, Marlys!

  6. Peter & Barbara

    Dear Marlys,
    Been missing this past week or so, holidayed in Jersey, dearly loved to surf but the seas were too calm. This holiday was a simple holiday, bearing in mind Barbara’s care situation and with little to go wrong, we managed and enjoyed, in spite of any setbacks. With Barbara’s situation in mind, I’ve learned to ‘de-clutter’ to make things easier for us both and Barbara has signed up to helping when she can. I really do want my 2 surf boards to find a new home, soon. There is something extremely satisfying about ‘de-cluttering’, a weight is lifted and there is somehow more time to devote to ‘matters that matter most’, that read, that sketch, that walk and time to talk. Loved how you compiled this message, thank you as always. God Bless, Bx P & family.

    • Dear Peter & Barbara – Your holiday at the sea sounds perfect, despite no surfing waves. I like how you said this: “There is something extremely satisfying about ‘de-cluttering’, a weight is lifted and there is somehow more time to devote to ‘matters that matter most’, that read, that sketch, that walk and time to talk.” Good wisdom, Peter. Thank you.

  7. Lynne Byers

    So many things to think about as I look around. It is wonderful to have less. My sister-in-law taught me this when she was going through cancer. What really matters? Yes having time to be with the ones we love and loving what the Lord has blessed us with.

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