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At the time of writing this, it’s about a week before Thanksgiving. It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting up in bed, balancing my laptop on one thigh and my hot coffee on the other. (I really shouldn’t do this, because the last time I tried this I spilled my coffee all over the motherboard and fried my computer. I had to get a new laptop.)
(Truthfully, I don’t know what a motherboard is, but it sounds cool.)
“Autumn Jazz” is playing on my Pandora radio station while Titus has the boys out in the kitchen with him while he makes everyone eggs and sausage for breakfast. Whether Thanksgiving is on the horizon or not, I think I can definitely be thankful for that.
Whether you’re reading this on actual Thanksgiving day or later, this isn’t your typical Thanksgiving post. Sure, I could (and would) want to list out all the reasons I’m thankful until the cows come home (what does that even mean?), but this post is about how I’ve been simplifying life and learning to become more thankful in general.
Life is pretty hectic at times, isn’t it? For everyone. We’ve all got people to answer to (even if they’re tiny humans), places to be, and things to do. And at one point or another, we all just kind of reach our breaking point. I was feeling the results of this recently. I felt burnt out and overwhelmed. I found myself breaking down over simple things and not only does this make life tough, but it makes trying to be thankful even tougher.
I love the holiday season and I want to enjoy it to the fullest. But when life feels overwhelming and gratitude is nowhere to be found, it’s a lot more “fa la nope” than “fa la la”.
I’ve found that simplifying your life helps you to be more thankful. Not only does it strip away the things you don’t really need (both physically and mentally), but it clears up your headspace, allowing you to have some breathing room in your life and focus on what matters.
This isn’t a definitive guide on simplifying your life. I’ve read plenty of those and yes, it’s important to have a capsule wardrobe, take control of your finances, learn to say no to more things! But in addition to that, these are the things that have been helping me lately.
My list of ways to simplify life will look different from your list. And that’s okay. Life will never be 100% easy or perfect, but we can encourage each other and find things we can do to help make life a little more enjoyable. I hope this inspires you to simplify and find thankfulness this season!
21 (plus) ways I’m simplifying my life and becoming more thankful
1. I’m keeping thankfulness and gratitude a daily part of my life
We can always find things to be thankful for. I start off the day by writing 5 things I’m thankful for. Yes, 5. 3 is easy and 5 is sometimes more challenging. But it shouldn’t be, ya know? Surely we can think of 5 things in our lives to be thankful for!
But, sometimes thinking of 5 things does stretch me a bit. It’s a good exercise for me because once I get going, it shows me I have so much in life.
Sometimes during the day, I’ll ask Titus, “So what’s making you happy today?” And at dinner when we’re sitting around the table as a family, we’ll talk about what our favorite part of the day was and with Will, we’ll ask him, “What was good?” today.
Now, this doesn’t mean that bad things never happen and we aren’t allowed to have negative feelings. But it does mean that I try to make thankfulness a daily part of our lives and when something challenging happens, I try to put it in perspective.
Admittedly, I’m still working on this as I have a tendency to spiral. This book has helped me realize “I have a choice.” Not “I’m in control”.
I can’t always control things that happen to me, but I do have a choice on whether or not I want to dwell on the negative feelings or find a reason to be thankful.
What you can do: Start exercising your gratitude muscle by writing down or verbalizing 3-5 things you are thankful for every morning! A regular old notebook works just fine, but they do make gratitude journals specifically made for this too.
2. I went back to my natural hair color
I’ve had blonde highlights for so long, I almost didn’t know what I looked like without them. Those 5 (or more?) years were fun, but in order to simplify life, I needed to color my hair one last time so I could be done.
I’m not against people coloring their hair (obviously), but it costs money, time, and effort to keep up with it. Especially when going blonde. You need more upkeep and special shampoos. Though truthfully, I did not keep up with it all that well! So it become more of a thing that every time I looked in the mirror I would think, “Ugh, I should get my hair done.”
I wanted to offload that mental load, so going back to dark it was. It’s a little darker than I intended, but it’s better to go too dark because it will fade eventually. But when it fades, it will blend with my natural hair color. Too light and I’d have to go get my hair touched up all over again. It took me a few days to adjust, but I’m really happy with my decision now! I also did try out bangs but that was too much effort.
What you can do: Keep a low-maintenance hairstyle. Usually, the rule of thumb is that the most flattering hair color for you is your natural color (give or take a few shades). If you want to spice up your look with color, try balayage or single strand highlights as these will grow out better and require less upkeep. If you want to try out something high-maintenance like bangs, think realistically about your life and if you will enjoy maintaining them and styling them every day. Keep your beauty routine more minimalistic in general to simplify your life!
3. I got ruthless about decluttering
Once upon a time, I used to want to be a professional organizer. I love cleaning, purging, and organizing. It comes naturally to me. But it was time to take this up a notch.
You’ve probably already heard about the studies that prove how clutter can add stress to our lives. So if you’re looking to simplify and feel loads lighter, decluttering is usually the first thing to try.
But recently, I’ve upped my game because I still felt like I had too much. Instead of decluttering once a year or every 6 months, I’ve started to declutter once a month. It sounds like a lot, but you tend to get ruthless more and more each time and realize, “Okay, well in the past month I haven’t even thought about trying to upcycle this broken headboard so it’s safe to get rid of it.”
The first decluttering session is always the hardest. But once you start getting rid of things and later realize you didn’t even miss it, it gives you the confidence to keep going.
And no, this doesn’t mean I’m not sentimental or throw away every gift I receive. I actually love to keep the things that matter– but a keychain I bought myself to remember a trip to Chicago 9 years ago? Yeah, I don’t need that.
What you can do: Declutter your home more frequently. It’s likely that each time you do a “pass” through your house, you’ll get rid of more and more things that you don’t really need.
4. I removed our rug under the dining table
Now, I love the way a rug looks under a dining table. It looks so cozy and can really pull a room together. But for simplicity’s sake, it was time to get rid of ours. With a messy toddler and a baby on solids, it was just so messy. All the time. And it doesn’t really work for me to just sweep it either. Plus, our vacuum doesn’t fit upstairs so I would have to go down the stairs and then up the stairs and then down the stairs all to clean it one time. So much work!
What you can do: Simplify your home decor. What do you feel takes more time to clean or organize than it should? What do you find yourself getting annoyed at? Maybe it’s taking away an extra thing to clean like a dining room rug, or maybe it’s removing some throw pillows on your bed- taking the count from 10 to 5. 😉
5. I started cleaning up more throughout the day
This one is especially tricky with kids because it’s like, why bother? And we do try to instill a “clean up before you move onto the next thing” mindset. It doesn’t always work, but then usually, the “end of the day pick up” covers that.
But I’m not talking about toys as much as I’m talking about keeping the main areas clean, such as the kitchen, living room, and dining room. If there’s a coffee drip or crumbs from that morning’s toast, I try to get to it right away.
If there’s some trash on the living room floor, I try to throw it away as soon as I see it instead of waiting for the end-of-the-day clean-up. I thought that if I cleaned up throughout the day it would feel like I’m constantly cleaning all the time, and well, it does feel like that. But it’s nice to look around and see a tidied space. It makes my mind feel less cluttered.
What you can do: Get in the habit (if you aren’t already) of throwing away trash or wiping up a spill as soon as you see it instead of putting it off.
6. I streamlined my hangers
Oh, how nice it is to look in my closet and see everything not only matching, but beautiful too! Adios to plastic hangers leftover from the store, green plastic hangers I got from who knows where, and that one random wire hanger.
Now, everything is pleasing to the eye and that makes the process of getting dressed in the morning feel nicer. It’s a bit of an investment, switching everything over to velvet (or wooden) hangers, but the results are worth it. And yes, this means tossing the pants hangers from the store that your pants came with!
What you can do: Simplify your closet or dressing area to be streamlined and chic, whether that’s by getting matching hangers or fancy storage containers.
7. I got more intentional with cleaning
At the end of the day when I’m cleaning up, I try to be very intentional with it. Meaning, once I pick something up to put it away, I ask myself, “Does this need to be put away or gotten rid of?” Because of course, having no “stuff’ isn’t the goal. Books, throw blankets, toys, coasters- these are all nice things to have! But when I do clean up, I want to make sure I’m putting away something that matters.
This idea is a great way to start if you feel that tackling a whole room is too much. Just start by what you’re naturally putting away each day.
Another thing I ask myself is, “Does this item have a home?” Our living room gets messy, sure, but it can also be cleaned up in about 5 minutes because the toys that are scattered on the floor go in a basket on a console table.
If my hands pick up a broken toy that is somehow still in our toy rotation, well then no, that doesn’t need to be put away. It needs to be gotten rid of. Little by little this can help weed out the things that don’t really matter.
What you can do: Be intentional with the items that you are cleaning up. Is that item indeed useful and just needs to get put away? Or have you been putting away something that is broken or unnecessary? Also, make sure everything has a place such as toys, keys, coasters, books, pens, or paper. Otherwise, everything will just feel like clutter and move from a pile in one spot to a pile in a different spot.
8. I got a catch-all for extra things
On the topic of cleaning, recently I started implementing a “catch-all” basket in our home. I’m not sure how it happens, but throughout the day, Will has 5 outfit changes, unmatches about 6 pairs of socks, and wait, why are there 3 hangers scattered about?
Instead of running to his room 50 times a day to put things away, I have a nice basket in a central area of the house. I’ve let Titus know too that instead of letting things accumulate on the floor, the table, or the half wall, everything goes into the basket and at the end of the day I will put it away. It really helps to minimize clutter throughout the house!
What you can do: Find a nice storage basket and put it near a central area that seems to accumulate a lot of stuff. Some hot spots may be in the living room or near the stairs.
9. I organized our bathroom and hall closets
An unexpected pro about decluttering is that once you get to the organizing part, you can usually splurge on more luxurious storage items! If you have fewer clothes, then you can probably better afford or justify velvet hangers. If you have less stuff to organize and don’t need a lot of storage boxes, then you can probably better afford the nicer containers!
What you can do: After decluttering and purging, organize your bathroom and hall closets by grouping like items together in nice storage containers. Some categories could be “pain relief”, “allergies”, or “cold & flu.” Finish it off with a printed label.
10. I started spending money where it truly matters
Simplifying life is more than just cleaning out your closet. If your brain is too cluttered, what things can you do to help relieve that? For me, it means investing in my health and wellbeing, such as therapy and child care.
Now, with dedicated work times, better boundaries, and more clarity, I’m able to be more thankful for my family and day-to-day life.
What you can do: No matter how many fancy storage containers you get, sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. Consider paying for a service if you know you need more than just organization. Maybe that’s therapy, child care, dog sitting, a meal service, or a cleaning service. Whatever it takes to simplify an area in your life.
11. I swapped out lower quality items for higher quality things
Instead of having 3 salad tongs that almost work, taking up space in a drawer, I now just have 1 nice one that always works. Quality over quantity. This means less clutter in the drawers and less thinking. (What’s the one that works again?) Just grab it and use it!
What you can do: If you have multiples of something in your house for no good reason, pare these down and swap them out for a higher-quality version if you need it.
12. I started getting my week ready on Saturday
My weeks feel a lot more simplified when I put the grunt work in on a Saturday! I hate going through a week and feeling like we have no food to eat and like the laundry is overflowing. I try to tackle the to-do list on Saturday and make sure our meals are planned out, our laundry is done, and we have the groceries we need. And then on Sunday, I rest, gearing up for the week ahead. This study book helped me see the importance of rest.
What you can do: However you want to work out your calendar, schedule a time over the weekend to get things done so you’re prepared for your work, home, or kid week that’s going to follow. Make sure you schedule a time to rest and recover too!
13. I only keep out what I need
Closets and dressers can easily get stuffed. Especially for kids! If my baby is in 6-9 month clothes, then I really don’t need to keep out the 0-3 month clothes, do I? Not only does this add clutter to the closets, but it’s more work having to sift through these unnecessary pieces. If it’s fall, I’m only going to keep out what I need for fall. This makes getting everyone dressed easier.
What you can do: Only keep out your current season and size. Put everything else in a closet you don’t access daily or keep it boxed up in your storage room.
14. I stopped painting my nails
Or I do it very rarely. Eventually, the color is going to fade and chip, and then you’re left looking at your nails thinking they need some TLC. Now maybe you see a chipped nail and get to it right away, but I think for most of us, they stay chipped for a few weeks until we finally get around to repainting them. I don’t want another thing on my to-do list! Now I just paint my nails for special events, vacations, or photoshoots. It makes it even more special!
What you can do: Do you still love the look of painted nails? Then choose a nude, clear, or neutral color. It will grow out better! You can also opt for a higher-quality nail polish that won’t chip as easily, lengthening the time of your manicure.
15. I simplified meal planning
I’m not sure where this expectation came from, but one day I realized I was making meals way harder on myself because I expected myself to constantly be cooking up new and exciting things.
I don’t love meal planning as it is, and trying to come up with a brand new recipe every night took so much time. Plus, when you are constantly making something new, your brain has to work even harder to concentrate.
I came across the idea of set meals for set nights and my world changed haha. I adapted this idea to work for us and so far, it’s been great. I do get bored of food easily, so instead of every Tuesday being taco night, for example, I came up with a list of 14 meals we love that are healthy and don’t take much brainpower to make. (After telling my mom this, she gave me the idea to have 13-15 meals instead. That way there is always the element of surprise!)
It’s a work in process, but the idea is to cycle through these meals for 2 weeks until we (I) get tired of them. And then I can come up with a new plan. These are meals that I already know how to make, so this makes getting groceries and cooking way easier.
What you can do: If you’re like me, stop trying so hard! Unless your family is very picky, most people will love simple meals and won’t mind eating the same thing weekly. Make a list of 7-14 of your favorite meals and rotate through them. There, now your meal planning is done for the next few weeks!
16. I’ve spent less time on Instagram
This one is a little tricky since part of my job is being on Instagram, but I’ve found that spending less time on Instagram and letting go of the “perfect feed” has been very helpful. There are so many platforms out there to be on, whether you’re a content creator or not. I’m rarely on my personal Facebook page anymore. Simplifying what you’re doing and taking in can make a world of difference.
What you can do: Evaluate your social media presence and time spent on these platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, or even online forums like Reddit or gossip feeds. Are these enriching and adding to your life? Or do you find yourself feeling more anxious, numb, and maybe even a little feisty? Getting rid of everything and going off-grid isn’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s just cutting back and putting boundaries in place.
17. I avoid buying too much bulk
“Trader Joe hauls” and pantry organization videos sometimes make us feel as if we need a whole stockpile in our pantries and cupboards. I get that sometimes it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. And I get that you may never want to find yourself out of diapers or toilet paper again! But at the same time, sometimes having a lot of bulk and a stockpile of household items isn’t the best idea.
The other day I was looking for a specific glass cleaner and I could only find it online sold in a case of 4. I almost purchased it, but then I thought, how quickly do I actually go through glass cleaner? The answer: not very quickly at all.
So not only would I have more than what I need, but I have to find a place for it too. If you’re trying to keep closets clear, having enough glass cleaner to last you for the next few years is not very necessary. I got a different cleaner instead.
What you can do: Keep in mind that whatever you buy in bulk you’re going to have to find a place to store it. Be realistic if you actually have the space or not. And be realistic about if you actually need a stockpile of it or not!
18. I turned off notifications for everything
I want to get the information when I choose and when I’m in the right mindset or time to receive it. Having my phone ping and light up constantly is very distracting. Plus, when your brain keeps jumping from one thing to the next, you start to feel frantic and overwhelmed. At least I do!
What you can do: Do you really need to know if someone just “liked” your picture? Set times to check into social media and email, instead of having it constantly remind you. You are in control of this!
19. I unsubscribed from irrelevant emails
Now, everyone tells you to unsubscribe from retailers’ emails to save money, but what about the ones that are no longer relevant and take up mental space just seeing and reading them? These may be things that mattered at one time but they don’t anymore.
For example, when I was pregnant with Will I signed up for baby apps and would frequently get milestone updates. Now, I don’t really need to know what my 3-year-old is interested in. I can just ask him! And if I ever want to learn something, I can just seek the information out when I’m ready instead of having it show up in my inbox every month or so.
What you can do: Are there emails related to a certain time of your life that aren’t needed anymore? What can you do to lighten the email load?
20. I’m equipping my toddler to do more tasks
I’m not a child psychologist, but just from experience, I can see that helping your toddler become more responsible and self-sufficient is a win-win for everyone. By giving Will a routine and teaching him how to do things like get himself dressed, put away his pajamas, make his bed, and brush his teeth, he not only feels proud of himself and more confident, but this extra time allows me to get myself ready for the day or even drink my coffee while it’s still hot. (Gasp! It can be done!)
If his bed is rumply or his clothes are on backward, we don’t fix it (yet). We just praise him and then he wants to do even more around the house!
What you can do: If you have littles in the house, what tasks can you teach them to do themselves or what can they do around the house to help out? I mean, we all live here and contribute to the mess! Even little things like taking their own dish over to the kitchen sink instead of leaving it on the dining table can be helpful.
21. I’m finding time-saving hacks for our everyday tasks
French press coffee is mm mm delicious. But it’s also a little time-consuming. We used to make a fresh pot of French press coffee every morning but now, we just drink regular brewed coffee. Is it a downgrade? Not really!
Sure, there is a taste difference, but I like it better because it makes the mornings simpler and quicker. Plus, we set it the night before, eliminating yet another step in the mornings. Not only has it simplified things, but it’s so amazing waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
Now things like French press coffee are more special when they’re a treat on the weekends or days off, instead of trying to fit it in our day-to-day life.
What you can do: Take advantage of automatic features. Whether it’s a programmable coffee maker or a crockpot with a delayed start, consider switching out your appliances for ones that will make your life easier.
22. I’m accepting that things will never be 100% completed
I’m going to die with an unfinished to-do list. That may sound morbid, but the truth is, I will never be able to finish everything I want to. So how does this help? Well, instead of living a frantic life, rushing around day to day to accomplish and check things off my list, I have taken a more relaxed approach.
And I say more relaxed, not totally relaxed haha. It’s just in my veins to be productive. But I’m trying to drill into my head that even if I run around frantic and accomplish everything on today’s to-do list, tomorrow will bring a whole new set of tasks to do.
A life lived at this pace will just lead to burnout. Knowing and accepting that there will always be things to do helps me not rush around trying to do it all.
What you can do: Try to accept that your to-do list will never be fully checked off. Even if you do the laundry today, there will be dirty clothes tomorrow. And as soon as you do the dishes, someone will put a dirty bowl in the sink. This is life. It’s okay!!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to simplify life a little bit so you can enjoy it more, I hope you found some good ideas here based on how I’m simplifying my life. Simplifying life, in general, helps us to be more thankful because we remove the unnecessary distractions that hold us back, allowing us to see, embrace, and appreciate the things that we feel grateful for.
And of course, I can’t end this post without wishing you a big Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with happiness, peace, warmth, and gratitude. I’m wishing you good health now and into the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.
For other tips on how to live a full and happy life, keep reading!