Living a Simple Life – Get the Answers to the Questions

You have heard the recommendations for living a Simple Life. But what exactly does that mean? It has been called simply living, Hygge, and simple life, as well as other things. It has been reflected in decorating techniques, living off grid as a homesteader, and in an image of someone curled up in a comfy chair while reading a book.

Books, the internet, and magazines all give you photos and images that depict it, but few truly define it. This post is designed to answer the question, ‘What is a Simple Life?’ by using the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why), as well as a few tips on the How.

Join me on the Porch and listen in to find out more about what a Simple Life is!

The 5 Ws that Answer ‘What is a Simple Life’?

an old spinning wheel and bed covered in a vintage quilt

To get started, those 5 Ws won’t be in order. First, you need to know WHAT is a Simple Life. This isn’t just a definition question – it also pertains to the benefits you will find when shifting to a Simple lifestyle.

From there, it would help to know WHY you need a simple life, WHO can live one, WHEN you can get started living a Simple Life, and WHERE living a Simple Life takes place.

When all those questions are answered, you will find a few tips on HOW to get started. Once you have a sure footing on what living a Simple Life is all about, then get ready for more specific posts in the future which will focus on the different things you can incorporate into your new lifestyle.

a vignette of a cow picture, vase of sunflowers, and a vintage enamelware coffee pot

What is a Simple Life?

The Definition

If you ask Merriam Webster, the definition of living a simple life would be “used to refer to a manner of living in which a person does not own many things or use many modern machines and usually lives in the countryside”.

Wikipedia defines it in part as, “encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include, for example, reducing one’s possessions, generally referred to as minimalism, or increasing self-sufficiency.”

These definitions of living a Simple Life are at least partially correct. The idea of living a Simple Life is a ‘manner of living’; it does encompass voluntary practices; and living with less clutter is also one of the basic premises.

However, going back to the way Grandma and Grandpa lived and doing everything by hand without the benefit of modern conveniences, living in the country, or being 100% self-sufficient isn’t necessarily part of it.  

vintage tablecloths hanging on a clothesline

Can you live like that and be considered living a Simple Life? Yes. You can. But I, for one, have no real desire to use a galvanized tub and a scrub board to wash my clothes. On the flip side, I do prefer to hang my clothes on a line outside, as I love the smell of sun-kissed clothes and sheets. But when winter hits, it is raining on laundry day, or I can’t start my laundry until after the sun goes down, I do use a dryer.

Living a Simple Life to me simply means choosing your priorities, slowing down, focusing more on faith, family, and home, and less on busyness for the sake of being busy, societal demands, and dependence on outside sources for food, entertainment, supplies and other material, emotional, and spiritual needs.

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Another foundation of living a simple life is gaining control of your finances. Too many people today are living paycheck to paycheck. Credit cards are maxed out. The interest we pay on those and loans for homes, cars, and other material items consumes a large portion of our income. On top of those loans and credit card debts, we still must pay for utilities, insurance, clothing, medical expenses, and more.

The best part of defining what it means by ‘living a simple life’ is that you get to create your own definition. To do that, you simply need to take time to think about your current lifestyle. What is it you don’t like about it? How does it fit in with your priorities? What would it take to realign your current life to one that is more fitting for you and your family?

Exactly how you can do that will be addressed below.

a pillow that reads 'hope' with a vase of dried blue hydrangeas

The Benefits

Has life gotten so busy lately that you don’t know if you are coming and going? Have important appointments or engagements fallen through the cracks because you forgot about them? Are you missing out on what you want to do because too many things are going on you feel you have to do?

Do you ever find yourself stressed out in traffic or waiting in long lines? Do you write a check for the electric and are praying it will clear the bank? Or were you so busy you forgot to pay them? When was the last time you spent quality time with your family, spouse or significant other? Did you classify running those errands as date night, or quality time?

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Living a Simple Life may help control many of these issues, simply by saving time. By eliminating the busyness for the sake of being busy, you focus more on the priorities. Your planner is reduced by just removing the extras and focusing on what is important. This leaves room to focus on the important appointments and engagements.

Your finances will be in order. Bills will be paid with less worry about the balance. With time, you will be able to reduce debt and be able to focus on building a savings account and having enough to do the little extras.

a 'farmer' moose statue in a bed of curly parsley

Your home may be more organized. When you spend less time outside the home, you can focus on designing a cleaning schedule. If you have children, you can spend time teaching them responsibility and delegating some of the work to them. And by having a better system, you are saving time to spend more quality time with your family.

Date night can be re-established. You can spend quality time with your family through lawn games, picnics, or just taking a walk, talking, and enjoying each other.

There may be more laughter, joy, and a sense of contentment. You can be filled with a sense of accomplishment, which leads to a peaceful heart.

Will you still be stuck in traffic? Unfortunately, yes. But you can limit the amount of time in traffic because you will be headed home instead of trying to run errands after work and pulling through a drive thru for dinner.

a sewing basket with sewing supplies

Why Live a Simple Life?

The benefits of living a Simple Life alone should be the answer to the ‘why’. But there are also other reasons.

Living a Simple Life can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. According to VeryWellMind, “Being busy is often seen as a badge of honor and a marker of self-worth…”

We as humans have a tendency to compare ourselves to others, and all too often find ourselves lacking. To ‘correct’ this, we focus on what others are doing and try to emulate them. If they are always coming to work with new clothes, we feel we have to go shopping. If their kids are ‘excelling’ at sports, ours get signed up for gymnastics and soccer.

When I was growing up, we called that ‘keeping up with the Jones’. The problem with this is you are only seeing the perception that the Jones want you to see. You aren’t privy to what is taking place within their hearts and home.

Mrs. Jones may be wearing new clothes to compensate for her own sense of inadequacy. Her children may not be as good on the soccer field as she lets on. Mr. Jones may have a new vehicle because he is trying to make himself feel more successful than the next guy. And they may very well be so deep in debt the slightest dip in their income could cause their house of cards to tumble.

a teddy bear at a tea party

Another wise saying I know you have heard is “if your friends decide to jump off a bridge, would you follow them?” As children, we thought that was a ridiculous thing to be asked. Of course, we wouldn’t! That would be just too dangerous.

But compare the two sayings. If jumping off a bridge is dangerous, then wouldn’t the same thing apply to trying to keep up with ‘society standards’?

By trying to live up to a preconceived standard that doesn’t fit with your own goals and priorities, you end up creating a stress and anxiety-filled life.

Stress and anxiety can possibly lead to even more dangerous health issues – high blood pressure, heart issues, substance abuse, and more.

Another side effect of living up to society standards is the harm it does to your self-worth. If you are unable to afford new clothes, new cars, and a bigger house, you may feel you cannot measure up, which can lead to mental health issues. It can also lead to being less productive at home and work, affect relationships, and lead you into depression, self-loathing and worse.

an apron filled with colorful eggs

Instead of trying to keep up with standards that are set by others, living a Simple Life helps you set your own set of standards. You are given the opportunity to determine what is important to you and set your own priorities. And the best part is, you are able to live your own life, not live vicariously through someone else’s.

By doing this you will find you have more control over your lifestyle and can reduce much of that stress and anxiety. The results may very well be a happier, healthier lifestyle for not only you, but for your family as well.

Living a Simple Life doesn’t mean you won’t have stress, sadness or hardships. But by being in control of your own life, you will have more room to focus on solutions to the problems, without having the added baggage to deal with.

And who knows? When people see the genuine happiness your feel, you may end up being the lifestyle trend setter!

two young girls feeding a cow

When can You Begin Living a Simple Life?

The answer to this is simple – Now! An old Chinese proverb states “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. You have heard it before; but have you ever really thought about what it means? Or does walking a thousand miles seem too daunting?

My Dad used to tell me that anything worth having was worth working for.  It may not be easy when you first start out. The lifestyle you are currently leading may be one that is more habit than necessity. Changing habits that are ingrained takes time, dedication, and work.

To change your lifestyle, you need to take that first step. And the first step is recognizing the need for change. And if you are seeing the need to do that in the first place, now is the time to start.

a quilt square in an embroidery hoop with Psalms 91 inscribed

Where Living a Simple Life Takes Place

I love simple answers, and this is another one – you can start living a simple life right where you are standing!

If you want to start living a Simple Life, you can easily fit it into your current, hectic lifestyle. To begin, the first step is to locate and change one small thing. This may be erasing an event that is coming up over the weekend that you really didn’t want to attend in the first place.

It could be exchanging a trip to the drive thru for a home-cooked meal. You may consider a home movie night for your family instead of going to the movies.  Just take a good look at your lifestyle, find one thing you want to start changing today, and implement it.

cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, surrounded by home canned pickles

Tips on How to Live a Simple Life

One of the easiest examples to use is what we do for entertainment. Many of us love to have lunch with a friend, go to the movies, or travel. When you go outside the home to find entertainment, the cost of doing so affects your financial bottom line.

The average cost of going to a movie in 2019, according to Storyfi, is $152 for a family of four. That includes the admission price (an average of $12.10) plus a drink and popcorn for each person. That was the average cost 2 years ago. Today, a closer average price of admission alone is approximately $13.00.

When you break down the cost of having a movie night at home, the price of admission is considerably less. According to Movie Manifesto, renting a movie from RedBox can be anywhere from $2.00 to $10.00, including the CD and the gas to get there. (We’ll talk more about that in future posts!)

videos, popcorn and candy for movie night at home

A 6-package box of microwave popcorn is approximately $3.00. A 2-liter bottle of soda can be as much as $2.50, depending on where you purchase it. Let’s throw in a large bag of M&M’s, just for those with a sweet tooth.  Those run about $7.00.

Watching a movie at home will cost you $20.00, give or take the prices in your area. Just by substituting one movie outing at a theater by staying home you have saved $130. Now. Think about what you can do with that much money.

And then consider the other benefits. Not only have you saved money, but you won’t be stuck in traffic or long lines; you will be spending precious time with your family; you won’t have to squeeze in front of others to get to your seat; you can laugh as loud as you want; and you can simply pause the movie if you need to take a quick break!

All of these things fit in comfortably with living a Simple Life – from managing your finances to spending quality time with your finances. And isn’t that what living a Simple Life is all about in the first place?

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But Living a Simple Life is more than just about watching movies at home. It is about learning to live a life that fits your priorities. It is about creating a home that is warm, welcoming, and comfortable to you, your family, and friends. A Simple Life is about less stress and more joy. A life where you can reignite passions that have lain dormant for years. It is about finding new passions and bringing them to life. And it is about discovering who you really are and encouraging that person to thrive.

Living a Simple Life can be done in many ways, and you are the one in control of finding what will work for you. For me, I have chosen a focus on faith, family, home and creative measures. If these fit within your own Simple Life parameters, here are some things to think about:

These are only a few of the things you can do to start living a Simple Life. Depending on what works for you, these can be added or adjusted, or you can find the things that fit with your own idea of what living a Simple Life means.

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Living a Simple Life May be ‘The’ Answer to your Unspoken Questions

Has your life become cluttered, hectic, and unfulfilling? Do you feel as if it is out of control, or no longer working for you?

If may be time to seriously consider learning to live a Simple Life. Find the joy in life again. Pursue your dreams and passions. Learn to laugh, love, and enjoy your days to the fullest. And by even considering the idea of living a Simple Life, the only question left to ask may just be –

What is stopping you?

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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