A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Backtracking to Simplicity

How do you return to a simple life when you’re finally tired of living in excess? For many, it is a difficult task to reverse the effects of over consumption and a chaotic lifestyle. In a perfect world, we would never fail prey to a lifestyle of living beyond our means or making poor decisions when it comes to our priorities. We can’t change the choices we’ve made, but we can learn from them and work hard to change our future.

Lessons for My Younger Self

If I were living out a scene from the movie Back to the Future, I would choose to return to the younger version of myself and share some very specific advice. I wouldn’t tell myself who to fall in love with and I wouldn’t try to convince myself what career to choose. I would tell my young and impressionable self to appreciate everything that I have and not attempt to purchase a future that I thought I wanted.

I would tell my younger self to avoid credit card debt at all costs. I would tell myself how ridiculous it sounds to buy a dog and a computer on credit. (Did you know you can buy pets on credit? How crazy is that?) I would also tell myself that upgrading to a larger house isn’t as important as everyone makes it seem.

Paying for Yesterday

It’s not easy to backtrack to simplicity. The simple life that I long for now, is farther out of my reach than I wish it was. Today I am stuck paying for a yesterday that I didn’t even need. There are dumpsters full of possessions that we thought we couldn’t live without. Now we can’t get rid of them fast enough. If I stop and think too long about all the money we wasted I will get sick to my stomach. It’s hard to go back and fix our mistakes. Backtracking is never as quick of a journey as running ahead aimlessly without concern of where you’re going.

I began to seek out minimalism when I finally became so fed up with the way we’d been living. Being discontent with our spending habits and being covered in a mountain of clutter gave me a reason to find a solution. I hope to save my children from learning the way I did. If you haven’t buried yourself in debt and clutter, I urge you right now to run from both.

Step Wisely

If you are like me and you’re trying to work your way back to simplicity, know that you aren’t alone and that the journey is doable. A few things you should keep in mind are:

  • The journey back to simplicity is not usually a quick or easy one.
  • Breaking bad habits is challenging but not impossible.
  • Your life is more than a collection of stuff.
  • Save for your future don’t spend it now.
  • Happiness will never be found in possessions.

Do you have lessons you would share with your younger self? How have you managed a journey back to simplicity?


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photo by lusi


The winner of the Toot Your Own Horn Contest is Kathy. Congratulations, Kathy! Thank you all for sharing your decluttering progress. I had a great time reading all your comments. I may have to do another contest like that again soon. Keep up the great work and keep sharing your progress!

Article originally published on 02/07/2011

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  1. The most important things aren’t things, they’re people.
    I am in the same boat as you, still paying for things I don’t even remember, or things long gone. Oh, if I had just saved a little more and spent a little less.
    And this realization is coming to us at a very expensive time in our lives, when we have older teenagers. Very difficult to get them to change how they expect things to be done. Not saying that I am not trying!
    The Gifts of Imperfection- A Giveaway!

  2. “Today I am stuck paying for a yesterday that I didn’t even need”. I love that quote! It so says what I’m going through now. If we’d saved and payed off we could be living in a better neighborhood instead of stuck here needing to do repairs in order to get the house worth what we owe.

  3. Mine would be and still is: define success on your own terms. The mansion doesn’t really represent what you think it does. The BMW doesn’t either. (Remember when we used to fold up those paper games and you selected your car, movie star boyfriend, etc? Crazy!)

  4. We can’t change the past and we shouldn’t focus on it. Yes, we must learn from it or we’re doomed to repeat it, but focusing on what has already transpired, or on what might have been takes our focus on what is already here and what lies ahead. We must, therefore, leave what is behind us and forge ahead, whether it’s in the area of living simpler, eating better, exercising, saving money, reading more, writing more, watching less tv, building new relationships… In as much as it’s not about what we’ve done, it’s also not about what we should have done or could have done, but what will we do today, tomorrow and the next day.

    No more coulda, woulda, shoulda, only I will…

  5. Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Working to pay down debt is exhausting…but I am getting there. The last big thing (besides our mortgage) are my student loans. One day we’ll be done, and I’ll NEVER get into debt again. EVER. Can’t wait for that day! 🙂

  6. I wish I could tell my younger self that it’s only a bargain if I actually need it, and then actually use it.

  7. “Today I am stuck paying for a yesterday that I didn’t even need. ”

    This line really hit home with me. I know exactly what you are talking about – feeling sick, thinking I cannot believe how much I have wasted! I realized that I needed to experience these feelings about my past, so that moving forward, I can make better choices. Now I think twice (sometimes three or four times) before making any purchase.

    Great Post!


  8. Fantastic! This ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite posts, Faith. You’ve got a new subscriber! 🙂 I am stuck paying for things I didn’t even need…and the saddest part? Most of those things I don’t even own anymore! No more keeping up with the Joneses for me. I love living in my 900-square foot house (less to maintain, heat/cool, and clean!), driving my 11-year old car (not worried about dings, scratches, etc!), and wearing my clothes until threadbare (who cares about the latest trends?). Am I forced to do any of this, due to lack of fundage? Absolutely not! This is a choice, and one of the best choices I’ve made in my life! I choose to build a more secure future for me and my family.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! It’s rough learning the lessons, but it sounds like we agree… the simple life is the best place to be!


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