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mattbrowne's avatar

The opposite of complexity - What are the best ways to simplify your life?

Asked by mattbrowne (31588points) May 3rd, 2009

From Wikipedia: Simplicity is being simple. It is a property, condition, or quality which things can be judged to have. It usually relates to the burden which a thing puts on someone trying to explain or understand it. Something which is easy to understand or explain is simple, in contrast to something complicated. In some uses, simplicity can be used to imply beauty, purity or clarity. Simplicity may also be used in a negative connotation to denote a deficit or insufficiency of nuance or complexity of a thing, relative to what is supposed to be required. The concept of simplicity has been related to truth in the field of epistemology. According to Occam’s razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true. In the context of human lifestyle, simplicity can denote freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. Specifically, it can refer to a simple living lifestyle.

Simplicity is a theme in the Christian religion. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religious orders of Franciscans also strive after simplicity. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which is the simplifying of one’s life in order to focus on things that are most important and disregard or avoid things that are least important.

How do you simplify your life? How do you deal with choice overload? Or is it almost impossible to avoid complexity in our modern daily lives?

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16 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

remove all the negative people from your life as much as possible
just, yes, drop friends and family members if you have to
it does wonders

Speranza's avatar

I draw a tight boundary between work and home. I deal with some distressing cases but I try not to give them headspace after hours.

I also recommend silent retreats – you don’t need to be religious.

And stopping to smell the roses – literally. If I’m walking along past gardens, I stop to smell the flowers as I go by (only the ones I can reach!)

I also listen to lots of Baroque strings music – those rhythms and melodies intertwining take me out of myself to a peaceful place…

And on sunny days I drive to the countryside, get out of the car and just enjoy the views. So many of the best things in life still are free…

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

It starts with understanding the difference between your wants and your needs. When you understand that your wants are not so important that makes letting go of them easy.

Life simplification follows naturally.

Judi's avatar

sell or give away your stuff.

gailcalled's avatar

Everytime I bring something into my house, I remove two items. All that clutter needs to be repaired, replaced and dusted.

@mattbrowne: You have read a lot of Wikipedia, it seems. Doesn’t that take up time that could be used for daydreaming or writing shorter questions?

Harp's avatar

Kill your TV. It’s a machine for creating wants.

Judi's avatar

keep your questions and answers short and to the point.

Dorkgirl's avatar

Choice “overload” can be combated by keeping to a limited number of items you buy. Choose your brand or product, go to the store and only buy those things. Work from a list if you are an impulse buyer. Use cash instead of credit or debit card to keep you within a budget. Can’t buy those jeans if you don’t have the money for ‘em.
@The_Compassionate_Heretic is right about deciding what you need and what you want. Once you determine that you will limit your options to what you need, many of your choices will disappear.
Give away/sell the extra stuff in your life; deal with stuff right away and don’t let it linger until it is such a chore to put away, sort, etc.

Judi's avatar

@BookReader; because it simplifies your life!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Walk away from everything you have- job, credit, security, possessions, clothes, jewelry, most friends & family, etc.
Start from scratch and weigh how badly your need is to want to replace those lost things. There’s a rush comes from being able to build up again with careful choices. You start to give more thought and value to your money, how you treat people around you once you are not your things or associations any longer. You re-orient your attractions and gravitations towards people who value you for your strengths, talent, positivity, compassion and love.

dynamicduo's avatar

The first thing to do is realize that most of the “life” you see is constructed to benefit other people. Regardless of who, how, or why, everyone wants your dollar, and will do or say almost anything to get it. Eliminating TV and magazines is a great start, and often causes people to wake up from their zombified lives. It’s amazing now, when I watch TV it’s disgusting how it’s set up to keep you on the couch and wanting the things they feature in shows or in advertisements… disgusting.

Buy only what you need. Learn to make things you want. Learn to manage your wants and desires, and look behind at the reasons you say you want item X to understand how you work and thus understand how you can change your ways of thought such that you have no desire for menial possessions.

Of course, you need to decide if you really want a simple life or if you are in love with the idea of a simple life.

Tobotron's avatar

Take everything you don’t really need, all that stuff consumerism told you to accumulate and sell or get rid of it…I found living in Siberia with the most basic of requirements very rewarding, so yeh I had a computer but just one good one that would last, I had everything I ‘needed’. The key work is ‘need’, have only what you need and your life becomes much simpler and you become more free for it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@gailcalled – I don’t read Wikipedia. I read dozens of books every year, as well as newspapers, magazines, science blogs and other online sources. I enjoy discussions (or debates) both in real life and online. I see discussions as a joint effort to explore a subject. Very often people have different perception about the basics. In online forums this sometimes triggers comments like

‘Define truth.’

which is helpful before the discussion continues. If you are totally clear what ‘simple’ means in the context of simplifying your life, then it’s best to skip the definition part.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@mattbrowne: I’m with you in that I don’t read Wikipedia and get annoyed when people snark that I should Wiki or Google something instead of asking a particular group of people for their personal opinions, perspectives, experiences. Once upon a time, people-to-people interaction was valued.

mattbrowne's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence – I agree, most questions are more than just basic facts or definitions. Even with simple question the devil’s in the detail, for example if you google

“What is the size of the earth?”

you get

Earth — Mass: 5.9736×1024 KG
According to

Is size weight or diameter?

If you google

“What is the diameter of the earth?”

it gets tricky. Equator? Pol to pol? Anyway, there’s no harm to point out how certain online resources can be used. And there’s nothing wrong with writing “I recommend” instead of “you should”.

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