The 5 Most Important Areas of Life to Simplify (and the Stats to Prove It)


I’ve noticed an interesting fact about simplifying advice on the Internet: the amount of material online about simple living can itself become overwhelming. It’s an irony not lost on me.

I’ve been writing in this space for over 15 years. And during that time, I have seen countless other blogs and YouTube channels and social media accounts and podcasts and books and courses come and go.

To be fair, I think it’s wonderful. The more people writing about simplicity the better in my book! That’s why I take time every other week (Weekends Reads) to highlight articles that I want to promote. Let’s keep writing and promoting and helping and changing lives.

But still, the amount of material can be overwhelming. Especially when you read 2-3 different, helpful articles in consecutive days (or even weeks). Before one idea can get implemented in our lives, we’re being presented a new (sometimes equally helpful) idea.

Amidst this avalanche of advice, the most important step is to begin—to take a meaningful action towards positive life change.

Simplicity, at its core, is about removing the distractions that keep us from our values and most important pursuits. It’s about focusing on the essentials, making room for more of what matters, and less of what doesn’t. In that way, simplicity touches every aspect of our lives, from the tangible clutter in our homes to the intangible burdens on our time and energy.

To help cut through the noise, I’d like to offer you today the 5 most important areas of life to simplify. And I’ve got the stats to prove it.

If you are newly interested in simplifying life, but are unsure where to start, start with one of these five.

There is no need to tackle all at the same time—in fact, I’d recommend you didn’t. Choose the one that speaks most directly to your current season of life. Start there, and let the momentum of that first step propel you forward.

1. Possessions

The average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years… and still 38% of us see a need to rent offsite storage.

The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. Every additional item we acquire beyond our needs demands a piece of our attention, time, and energy—resources that could be better on more important things. Every possession takes up physical space in our home, and mental space in our mind.

Because of that, simplifying our possessions isn’t just about decluttering our physical space; it’s about reclaiming the freedom that comes from having less. It’s about focusing more of ourselves on our greatest passions and freeing ourselves to pursue those things in life that matter most.

You can begin by decluttering just one small area in your home. Read this article for inspiration. Or, if you’re looking for more focused help, join me for Uncluttered, a 12-week online course I will be starting later this week.

2. Spending

The average American spends almost $18,000 a year on nonessentials.

It is often said that our spending habits are a direct reflection of our priorities. And on some levels, that is true. But for most people, I believe, their spending is a direct result of an unintentional, unexamined life.

I don’t know a single person who values “wasting money on things they don’t need.” But I know a lot of people who do—without even realizing it.

Taking back control of our spending requires self-examination. But the result is that we better align our spending with our priorities. And there is great joy and contentment to be found in making that change.

To get started, print off your last two months of credit card statements and highlight or underline every line that was a nonessential purchase. Then use this guide to create an intentional Spending Plan for your family and income.

The hard part, of course, is living out your new plan into the future. But you can’t get moving in the right direction if you don’t know where you’re starting from.

3. Health (Diet/Exercise)

Only 28% of Americans get enough exercise.

When it comes to our physical health, simplicity can be a game-changer.

It seems every new day we are presented with a new fad diet, super-food concoction, popular workout craze, or advertisement to join a local gym on a great discount. On the same pages and networks, we are bombarded with commercials for sugary snacks, meals, and drinks.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of exercise advice and options doesn’t seem to be resulting in positive outcomes.

The best exercise routine is the one you enjoy and practice regularly. Equally so, the only eating plan with long-term benefits is the one you can stick to.

Forget the fads and newest trends, find the exercise you can enjoy regularly and lean into it.

For your diet, begin by identifying your favorite fruits and vegetables and add more of them into your meals. Then, remove some of the processed sugar from your diet by substituting other enjoyable snacks. And then, repeat.

4. Schedule

60% of Americans say they are too busy to enjoy life.

Our calendars reflect a culture obsessed with busyness. All of the modern gadgets and inventions meant to simplify our lives and free up time only seem to steal it from us. Add in the fact that many of us are prone to equate a packed scheduled with importance and success, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

People nowadays even wear “I’m busy” like a badge of honor seeking to elevate their importance in your eyes.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t genuinely busy seasons of life with extra demands on our time (just ask any new mother), but when busy becomes the default state for our lives, without any introspection, we end up failing in life by succeeding at all the wrong things.

Simplifying your schedule isn’t about doing less. It’s about doing more of the things that matter. And providing some white space for when opportunities arise to help and serve others.

To begin, think again about the importance rest plays in our lives. Then find one hour next week to sit alone with your thoughts. Use the time to let your mind and soul run wherever it wants to take you. Likely, if this is the area of simplification that resonated with you, your mind will bring up thoughts on how/where you could be spending your time differently.

5. Work Life

Among full-time working professionals, 77% say they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.

This can be a complicated statistic with a variety of different factors. In fact, some researchers classify “not challenging enough” as an indication and contributor to burnout. So it would not be fair to say that over 3/4 of professionals are overworked in their job.

But the incredibly high percentage does reveal an important fact: There is something broken in how we approach our work.

And the reasons for this may vary: we view our work selfishly; we expect work to be easy; we accept too much work in exchange for financial gain; we have settled for work that does not bring us meaning.

Simplifying work is about rethinking the role it plays in our lives. I am not a writer who argues the benefits of removing ourselves from work. But I am a writer who encourages people to view the role of work differently. To find the joy and fulfillment that it offers us when we approach it with the correct motivation.

To begin bringing more simplicity into your work, I encourage you to read The One Thing, Essentialism, or Things That Matter. Pick the one whose description resonates most with you. Each, I believe, will challenge you to think differently about the responsibilities you choose for yourself and provide practical ideas on how to simplify work.

Let’s be clear on this. Embarking on a journey to simplify doesn’t mean overhauling your life overnight.

And my greatest fear would be that we’d look at this list above and become paralyzed because of it.

Instead, I have found in my life that intentionality in one area of life brings about intentionality in other areas.

If you know you need to simplify, choose just one area from the list above. And take one small step toward simplicity. The ripple effect will change your life in more ways than you expect.

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