Practical Tips to Simplify Your Life

by Patti Tokar

What is the Simple Life?
The simple life is probably best defined as a journey.  It is an awakening to a sense of self.  It is a search for--and a discovery of--those people, activities, possessions that slowly bring an awareness of the uniqueness of one's self and the pleasures, lasting satisfaction and deep contentment that come from this knowledge. 

Conversely, it is a removal of the things that distract us from finding our own unique center:  Possessions that are no longer meaningful, social activities that are attended simply to be polite or out of duty, relationships that no longer work, household and other duties that have lost meaning or purpose in our lives. 
For most of us, it does not mean quitting one's job and moving to Alaska to live in a cabin.  It may eventually mean evaluating the meaning and purpose your job has for you, or it may mean moving to another part of the country.

However, we have found that the simple life is best approached slowly, starting with the little things, like a cluttered closet or a cluttered social calendar.  As the little time consumers and stress producers begin to disappear, it is amazing what insights into one's self will begin to appear.

The goal is to begin to know those things, people, careers, and activities that hold the most meaning for you.  It is to begin to let go of an outer definition of self (expensive cars, large homes, etc.) and to stop trying to layer yourself with so many possessions, titles, and activities that you are unable to stop and face your own uniqueness and what contribution you are really making to yourself, your family, society, and the universe. 

Practical Tips:  
The first step in life simplification is getting rid of complete time and space wasters.  Here are some suggestions for starters: 
Reduce Unwanted Telephone Solicitation. 
Add your home and cell numbers to the Do Not Call Registry here:

Reduce Unwanted Email.  
While we actually have nothing against receiving unsolicited e-mail, we often get bulk e-mail that we find downright offensive. 

So first:  Find out how your ISP (Internet Service Provider) allows you to filter e-mail.  AOL allows you to set up individual filters under the keyword "MAIL CONTROLS".  Log in under the primary screen name.  Then go to Mail Controls.  There you will find the ability to either block all e-mail, block e-mail from anyone that is not an AOL subscriber, block specific e-mail names, or block specific e-mail domain names (the part of the e-mail address).  We found that consistently using this feature has greatly reduced the truly unwanted e-mail that we receive. 

Also, faithfully use the "remove" instructions that are offered in the e-mail that you receive.  Our experience is that about half of the bulk e-mail that we want to be removed from offers a legitimate "remove" feature.  The other half just offers a dummy address and the "remove" request just gets returned.  We forward all of the returned "remove" requests to AOL's TOSSPAM address.   

Third: Don't be a flamer.  Why waste your precious life energy?  Sending a flame usually generates so much anger and hostility in the sender that we wonder why they would think it worthwhile.  Besides, sometimes a flamer ends up causing so much more damage to the bulk e-mailer's ISP and to other (innocent) subscribers of the ISP that it often seems that the flamer has created an evil worse than the bulk e-mailer! 

If a bulk e-mailer makes you angry, contact their ISP directly (try forwarding the e-mail with a "remove" request to with the "" being all the domain names that you see in the address and in the headers showing the path the e-mail has taken, usually found at the bottom of the e-mail.)  The postmaster can then deal directly with the offender.  Then use your time to hug your kids, kiss your spouse, and visit with your friends. 

Get rid of the clutter. 
When cleaning out clutter, we have found that the very first thing you have to do is to acquire the ability to admit that you have and will make mistakes.  When you get past this, it gets much easier to get rid of that expensive pair of pants that look absolutely hideous on you.  It also allows you to admit that at some point in the future, there will probably be one or two things that you threw out or gave away that you wish that you didn't.  Actually, we have found that very rarely do we regret having gotten rid of something. (It just seems that way when you are moving it out.)  If you are very fearful of  the possibility that you will desperately need something that is just clutter right now, then pack it in a box, list the contents, seal it up and date it.  Open it in six months or a year and see if you missed it.  If not, get rid of it. 
Sign up for automatic payment of your utilities, mortgage, and other regular bills.  

Call the utility company and ask for a form for authorizing the company to automatically debit your checking account for the monthly bill amount.  You will still get your regular bill prior to the automatic debit. You will no longer have to worry about remembering to write the check on time and putting it in the mailbox.  You will also save $.32 postage for each transaction.  Of course, you will have to be sure to deposit enough money to cover the debits!
Schedule regular rest and relaxation time. Read a book, take a long shower, visit a museum, take a walk...whatever activity makes you feel completely relaxed and content. Many report that this regular time-out actually energizes them and recharges their creativity.   

Reduce the number of catalogs you receive. 
If you find that you are regularly receiving a catalog that you have no interest in, tear off the name/address label and mail it with a "please remove me from your list" note to the catalog company.  Yes, you will have to spend your own money on the stamp to do this, but the savings in your time and the savings in wasted resources should more than make up for the small cost.  And we have found that the catalog companies are especially responsive to these requests.  After all they have quite an investment in each catalog and the postage to mail it. 

Reduce the number of charities that you donate to. 
Instead of sending $5.00 to every charity that sends you a mailing, do some research and pick just one or two charities that you will support with your (larger) charitable donation.  This will have several beneficial effects:  First, you will not randomly send money to every non-profit organization that solicits you.  This will eliminate the sending of donations to some of the appealing but not-so-valid non-profit organizations.  Second, you can now send a polite and guilt free post card to the charities that you will not be sending donations to and request that they remove you from their mailing list (no need for an explanation).  Third, you will be able to concentrate your efforts on the charities that you have chosen.  Maybe even volunteer some time.  And fourth, if we all participate, the charities will be able to process larger donations, rather than numerous tiny donations.  

Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive through the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference site:

Stop the pre-approved credit card offers. 
Those 'pre-approved' credit card offers are a nuisance and a potential credit rating danger. (Be sure to shred all that get sent to you.) To stop a lot of them, you can call Trans Union at 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT).
They have options to remove your name for two years or permanently. They also share data with Experian and Equifax, so you don't have to duplicate calls to remove your name from the three major sources. 

Article by Patti Tokar
Simple Life Corporation - Simple Living At Its Best!
Tips, articles and advice for living a simpler life.
Copyright 1997 - 2000 Simple Life Corporation.  
Reprinted with permission.