Alternatives for Simple Living  
15 Relatively Easy Things You Can Start Doing Today

What are some alternatives for simple living that you can start doing today? When you are a non-conforming professional or on your way to becoming a non-conforming professional one of the many ways to de-Jones your life is to think of alternatives for simple living.

15 Alternatives for Simple Living

1.   Live in a smaller house or condo.

Think about the cost per square foot for rent or purchase price. Bigger places cost more money. They cost more money to rent or buy, they cost more money to heat, they take more time to clean, and they take more stuff to fill up (ie. If you have a living room and then a media room you will need 2 sets of furniture for these rooms). And what is the point of having a nice huge pad if you don’t spend your time there because you are too busy working to pay for it? 

One of the alternatives for simple living is to move to a smaller place. While moving to a smaller place might not be something that instantaneously affects the simplicity of your lifestyle, it is one of the many things that can add to the simplicity of your life and is one of the real alternatives for simple living. 

2.   If you don’t want to move, and your house or condo is on the largish size, then clear out the clutter.

Clear out the clutter in all the rooms, including the basement or attic if you have one. Clear out the drawers, the cupboards, and any other nook or cranny hiding your stuff. This is one of the easy and cheap alternatives for simple living.

The truth is that I did not want a smaller house than the one I live in. I love my house.  I love it a lot. And although it is only a 2-bedroom (with an upstairs suite), it has a huge foot-print. I recognize that this is a lot to heat, to clean, and to pay for. At the same time, when I started cleaning out the clutter, bit by bit, my home became easier to live in, homier to live in, and more inviting. This is one of the alternatives for simple living I could live with. 

What I have also noticed is that de-cluttering is an ongoing process and it is one of the alternatives for simple living that has had the greatest impact on my life and that of my family’s.  Whenever I do not pay attention for a month or two, I notice that my bathroom shelves start to get cluttered and untidy, my kitchen cupboards start to get a bit out of hand, and my sock drawer becomes a disaster.

When I de-clutter, I do so a bit each day. This may mean tackling a portion of a floor of a closet, a drawer, a cupboard, or section of my basement. It all works to simplify my life, make me feel happier, and give me a sense of calm and of peace. It just feels good. 

3.   Reduce or Use Your Commute to learn something.

Want a better quality of life? Reduce your commute. I read this horrendous statistic once. It stated that a huge percentage of young men are either driving their car or working to pay for it. Ew. 

A lot of people live a half an hour or longer commute from their home to office. If you commute by private vehicle this can be a frustrating and soul-sucking waste of time. Try to work as close to where you live as possible. Or vice versa. One of the real alternatives for simple living is that if you can reduce the commute to nothing or almost nothing, then you will gain valuable time and energy for the rest of your day.

Maybe you have to live in a way smaller place to live closer to your work. Perfect! Now you've accomplished two alternatives for simpler living. As I write this, I know people who work in downtown Victoria, British Columbia (my city) but commute from an area called the “Western Communities.” Although the housing prices are cheaper there, and you can get a way bigger house for the amount of money you would spend closer to downtown, commuters easily spend 45 to 50 minutes each day in each direction driving to and from work. They often do this bumper to bumper ---- slow and stop, slow and stop. Meanwhile their kids stay longer in after school care and by the time they get home from work, they are exhausted and fed up with their day.

Use Your Commute:

Does reducing your commute not seem like an option? Well then, here is another suggestion:  Use your commute. Take the time you use commuting to learn something or enjoy something. There is a huge range of audiobooks out there. Alternatively, use your commute to get in some exercise.

As an example, when I was in university, I lived a 20-minute bike commute directly from my house to the university. However, if I rode the long route to school, it would take an hour. I used that hour to exercise, contemplate my day, and think. It assisted me in getting into wicked shape and got the endorphins flowing throughout my body. It was awesome.

A second of the alternatives for simple living is to do what the motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar used to say. He would suggest we use that time to go to automobile university. There are so many audio books out there that can teach you important lessons and information that you can use the time driving or using public transport to learn important new information. Instead of sitting in traffic and being angry about it, listen to a non-fiction book with information you want to learn about. Listen to an inspiring biography, or an awesome novel from one of your favorite writers.

4.   Start and end each day with a session of meditation.

How come meditation is a method and one of the alternatives for simple living? Well, it really teaches you to focus on the present moment. It helps balance you for your day ahead, or helps wind you down from a stressful day. When I meditate regularly I note that I am way more grounded in my life. Rather than rushing from one task to another throughout my day, I am forced to stop (and many times I do not want to)  and regroup. I just get a whole lot calmer and reconsider my perspective and sometimes ask myself why I am rushing so much in the first place.

5.   Eat the food you make yourself.

I used to go out every day for lunch. Now I eat way simpler food at home or make these awesome salads at work. When I do go out to eat, it is because it is an enjoyable event and not something to do that blows a bunch of time and money just to fill my belly. I eat out because it is an enjoyable and special thing to do.  

If I'm not eating my own food, I do have a bonus alternative for simple living that I also like to enjoy from time to time. That is the pleasure of going out to eat by myself. I enjoy every minute of it. In my city, there is this awesome little breakfast place called Lady Marmalade. Sometimes when I am done court early, I head there for their eggs benny (the gluten free version). I usually read or write an article, or simply organize my thoughts. It is awesome. I go there not only to eat a deliciously wholesome meal, but to also enjoy myself and spend some time alone. I knock off two things at once. I get fed and have huge pleasure at the same time.

6.   Get rid of your privately owned vehicle? 
Or never lease one or buy one on credit.

Okay, I still own a vehicle. I have, however, committed to never ever buying another vehicle on credit. No lease and no bank loan. In fact, I have committed to never use consumer credit again for any reason. I have a “stash” of where a certain amount of money is yanked out of my business account each week. These sits there until I need or want something substantial, like a car, computer, or a larger-ticket item. 

No more consumer credit and no more ongoing lease or payments for crap I have bought. One of the clear alternatives for simple living is to keep it simple by avoiding consumer debt. 

7.   The 15 minute blitz!

Do you ever notice that when your home or office is tidy and de-cluttered that you just feel better? Do you notice that you feel calmer? Do you notice that you are able to focus on the present moment rather than the mess?  

Yeah, we know that. At the same time, on some days, I just do not feel like cleaning or tidying. This is especially the case on weekends. Dishes might pile up, laundry may not get folded, little bits of kid items get distributed throughout the house. Ultimately, it starts to weigh on my mood. 

So, instead of letting it get me down, I set the timer on my I-Phone for 15 minutes. And for the next 15 minutes, I do a blitz of cleaning and tidying. This may involve me doing the dishes, folding laundry, tidying up the living room or what have you. By the end of the 15 minutes I stop. Even if I feel like continuing I stop. The result is that my home is much tidier and I am much happier. Not bad for a 15 minute investment of my time yet another one of the alternatives for simple living.


8.   The cost and work of pets

I love my dogs. I really really love my dogs a LOT. They are worth every bit of dog fur stuck to my clothes, every bit of dog fur in my bedding, every minute I spend walking them in the rain, and the dog smell in my car. They are a Jack Russell Terrier and a Border Terrier. They are named Dogger and Daegan and I love them so much they are literally a part of who I am. They are not particularly well behaved and yes, they are allowed not only on my furniture but on my bed. 

They get to eat high-end yuppie type dog food, our friends pretty much know that where I go the dogs will come (and get this, some of our friends do not love my dogs at all as much as I do), my staff puts up with at least one of them at the office on most days, and I am told they smell, well, like dogs.

Although I had Dogger for years before we got Daegan, I did not realize or appreciate how much extra work Daegan would be. He was a lot more work. It was like the dog work around here grew exponentially as did the dog fur quotient, barking quotient, and dust bunnies. 

I have no problem at all with my dogs. They are worth every bit of work, expense and hassle to me. I cannot say the same for my husband or the rest of our friends. Let’s just say that getting a second dog was not the best idea in terms of reducing stress levels in our family. Although I would not trade Daegan in, I do admit that things were simpler before we had him.

Now our neighbors have more or less adopted Daegan and he comes home for visits, but that is another story …. 

Then …… there is the very bossy, noisy, Siamese cat that wakes me up at least once per night. Although he is a great ratter (very necessary for where we live), he is a ton of work and a ton of interrupted sleep. There are also the fish to be cared for and the tank they live in that needs to be cleaned and topped up with water. 

Finally, there is the leopard gecko lizard named Buddy that we have to feed live crickets to. So, each time we said yes to a new pet, we said yes to more work for the people in our home. Having a lot of pets is not the best of the alternatives for simple living. 

Now I happen to believe that having pets is part of what makes a home (that and the sound of kids having fun of course). Yet, I did not take into account all the work and effort each new pet would take. Let's just say when I obtained all of these pets I was not turning my mind to alternatives for simple living. 

At least we said “no” to the chinchilla (so far).

9.   Reduce or eliminate shopping.

If you buy an item, it will (hopefully) end up becoming a hand-me-down one day after you have tired of it. This, in and of itself, isn't so bad and I actually support making second-hand purchases (and donations!) when necessary. However, that same item will likely will end up in a landfill somewhere, someday. As an alternative, when I want to get someone a gift, or buy something for myself, I often prefer it to be an experience.  

A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to buy a seed-sprouter. This was during my raw food-eating phase which only lasted, like 4 days. 

So, I bought one on the internet. It was ultimately delivered costing me $125+. Now it is sitting in my basement and I am pretty sure I will never use it again. I would really like to get rid of it. I think of the time I wasted doing internet research on where and how to purchase such a thing. I think of the time I spent actually purchasing the seeder (paying via credit card, entering the address information etc.). Then there is the time I spent earning the $125+, the time I have spent asking various friends if they want it (well, only a few minutes here and there but still ….), the time I will spend either posting it on Used Victoria or Craigslist to sell it or give it away, etc. Not to mention it has been sitting in my basement taking up space for at least 3 summers now. 

Maybe I could have skipped the whole exercise.

Once again, I was not turning my mind to alternatives for simple living. 

Multiply this kind of behavior by all those things you have bought and not really used that much and you can see how if you skip the whole exercise you could save yourself a lot of time and money. It is one of those alternatives for simple living that could have a huge pay off. Not to mention that most things (like seeding raw food) can be done without fancy, expensive gadgets anyway. I learned this from my step-daughter who showed me with with a simple mason jar and some cheese cloth, I could have had the same results.  

So, lesson 9 for alternatives to simple living: If you can avoid it don’t buy it in the first place. 

10.                Shop for your casual clothes in a second hand store – It all Ends up second-hand anyways.

I am not one of those people that likes to bargain hunt. I don’t even really like shopping. I certainly don’t like shopping for clothes in a retail store. 

Just last weekend, however, I learned something new and awesome. I went with my family to a second-hand store. I bought myself some socks, my daughter some socks and leg-warmers, and my husband 2 t-shirts. All of this came to $26. Twenty six bucks!! The 2 t-shirts are awesome and in great shape. The socks are in great shape and hole free. The leg-warmers are fun as heck. Had I purchased only one of the t-shirts new I would have spent the whole $26.00. Instead, I paid $4.99 each. And they rock. 

Now that these t-shirts, socks and leg-warmers have been washed, they look no different from any other t-shirts or socks in our wardrobe. Saving your money in the first place is one of the greatest alternatives for simple living that will save you money and ultimately save you stress. Need I say more?

11.                Put it on your list.

One of the alternatives for simple living that I use is by keeping lists at hand that quiet my mind from constant thoughts, things to do, errands etc.

I have a very busy mind. It is often thinking of things I have to do. Things I have to do at the office, at home, general errands, projects, web pages to build etc. So, I keep lists. This quiets down the endless information that is in my brain. I have an Iphone (yes I do and I love it). On the notepad section I have various lists:  groceries, music suggestions, book suggestions, errands etc. So, when a thought pops into my head about something that I have to do or want to do, it goes on my list. Then, next time I think I want to hear some new music, for example, I look at my list. It saves oodles of time and energy.

12.                 Consider again before you buy the highest end or top end of everything.

So, dollar for dollar, is that pair of True Religion brand jeans that much better than that pair of Mavi jeans which is 3 x less in cost and still trendy? 

Before my non-conforming professional days, I always bought the higher end or best of everything. I mean everything. If I bought a bicycle, it was a really nice, high quality bicycle. The same went for shoes, clothes, office equipment, etc. The thing is that, although it is a great idea to buy high quality if it is something you are going to use a lot (like this awesome Mac Book Air lap top for example), if you duplicate the best (and most expensive) of everything throughout your life, the price adds up. A lot. 

Now I really consider what I am buying and whether or not I need the most expensive, almost most expensive, or high end item. These kinds of decisions are adding up all over the place and it is resulting in me being way less stressed financially.

13.                Put your stuff in the same spot always - your keys where your keys go, your pens where your pens go, your phone where your phone goes ...

I had this roommate once (for like 10 years). Every morning I would hear him get ready for work in a frenzy. Every morning his routine consisted of him leaving the house for work, like 3 or 4 times before he actually left. He would leave and then remember something and have to come back into the house to search for it (his coffee mug, his keys, his book bag, his wallet etc.). I thought to myself, “there has got to be an easier way.” It took me until only recently, however, to implement this alternative for simpler living into my daily life. 

An example is to always put stuff in the same place. At work we have a Smart Car (called the “Smartie”). The staff and lawyers use it from time to time throughout the week to get to court, run errands etc. What used to happen was that someone would use the car and then have the keys in their purse, jacket or at the front desk. The next person to use it would spend time hunting around for the keys. In comes the “smartie jar.” Now we have a jar that keeps our car keys and we always put them there. It is soooo much easier to find the keys, it is way less stressful, and we all save time.

I duplicate this in other areas of my life as much as I can in that I try always to put my keys in the same spot, scissors in the same cupboard, glue in the same cupboard, my work bag in the same spot etc. It saves oodles of time in terms of looking for stuff and makes life way simpler.

14.                There is a difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Remember that if you do go out, tip your servers well. If you can’t afford to tip well, you can’t afford to go out.

Do not get alternatives for simple living mixed up with being cheap. I am a firm believer in tipping karma.

15.                Never waste a trip.

This is one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received. A restaurant server I worked with named Julie (Julie wherever you are, I am eternally grateful, really) gave me this tip and I have applied it to every area of my life that I can think of. 

Whenever I walk through my home, and I see an out-of-place pair of socks, cup or what have you, I grab it as I go by and put it away. I do this continuously and this continuous effort keeps my home (at least relatively) tidy. 

Also, I always keep a list of errands etc. in my phone. So, when I am downtown, I look at the list and see if I can knock off one of those errands. So, let’s say I am heading back to the office and go through downtown. I look at my list and see that I need to go to the drycleaner to pick up my dry cleaning. Done and Done. 

This way 10 minutes might be expended out of my day as I stop on the way back to the office rather than 20 or 30 minutes doing the round trip from home or the office. I always turn my mind to what I can be doing “on the way” to something else. I do this at home, at work, and when I am out and about. This is one of the alternatives for simple living that saves time, thus saves energy, and reduces stress.


Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional

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