17 September 2012

Rewiring Your Brain (and Your Lifestyle) to Live More Simply

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

When I look back at the past few years so much has changed. Perhaps not always in dramatic or obvious ways, but in a million different, small ways. And nowhere has change been so dramatic than in my thinking.

Not all that long ago, if I wanted the latest fashion, I simply went to the mall and bought it. I took advantage of sales when I could, but I didn’t not shop if something I wanted wasn’t on sale.

It’s funny how easily we become creatures of habit. We go about our business, shopping, chores, errands etc. because it’s the way we’ve always done it, not because it’s the most efficient, cost effective or best way. Many of us learn these patterns from our friends and family. I was no different.

These everyday mundane activities take up a lot of your time and money, so why don’t we scrutinize them just as much as buying a house or taking a new job? Certainly they affect our lives just as much.

What I’ve discovered is if you step even a toe out of the main stream, there is a world of alternative possibilities just there for the taking. Taking advantage of these opportunities requires change, and change is never easy. However, in most cases I have found that change has paid off in dividends for our family.

I’ve talked about the time vs. money conundrum before. What you value is ultimately up to you, but what I’ve found and seen in others is that many of us are slaves to money rather than having the time to do what we wish. In theory, money is supposed to buy us time right? Money lets us hire someone else to do house maintenance for example. Money allows us to get that shiny new thing. However, money comes at a cost. Usually time away from our families, and can sometimes stress us out, robbing us of the peace of mind that it’s supposed to provide. I would argue that many of us can live with a lot less money, and find greater happiness in the freed up time.
Photo: kanelstrand

But you need money to survive right? Sure. Unless you are a single person living a nomadic lifestyle, you need to have some sort of income to cover housing, health care and food. However, I challenge the premise that you need money to provide 100% of all of these things. Remember how I used to default going to mall to get the things I need? That’s gone out the window. I now turn to alternatives where I can get things free, and then go from there.

Some of my time is spent DIYing these days. I have satisfaction in creating things myself, and save so much money this way especially on food and cleaning. This has become a new hobby, and certainly can eat up some of my days. Where do you find the time to do these things?

One way is by orienting my life locally. My eye doctor, dentist, pharmacy, veterinarian, pediatrician, bank, part-time job, grocery store, farmers market, post office, daycare, school, and church are all within a 5 minute drive from my house. What this means is I’m not driving all over the place to get things done. I can easily make 3 or 4 stops in an hour. If these things were located elsewhere it could take me twice, if not four times, as long for the same task. People wonder why I am so adamant about staying local - this is why.

Another is by automating things. There are certain tasks in our lives that we must do over and over again. If they can occur with very little intervention on our part that’s great, one less thing to worry about. In our household that means utilizing the power of technology and the Internet. We subscribe to automatic deliveries of staple pantry items (and enjoy a discount). We acquired a Roomba to vacuum our house; with two cats, dust bunnies are a constant. You can set up an automatic prescription refill for ongoing prescriptions. Get your thinking cap on and do some research. That extra 15-30 minutes a week (or more) can really add up to make a big difference.

So for your homework, I challenge you to take a critical eye to your mundane activities. Why are you doing them that way? Could you do them differently? Would that improve things through quality, cost savings, time or something else? Take on one small task at a time. I guarantee you, you can change things for the better.

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.


  1. Great tips for living simply. I have worked hard to find everything I need within 5 minutes of my house. I have even worked out a schedule so I only need to run errands once a week. I am trying to cut back on using my car, so far so good.
    Everyday Inspired

    1. Scheduling and organizing is a great way to simplify, isn't it!

  2. Lots of good things to think about. I've refined things in some areas of my life but I see I have lots of room for improvement in others! :)

    1. There is always something more to do to get to perfection!

  3. I am constantly finding ways to simplify my life and to scale down on possessions. I just don't need or want nearly as much as I once did.

    1. I can see the same in me. I don't know if it's age or wisdom but I like it!