Six Secrets to Simplify Your Life and Live Intentionally

Today I’m talking about something that continues to elude me.  And based on my conversations with others I’m guessing it’s something you’d like to have but you don’t have it right now.

Michelle Brown said it in her interview when we talked about How To Navigate Real Estate In Your Second Half: Vacation Homes, Living At The Beach & Downsizing.  She said in the beginning of that interview that people want to simplify their lives.

What does it mean if you say you want to simplify your life?  The dictionary says the meaning of simplify is to make something easier to do or understand, to make something less complicated with fewer parts. So when we say we want to simplify our lives, we’re saying we want to make our lives easier, less complicated, and with fewer parts

Life is so complicated. We have too much on our schedules each week… too many things to do… too many commitments…. We feel stressed out when fit everything into our day and there simply aren’t enough hours to get it all done.  We try to “peddle faster” but then things are swirling by us in a whirlwind of activity.

The stress we feel in our lives is cumulative.  By the time we’re in our 40’s and 50’s we start thinking that there must be more to life than the endless to do lists. 

I think wanting to simplify your life starts with the thought that taking some things off your plate would be so refreshing.  Most changes we make start small.  Almost like an internal tickle.  Something inside us is nudging us toward this thing.

Something we see or hear interests us and we’re drawn to it. We start noticing things that are associated with this new desire, things we never noticed before.  The thoughts and feelings you have about making a change—going in a new direction—grow into something bigger but it never goes anywhere unless we take some action toward it.

Here’s something that has happened to me on several occasions.  I’ve talked to friends who just came back from traveling to a place I had never considered traveling to.  From what they were saying,  I was intrigued with the idea of visiting this place.  Coincidentally, I started noticing news stories that were related.

This place that I had never thought about began showing up in various different media outlets and I started thinking it would be nice to take a trip there. But nothing happened… nothing ever happens unless I take some action toward planning the trip and booking tickets to get there. 

Most of us don’t take action because life is so complicated and we get distracted from moving forward. If the idea of simplifying your life sounds refreshing to you, you have to take some small action toward simplicity.

There are as many ways to simplify and make life less complicated as there are people in this world. One person may want to  streamline  the number of tee shirts they have to fit in the dresser space. Another person wants to dramatically change how they're living.

No matter how you want to simplify your life, a shift has to happen inside you. You have a new perspective in the way you look at things and the way you feel about things. It’s a change in your desires.  You’ll never streamline your old tee shirts if you look at them as your only keepsakes of happy memories. But if you look at them without sentimentality and see how worn out they are you’ll be able to simplify that space.


You value things differently when you want to simplify your life. Things are just things.  They aren’t people.  They aren’t you. 

This is a good time to tell you about a freebie worksheet that I’ve created just for you and for this episode of Design Your Second Half.  It  will help you rekindle and remember the simple pleasures you loved as a child. Those things that you were naturally drawn to early in your life hold secrets to designing your second half more authentically.

Were you an imaginative child? Did you love to read?  Were you creative? Did you love to draw? Were you athletic, always in motion? A lot of people tell me they were one way as a child but they got away from it because of the frenetic pace of their lives.

If your life has been very busy, you may want to get this worksheet. Remembering and rekindling those things that you were innately predisposed toward as a child can help you to designing your second half with intention.   Click here for this freebie.

Let’s talk about when and why so many of us are feeling overwhelmed.  Is your to do list a lot longer than your rest, relax, and enjoy list?  Wait a second — you don’t have a rest, relax, and enjoy list?  I think we’ve found the problem.  Our lives have gotten lopsided. 

The way we spend our time is draining our energy. We feel exhausted. We feel taken advantage of.  It’s like we’re in a head lock and we give the sign that we’ve lost the round.  We’re tired and a little angry. It feels like there’s not enough time for the best things in life, the joy, connection, and fulfillment that are life-giving positive energy. 

Life feels unfair and we don’t see a way out of the endless looping of our weeks. Months fly by and we can hardly keep up. When we get one job done, there’s another one waiting to be done. We're not resting. We don’t feel refreshed, revived, or vibrant. We’re taking care of our kids and our parents, we’re helping out at schools and churches, on sports fields, in charity organizations, and at our work. We’re paying all these bills and we’re ready for a big break—a change in lifestyle.

Most of us go on a short vacation to revive ourselves when we need a big break. Imagine if real life could be like a wonderful vacation? You show up to a beautiful place, to beautiful weather, where people want to help carry your bags and clean your room and prepare your meals. 

You don’t have all that stuff to deal with like the mail and the laundry and the groceries and the cooking and clean up and getting things fixed that are broken or getting your car washed. You don’t have to wake up at a certain time.  You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to work or do anything you don’t want to do. It’s so extremely different from real life

l love having less mail when I’m on vacation but email can take over.  I used to feel like I was drowning in paper but now I’m drowning in emails and paperless bills.

I like having less stuff when I’m on vacation.  I packed a very small carry-on bag for a week or sometimes two weeks and I usually return from my trip with unworn outfits. The truth is my closet at home has a bunch of things in it that I don’t wear very often. I love the popularity of the capsule wardrobe because the truth is, that’s pretty much what I wear each week—a small number of things that are pretty interchangeable.   But my closet if filled with more than just that capsule wardrobe.

I love the space and the calm of a well appointed resort. The furniture is very comfortable, the colors are very soothing, but there’s no clutter to look at—except of course the clutter I bring to the bathroom countertops. 

When we’re on vacation we don’t really work. The real challenge is to clear your mind of work thoughts so your mind can really rest.

There are fewer decisions to make each day when we’re on vacation.  I’m more present when I'm discovering new places and seeing new views. I’m awake to the newness of the place because I lack familiarity with it. 

On our vacations we try to stay where we have a kitchen but the meal prep is minimal. Maybe we’re making a simple breakfast or grilling something in the evening but it’s not like the grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up we do at home. 

When we’re on vacation, depending on the location and time of year, we’re doing a lot more swimming and biking and hiking.  We’re spending hours outside enjoying sunsets.  There’s a lot of activity built into each day of vacation but we get to choose how to spend our days. The activity is what we like to do, it’s pleasing to us. It fulfills our desires.

If we were thinking about how to take the very best things about vacationing and apply it to our regular days, I think we might decide to carry less on our shoulders ~ to lighten up our load.  We’d carry less stress and worry inside our bodies.  Most of us come home from vacation feeling relaxed and refreshed. We’re in alignment with that happy place inside ourselves.  We’ve spent time in nature. We feel hopeful and optimistic. Isn’t this the way you want to be in your everyday life?


"You value things differently when you want to simplify your life." ~ Design Your Second Half, the podcast

I like to think about things in different ways and I started asking myself ‘if simplifying was a season,  which season would it be?’  I decided it would be summer.  In the summer our clothing is simple.  It’s hot. We need fewer layers.  We’re not so fancy in summer. What feels best are light weight, comfortable clothes & sandals.

In the summer, we eat simply prepared food.  The harvest is abundant. We enjoy ripe, sweet fruit and fresh vegetables.  We use the barbecue instead of the oven to keep the heat out of the house.

In summer we enjoy simple pleasures like sitting outside on a warm evening and talking, taking a walk, and watching the sunset.  A lot of the time is spent connecting with family and friends. There’s less rushing and the day goes on and on. We feel more relaxed,  There are more joyful smiles during summer. 

Steve Jobs has been credited with the simple elegance of his Apple products and their design.  His goal was to make things functional but aesthetically beautiful. He said “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

Your life will have simple elegance when you find  the artful answers to your own desires. By removing the unnecessary in your life you will reveal something more poignant and filled with grace.

There’s a caution here. Sometimes we equate simple with meaning something is not as good. We think simple means inferior.  Inferior means inferior.  A simple design can use the finest materials.

Steve Jobs says you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make something simple. When you’re talking about simplifying you life you have to gain clarity about what you want to spend your time on. Most of us haven’t documented how we spend our time. Days go by in a blur. A quick glance at social media can take us down the proverbial rabbit hole. How many minutes do we really spend on mindless activities each day? How much time do we spend on activities that could be automated or outsourced to someone who could do them better and faster than we can?

I like the process of elimination. Sometimes it’s easier to know what you don’t want and to eliminate those things than to figure out what you do want. You can eliminate steps in a process. For instance, with  bill pay through your bank you don’t have to write out paper checks, put them in an envelope, buy stamps and put them on the envelope, and put things into a mail box.

You can also completely eliminate activities that take up your time and now seem unnecessary.  Some people eliminate reconciling their check book each month.  Or they’ve just eliminated writing checks all together.

You can eliminate other things too.  Let’s say you belong to 2 charity groups and you’d like to focus on one.  Or you want to eliminate watering your plants so you invest in automatic smart system that skips or speeds up watering based on weather.

Sometimes it’s scary to think about any kind of change, even positive change. I like to put two things next to each other and eliminate one. You can do this with anything. It works really well for clothes.  Just put 2 like items together and take away the one that’s not as great.  If you have 5 red tee shirts and you really only need 2, you’d compare and eliminate until you got down to the 2 top contenders.

When you’re trying to compare and eliminate something more complex than tee shirts, it’s important to dig deep into what feels most essential to you. I think remembering back to when we were younger helps you uncover what’s most essential to yourself.  Things were less complicated then.

When we were younger, our tendency to like one thing over another was natural and on the surface. Let’s face it, there were fewer things cluttering our minds when we were younger. Over the years our ability to discern what’s most essential becomes clouded with all of the clutter that’s accumulated inside our brains. We kind of lose touch with what we really like. Life just happens and things snowball. Mostly we keep adding stuff into our lives without really thinking about it and some things fall off our list because we only have so many hours and so much money to spend.

What’s fallen off your list? What did you love doing as a kid and how did you feel doing those things?  I loved to swim. It felt freeing. I could spend hours in the pool and it felt like no time at all. And I loved watching the sunset. But then life got busy. I’ve come to realize that we have to do something if we want our favorite things in our days. We need to make an effort to include them. We have to make time for them. We have to simplify the complications that keep us from doing these things.

Get your worksheet that will help you remember and rekindle the simple pleasures you most enjoy. It’s an essential part of designing your second half with intention.   Click here for this freebie.
I want to ask you some questions and have you think of answers. Go with the thoughts that are top of mind. What if there was less to take care of? What would that look like for you? Would it be a smaller property with a smaller garden or a smaller home? Would it be consolidating in areas where you have multiples?  Multiple banks, multiple investment accounts, multiple insurance companies….

What if things were taken care of for you?  How could you see that happening?   What if you had a personal shopper and you delegated all the shopping?  My sister-in-law is a stylist for an online company and this is what she does. I’ve worked with personal stylists in some of the big department stores to put together a capsule wardrobe for specific work related needs and it was very helpful.  In two hours I had interchangeable outfits and accessories for a season.  There are people who will come to your home and go through your closet with you and I think this is very helpful, especially when you are trying to decide what to get rid of.

If you’ve spent your life saving and investing, you might benefit from consolidating things and working with an investment advisor to oversee your savings vehicles. 

Using technology to streamline processes that take a lot of time is popular. We already talked about the bill pay feature through your bank.  What else takes a lot of time or has a lot of steps that could be taken care of for you? I’d love to hear back on what’s working for you to share with others.

Think back to your vacations and what about those vacations made you feel so refreshed. What kinds of things would you choose to do more of to put yourself in your happy place more often?  Would you be out in nature more? Would you read more? Would you take on new adventures with you family and friends? What do you really love to do that you don’t do enough of right now? What parts of your vacation could you instill in your lifestyle right now?

Just take one of the ideas you have and break it down into one tiny thing you could do to would move you in that direction. No step is too small.  Just do it and then commit to taking another tiny step.  

What is one tiny thing you could do to be in your happy place more often? If you want to read more, maybe checking out the best sellers list of books is a baby step. If you want to be out in nature more, maybe google hiking trails near your home town or google beginners hiking clubs or get a group of friends together to go on a short hike. If you want to garden more, maybe pick one planter pot or one small area of yard space where you can start.  You can add on from there.

I like to say do it now and be happy! A lot of time we put off doing things but we’re still thinking about them without any of the benefits of moving forward. 

Wishing you a lifestyle you love,

 ~ Nancy
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