I live simply. Am I a minimalist? Well, yes and no. Although I do intentionally reduce my personal consumption and material possessions, I have a lot more stuff than a true-blue minimalist.
Simple living, or minimalism for that matter, is not about sacrificing the things you enjoy. Rather, it’s about being mindful of what matters most and choosing to focus on those things.
There’s a lot of joy in living simply. Your life will be less complicated, you will feel less stressed, and you will have more money, time and freedom to do the things you love.
I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to live simply. It was a natural progression in my journey towards Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE). As I implemented changes to my lifestyle and looked for ways to lower my expenses, I automatically began to remove unnecessary distractions from my life.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my experience of living simply as an early retiree and how it has led to greater joy and fulfilment.
1. What is Simple Living
According to Wikipedia, simple living refers to practices that promote simplicity in a person’s lifestyle. Common practices include decluttering, spending less money and cutting down screen time.
When you embrace simple living, you intentionally remove excess from your life in order to make room for what truly matters. It’s a lifestyle choice that seeks to prioritise your physical, mental and spiritual health over material possessions and social status. The goal is to focus on meaningful experiences and relationships that bring joy rather than stress.
When you embrace simple living, you intentionally remove excess from your life in order to make room for what truly matters.
2. Why Live Simply
People may decide to live simply for an array of reasons, from work-life balance to environmentalism. In my case, although it started with FIRE, it soon became clear to me that it offers a more sustainable and rewarding way of life.
In today’s world, it can be challenging to escape the pull of consumer culture. We are bombarded by TV shows and advertisements on a daily basis, telling us that our lives are inadequate and that we should buy more, do more and be more. Nevertheless, consumerism and materialism do not result in contentment but to an ever extending desire for more. It’s exhausting, meaningless and unsustainable.
Instead of striving to keep up with the Joneses and fulfil the expectations of society, I opted to get out of the rat race ASAP and lead a life of simplicity and ordinary contentment. Was it a difficult process? Not at all because the adjustments happened over time. Besides, simple living has never been about deprivation or denying myself the pleasures of life. It’s about knowing what I need and don’t need to be happy.
Instead of striving to keep up with the Joneses and fulfil the expectations of society, I chose to get out of the rat race early and lead a life of simplicity and ordinary contentment.
I have to say I also fit the profile of a “simple living advocate”. I had stopped leading a consumerist lifestyle for several years. I happen to be a super neat person who hates mess and clutter. I’m by nature a highly disciplined person, so I have no problems staying organised and committed to my goals. Best of all, my husband (aka Mr Wow) shares my beliefs!
3. Changes I Made to Simplify My Life
Over the years, I’ve made a number of changes to simplify my life:
First off, my household expenditure underwent a major overhaul. Mr Wow and I were determined to eliminate all unnecessary expenses, save money and invest for a better future. To achieve that, we tracked our spending for a couple of months, scrutinised every item and came up with a realistic budget that focused on experiences rather than material possessions.
We practise mindful spending. That means we avoid impulse purchases and only buy things that add value to our lives. Before making a purchase, we always question why we want to buy the item. Is it something we need or want? How often will we use it? Is it of good quality? Is it right for our budget?
All our belongings last a long time because we use them with great care. When something is faulty, we try to repair it first. We don’t just discard it and buy a new one. As we spend intentionally and buy fewer things, we have more money to do what we enjoy.
Say No to Debt
We didn’t want to be held captive by debt in our early retirement, so another radical change we made was to downsize and crush our mortgage once and for all. Yes, we did consider the opportunity cost. The money could possibly give us higher returns if invested in the stock market, but some things cannot be measured in financial terms. We value freedom and peace of mind more, and being debt-free is incredibly liberating.
Besides financial gains, there are several lifestyle benefits of downsizing. A smaller home means every bit of space is carefully utilised — no more wasted space. We also spend substantially less time cleaning, so we have more time to rest, bond with our loved ones and pursue our interests. Frankly, we haven’t had a bad house day since we moved to our humble abode because cleaning is such a breeze.
Declutter My Life
It’s true that the bigger the home, the more junk one buys. Gosh, the amount of useless stuff Mr Wow and I accumulated over the years…
The bigger the home, the more junk one buys.
By going small, we were motivated to declutter in a BIG way. I donated 50 per cent of my wardrobe to charity (I was a clothes horse in my younger days). We also gave away books, paintings, furniture, dinnerware, fitness equipment, golf clubs and other things that no longer sparked joy or served a meaningful purpose. We were on a “detox” and by the time we were done, we felt rejuvenated.
Living in an uncluttered home is a wonderful feeling. There’s a sense of serenity that separates you from the bustle of the outside world. I think that’s what makes a house a home. What do you think?
Minimise Screen Time
Speaking of detox, do you need a digital detox? Are you addicted to TV, video games or social media?
Decluttering is not just about getting rid of physical items and creating space. It’s also about paring down activities that cause stress or distract us from what’s important. When we are constantly staring at our electronic devices, it’s impossible to relax our minds fully and make time for meaningful pursuits.
Decluttering is not just about getting rid of physical items and creating space. It’s also about paring down activities that cause stress or distract us from what’s important.
To minimise screen time, I do not have any personal social media accounts, but I did start an 𝕏 (fka Twitter) account for WowPursuits recently. If I go on YouTube, it’s because I need to get information or learn something.
I still do a lot of online reading because it’s convenient and cost-effective. However, I refuse to buy an iPad to this day as I do not want to charge, update, sync or carry around another gadget. Why complicate my life when I’m perfectly fine reading off my phone? One more gadget will not increase my productivity. Neither will it make me happier.
While it is true that technology is useful, we should remember that as with all things in life, moderation is key.
Prioritise What Matters
One of the best things about retiring early is that I have full control of my time. I can afford to be selective about the people I meet and the activities I do. By seeking to lead a simple life, I’ve also learnt to identify my priorities and use my time more thoughtfully.
If something does not bring me joy, does not make me a better person, does not solve a problem, it’s NOT important. I either limit or eliminate it. For instance, my way of dealing with toxic people is simply to purge them from my life. I don’t try to “fix” or outsmart them because I’m not starring in a Korean-drama.
If something does not bring me joy, does not make me a better person, does not solve a problem, it’s NOT important.
I channel my time and energy into things that matter. Seeing my elderly parents makes me happy, so I make sure that I visit them once a week. Music is one of my greatest pleasures, so there’s always music in my house. My health is important, so I go for walks in the park. By focusing on meaningful activities and relationships, I lead a more fulfilling life than before.
To live simply, we need to slow down. That’s easier said than done for many people, especially parents with full-time jobs. That’s why Mr Wow and I feel extremely fortunate that we were able to retire early.
For many years, I was a workaholic who operated at breakneck pace. Now, I really make a conscious effort to take my time when performing certain tasks. Specifically, I no longer speed walk to the train station, take “navy showers” and gobble down my food. I can’t emphasis enough the importance of mindful eating. Modern life has become so hectic that many of us don’t even take the time to savour and appreciate our meals anymore. How sad is that!
I no longer speed walk to the train station, take “navy showers” and gobble down my food.
I have to confess it wasn’t easy for me at first. But no matter how hard it is in practice, all of us must try to slow down and be more zen. Life cannot be a high-speed treadmill. It’s not sustainable. When we stop rushing needlessly, we will immediately feel happier and less stressed.
This world is full of distractions and complexities. To find happiness, we must learn to filter, simplify and let go.
Simple living is not about self-deprivation. It’s about reclaiming balance and fulfilment, saying no to what we don’t need, choosing quality over quantity, and connecting with the people and activities that bring meaning to our lives.
Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” I hope this quote will remind you to pay attention to all the simple but beautiful things in your life.
So do you live simply? Leave us a comment below.
You may also like: Why We Wanted to Achieve Financial Independence Retire Early | A Conversation with Lynn About Money, Happiness and Freedom | How to Cut Expenses to Retire Early: Realistic Budgeting | 3 Key Success Factors of Downsizing to Be Mortgage-Free