Beginning the journey to a simple lifestyle all boiled down to 3 words for us: “keep, sell, donate.” This became our mantra as we ruthlessly sifted through room after room. We searched every nook and cranny of our home and our hearts.

It all started January 2013. My husband and I planned to pack up our stuff and move in with my parents to help my mom take care of my dad who was diagnosed with ALS. He would soon lose the ability to function on his own without someone helping him around the house.

We didn’t want my mom to do it all alone.

We started the daunting process of packing box after box with all our stuff. It was a lot of work and stress. I sold as much as I could to minimize the amount of storage we’d need. The mountains of stuff were getting smaller, but we didn’t know if this move would be temporary or permanent.

Unfortunately, we didn’t move fast enough. Everything progressed so quickly we weren’t able to celebrate Spring Break with him, only 10 weeks after his diagnosis.

It was in this season we realized how a simple lifestyle with less stuff and less stress would have given us more time. In the end, that’s all I really wanted — -more time. More time with my dad.

We also learned a simple lifestyle didn’t have to mean a life of minimalism. Some things would cost more to replace than to simply keep. Everything else was sold or donated. In the end, it was all just “stuff” anyways.

Our definition of a simple lifestyle now focuses on the truly important things in life and being present in the moment. We prefer to live life in the slow lane.

Sometimes this means we choose to live minimally in some areas and not so much in others. Clutter around our house was one of the non-negotiables.

Brain research shows clutter negatively affects the brain by restricting our ability to focus and process information.

This train wreck going on inside our heads when there’s too much clutter elevates stress hormones, and we are more likely to lash out at our loved ones or eat that extra cookie when we should have stopped at two.

Clutter is not worth the effects on your health.

So, a simple lifestyle begins with reducing the unnecessary from your life. It’s a great place to start when you want to reduce your stress.

Living a Simple Life with Less

The concept itself is so simple, yet the effects can change your life. You simply start asking yourself these questions about each item you own:

  • Does it bring joy to my life or those around me? If not, there’s no reason to keep it.
  • Can I easily replace it if needed? If the answer is “no”, it’s probably best to keep.
  • Do I use it often enough and have a storage solution for it? If there’s no room for storage, what’s the point of hanging onto it? Everything needs a place to call home.

As you ask yourself the above questions, every item is placed in one of 3 piles: keep, sell, or donate.

The keep items we put in boxes to store or take to my parents. We sold items through Craigslist, Facebook groups, and the network at our jobs. A local charity picked up the last pile of donation items.

We were finally free of the excess we found to be a burden.

Another interesting thing happened after those “keep” items had been in storage for almost a year. We found we no longer needed them. We hadn’t even missed those items, so we got rid of them too.

It was an amazing feeling knowing we were decluttering and learning to live a simple life with less.

What about those sentimental items?

When it comes to parting with items we have a connection to, it’s usually very difficult. Those old Christmas cards or that China set we received from a passed relative (which we’ve never used) have become part of our lives and are nearly impossible to throw out.

Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Our brains feel a similar sensation when parting with these favored items as it does when we feel physical pain, according to research.

No wonder it’s so hard to let go…

Here’s the thing-

You must internally struggle with how a simple lifestyle fits within your dreams and desires. I’m not going to lie and say it’s always easy, but I will say it does get easier. The stress reduces each and every time you make a wiser choice to simplify.

We find ourselves keeping things of sentimental value because of who gave it to us even though we haven’t look at it in years.

One solution I found with a few of those special pieces is to take a picture of the items and create a memory book. We’ve done this with our oldest son’s school work and special occasion cards we’ve received from loved ones.

We have a single book for the school year with pictures of all our son’s precious artwork and graded papers. The original school work then makes its way to the trash.

We’re still working on teaching our oldest the concept of not keeping everything. It’s a work in progress for all of us.

A digital album online stores the photographs of sentimental cards and pieces we want to remember. No more clutter. Less stress.

The Perfect Simple Lifestyle Example

My all-time favorite scene from the very first Ice Age movie sums up living a simple lifestyle in a humorous way. The 12-second video makes a pretty profound statement. Just watch…if nothing else, it’ll make you laugh.

Check out the video here.

I can’t promise a simple lifestyle will solve all your stress problems, but simplifying your life as much as possible will reduce stress in some areas so your focus can begin anew in others.

With less stuff, there’s less responsibility and more time to pursue hobbies or spend time with family.

To help you with step one, I’ve created a handy checklist for you to print and fill out as you create your own three piles of “keep, sell, donate”.

Click here to grab your free checklist to get started with a simple lifestyle.

Click here to grab the checklist

You can also use this checklist to remind yourself of the charitable contributions you’ve made throughout the year as you prepare your income taxes. Money can be another stressful part of our lives, and charitable contributions lower your gross income which helps your income tax bracket.


“Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.” ~Dave Ramsey

One last thing…

If you liked this article, click the💚 below so other people will see it here on Medium.

Originally published at on May 7, 2017.