5 Ways to Simplify Your Life - This American Girl

Bocas del Drago


It’s been exactly a week since I returned to my hometown of Seattle. These trips are often bittersweet.


Isletas Lake Nicaragua


I’m ecstatic to talk for hours with old friends, to see my family every day, to hear my name roll off my baby nephew’s tongue.

I’m thrilled to have clean clothes, sleep in a comfortable bed, and navigate the world in my native language.

I’m indulged by bathtubs, thai food, and expensive almond butter.


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But I miss the simplicity of my traveling life.


I miss having the beach as my front yard.

I miss building connections with like minded strangers.

I miss the humbling feeling of communicating in another language.

I miss watching the sun set over the ocean, my mind free of thought.

I miss falling asleep to the sound of cicadas in completely content peace.


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And many of the conversations I have had with friends, acquaintances, and strangers upon my return, have been about their longing for the same thing.


For a simple life. For a free life.

For a life where community, nature, and exploration are valued over money, materials, and ego.


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So today I’d like to share a few ways that all of us can simplify our lives, wherever we are, to remove the clutter and make space for what actually brings us true, genuine bliss.


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Practice Mindful Purchasing


In other words, stop buying things unless you actually really want or need them. This is a huge change I made in my life when I began traveling.


I remember a time when I shopped simply because it was something to do. I would head to vintage stores with no agenda other than to find the best the store had to offer. Hundreds of dollars disappeared in a moment over designer clothes. I wasted hours in front of a computer screen online shopping. Getting rid of old things and finding places for new ones was a constant chore.


And guess what? All of that stuff didn’t make me any happier.

It took time to acquire those belongings. It required space to store them. I spent man hours financing them.

For what exactly?


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Today, because everything I own is literally a weight that I carry on my back and every dollar I spend determines how long I can travel, I am much more mindful of what I buy. I do not need ten bags of jewelry when I can wear the one ring I purchased from an artisan in Montezuma. I do not need twenty different toiletries when coconut oil achieves it all. Designer shoes are useless in jungles, on beaches, down cobblestone streets.


A friend of mine started a brilliantly ironic project two years ago called The Burning House. He posed the question “If your house was burning down, what would you take with you?” Today my answer is nothing but my moleskin journal and I have never felt so free.


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Do What You Want


How often do you agree to things that you don’t actually want to do because you feel obligated to? What if you said no instead? What if you only participated in activities that you were authentically committed to?


Make no mistake, saying no is not always easy. Establishing and respecting boundaries is a lifelong lesson that is far from linear. However doing so is necessary. How many times have you let yourself or others down by saying yes to everything? It is not all possible. The way that you spend your time reflects what you value.


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There is no value in being a martyr and the resentment it causes is a huge relationship barrier. Recognize that it is your responsibility to spend your time in a way that makes you feel productive, respected, and fulfilled.


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Use Mental Filtering


You do not need to know everything. With access to excessive amounts of information with the stroke of the keyboard, flooding our minds with unnecessary content has become more and more automatic.


It is not the end of the world if you are not hip to the latest youtube craze, informed on all the Oscar pics, or even aware of everything headlined across the news. In fact, this information can serve as a distraction from the things that you actually care about.


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Learn to limit your exposure to information that makes feel more connected to yourself and the world around you. Spending less time on social media outlets and turning off the television is a great place to start.


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Take the Path of Least Resistance


Contrary to what many of us have been told, life does not have to be hard. Often we become attached to a person, a job, an ideal and fight and fight to make it what we need when it just isn’t. How much easier, how much simpler, would your life be if instead you let it go?


I stayed in relationships that did not serve me for years because I was closed to the possibility that maybe there was something better the universe had to offer. That was an enormous waste of energy that I could have channeled towards creativity and growth instead.


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Letting go of what you think you want is one of the hardest things we as humans can do. It is also the most liberating. Surrendering to your circumstances is frightening, but once you do an incredible calm is imminent. You no longer have the power, you no longer have the control. You are rooted in what is and are open to what could be. You are no longer fighting for something that in fact is not what you actually want.


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Be Content With What Is


Contentment is a state I once thought I was incapable of achieving. In fact, I thought that it was a lack of contentment, the feeling that nothing is good enough, that gave me the drive to achieve. I could not have been more wrong.


Constantly seeking something better, a better partner, a better home, a better job, a better body, a better life, discredits what we have and who we are now. Accepting and celebrating what is allows us to find joy in the moment. When we are truly present and rooted in the reality that surrounds us is when we find the mental clarity, creativity, and confidence to pursue our big dreams.


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What if you decided not to remodel the bathroom? What if you cooked with what you did have in your refrigerator instead of driving to three different grocery stores for an elaborate recipe? What if you embraced your curls instead of spending an hour ironing them out?


Would you have time for a long walk? Time to read a book? Time to take photos, make music, write stories? Time to do the things that make you feel alive? Time to sit and be present with the people around you undistracted by all of the things you think you need to do?


What in your life do you think needs to be “more” than what it is? Could you feel gratitude for everything that you have now and let it be enough just for today?


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These are a few methods that I have found useful in simplifying my life and achieving greater personal freedom.

What are yours?


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