Most people don’t realize they need to simplify their life. I know I didn’t. The way I discovered it was unconventional and I’m not sure that reading it somewhere would have convinced me. However, I always like to share wisdom and if you chose to use it, good for you.

In 2007, I proposed a plan to my company to take a one-year sabbatical. My reasoning, at least to myself was because, after 22 years in corporate America, I was tired and sick. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and had recently been diagnosed with Lupus. The job that I had once loved had turned into a nightmare that I woke up to every day.

During the one-year sabbatical, I decided to move to Florence, Italy. It was a bucket list items. I wanted to live in another country and learn another language. I rented an apartment, got rid of most of my “stuff” and moved. During that year, I learned how to and the importance of simplifying your life.

1. Live in as small a place as is comfortable. This was learned purely by accident. I rented a 600 square foot apartment in Florence. There was a small bathroom, a galley kitchen, a living room and a loft bedroom. I moved there from a 1500 square foot condominium that I “downsized” to after my sons were grown and I was divorced.

After living there a while and being surprised at how comfortable I was, I realized that in my condominium, I really only used the same rooms as I had in this apartment. Additionally, I didn’t accumulate more stuff because there was nowhere to put it. It was easy to clean, heat and cool, and to furnish.

Because it was an apartment, I had no maintenance to do, no lawn to mow or garden to tend. If you like doing those things, it’s great, but if you don’t, it’s a relief not to have them.

2. Get rid of debt. This seems obvious. Many times we use credit to buy things to put in our houses, wear, eat, or entertain us. The pleasure of those things can be overshadowed by the burden and weight of the debt. Not having debt is not only liberating, it cuts down on the number of bills you have to pay each month.

3. Live somewhere “walkable”. This isn’t easy to accomplish in the United States. When I visit there, one of the most annoying things is how much time I spend in the car. I haven’t had a car in 11 years now. While living in Boston I didn’t have a car, but in most American cities and suburbs it’s just not possible.

When you live somewhere that you can walk to the store and buy eggs and milk, have a cup of coffee, pick up a newspaper, you get some exercise, meet new people, and at least cut down on gas if you do still own a car.

If you are able to get rid of the car altogether, even better. I use public transportation and when I lived in Boston made occasional use of Zipcar, which is located in many American cities. Even Uber is a nice option these days. If you live somewhere walkable the cost of public transportation on an occasional basis saves money, maintenance, registration, and parking fees.

4. Get rid of “stuff”. This seems to be one of the hardest at first, but one of the most liberating afterward. We buy and hold onto a lot of material possessions. Consumerism is definitely a big part of the American culture. This one you can do whether or not you follow my other advice and I assure you, if you do, you will feel like a bird out of a cage.

I know that many of you, after reading item number one have already said to yourself, “I could live in a smaller place, but where would I put all of my things?” Ask yourself, “What are these things, and why do I need them?” The answer is usually because you want them and then the answer to why you want them opens another can of worms.

That’s it! Four steps to simplify your life. The advantage of having a simpler life is less stress and more time and money to do the things that you really want to do. Let me know if you take my advice or if you have additional items that should be on the list. There are all kinds of help on the internet for accomplishing any of these four things.

With a simplier life ahead of you, you are free to dream countless dreams as well as make a few of them come true! Good luck!

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