In Organized Simplicity, Tsh describes simple living as “living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values…being who you were made to be.”

I love this definition because it leaves room for each of us to make those decisions for our own family without feeling like we have to limit ourselves to 100 personal possessions or spend so many hours per week doing x, y or z.

That said, there are some principles that ring true for almost every family. How each of these looks for you may vary, but they all help simplify busy family life.

1. Pay off debt.

Whether or not you share Dave Ramsey’s view that all debt is bad, there’s no denying that debt complicates life. It takes away your freedom and gives you one more responsibility, when you probably already have plenty without it. Paying off debt takes time and patience, but the end result is well worth the effort.

clear surfaces
Photo by .reid.

2. Declutter.

Most modern families have stuff, stuff and more stuff, but both Tsh and I are passionate about decluttering our homes – and teaching our readers to do the same – not just for the sake of getting rid of stuff, but because we’ve seen the results in our own lives.

Keeping surfaces clear, leaving plenty of room for the things you do own, and valuing quality over quantity simplifies your life and brings peace to your home. The less stuff you have, the less decisions you have to make, the less you have to clean, move or store them, and the more time you have to just enjoy what’s left.

This comes easily for some people and is a struggle for others. Not sure how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of? Start with these 10 questions to help you declutter.

3. Let go of perfectionism.

I used to hate when people would say that the key to a simple life is to let go of perfectionism. As a perfectionist, I liked my perfection.

But reality slowly sank in as we added children to our family, and I realized that letting go of perfectionism doesn’t mean living in a pigpen, never doing chores or giving up. What it means is accepting that good enough is good enough and identifying your pressure points so that you can take care of the basics and let go of the things that don’t matter as much.

For me, that means the baseboards rarely get dusted and my kids don’t have perfectly styled hair every time we leave the house (hey, we have four daughters!). Instead, I focus on the things that make the biggest difference for me personally. I make my bed every morning and try to confine our daily clutter to the main living area of our home rather than spread throughout our whole house. The appliances might have smudges on them, and the floor could probably use a good mopping, but our house is never very far from “good enough.”

cash budget
Photo by Knick Flanigan

4. Use a zero-based cash budget.

Envelope budgeting might sound complicated, but in many ways it simplifies your life because it takes the question out of budgeting. Need to grab something at the grocery store? Just peek in your grocery envelope to see if there’s enough money. If not, take it from another envelope, and you know exactly what you’re sacrificing to make the purchase.

The advent of the debit card, while extremely convenient, also makes it easier to pretend that we have more money in our accounts than we actually do. We’re a lot more likely to spend when we’re paying with a card rather than cash, which can lead to juggling when it comes time to pay bills.

Even if you’d rather use a debit card than cash, though, you can achieve this same thing with a zero-based budget, which leaves little question as to where your money should go each month and removes the temptation to overspend.

5. Eat more fresh produce.

My favorite meals to serve are the ones where I clean out the fridge and pile each of our plates high with fruits and veggies. It’s simple, healthy and oh so easy. Rather than serving complicated side dishes – or even in place of meals – serve a big salad or a plate of fruit!

You can also simplify your meal plan by embracing breakfast for dinner, freezer cooking and one-pot wonders. Every night doesn’t have to include a gourmet meal!

Photo by Mayr

6. Simplify your cleaning routine.

As parents, we spend a significant amount of time cleaning and straightening up. Even if you have older kids who help a lot, there’s still a lot to be done. However, there are things you can to do simplify your routines, such as fitting in extra projects when you have a few extra minutes rather than trying to do them all at once. I’ve also found that keeping cleaning supplies where they’re used – especially rags and spray bottles of vinegar in the bathrooms – makes it easier to tackle those tasks.

To prevent the buildup of clutter, follow the “touch it once” rule, putting things back where they belong right away rather than setting them down in a temporary resting place. Use laundry baskets to help you gather things from around the house when you’re straightening up so that you don’t have to run back and forth a dozen times. We do a nightly “blitz cleaning” to clean up all toys and clear the flat surfaces in our home, and we involve our kids, even when they’re very young, so that everybody is pitching in!

7. Just say no.

You had to have known this one was coming, right? Simplify your life – and make time for your priorities – by saying no. We all have to do things we might not feel like doing that still need to be done (laundry is at the top of my list). However, there are some things that we don’t have to do that we say “yes” to because of other people’s expectations or our desire to make everybody happy.

There are also plenty of things we do because of peer pressure, whether in real life or on the Internet. Create a family mission statement and define your priorities for your family so that you can focus on the things that are truly important and say no to the rest!

Simplifying family life isn’t necessarily easy. It takes intentionality and effort. However, like a lot of things in life, when you do the hard work upfront, you reap the benefits for years to come with less stress and busyness and more freedom to enjoy life as a family.

What steps have you taken to simplify your family life?