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10 simple strategies to simplify your life

Wish your family was a little more like 'Little House on the Prairie' and a little less like 'Family Guy?' Learn 10 strategies to live the simple life.

By MSN Money Partner May 19, 2014 11:56AM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyYou probably know the feeling.

It's the one of the walls closing in on you because you have too much stuff. It's the panicky thought you're forgetting something important as you run out the door. It's the desire to somehow find that happy place where you envision you'll be the perfect parent with the perfect home.

With modern lifestyles pulling us in all directions and entire television networks devoted to creating home envy, it's no wonder we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by our busy lives and cluttered homes.

UCLA researchers even wrote a book on the subject, finding many families had garages too full to accommodate cars, backyards that are never used, and mothers with elevated stress hormones.

If you're ready to step off the hamster wheel, here are simple strategies to simplify your life.

1. Consolidate your accounts

It's hard to say no to the $100 bonus for opening a checking account when the new bank comes to town or to pass up the great sign-up offer available from the latest rewards credit card.

Before you know it, you could have a half dozen accounts at various institutions. Your IRA is in one place; your checking account is in another. Then, you have your mortgage, emergency savings and insurance products to juggle too.

Rather than have your accounts scattered to the wind, try to consolidate them in a couple of places. Pick one bank for your money and credit, and one company for all your insurance needs. In the end, you not only have fewer accounts to manage, you might also get better rates or terms for bringing more of your business to a particular institution.

2. Purge the paperwork

Consolidating accounts is only the first step. Next, you need to purge the paperwork.

That means signing up for paperless statements, which are now offered by nearly every financial institution. Then, with the exception of a few vital documents such as birth certificates and titles, you can scan and shred almost everything else in your filing cabinet.

For more pointers, check out this article with five tips for paperless finances.

3. Pay cash whenever possible

Don't underestimate the power of cash to simplify your finances.

Not only can paying with cash prevent you from overspending, it eliminates much of the stress of daily money management. There's no more remembering to save receipts and record transactions and no more worry about whether your card will be declined because the fuzzy math you did in your head isn't quite right.

4. Automate your life

Remembering to pay the bills on time can take up a lot of head space. Free yourself from the anxiety of getting the mortgage in on time by automating your finances.

First, if you're not being paid via direct deposit, you need to sign up if it's an option. Some employers will let you split your paycheck among two or more accounts. If that's possible, send at least 10 percent of your earnings to your savings account.

Then, use a bill pay service to automate your monthly bills from your checking account. Depending on your bank and billers, you may be able to request bills be electronically delivered and the amount due paid automatically. Otherwise, you can set up recurring monthly payments.

For expense tracking, skip the spreadsheets and use an app or tracking software such as our partner PowerWallet.

5. Stop buying more stuff

One of the core principles of simple living is minimalism.

The less stuff you have, the less time you need to spend maintaining, rearranging and obsessing over what you’ve got. Plus, when you stop spending, you have more money for saving or for splurging on those things that are really important.

6. Declutter what you have

As the UCLA researchers discovered, clutter can make us stressed. Putting a stop to your spending sprees will curtail the flow of new items coming in, but now you've got to do something with all the stuff you already own.

Happy Couple (© Stockbyte/Getty Images)Before you run out and invest in yet another organizational system or storage unit, consider boxing up all the excess and shipping it off to the thrift store or the landfill. Or you could sell what you don't need. After all, simplifying can be good for your wallet as well as your state of mind.

7. Cut loose toxic and high-needs people

When we talk about simplifying, we need to discuss more than money and stuff. We also need to consider the people surrounding us.

Toxic personalities make our lives difficult. They steal our good days and put demands on our time and attention -- time and attention that could probably be put to better use elsewhere. Consider how many times you've gotten off a phone call with a high-needs friend only to discover you've completely lost your mojo to get anything done for the rest of the day.

Do yourself a favor and cut off the emotional vampires who are feeding on your positive energy.

8. Reconsider your commitments

Juggling multiple activities is much more complex than focusing on one. Simplify your schedule by reconsidering everything on your calendar.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I need to do this?
  • Do I want to do this?
  • Can I delegate this to someone else?
  • What happens if this doesn't get done?

In a world in which we wear our busyness like a badge of honor, saying no won't come naturally at first. However, one of the keys to a simple life is an uncluttered calendar.

9. Unplug at least once a week

At least once a week, put away all the electronics. Power down the computer, put away the phone and turn off the TV. Spend some time getting reacquainted with your paper books, an old hobby or your backyard.

Unplugging has several benefits, but when it comes to simplifying your life, it helps by letting you slow down. Electronics tend to be very "in your face." They can be loud, bright and engaging, and when you're constantly surrounded by them, it's easy to lose track of time and start operating on autopilot.

Give yourself some quiet time to contemplate something a little more meaningful than whether Justin Bieber should be deported.

10. Create routines

Finally, a simple life thrives on routine. Without it, you may find you waste a lot of time and energy wondering what to do next.

Don't confuse a routine with a schedule. A routine isn't set in stone with time constraints. Rather, it's a general idea of how your day will go.

A routine means knowing that you get up in the morning, have breakfast, load the dishwasher and go for a walk. It could also be paying the bills on Monday, shopping on Tuesday and doing your weekly dinner prep on Saturday.

Routines take the guesswork out of regular activities and, yes, make life simpler.

Are you ready to simplify?

More from Money Talks News

May 19, 2014 1:53PM
In general, pretty good suggestions.  I'd add to it learning how to recognize what is truly important and what isn't, and not sweating the stuff that isn't. 
May 19, 2014 6:52PM
Less government... a LOT less... in every facet of life. That would make life SO much simpler.
May 20, 2014 8:55AM
Paying cash except for very small transactions is stupid, because you get an automatic tally of expenses if you use a debit card, or if you prefer and will pay it off regularly, a credit card. 
Jun 2, 2014 9:26AM
I quit dating in 2008---that totally simplified my life :)
May 20, 2014 2:55AM
Stop paying for everyone else - fire all Democrats. 
May 19, 2014 4:38PM
The comment about having 10% deposited to savings is a pretty good idea but, for 17.5 yrs. I had 80% sent to a high yield account, 20% to checking and then transferred what I needed form the high yield account to checking ( FOR FREE ) to live on. For several years before interest went in the toilet every payday I was making 4 to 5.5% from my money every deposit. Added up to several thousand dollars of earned interest just by simply having my automatic deposit reversed. One of the reasons I was able to retire at 60. It never matters how much you earn, it is what you do with it after you earn it.
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