How to Achieve Simple Living

Simple Living

For us, as Muslims, the best example for conducting our lives lies in the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa). It is a well-known fact that he wore simple clothes, sometimes with patches.  He also had few spare clothes, but he kept them spotlessly clean. (Bukhari) His house was of simple clay with almost no decorations. His room contained a cot and a pillow stuffed with palm leaves.  He would sit on the bare floor or on a mat. Living simply in today’s world has many benefits:

  • Less debt. If we purchase less, we will have money in our pocket for the more important things like Sadaqah, Zakah and so on.
  • More savings. Not only will you be saving money by buying less, but you will be saving time and energy by not having to clean, maintain or fix all those possessions. You will have more time to spend on your priorities: family, friends, Dawah, reading, reciting or teaching the Quran.
  • Environmentally friendly. By possessing less, we are putting less into the landfills. Before tossing away anything, think: can I fix it, donate it, recycle/reuse it or compost it?
  • More contentment. Eventually, we will learn to be content with what we have, rather than what we don’t have. There will be no need to keep up with the latest trends. We will be less pressurized to impress with material possessions and can focus on impressing with good deeds and exemplary character. Instead of buying another toy for your child, spend and enjoy your time with them.

Simple living means different things to different people. Figure out what it means to you. Using our Prophet’s (sa) example, you can start with the following:

  • Live simply in a clean, uncluttered and organized space.
  • Live within your means.
  • Stay out of debt.
  • Trim unnecessary stress.
  • Be content with your life right now.
  • Make a list of your priorities and set smaller goals to achieve those priorities. Actively work toward those goals, starting with just ten to fifteen minutes a day.

Decluttering

For an instant impact, start de-cluttering the room you are in. Here is a step-by-step:

  1. Take a basket and put in anything that does not belong in that space; then, put it in its proper place.
  2. If that thing does not have a proper place, ask yourself: do I really need this? Do you want to keep it, donate it, throw it (if it is broken beyond repair), fix it, reuse it or recycle it?
  3. If you keep it, make sure it has a place; if you want to donate it, start a donation box; if it needs tossing, throw it in the garbage; if it needs attention (like repairing), put it in another box.

Keep all this in your mind, as you go through each space in your home.

You can slowly work from room to room, initially to get things back into their proper places. Do this at your own pace, fifteen minutes daily or from top to bottom. Once the first round is complete, considering going deeper. Take it room by room, starting with drawing, dining, lounge, kitchen and bathroom areas first. Except for the kitchen, these rooms tend not to have a lot of storage area. They do have clutter hot points, like tables and counters, which provide a big impact when de-cluttered first. It will give you that positive boost and sense of accomplishment to continue simplifying.

Be respectful, though, of others’ space. Your husband, in-laws, or older children may not like you going through their things, so be sure to ask or, better yet, enroll their help in your project and get them to live simply, too.  It really helps if you work together as a team.

As you are moving room by room, make sure to dust, while you have the tables, counters and decorative shelves cleared. If the space looks nice, you will give it a second thought before placing something there. Cluttered spaces tend to attract more clutter; therefore, keep it clear.

Clothing and closet de-cluttering need special attention. You can tackle them using the following steps:

  1. Start by taking everything out and make a quick run through.
  2. Toss into the keep, donate or fix pile.
  3. Dust out the closet and examine each item before putting it back in. Is it something you really need or like? Does it fit?
  4. Group clothes by use: daily wear, party wear, etc., and then by colour.
  5. Turn all the hangers around backwards.
  6. As you wear each item, put it back into your closet with the hanger the correct way.
  7. After six months or when the season is over, you can see what you have worn and what you haven’t. We mostly wear our favorite few outfits anyway.

Break the Shopping Habit

Make a conscious effort to reduce spending by not shopping and staying away from malls for at least ninety days. Shopping can be a habit that needs to be broken. Purchase only when necessary. Also, if you stop going to the mall, you will not be tempted to buy unnecessary items. If you do purchase something new, get rid of the old item it replaced. If you wear fewer colours, there won’t be any need for all the extra accessories, shoes, purses, jewellery, etc.

If you do go the mall, set a limit and make a list beforehand. Ensure that you stick to it. Go with a specific purpose and not only for window shopping. Also, purchase quality over quantity. If you can spend a little more upfront for something that will last longer and get more use, it is well worth it.

Budget-Wise

Once you have de-cluttered and organized the house, it is time to move to finances and your computer. Make a budget and see if there is excess that can be trimmed from the budget. Are you and the kids in too many activities? This can take up a lot of money and time. Make more time to spend together as a family. This can also lead to trimming unnecessary stress, like over-committing yourself to school, social events, etc.

For your computer and desk area, go through all emails and paperwork to see if you need it anymore. If you need to keep it, put it into a proper folder, paper or virtual.

Congratulations! You are now on your way to a simpler life. Make a conscious effort to maintain what you have just accomplished.

  • Take fifteen minutes daily to de-clutter.
  • Twice a year, do a spring and winter cleaning from top to bottom; you may not need now something that you needed then.
  • When something new comes into your space, get rid of the old.

Lastly, be content with your life, as this is what Allah (swt) has given us. Be grateful for what you have. Say a lot of Duas and prayers for guidance to live simply and be an example for others.