It took me a really long time to embrace tiny step simplicity and stop rushing around trying to change my life overnight. Why couldn’t I simplify my life once and for all?! When I look back on all of the new year decluttering sessions, spring cleaning “organize my life” excitement and other bursts of trying to simplify, I know what went wrong. My steps were too big and I was moving too fast. There were other issues of course, like I had no idea why I wanted to simplify other than everything always felt like “too much” but my big sweeping changes never lasted very long.
In my first attempts at tiny step simplicity, my tiny steps were too big. Whenever I’m not sure how tiny a tiny step is, I visualize tiny as something I can hold in the palm of my hand, or pinch between my thumb and finger. If my next step feels bigger than a cupcake, I make it smaller. In the free, Tiny Step Simplicity Audio series I share more about how to make sure your tiny steps are tiny enough.
The beauty and benefit tiny step simplicity
- When you take tiny steps, you can celebrate your progress more frequently. Instead of waiting to celebrate becoming clutter-free, you can celebrate that one pair of shoes you said goodbye to. If you are working on a long term simplicity goal like becoming debt-free, tiny steps let you notice your progress along the way.
- Tiny steps don’t wear you out like trying to do much. They honor your personal time and energy availability and remind you that slow progress is still progress.
- Tiny steps are easily replicated. They support consistency over intensity.
12 tiny steps to help you simplify your life this year
While you can easily make your own list of tiny steps, sometimes the hardest part about getting started is making decisions about how to start. Use this list to eliminate decision fatigue and begin to make progress, one tiny step at a time. You don’t have to do these tiny steps all in the same day or week or month. You don’t have to do all of them or do them in order for them to work. Approach these tiny steps gently, one at a time, at a pace that feels good. You can simplify anything by taking tiny steps.
1. Write yourself a little letter
Remind yourself why you are simplifying, why you want to make space and what you are looking forward to on the other side of simplicity. You might also want to include a little love and forgiveness for yourself if you have been here before. Don’t carry the guilt of past attempts to simplify into your new tiny step simplicity.
2. Create a simplicity sanctuary
Find one tiny space that will remain clutter-free starting today. This space might be your kitchen table or a corner of your kitchen table. You could make your nightstand a clutter-free santuary or a corner of your living room or office.
3. Give yourself a simple pleasure
Don’t wait until you have simplified your life, decluttered your kitchen or simplified all of your finances to give yourself a simple pleasure. Consider a simple pleasure every single day, not because you earned it or you think you deserve it, just because you want to.
4. Put your phone down
As tiny steps go, this one has the greatest return for the smallest amount of effort. Turn your phone off or turn on a do not disturb function. If you feel nervous about missing a call, set a timer for 5 minutes and see how it feels to disconnect from your phone for a few minutes. When you are ready, try longer periods of time. Eventually, consider setting regular phone free times and zones so you can be more present.
5. Declutter one small area on most days
Make a list of small spots in your home to declutter. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by committing to decluttering one room a day every day, think smaller … think tiny. An example of tiny spots might include your junk drawer, a shelf in your refrigerator, 5 minutes worth of paper decluttering, or a few items from your closet. If your next step feels too big, it probably is. Trust yourself to know what works best for you.
6. Donate one pair of shoes that hurt your feet
Instead of a full on closet cleanout, donate one pair of shoes. You likely own a pair of shoes that don’t fit well or they fit so well that you wore them out. If they are in good enough shape for someone else to enjoy, donate them. If they are finished, recycle them.
7. Flip your hangers
When you wear something, flip the hanger around when you hang it back up. At the end of the month or a quarter, take a look at the clothes that haven’t been worn and consider letting them go. If you have clothes in a dresser or other area, try to get them into the hanger rotation experiment so you have a better understanding of what you have and what you want. Chances are you are wearing the same things over and over again so may as well let the rest go.
8. Don’t buy anything for 24 hours
You might not be ready for a year-long shopping ban, but what about a one day at a time shopping ban? Keep a list on your phone or on paper of anything you want to buy. Before you add to cart, add it to the list. When you think of something you want, before you research it or spend any time looking for it, add it to the list. Keep your list so you can review later and appreciate all of the time and money you saved. Repeat daily (or as often as you can).
9. Hide a box of stuff you never use
Walk around your house with a bag or box and fill it up with things you never use and don’t really care about. Then, instead of donating it (which may feel like a big step), hide it for 30-60 days. If you don’t miss it, donating it will feel more like a tiny step as you realize that you enjoy the space more than the stuff.
10. Invite other declutterers to the party
Instead of begging or shaming your kids into cleaning and decluttering, make it fun for them (and you). Announce a prize for every 25 things they can collect for donation. The prize can be a fun family activity or your child’s favorite meal. If you have more than one child, offer a bonus if everyone hits their goal to encourage them to work together.
11. Sticker your stuff
If you struggle to let go of your stuff because it’s hard for you to phyically move it around, use colorful labels to mark your stuff for it’s next destination. Start in one room and use green stickers for everything you love and want to keep, red for things you want to release and yellow for things you aren’t sure about. Ask a friend or family member to help you box up the red stickered stuff. Even though it may feel like you aren’t making immediate progress, by making the hard decisions first, the rest of the project will go more quickly.
12. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while
Clutter isn’t only on our counters. If your mind feels cluttered because you haven’t reached out to someone in your life for a while, text or call them. If you think you don’t have time, consider how much time you spend thinking about connecting. If those thoughts have been distracting, it may actually save you time to make the call. Not to mention, it might feel good to say hello.
I thought about making this tiny step simplicity article 24 tiny steps list for 2024 instead of 12, but that felt too big. If you like these suggestions, let me know and I’ll make another list of 12 tiny steps later this year. This is not the time to push through, buckle down or go big or go home. Instead, it’s time to be gentle by taking tiny steps, feeling good and being kind to ourselves and each other.
P.S. If you want more Tiny Step Simplicity inspiration, sign up here for the free audio series I created just for you.