The simplicity of your life is defined by your needs. The less needs you have, the more simple your life is.

I like this definition of simple living because it accommodates the reality that people live different lifestyles, and how they adapt them to be simple is open for personal interpretation.

This means you don’t have live in a tiny home to have a simple life. You don’t have to wear an all black, 10 piece wardrobe to live a simple life. And you are not required to give up your smartphone to be a simple living genius.

To live your simple life, you examine what’s important to you, and acknowledge tradeoffs of choices and their impact on your life’s needs.

Thinking about your life in terms of your needs is a personal experience, and part of living an intentional life.

The Cabin in the Woods?

You’ve probably seen the picture before. The rustic cabin nestled alongside a lake. The wood burning fireplace in the open room, throwing off heat on a winter afternoon. Rustic, quiet, and minimal. The simple living dream!

But it’s not my simple living dream…

I live in a 1,800 sqft home in the suburbs of a midwest town. It’s about a quarter mile from my work, and two miles from my daughter’s daycare. It’s got plenty of room for our current family, and should be able to amply fit another child should we have one. The mortgage and taxes are less than 30% of our take-home pay.

It’s not a cabin in the woods. It’s a normal home in the subrubs. And we made this housing choice to keep our life simple.

I know that for me personally, a tiny cabin home would not make my life any simpler. I value the reasonable amount of space our home has and the location that it is in. I also value that I’m living in a full home with a foundation, utilities, and public services. While I am paying more for my home than I would for a rural cabin, our housing costs are in line with our family budget.

The rustic cabin does look appealing for a getaway… but it would drastically increase the needs we have in life. I’d need to drive a lot more to go anywhere. I’d need to get wood for heat. I’d need to maintain a septic system. I’d need to worry about snow removal and general land care. And so on.

For my family, our suburban housing choice was personally what we decided based on needs. That doesn’t mean that somebody else, with a different life and priorities, can’t justify the cabin as being the most simple choice. I just know that I personally would gain more “needs”, and make my life less simple in the process.

How Your Life Choices Effect Needs

Living an examined life allows you to prioritize what is important to you, and what “needs” are created because of them. Through doing so, you can actively make your life simpler by reducing your needs.

Health – According to the Mayo Clinic, about 70% of people in the United States take at least one type of prescription drug.┬áHealthy life choices would help to drastically reduce the amount of prescription medication that we collectively take. So called “lifestyle illnesses” like diabetes, high blood pressure and forms chronic pain, are sometimes caused by the way people choose to live their lives. Choosing to eat healthy food, and live an active life would enable people to have less medical needs, and consequently a more simple life.

Finances – Needing to worry about money is something that can be solved over time through good financial choices. A simple financial life can be created by reducing spending, increasing saving, and rethinking major purchases in your life. Having an emergency fund and little debt also makes some “needs” less scary. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is not simple because you NEED that money to keep the lights on.

Relationships – As you already know, people create needs in your life. Choosing who you associate yourself with allows you to create a more simple life. While every relationship has it’s tradeoffs, I actively try to stay friends with people who don’t always need things (or emotional energy) from me.

Minimalism – Being a minimalist means less need for consumer goods. In addition to the tie-in with finances, minimalism is a mental paradigm shift of what is required in life. It’s a powerful life philosophy that calls for what we “need” in terms of goods and services to be reflected on.

Rethinking Your Needs

When you are looking at how to start living a more simple life, start with your needs. Both reactive and proactive.

What obligations do you have in life? Can any of them be reduced or eliminated by making different choices?

When considering something new in your life, think about it’s impact. Will this create additional needs/obligations in my life? Or better, will this reduce my life’s needs, leading to a more simple life?


  1. James
    November 26, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I love the log cabin example. I would just say that many people have high prescription costs not because of their lifestyle choices.

    • James
      November 27, 2017

      Completely agree! Medical costs are only so much in our control. There are many medical needs that are caused by factors outside of lifestyle choices.

    • Catrin
      December 3, 2017

      I am a pharmacist and truthfully I’d be happy if I could be put out of business. I have to agree that there are many medical
      conditions that cannot be prevented by good lifestyle choices BUT there are so many that can. Every day I fill prescriptions
      for people newly diagnosed with hypertension and type-2 diabetes. Every week I fill prescriptions for a 50-something year
      old who has had a heart attack. These problems are preventable. WE KNOW THIS. WE CAN DO THIS, PEOPLE! We don’t have
      to be the fattest, most unhealthy nation in the world taking 6 meds for diabetes and 3 for hypertension. And if one does need
      meds despite having tried every lifestyle change, then at least take the meds as prescribed and don’t let yourself run out. Go to
      your physician for regular checkups and be candid with the doctor if you haven’t actually been taking them, haven’t been exercising, have been eating unhealthily, have been smoking etc. If not, then the doctor will think that the meds/diet/exercise
      program is not working and you will be prescribed more meds to reduce your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
      You don’t have to be a ticking time bomb…

      • James
        December 4, 2017

        You have an interesting perspective Catrin! It must be difficult to see people making choices that are impacting their life so negatively on a regular basis.

        On the flip side, your profession allows you to provide important medication for those who need it.

    • laura ann
      December 3, 2017

      James, Catrin: agree, most these people are older, ones that inherited thyroid disease from a parent, diseases of aging even tho some stick to diet and exercise. Younger ones may need to lose weight, eat right and get off their back side, leave their phones, and get outside or go to a fitness center. Vit and minerals need to be natural and balanced, taken daily, and researched online.


Leave a Reply