Using Habits To Simplify Your Life

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest


My email Inbox used to be full of newsletters from online stores and companies. I got daily deal emails from three sources: one for kid’s stuff and two from big daily deal sites.

Invariably, I bought things I didn’t need. I’d never heard of a Brazilian Blow Out but when it came to me in a deal email I started thinking that I needed one. At one point I had over 20 pairs of babylegs… and no baby yet to wear them.

When we decided to get out of consumer and student loan debt I unsubscribed from all of the daily deal emails. If I didn’t know I needed it before I had ever heard of it, it probably wasn’t integral to my happiness.

I also changed my route home from the community centre. Instead of my usual walk through the streets with nice retail stores and beautiful window displays, I took the more direct path past a bank, a hair salon and more condominiums. As a result I bought fewer things. I was also more content with what we already had. No more pining for the outfit on a mannequin at a boutique or impulsively buying a set of handmade thank you cards when we already had some at home.

Changing my habits helped me get out of debt and made me more content with what I already had.

Here are two great reads on habits I’ve enjoyed recently. One to inspire you and you to give you a bit of a kick-in-the-pants.

 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Props to my sister for this read. Ever wondered why you hit the snooze button most mornings instead of getting up for that run? Or why you can’t resist the sweets table in the coffee room every afternoon? Or stop yourself from going into a store with a big sale sign even though you have nothing to buy?

This book explores how we create habits and how we change them. The stories and evidence in the book are practical and applicable to everyday life. If you want to start a daily yoga practice or only check your email twice a day, this book can help you.

The other side to the book, the one my minimalist-wannabe self couldn’t get enough of, was the case studies on marketing tactics that use the power of habits to make you buy and consume. Want to know how Febreeze became a marketing success or why you’re likely to buy baby gear at Target even if you know you can get a better price elsewhere? This books shows how the Cue–>Routine–>Reward cycle is used to get you to Buy–>Buy–>Buy.

5 Habits We Left Behind (and Never Need to Pick Up Again) from Heather at Globetrotting Mama. This lawyer turned travel writer recently returned from a one year global adventure with her husband and two sons. Inspiring post about what they realized they could live without after a year on the road.

I used to spend a $100 in a trip to Shoppers Drug Mart because I was bored. I’m not proud of it but it’s true. When I left the salary behind I continued to buy things to beat boredom: Mall visits just because, those Costco trips to fill the freezer, 3 instead of one because something was “a deal.”

 Anyone else have a good book or article on habits? Anyone changed a habit to help them simplify?

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  • I agree with this and it is a big struggle to change my habits.

    However i have been able to stop the stupid spending and am heading out of debt. i have unsubbed from all the stupid websites etc. Thing is if we do need to buy something like say work shoes we can afford to spend a bit more adn not have to look for the very best deal flittering our time away bc we will have more money as we have not spent it all on crap. thats my thoughts xx

    • Shayne, Great point. It requires a paradigm shift if you’re a habitual bargain hunter. But I believe we can better afford to buy what we really need if we don’t spent it on all the “great deals” we don’t need.

  • I think the biggest change I’ve noticed it switching from TV to Netflix. I now know nothing of the latest movies or products, and I LOVE it! Now when I do watch TV at a family member’s house or even something on Hulu, I get annoyed by all of the commercials that I end up not wanting to watch anything. I can’t say that Netflix saves me any time, but it certainly erases all of the distractions and actually allows me to enjoy the shows I’m watching. Plus, I can always find something of value to watch rather than just keep the TV on infomercials when that’s the only thing playing that day besides sports, and I need a chance to relax.

    • I actually am an avid Hulu watcher, but we have no tv at home, and I love it. We have to be more purposeful about watching something because it’s not just on all the time– and it makes me stick to not watching tv when the kids are up- only when they’re in bed. I can see such a change in my kids whining when we’ve been at my parents a few days with the tv on all the time. At home they get about 15 minutes a day-usually as reward for getting ready for school early and maybe another 15-20 in the evening (they’re 4 and 5).

  • I recently finished Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It was fascinating to learn how we make decisions–although we think we’re following logical thought patterns, we often aren’t. It gave me insight into why I’ve made some choices and helped me say “NO” to others.

  • I just read “7-An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker. It has serious Christian and humanitarian themes as reasons WHY we should live on less and with less. It’s life changing. If your happy in your American latte world, don’t read it.

    • I realized I didn’t explain how this book relates to habits. In the book Jen takes a month each for 7 areas of excess and focuses on how that can be changed- and how living without, or on less, of something, changes the day to day, and realizes how much of excess is just habitual. Food gets a month, where she only eats 7 things, clothes get a month where she only wears 7things- then a month focusing on eliminating 7 items a day (she got rid of lots more), a month with 7less electronic things, a month of less stress, a month of only spending money in 7 places, and a month concentrating on eliminating 7 areas of waste and environmentally unfriendly habits.

      • I read it too as a book study with 8 friends…while I already started simplifying my life, this was a great book based on really fasting things and eliminating what is not necessary in our lives. The ultimate goal is to stick with it! 😉

  • I agree. Habit is a powerful game changer — for good or bad — in any area of our lives. I’ve blogged about using habit to make exercise a part of your life, and am currently doing a series on decluttering and forming new habits with baby steps. By slowly incorporating good habits into our lives we can bring about change relatively painlessly.

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