Happiness: A Guide to Living A Simple Life


Happiness: A Guide to Living A Simple Life

A recent area in my life that I’ve been working on is learning how to live with less. I ponder about what I actually need in my life versus what I actually want. For starters, I’m aware that I need food and water for survival. I need clothes on my back to avoid someone calling the police on me for indecent exposure. I need a roof over my head where I can sleep at every night and not worry about random strangers poking me with a stick.

But at what point does the need for pointless things come into play?

Of course in today’s society, we need more than what the average person required in the stone ages. For some people, they need a car or bike to get to work. Some people need insurance to cover their medical bills. But at some point after so much mindless spending, when can we truly be satisfied?

A weakness I have is that I like to go shopping whenever I feel down or depressed. It relaxes my mind and build my self esteem as I try on new or expensive clothing. And it does brings me temporarily happiness for that day, but it never lasts as long as I’d want.

An old belief I used to carry was that I had to receive a certain amount of money to receive the happiness I wanted. I fell into wanting the “American Dream” and living the lifestyle many dream of. But even after obtaining most of my needs and wants, I still feel an emptiness in my heart. That was the moment I reflected upon myself and realized how superficial I became.

Not only me, but many people in society behave that way. We dream about becoming wealthy and buying material objects that would make us happy. However, it doesn’t bring happiness the way we expected.

There was a recent article I came across, which described what Karl Rabeder did. Karl, who was a successful businessman and millionaire, realized money didn’t make him happy. So he gave his fortune to charity and decided to live on $1,350 a month.

That was because he realized he couldn’t fulfill his childhood dreams of buying money with happiness. He felt like a slave working for things he didn’t actually want or need.  After getting rid of most of his fortune, he obtained a freedom many of us desire. He pursued after his interests and passions, receiving the happiness he searched for as a child.

To many people, the idea of handing away everything they worked for seems like a silly idea. Even to me, the thought of simply handing away my hard earned dime is weird. But after doing some more self reflection, I began seeing Karl’s point of view.

For Karl, most of the people in his life treated him like a piggy bank. They were only friendly with him to obtain something in return. Everyday, him and his wife lived like actors who were expected to play their roles. And I understand where he was coming from. 

It’s not that you want to become wealthy. All you really want is to be secured and comfortable. But during the course of our lives, we begin believing we have to have a certain amount of money to be in that position. We turn a simple idea of a comforting lifestyle into an obsession about collecting as much money as possible. We lose focus of the game and become addicted to the attraction of material possessions.

So what can we do to bring ourselves a happy lifestyle while living with less?

The idea of downsizing is terrifying. It’s a thought we’re quick to switch away from. It’s natural for us to not want to lose most of what we worked for. That’s why it’s soothing to think of it from another point of view.

Think of it as a way of decluttering your life from unnecessary distractions. Imagine having a room cluttered with random junk you picked up from the streets because you were interested in it for a few seconds. You know you have no need for it, but you keep it just in case it makes you happy one day.

I struggled with throwing away items in my house because I’m very sentimental when it comes them. I remember the history of it, how I received it, and why it’s pleasant to keep. But all it did was take up unnecessary room in my house and gave me the mindset that I had to keep it in my life to be happy. But from the months I’ve had either random clothing or junk, I never thought about them until that moment. I probably would have forgotten about it if I didn’t find it in my closet.

Once you settle for a lifestyle of decluttering your life, you begin noticing a few major benefits and realizations from it.

1. You’re More Satisfied with Yourself

We want things all the time. We’re like children who have a hundred toys, but when we see our neighbors with something we don’t have, we suddenly want that more than anything else. It’s a strange envy of desire we possess to some degree. But after we do receive the object we longed for, it temporarily makes us happy until we find a new object we think will give us happiness.

Once you drop the mindset of needing more objects to fulfill your desires, you feel an inner peace about your well being. You may be interested in buying the newest car, game console, or phone that came out; but knowing it won’t grant you forever satisfactions will prevent you from longing after them.

When you stop searching for objects that will make you happy, you stop pursuing after random junk you eventually toss aside in your house. Your mind becomes free to think about how content you are with your life and how happy you are with the basic joys you have.  

Don’t become bitter after watching your neighbor bring home a brand new jet ski  because you don’t have one. Chances are, within a week or month, their jet ski is going to remain in the garage building up dust. (This was actually a personal experience I encountered.) Once you realize you don’t need to continue spending recklessly you’re be at peace with yourself and your desires to seek after more meaningful things.

2. You decrease Your Level of Stress

You can buy everything you want out of life, but it still won’t protect you from natural disasters, diseases, or misfortunes that happens in your life. In most cases, having more than enough brings more stress into your life. After buying a certain amount of clothing, cars, televisions, and games, you question why you’re not as happy as you want to be. You become distracted from things that actually matter such as reflecting on your life decisions and establishing better relationships with your friends and family.

When you’re placed in a position of absolute material abundance, you develop mean traits that makes you assume you’re better than everyone else. You back up that theory by viewing everything you bought and hold a perfect image of yourself with what you own.

But living in a better house or buying a sports car isn’t going to bring you the type of happiness you’re searching for. It’s not going to better your relationships with your spouse, your family or your friends. If anything, it’ll only make things complicated for you and them. 

3. You Actually Increase Your Finances

As ironic as it is to declutter your life, your income increases more than you’d expect. After cutting out the unnecessary trips to the saloon, the daily trips to Starbucks, and and the stoppage of expensive cloth shopping, your bank account nearly doubles.

When you’re not buying anything you don’t need, your cash builds up gradually. You suddenly find it easier to make payments for broken items or plan trips across the world. The main benefit people receive is that they finally have a chance to erase their debts because they raise the funding to pay it off.

4. Your Time Nearly Doubles

Most of the items you buy will require time management to some degree. Whether it breaks, require maintenance, or cleaning, most items need some amount of time invested into it. A mistake most people don’t take into consideration when buying something is that they’re not only investing money into it, but their time too. Time, to which can never be bought back.

If you bought a video game that slightly interest you, you’re telling yourself you’re agreeing to also pay your time to it as well whether it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours. You’re agreeing that you’re satisfied with exchanging your precious time where you could be doing self improvement, exercising, or improving your socialization skills.

Many people don’t realize it until they reach middle age, but time is perhaps the most precious resource we have. Time could never be bought or exchanged whether you’re rich. poor, ugly, or beautiful.

You don’t have to avoid video games or other activities because they’re healthy to partake in so long as it’s done in moderation. But when you’re spending all your time upon useless things, you’re entrapping yourself in a fictional universe within your head. You’re breaking out of reality by taking care of objects that don’t deserve your time.

After getting rid of a few basic mindsets such as buying the newest games that comes out, buying any electronics that interest me, and needing certain clothing, I found myself with more free time to work on other things. I had more time to read, explore the city, and understand myself better. 

5. You’re More Willing to Help Others

I’m not saying wealthy people or anyone who has more than enough aren’t willing to help those in need. What I’m saying is that you’re more keen to connect and assist those you see in person. It’s common for people to openly give to charity and show off how much they gave to certain charities. But they still don’t have a true understanding of seeing someone in poverty truly appreciate what they done for them.

I quite didn’t understand it myself until I saw the difference between blindlessly giving to a charity I picked out of a catalog versus helping someone you find on the streets. There’s a major difference because you receive another type of joy in helping someone.

When I traveled to other countries that were in poverty, a major characteristic I noticed was that poor people were always willing to help others in need. It didn’t matter if they was struggling because they were always willing to aid someone who needed assistance. That built strong relationships between them and a lifestyle many people aren’t familiar with.

Once you declutter your life, it becomes easier to help someone you find on the streets. Rather than blindly giving them a dollar, you see their situation for what it is. You’ll be more willing to buy them food or simply say, “Hi” to them without considering them of any lower value than you. This opens a gateway for you to understand the world rather than living being a bulletproof glass wall where you see those in poverty like you would an animal at a zoo.

6. More Joy is Brought into your Life

If you stop pursuing after any object that interests you, it gives your mind a time to breathe and take in appreciation to the important things in your life. You may assume buying a backyard pool will bring your family happiness, but like all toys, it’ll only temporarily satisfy them. To experience joyful moments with those close to you, it’s not proving their worth by buying something that might impress them.

It’s giving yourself a chance to understand who they are, what they’re going through, and how they’re feeling. Many wealthy people assume buying their children whatever they want will be all they need to have a happy life. But it creates a void separation between them and their children. Nobody can truly buy love from another person. Only by communicating with them is when those pathways open up.

7. You Understand Yourself

A common mistake a few of my friends did was believing whatever they bought made them who they were. They forgot to go off their skills, their knowledge, and their personality in exchanged for the type of car they drove or the house they lived in. They considered their image to not be based on what they accomplished, but by what they bought.

Everyone wants success and the ability to buy whatever they desire. The only dangers to success is thinking too highly of yourself and becoming proud. You no longer see the people who supported you in your journey and view your material possessions as your grand rewards.

But living a proud lifestyle separates you from reality and yourself. You forget your compassionate side when viewing people in poverty. You become arrogant with the beliefs you’re better than everyone. Once you declutter your life, your mind clear away those unwanted distractions. You no longer comparing your success by what kind of house you have, how many cars you keep in your garage, or how big your boat is.

The path to self discovery is not meant to be discovered by the amount of objects you have. Throughout the world, people isolate themselves from the rest of the world by living in the wilderness for several days. They clear their thoughts of what they thought they needed and determine what they truly desire. You don’t need to get rid of your fortune to find yourself, but by being humble on what you want versus what you need, life becomes much clearer.


About Author

Besides being random and dealing with ADHD from time to time, Michael Gregory II is the CEO of the Self Development Workshop. He's traveled to over a dozen countries, counselled a variety of people, and continues furthering his knowledge in self-development, depression, and mastering your happiness. On his lazy days, he enjoy watching people, reading in Starbucks, and speaking to random strangers. (Yeah, he’s weird.)


  1. The wonderful guide

    not to find happiness

    but to prepare and welcome happiness. : )

    I totally agree with the last one. Yes, do not forget (or ignore) what we have had so far. Your ability could be simple to you but it could be precious for others.

    Thus, why don’t “you” appreciate what you can do? : ))

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Detailed as always

  2. Great article and I wholly resonated with everything you’ve outlined here. I think one of the most important thing is, like you said, is serving others, giving back to the society and the community. Money certainly makes your life easier and gives you more choices, but certainly it’s not directly associated with happiness.

    I’ve made a recent blog article as well regarding the very same topic and has received some controversy and attention, you might want to check it out and may benefit your readers.

    It’s a personal experience of mine, since I’ve moved to Singapore. You can read it here

  3. Michael,

    Did you write this about me? LOL Holy cow. This is exactly how I turned my life around.

    I used to be an impulse buyer. Then I spoke to myself and said do I WANT it, or do I NEED it.

    And I used to love opening presents. But then I realized it’s not the presents, it’s the presence of those I love around me.

    Funny how the little things and life can mean so much. And what we thought would make us happy are so unfulfilling.

    Loved this post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.


  4. Thank you so much lisa! Lol. I guess we’re more similar than i thought. I tend to be that way too and have to remind myself constantly about controlling my urges. I have to always think over what i want to buy and consider if i really need it.

  5. Hello Michael
    This is my first time on your site.
    I loved your post and you are so right….

    I believe our values is what speaks volumes about us, NOT material things.
    On my visits to Nigeria Africa, I realized that people are content with what they have.
    We can learn so many things from having and not having
    Part of my story is that I was homeless and I had to learn to survive with little. I learned many important things in life when I was homeless.
    Thank you for your excellent points.


  6. Thank you so much for your kind words. That’s such a touching story to share. I do believe when you either live with so little or you view those who have so little, you begin to question your own perspective as to what happiness is.

    You see those with very little still able to put a smile on their face as others who have too much seem to be depressed. That was an important lesson I had to learn.

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