‘X’ is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

'X' is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living


Firstly, let me apologise for the ‘x’. It turns out it’s insanely difficult to come up with a word beginning with ‘x’ that made sense for the Simple Living series (xylophone? x-ray?) If you can think of a good one,  let me know in the comments and I will include it in the upcoming ‘A-Z of Simple Living’ book.

‘X’ is for eXperiment

Fear holds us back in our efforts to simplify – don’t you think?

  • “What if I need this one day?”
  • “What if I offend someone by getting rid of their gift?”
  • “What if people judge me for wearing the same clothes regularly?”
  • “What if someone doesn’t like me after I say no to a committment?”

I am as guilty as anyone of these fear-based responses. But in the search for a simpler life, I think we should begin to ask, “Why not experiment?”

If we approach change as an experiment, rather than a permanent lifestyle shift, there is really nothing to lose by trying something new.

Experiment Defined:


[n. ik-sper-uh-muhnt; v. ek-sper-uh-ment]


1. a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act for the purpose of discovering something unknown or testing a principle.

a chemical experiment; a teaching experiment; an experiment in living.

This entire lifestyle of simplicity may turn out to be a fruitless experiment. We may find ourselves in two years time lamenting all our extra space and our lack of clutter. We may regret decluttering our useless knock-knacks. We may miss the cupboards full of stuff we no longer looked at.

It’s a possibility. But I doubt it.

The key is that we need to be willing to try new things. Because if nothing changes, then… nothing changes. We will still feel trapped, weighed down and stressed. Simplifying may not be the answer, but we won’t know until we try.

Start With a No-Lose Experiment

Just nudge yourself out of your comfort zone by experimenting with a small change, and ensure you can undo the experiment if it turns out not to work for you.

Some no-lose experiments:

  • Follow the minimalist wardrobe challenge, Project 333. Courtney asks you to live for three months with only 33 items of clothing. Whatever extra clothes you own are put into storage while you see how far a minimal wardrobe can stretch.
  • Choose a flat surface in your home – a shelf, the top of a chest of drawers, a coffee table or the kitchen benchtop – and clear it of everything. All the stuff that was previously there can be packed away in a box. Then just live with the empty space for a month. See if you enjoy having somewhere empty to rest your eyes and the calming feeling of a decluttered space.
  • If you use a smartphone, try removing your email app from it for a week. Use your desktop/laptop for email instead and see how you feel when you’re not constantly on-call.

Try a Low-Risk Experiment

If you’ve already tried a no-risk experiment and would prefer to push the boundaries just a little more, perhaps you could try a low-risk experiment instead:

  • Say no. If you really don’t think you should join another committee or spend another night babysitting, then simply say no. You may be surprised to see the world continues to turn and your friends do not disown you. The small risk, of course, is putting noses out of joint.
  • Box up all that beautiful but unused glassware, silverware or home decor. (Weddings gifts, hand-me-downs from family and out-dated items are ripe with this kind of clutter). If it all remains in the box for six months and you do not miss it, commit to selling or donating it.
  • Scan all your old photos and store them on an external hard-drive or on the cloud. Place all the physical photos back in their box and commit to getting rid of the box in 6 months time if you haven’t needed to look at the contents. The small risk is a catastrophic tech fail, where all data is lost and your images can’t be retrieved. Not likely to happen, particularly if you store your images in two separate places.


Go All-In

Or, if you’re looking to dive head-first out of your comfort zone, you could try a huge, life-altering experiment like my friend Dan Garner, who has just sold or given away the vast majority of his belongings to live full-time in an RV.

In Dan’s case, he has minimised and simplified over a long time, so the risk wasn’t as terrifying as for someone just starting out, but it is still an experiment.  The key is he didn’t let fear hold him back from trying.

And neither should we.

If you want to embrace a simpler life, but are afraid of what might happen, then start experimenting. You have nothing to lose, but so much to gain.

What could you experiment with right now? What would push you ever-so-slightly out of your comfort zone? Or would you prefer to jump into a new way of living whole-heartedly?



The A-Z of Simple Living is a weekly series to inspire and motivate – regardless of how far into the simple living journey you are. You can find all posts in the series right here.
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6 Responses to ‘X’ is for eXperiment: A-Z of Simple Living

  1. Dan Garner says:

    Well it was certainly a surprise, reading your blog ( the best and most sincere simple living blog on the internet ) and seeing my name.

    So far the experiment is better than my expectations and I haven’t even traveled with the motorhome yet. Just the feeling of freedom, the simplicity, the beauty of living in a campground on the water – it is all wonderful.

    I must admit it was an odd feeling to watch someone drive off with nearly ALL of my possessions. We’re just not trained to live like that. After the awkwardness dissipated I felt totally free and it is the feeling of freedom that I’m basking in now.

    Dan @ Zen Presence – Ideas for Meaningful Living

  2. I’ve frequently told my husband we should just give away all of our possessions on Craig’s List. But it would take a few trucks… ;-)

    Moving toward a rather “crazy” dream of our own has been exhilerating, exciting, and terrifying all at once. But I have no doubt that it will be a major change for the better, when all is said and done.

    You only live once–don’t spend it walled in by possessions!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I really want to find a tiny house that I could just rent just to see if my family and I could really handle it for 3 months and if we can then try and then see about buying one.

  4. Glenn says:

    Great article, and I like your photo from Chinatown too!

    Clearing surfaces such as tables and benchtops is always worth doing. It makes cleaning so much easier. And likewise I like to ensure there’s nothing on the floor either. Electrical gear, or anything with cables especially.

  5. EcoCatLady says:

    Oh, how I would LOVE to have clear horizontal surfaces… unfortunately, I just can’t seem to keep them that way. It’s not that they are full of things that I purposely put there… it’s just that clutter seems to spill onto them.

    But… there is one thing – well, one being actually – who has pushed me further in this direction than I ever thought possible. One of my cats remains convinced that all objects were put on this planet to serve as toys for him to play with. This includes anything on ANY surface (even shelves 6 inches from the ceiling are not safe… don’t ask me how he gets up there) as well as pictures hanging on the wall. I’ve already hauled off about a dozen boxes of nicknacks to the thrift store and haven’t missed them. Anything of value got packed away in the basement, the house plants were all given away, and the rest just gets knocked on the floor on a regular basis. I don’t miss any of the crap I gave away, I just wish that more stuff wouldn’t breed to take its place!

    BTW – how about X for xeriscape? Or maybe that’s only “simple” here in the arid southwest.

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