A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for different people. By my definition, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending time doing what you consider important. It means spending less time on the meaningless and more time on doing things and being with people who are meaningful to you. It means cutting out clutter so you can appreciate what you value.
However, getting to simplicity isn't always a simple process. It's a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward. If you're interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter's guide (if you're not interested, move on).
The Short List and The Long List
For the cynics who say that a 50-item list is too complicated, I can boil it all down to two steps
1. Identify what's most important to you.
2. Eliminate everything else.
Of course, that's not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.
There can be no step-by-step guide to simplifying your life, but I've compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you - choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you're done with that, focus on the next thing.
1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What's most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you've got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids' activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren't in line with those things.
3. Manage your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they're in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren't, and focus on what's important. Redesign your day.
4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you'll never get everything done, and worse yet, you'll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.
5. Ditto at home. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we'll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).