8 ways to feel more free (that don't include moving to a tropical beach)
Do you ever dream of just running away from it all? The commitments, the work, the obligations, the bills, the clutter, the to-do-list, the chores, the constant stream of overwhelming information, the e-mails, the laundry, maybe even the family...
If you have, I really don't blame you. We're all overworked, overstimulated and overloaded. And in the process of building our busy lives, we've lost our sense of space, and our feeling of freedom.
I should know. I've been there too. In what now feels like a different life, I used to juggle a full time competitive university law degree with a busy part-time job as a store manager. All this, while constantly trying to play catch up with all my other obligations, slowly drowning in stuff. The apartment we lived in was three times the size we really needed, and yet there was never enough closet space. There was never enough time. And it felt like there was never enough of me.
Throughout all this, I often spent my restless, sleepless nights scrolling through amazing feeds on Instagram, watching people live lives of ultimate freedom. You know those feeds, right? The people who quit their jobs, sold everything they could, put the rest in storage, and moved to the beach? For the longest time, I believed that I had to go far, far away in order to be free.
So that's what I did. When my relationship ended and I had to sell my apartment, I put all the stuff in my parent's garage and escaped to the beach. For a couple of years, I travelled extensively, spending months at a time in LA, New York, Peru, Spain, London, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and India – to mention a few places. I divided my time between coaching, writing – and studying – occasionally flying home to finish my law exams. For those years, I believe I lived the dream of ultimate freedom. And I'll tell you what, it was just as amazing as it looked in the photos – or actually, maybe even a little better, since I'm not a very talented photographer!
But after a while, I got tired of being on the move. I noticed that for the first time in my life, I felt good when my plane touched down in Norway again. I started to long for stability, and a sense of home. I needed a harbour.
And that's when I realised that at least for me, freedom is best in moderation. I believe that the key lies in finding the right balance – to create a lifestyle where you feel free, yet grounded.
After I made the decision to settle back down, I've focused on building a life balancing a "normal" lifestyle with an amplified sense of freedom. And I dare say I've managed to nail it down pretty well.
These days my lifestyle is giving me both freedom and stability enough to continue my education and follow my dream of becoming a psychologist. My location-independent work is giving me the opportunity to pack up and leave whenever my class schedule allows it, and my overall lifestyle is cost-efficient enough to allow me the luxury of long weekends in the countryside to cuddle with my niece and nephew, or to spend afternoons creating, hanging out with friends and otherwise doing things I love.
So, no matter if you're a homesick traveller – or if you know that moving to the beach isn't the way to go for you – it's possible to feel free and yet keep a sense of normalcy.
If you're dreaming of the best of two worlds, this post is for you.
8 ways to feel more free (that doesn't include moving to a tropical beach)
1. Downsize your housing
If you want more freedom, one key thing to focus on is to minimise your obligations. An essential way of doing this is to move into a smaller place. Besides usually being cheaper to buy or rent (and thus giving you more financial freedom), living in a smaller space has a lot of other added benefits. Smaller spaces take less time to tidy and clean, cost less to maintain, can store less stuff, and overall demand less mental energy.
How I do it: Today, I live on 36 square meters and even that is too big for me – which is why I'm also renting out a space room on AirBnB. When I'm ready to take it to the next level, I'm dreaming of building a tiny house.
2. Start a side-hustle
Another key way to get more freedom, is to take control over your finances and work. And guess what – you don't have to quit your job! If you're new to the idea of having a business, I truly recommend starting with a side hustle, a small business you can do on the side. The extra income can help you feel free by taking the pressure off your financial situation, and make other freedom goals possible for example by paying for a vacation, a housekeeper or invest it back into building your creative business.
How I do it: I'm proud to say I was side hustlin' even before it was cool! For the past 7 years, I've been mentoring law students and teaching legal writing on the side, and as I mentioned I'm also renting out my extra room. Doing these things, alongside my coaching and writing work is what allows me to get a second professional degree to realise my dream of becoming a psychologist.
3. Go minimalist
If you're feeling weighed down by clutter and things – it doesn't have to be that way. One solution that will help you free up your time and energy is to go minimalist, or at least more so. And you don't necessarily need to get rid of everything you own. Even going minimalist in a few areas of your life can make a big difference. Some ways to do this could be to go for a capsule wardrobe, go paperless – or to aim for a minimalist kitchen.
How I do it: Although I'm certainly no minimalist, I have found some clever ways to make the idea of minimalism for for me in a way that helps me feel less weighed down by the things that I own. One quirky example of this is that I only own white bedsheets and towels – which makes laundry very, very easy. I also own very few clothes, compared to most people, it all matches – and my wardrobe is all open shelves, making it easy to keep it tidy and less overwhelming.
It's not just the things we surround ourselves with that keeps us figuratively running after ourselves, but also our obligations and commitments. A way to solve this is to consciously un-commit from some of the obligations weighing you down. It can be helpful to think about the real cost of doing some of the things I'm trying to do, such as volunteering and organising social events etcetera. Is the benefit really worth loosing your freedom for? Although it may feel difficult to tell others you can't do what you said you'd do, most people will understand once you share the real reason why. The key is to focus on what is essential, and free up your energy so you can do those things – and leave the rest.
How I do it: Today I'm really conscious before I say yes to something that will require my time and energy – and it is making all the difference. It doesn't mean that I don't do extra work, it just means that I stop and think before I commit.
There's nothing that can kill your sense of freedom like having to do the same boring tasks over and over. Thankfully, in our modern day lives, we don't really have to. Automating the boring tasks can really make a difference, and free up not just your time but your mental energy too. One obvious way to do this is to automate all your finances; making sure your bills get paid on schedule each month. Other, less common ways to make technology work for you is to set up automations through IFTTT, have automated e-mail replies, and incorporate good habits such as having designated places for your things such as keys, chargers and wallets, so you don't have to spend time searching for lost items.
How I do it: All my recurring bills get paid automatically, without me having to spend any mental energy. I also automate certain aspects of my business, freeing up time to do other and more fun things during my work time. I also have some really good habits in place that allows me to be free to travel without having to spend much time and energy; an example of this is using the same packing list every time.
6. Go paperless
If you have a lot of paper lying around, an idea can be to go paperless, both in your business and in your life. Some ways to do this is to digitalise your notes and storage systems to get rid of all those binders, used notebooks photo albums. Just take this piece of advice from a pro: for complete peace of mind, remember to automate your back-up routine.
How I do it: Nowadays, I take all my class notes, coaching session notes and do my business planning on an iPad pro, allowing me to access my notes from anywhere in the world, while also freeing up mental energy and storage space. I also use Evernote to photograph receipts and all the other paperwork that I can't avoid, making sure I can keep all the information, without having to keep the physical sheet of paper.
One of the most taxing aspects of modern day life is the constant stream of information. Because we're so used to it, it may seem like this isn't weighing us down, but trust me it truly does. All that mental energy that we are spending to process all the stimulation from news, social media, advertising... is energy we could free up to use on other things. That's why, in order to feel more free, unfollowing and limiting your information stream can really make a difference. Fear of missing out can make this a bit difficult, and in today's political climate I think it's important to be well informed and educated. However, an experiment could be to block certain news sites, opt in for reliable news services that will only send you the essential stories, and to limit the amount of people you follow.
How I do it: The main way I keep my information exposure levels on an acceptable level is to limit my social media usage. Basically, I'm only using the platforms that really resonate with me, which right now is Pinterest for business and Facebook for staying in touch with friends. My philosophy is this: I'd rather do few platforms well, than spread my time across all the different platforms getting exhausted in the process.
8. Let it go
By far, the single most impactful thing you can do if you're feeling stuck and unfree is to let go of the things that don't serve you anymore. Wether it's a toxic relationship, a dead-end job or otherwise a situation where you've been banging your head against the metaphorical wall – nothing can free you up like letting it go and trying something new. As always, there are other solutions than the black and white stay/leave dichotomy. Try to limit your time with the people who weigh you down, work less hours, or otherwise slowly move away from what isn't working. No matter how hard it can be to let go – the relief is well worth the cost.
How I do it: I've learned the hard way how exhausting it can be to stay in a toxic relationship, and I know how heavy it is to carry around old emotional baggage. Working with a skilled therapist has helped me break free from both, and this work is continually helping me to avoid getting stuck and trapped again in the future. For me, letting go of what isn't working has become a practice and a habit. Over the years, the most important thing I've learned is that although it might be scary to leave the known for the unknown, it takes courage to be truly free.
What's one thing you do in your life to help you feel free? Comment below!
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