SLT054: No Limits? Setting Limits to Simplify Your Life

Setting limits isn’t as popular in our advertising culture as buzz phrases like “No Limits”. When we think of “limits”, it’s typically in a negative sense. So, when setting limits on ourselves, like when we go on a bad diet, or a too tight budget, or worse, when someone or something puts limits on us, we think of it as a bad thing.

But setting limits is actually a really good thing! Limits are a fantastic tool to help simplify your life and actually help you appreciate the things that are most important to you. Learning to accept, use, and embrace limits can help make a whole lot of sense of the hyper-consumer society we all live in. No limits? No way!

So let’s get started! Read more…


Topic: Setting Limits

So I first thought about the framework of setting limits being a truly positive thing while I was watching a Tony Robbins training video. In it, he mentioned that sometimes limits were good, and the example he used was a glass. If you’re thirsty, you pour yourself a glass of water. The glass limits or contains the water so you can drink it. Without the glass to limit the water’s flow, the water would pour right through your hand.

Well, sometimes the weirdest stuff will get me thinking. And, true to form, Tony’s comment got me thinking about the positivity of limits that help us on our simplicity journey. So here are a few examples from our family:

Stuff We Have

  • “No limits” certainly doesn’t work when it comes to your clutter! We’ve been working on setting limits on how much “stuff” we have in our house, and getting rid of excess (things we don’t Need, Love or Use) to make margin in our life.
    • That’s why the Edit & Forget It Challenge was so important to us last year and helped us get rid of over 3000 things, and why we’re doing it again this year! 
    • This sets us up for the much, much smaller home of our dreams someday, too.
    • So the point is, by limiting the stuff we have, our actions are congruent with our goals

Stuff We Buy

  • We’re also setting limits to control what we allow into our lives.
    • Of course we have to buy things, but we don’t need to buy everything we’re “told” we need…

What We Expose Ourselves To

  • This is hard to do with all the advertisements we’re exposed to on a daily basis. There certainly seems to be no limits to that!
    • We did a presentation together recently and shared some insight into just how much, we are exposed to consumer advertisements using Real Simple Magazine as an example (that magazine that’s supposed to make your life simple, right?):
      • In a 236 page issue:
      • 111 pages were dedicated solely to FULL page ads (that’s nearly half of the magazine)!
      • 125 pages had some form of content on them
        • Of these, 50 pages had ¼-½ page ads (with an additional 85 “hidden” ads)
        • Leaving only 75 pages dedicated to “ad-free” content!
      • So that’s 250 ads total in just one magazine! AND…you had to sift through 10 full page ads before you even got to the Table of Contents!

Our Family Time

  • So here’s another one–even when it comes to our Life Plan pillar of “Family,” we knew we wanted more family time together, and camping was our choice for family entertainment and adventure:
    • We were looking seriously at a huge Class A motorhomes with all the comforts of home (more actually).
    • But we came to our senses and limited ourselves. And, our little teardrop trailer won out. Thank goodness!
    • The teardrop has everything we need (and more), but limits how much we can take.
    • That said, it opens up where we can actually travel to as it’s much more cost effective to use than a big motorcoach and we can easily “boondock” in remote areas that don’t have water or electric hookups.

Media Consumption

  • We’re also setting limits on our media consumption.
    • We’re not big TV show watchers (other than a slight Downton Abbey addiction, and of course Call The Midwife).
    • Actually…we spent more time deciding what the heck to watch than actually watching!
    • So we’re…getting rid of cable TV. We’ve grown way too tired of the 24 hour news cycle, and the incessant commercials, and the “not-so-real” reality shows.
    • We’re going with just the basic over-the-air TV and our Apple TV or Roku with Netflix and Hulu. Saved $100 per month!

Things Dan’s Cutting Back

  • Recently downgraded Pro Mindmeister account to the free account and saved $9.95 per month!
    • Great tool
    • Wasn’t using it enough
  • Canceled membership in an online community.  Saved $10 per month!
    • Loves a good online community
    • Just not going there enough
  • Cancelled data plan on iPad. Saved $25 per month!
    • Need to limit access anyway
    • If access NEEDED, can just use phone’s hotspot and tether my iPad to that.

Limits and Children

  • Setting limits is especially good when it comes to children. Limits help establish boundaries which in turn help children grow, problem solve, expand their creativity, focus and practice self-restraint.
    • Think about a child that has too many games and toys. If one game is too challenging then she’ll simply give up and move on to the next. Or if she gets bored of one toy she’ll move on to the next, and the next, and the next.
    • When you limit the amount of toys or “stuff” then you are encouraging your children to use their minds, expand their creativity, think more, focus, and work harder to solve problems.
    • Limits teaches children to appreciate what they have (whether they know it or not) and to be resourceful.

Limits and Food

  • Limits can be used in a positive way by being intentional of what we eat and how much.
    • When you eat too many chips, too much dessert or whatever…it’s usually going to make you sick or feel pretty awful. So limit yourself.
    • You know what they say…too much of anything is never a good thing.

Final Thoughts

So, why think of “setting limits” in a negative sense, when they can be a fantastic tool to help simplify your life. Use limits to your advantage and craft your limits to help ensure you keep on track with your priorities that are in line with your Life Plan. Sure, the slogan “No Limits” is popular these days, but it’s often used to describe what your spending cap should be for the product they’re hawking.

Establishing limits or boundaries can be pretty empowering and it goes hand in hand with embracing the Power of Saying No. Together they can help you live a life with intention and and keep you focused on your priorities.

The last thing we want to do is expand on the word congruent that I mentioned earlier. This whole congruency thing has become our watchword lately. But, limits we set are congruent with our priorities we set out in our Life PLan. Remember, we call our priorities our 5 Pillars of FAITH, FAMILY, FINANCES, FITNESS and FREEDOM. It’s kinda like back in our military days, sometimes people would talk about Command & Control like it’s one thing. It’s not, it’s two very distinct things. Command is like our Life Plan, control is like the Priorities and limits we use to ensure our actions are congruent to our Pillars. So, that’s how we frame limits in our lives. It works for us, and hopefully it can work for you, too!


So, what limits do you use to help keep your life on track? Which limits are the most difficult to keep? Let us know! Be sure to leave a comment below! 

THING Segment:

Resisting some marketing temptations and making sure our own actions were congruent to our 5 Pillars.

So our little girl Sunshine was awarded with a “FAIRNESS” award at school…which is pretty cool because it’s like a little reinforcement that we’re teaching her the right things. Well, she also came home with a so-called “award” to go see the San Antonio Spurs basketball team play. She got a free ticket, but of course…she had to get at least one adult ticket too. Naturally she was so excited to win an award, and as a parent you want share in the excitement and praise their good work. So I (Vanessa) started to plan how we were going to go to this game, because of course….we’d have to take the whole family to celebrate. Well, the pressure was on because I had only one day to make a decision. But when I brought it to Dan and as we were trying to figure it out, he was like, “Vanessa…the thing is…would have even considered going to a Spurs game if Sunshine hadn’t won this award?” And I said, “no.” So it really made us think about how quickly you can react to the “FEAR OF MISSING OUT” but when we actually stopped and thought about it, we realized this wasn’t in line with our normal way of spending time together or our priorities (because that would have been a pricey family night out). We’re not going to the game, and we’re celebrating Sunshine’s award together, as a family, in a way of our own choosing.


  • It was great to see some SLT listeners at Organize & Energize this past weekend here in San Antonio! It’s so cool to meet like-minded folks who listen to the show. We feel it kind of validates that we’re not alone on this simplicity journey…and we have to support one another along the way.
  • Special thanks to all of you who’ve left reviews for us on iTunes. It really does help people find the show.

So here’s a shout out to

    • LDJ6611 from United States
    • JLGN13 from United States
    • Mel Coppola from Australia
    • dancamp77 from United States
    • hannahrichards from United Kingdom
    • Michelle Dragon from Australia 
    • Petronella Van den Akker-Helder 
    • EldarX67 from United States 
    • Move Over Alligator from United States 
    • Heather CW from United States 
    • ScrappyDcherie from United States 
    • THEBIX18 from United States 
    • Swissmiss111 from United States
  • Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your heart-felt comments. We really, really appreciate it so much.

Finally, sign up for the Edit & Forget It Challenge! If you’re already on our Edit & Forget It Challenge email list, that’s great. If not, you can sign up here.


You can download a PDF of our show prep, too.

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5 thoughts on “SLT054: No Limits? Setting Limits to Simplify Your Life

  1. Great podcast, once again! I’ve been doing Project 333 since October 1st and have been loving having fewer decisions to make in the morning and a drawer that is light with just the things I love to wear.

    I’m a serious maker-of-things, so the area where I have trouble with limitations is in the accumulation of project materials (and those sneak potential project materials). Recently I decided to set limits on my number of works in progress and also establishing the containers in which all of my various craft items must fit. Tough, but ultimately I am rewarded with greater focus and satisfaction in the things I am making.

  2. I’m finding setting limits to be the single most effective method to decrease my spending and consumerism. It’s like losing weight. Severely limiting myself for a set time period may work in the short time and may help me get out of the habit of buying (or eating) things I don’t need. However, it doesn’t teach me how to behave in a moderate way in the long run. Although it can be a good experiment to go through for sure. Limits work well for diet, purchases and time! I’ve always told people how important it was to do weight loss the right way as your losing time is also your time to learn how to maintain. I can now see how this concept can be applied in other areas too. Of course, I’ve always known about budgets but in the heat of the moment, the concept of how many of this or that do I need really puts the red light on for me. I don’t even browse makeup or read articles about makeup anymore since I established quantities of what I need.

    Funny you picked Real Simple for your magazine example. I stopped reading RS or even scanning through their online site slideshows a few years ago because I felt it promoted buying stuff to organize too much or it was a lot of recycled content. It’s a beautifully laid out publication though and I love their tips for alternative uses for common household items. I generally avoid plastic bins or containers made for specific uses (i.e. toothbrush holder) unless absolutely necessary opting to instead to use baskets, mugs, bowls and boxes that could be used for other purposes too. I find the desk/bathroom organizing gear often ends up in the landfill at a certain point for me while a beautiful bowl will just get repurposed in my home and that RS pushed those types of products quite a bit. The September fashion mags are huge due to all the ads! Sometimes editorial content doesn’t start until a third of the way in. I haven’t counted articles between another month and September but I do now wonder if the amount of content is the same in September and it’s just bigger for the ads.

    I have noticed when I go to friends or family homes how kid stuff is everywhere! I swear it wasn’t like that when I was growing up. I don’t dare say anything though on my own blog as I’d get tarred & feathered as a non-mom.

  3. 25 or so years ago I took the Insight on Time Management tape course by Charles Hobbs where I first learned the word “congruent” in a context other than math. The whole course was about helping me identify my values and then lining up my goals and actions with those values. I feel so grateful that I was able to get on track in my mid-twenties with this kind of training.

    About 6 years ago when I was helping a client de-clutter her home, she offered to help me do some marketing of my business as a partial trade. She came up with the name “Simplified Living”. I was immediately drawn to that name, and took it on, but did not focus on the simple part as much as I could have.

    I feel so encouraged to hear from folks like you who were more mainstream and now can relate to people with similar backgrounds. I have lived an extremely simple life ever since I visited India and other countries in the area when I was 19–almost 40 years ago when I realized how much more we have than most of the world. I was considered rich even though I was in a middle-class family.

    I know I can share my experience of simple living because I have decades under my belt–but just as wonderful is being able to share with people who are in a different stage of life the information you share. Your example is making a huge difference, I know. Thank you for using your God-given gifts and talents to express all that you are doing. I definitely want to stay in touch.

    Oh, and by the way–my 17 year old homeschooled daughter heard the podcast playing in our very small house, and she wanted to hear another one by you–and now wants to learn about the dress with less program. She is co-founder, along with her brother, of a group called Fun, Fellowship and Service. I am guessing she will be sharing this information with other young people.

    • Thank you Patricia! It’s great to hear from a fellow organizer/de-clutterer/simplifier ;o)

      It is so amazing how much we have…way more than enough actually…compared to so many others throughout the world. Dan and I love sharing the message of simplicity. It has been a total life changer (lifesaver) for us. What’s amazing is how our message and the message of so many others in our community like you…is starting to spread and help others live more meaningful lives outside of all the stuff they have. I’m so delighted to hear how your daughter has taken an interest as well and hope that she can help spread the message with her leadership and influence…you must be so proud.

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