So much has been written on this subject from so many different viewpoints. When it comes down to it, simplifying your life is well, a simple process. Notice that I didn’t say it’s a quick process, although parts of it might feel quick as your personal pressures and hindrances lessen. Having a simpler life is really all about having the time to breathe, to have less stress, and to enjoy the journey and the arc of where we’re going with our lives.
When we really look at what matters most to us, It’s my belief that the most important stuff makes up a pretty short list. Yet, many of us seem to get bogged down with details, false desires, and irrational ways of looking at our lives, and we’ve bought in to the false notion that more is better… in all things.
We might be caught up in the “keeping up with the Joneses” trap with our cars or house projects, or gear lust for the latest in electronics or music, or it might be the political sensibilities of “buy American” or you’re not a true patriot. We want to save the planet, continue our education, stand for great causes, provide charitable service, be a fashion trendsetter, be seen at the greatest restaurants, be perceived as a person who’s living the good life… and the list goes on and on!
I’m going to offer a few suggestions in a moment, but they are really just highlights that are more like helpful hints when it comes down to it, because the short version of my article is this; If something is truly important to you, keep it, and If it’s not, let it go! Yay! Problem solved! Thanks Starr, all we needed was a short and concise answer, but not so fast.
Our problems with simplification are that we get confused as to what is really important. If a close friend tells us about something they’re doing that piques our interest, we usually think we should be doing it too. Especially if its obvious that it’s helped him/her, or lots of other people. But remember, you aren’t them. You are you. Your life is full of details. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia, and even easier to be sidetracked towards something that, while good for others, might not be the best fit for you. Or at least, the best for you right now.
Since this article is about simplifying, it should be noted that all the great ideas we can come up with for simplifying aren’t necessarily simple! What, really? It’s true. The more complicated your life is, the more details that might need to be trimmed out of your schedule. So, take a deep breath. We’re setting out on a journey that might take some time, and might even create some setbacks along the way. Don’t worry though, things will all work themselves out.
Last thing before we get into it. I take criticism all the time from people who don’t agree with my viewpoints. You will to, if you’re doing anything worthwhile. Just because you choose to simplify your life does NOT mean that you don’t love all the things you might be changing, or that those things are not valid, worthy, fun, or admirable.
Did you know that a simpler life is usually synonymous with increased productivity, better insight, less stress, and MORE happiness and fulfillment? It’s true! Look into it.
EVALUATE & IDENTIFY
This is the perfect place to start. Take a good look at your daily and weekly routines, especially with regard to your time and commitments. Do you have enough time to do everything you have to do, and do it well? When something rocks the boat, are you suddenly paralyzed or off balance? What things are you doing that create an “ick” factor? What are you daydreaming about and wishing you would rather be doing? Don’t be critical of the things themselves. Just write a list of your impressions. If you have lots of commitments, make a short list of the ones most important and meaningful to you. These are the ones that are keepers. If you’re overcommitted, there will never be enough time and resources to handle them.
OBVIOUS TARGETS FIRST
Let’s narrow things down for the next step. There are things that are SO obvious if you just take a few minutes to be objective. From your list, identify the things that are the most stressful, the most time consuming, and will offer the quickest benefit. Are they an absolutely necessary part of your day? Here’s a big hint on this area. A lot of people just need to learn to say NO! Okay, maybe not to your boss, and for sure not in a mean way, but NO because that’s what’s best for you personally at this moment in time. In other words, not right now. It should be coming clear to you from your list what will fit in this category.
LITTLE CHANGES, BIG RESULTS
Success is a great motivator. When you decide to start small, things become much easier. If it’s easy, it’s much more doable. This means that the changes you’ll be making are much more likely to become habits because you’re reinforcing a new simpler lifestyle at every step, and you’ll be loving it! Your simpler lifestyle will more easily become an interwoven and self-sustaining habit. Notice that I used the term lifestyle. Your changes will become an edit to your life and will create a healthy and visible style OF your life. You’re in the process of really defining who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe in. It’s a picture of the whole you. Outside and inside. Smiles are definitely in order!
Increasing your vision really does mean you can see more. Yesterdays blind spots become visible in a way that returns you some clear benefit. The word I like to use is clarity. At this point, most of the inappropriate, the pretense, and the unhealthy filler has been removed from your life making way for what keeps you vibrant, purposeful, and relevant. What’s not to like about that.
IDEA LIST PRIMER
If you’ve read the article to this point and still feel overwhelmed as to what kinds of things to start putting on your list, here’s a quick list of potential areas to get your creative juices flowing. Expand on the things that are relevant, and disregard the things that aren’t. Happy simplifying!
Get rid of unneeded stuff (closet, garage, workshop, craft room)
Declutter your digital lifestyle. (email, photos, desktop)
Slow down your eating speed! (relax)
Be present in this moment. (pay attention, don’t text while driving)
Make more ME time. (not a guilty pleasure, just a pleasure)
How about a smaller car or house? (downsizing usually means more $$$)
Make a simple budget. (if you’ve got one, make it simpler)
Have a specific place for everything. (organized stuff = organized mind)
Don’t be a slave to your electronics. (Cellphone, email, Facebook account, etc…)
Be more deliberate. (in all things)
Drive normal speed (relax, slow down).
Breathe deeply more. (the amount of breathing = the amount of living)
Pack light. (carrying less can be empowering)
Consume less of everything. (food, electricity, gas)
Be a great single tasker! (do one thing at a time… well)
Do more of what you love. (read “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow”)
Learn what “enough” means. (then apply it)
Exercise (for a change)
Eat healthy. (at least “healthier”… please)