What does “live simple” mean to you? Dictionary.com defines ‘simple’ as:
- a. Having few parts or features; not complicated or elaborate: a house with a simple floor plan.
- Easy to understand, do, or carry out: a simple set of instructions; a simple chore.
- Having or composed of only one thing, element, or part: a simple chemical substance.
- Being without additions or modifications; mere: a simple “yes” or “no.”
- Music Being without figuration or elaboration: a simple tone.
- a. Having little or no ornamentation; not embellished or adorned: a simple dress.
- Not characterized by luxury or elaborate commitments: simple living.
- a. Not pretentious, guileful, or deceitful; humble or sincere [Edited definition of SIMPLE from dictionary.com]
Life can be complicated, and sometimes we seem to make it more so. Why do we do that?! Sometimes others complicate our lives for us, and sometimes it seems that’s just the way it is. How can we uncomplicate what doesn’t need to be complex and free up time and energy to 1) take better care of ourselves, and 2) deal with what we cannot change? Remember the oft-quoted: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Here are some areas to take a look at for simplifying your life. You can’t clear them all at once, unless you are already living pretty simply. Just read through the suggestions and rank them according to how they affect your life – maybe some are not issues for you, others take way too much time and energy. Deal with the biggest stressors first.
Possessions. Material things. Stuff. Clutter can be stressful, and makes the search for useful items more difficult because the clutter buries things. It can make you feel crowded in, overwhelmed. It makes keeping your house clean harder. And, buying new (and useless) stuff may strain your finances. Is your house cluttered with stuff that looks good but may not be useful? Do you keep broken things, believing ‘some day’ you will repair them but it’s already been three years…? Do you buy new stuff all the time because the old stuff is, well, old? One room at a time, look at the contents of the room:
If you haven’t used it or looked at it for a year or more, or it’s broken and can’t be fixed or isn’t worth fixing, get rid of it.
If you use it but it wastes your time and provides no real benefit to self or others, get rid of it.
If items that are useful and needed are laying around, in the way, piled up – find a better place to keep them where they are easy to use and easy to find and out of the way.
Time. Commitments. Do you stay on the move from morning to night? Never have time to think? Working, shopping, meeting friends, fulfilling obligations to take others some place or to be somewhere with a friend or child, working out – wait, no time for that! Hardly have time to take a shower and eat breakfast, huh? Why? Take a hard look at your calendar, your obligations. Do you really have to keep all those appointments, meet all those obligations?
Learn to say “No.” Excuses not required.
Cancel classes or gym memberships you signed up for that aren’t being used.
Limit your children’s activities – it will help them as much as you.
Finances. Money in, money out. Hopefully for you there is a good balance between those directions. You still want to simplify your finances. Automate as much as you can – direct deposit, auto-pay, etc. Close out unnecessary credit cards, like store cards, and use only one or two major cards. And, do you really need Netflix and Hulu and cable and … How many bills and direct debits and usernames/passwords does one want to keep track of?
If you find yourself robbing Peter to pay Paul, paying only the minimum on too many credit card bills, and having trouble paying for groceries when the house payment or rent comes due, you aren’t alone. Overburdened finances are a huge stressor. If you can’t figure out a plan to get your finances in better shape, reach out for help. Consumer credit agencies can negotiate for you (watch out for charlatans, though).
Cancel subscriptions you aren’t really using or benefitting from.
Pay off highest-interest credit debt first, as much as you can each month over the minimum; pay minimums on the others until it’s their turn for pay off. Then close the account!
Buy only what you need, not everything you want.
Pay yourself first (savings) once your debt is under control.
Screen time. Do you realize how much time, non-work time, most people spend in front of a screen? Not window screens, but Windows, Apple, Android, email, FB, Twitter, television, etc. Do you realize how much the consistent exposure to media impacts your outlook and attitude? Do you realize how much intrusion it brings to your mind – commercials, flashing lights, noise? It’s no wonder we all feel like we have ADD!
Unsubscribe from email mailing lists whose email you delete anyway or from which you get no value.
Set a limit on your TV/Netflix/Hulu, email, social media, and Internet browsing time each day – and stick to it.
Reduce smart phone apps to only those you need on your phone.
Avoid social contacts who have poisonous attitudes, and avoid engaging in gossip or malicious talk in social forums. Why spend time and energy being negative?
Multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is so overrated, so 2002! More and more studies are showing us how much less productive we are and how much less attention goes to each task when we think we are multi-tasking. Why try to do four things at once, why not finish one and move on to the next. Each will take less time, get done better, and you will have less stress and more satisfaction in the accomplishment.
Meals. We all need to eat, and of course I promote healthy eating. Meals don’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Meal planning at the start of each week is a huge simplifier. I shop the farmers market on Saturdays, and then I figure out what dinners I will make with the produce I bought. From there I make a list of any other ingredients I need, including for breakfasts and lunches, and then go to the grocery store. If I know generally what I’m cooking each night, what pre-prep I may need to do the night before or in the morning, and I have all the ingredients I need on hand, the week’s meals go a lot smoother. When making the plan I may not know which day each meal will happen, as the week’s activity often dictates that, so flexibility is key to keeping it simple.
In the planning I also look for opportunities for shortcuts – where can I cook once and use twice? Need brown rice or quinoa for two meals? Make enough for both at one time. Salads two nights in a row? Wash enough lettuce/greens for both while I have the spinner out. Stir fry tonight? Why not clean some extra celery and carrot for tomorrow’s lunch or snack?
I think you will find that the simpler you keep your life, the happier that life is. Get rid of what weighs you down and free yourself to have more time, energy, joy, and better relationships.