Simplify your Life
A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.
It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.
We tend to fill our lives with activity and with ‘stuff’. It’s supposed to mean we’re successful, that we’re fully living. The reality is that it usually just leaves us feeling overwhelmed, crowded and with a longing for a simpler, quieter life.
By filling every minute of the day, we find ourselves with no time to be ‘quiet’, to go within, to find the inner peace that allows us to be creative,
productive and free. By having too much stuff, we feel cramped, stifled and burdened. We feel restricted by “too much” of everything and this impedes our ability to do what’s truly important to us.
It’s not necessary to go down to the bare minimum, but it is essential that we give ourselves room to grow and time to be reflective. And there is a pervasive effect. Simplifying your life in any area gives you more ‘space’ in all areas. Practice it.
You get to choose the pace: ‘Fast & Furious’ or ‘Slow & Easy’. The important thing is to keep working on simplifying your life and finding ways to keep it simple. Let yourself have fun and be creative with this.
To get you started, here are a few ideas to simplify your life. Get prepared for a burst of energy from doing it NOW.
Pick a corner – Divide your desk or room into sections. Pick one section and start de-cluttering. Try to touch things only once while going through this process. Use 3 boxes or bags. ,marking them as follows: ‘Keep’, ‘Give Away’; and ‘Toss’. If it’s paper, ask yourself ‘If I lost it, could I find it elsewhere?’ If the answer is yes, throw it away. Where ever possible, come up with a system that will allow you to maintain the de-cluttered space.
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.
One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Evaluate 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.
- 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.
- Simplify home tasks. 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).
- Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much.
- Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.
[Another tip: if you find yourself having trouble parting with some items, put them in a box, label the box with a date 6 months from now, store in garage or closet. If you haven’t gone into the box by the time the date rolls around, throw it away without opening it.]
“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth” – Leo Tolstoy
- Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.
- Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.
- Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.