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1. easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.
2. plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation. Humble and unpretentious. (Thank you, Oxford Dictionary.)
I like simple things.
I always have. A few minutes outside on a sunny day. A good burger at a neighborhood bar. An hour napping in a hammock. Solid colors and basic designs.
Simplifying life? That gets a bit more complicated. Life is messy. And busy. And demanding. Go to work, make sure the bills are paid on time, manage schedules, keep the house clean and the laundry done, find that missing sock (Seriously, where do they GO?), trying to go out with friends, get enough sleep, get some exercise, eat well…Whew! I’m getting tense just typing all this!
So what can we do? I think the first step to simplifying your life is asking yourself a few questions.
What do you want your life to look like? If you take a few minutes to think about this one, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy to picture what you WANT. Now, carry it a little farther. When you look at this picture of your ideal life, what ISN’T there? Get specific about this, because that’s a very good place to start. If you see things that don’t fit into your ideal, why are they there? Some things are easy to just let go of…others, you may not be ABLE to let go of, but maybe there is a work-around. For example, you have to eat so you have to buy groceries…but maybe instead of trying to fit a shopping trip into your schedule, you try out a grocery delivery service, like Shipt or Instacart.
Here are a few ideas to get you started. None of these are particularly groundbreaking, but they CAN be life-changing.
1. Declutter and organize!
I’m a big believer in the impact that your environment can have on your wellbeing, mental health, and productivity. Find a method that works for you. Start cutting back on the things you own and organize the things you love. I, personally, like the KonMarie Method (although I don’t follow it to the letter). It’s a good place to start and gain some insight on how to get your home in order! Here’s a book to look into, if you haven’t read it yet: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
2. Live within your means and get your budget under control!
Money is a big cause of stress. So is MAKING that money. I have several jobs right now, and while I love them, I go to work because I need money to pay the bills. What if you could work a little less or switch careers entirely? Would that simplify your life?
To make that work, take a good look at your budget – Are there areas that you can manage better? Are you spending more than you make? Are you spending wisely and saving? Again, find a method that works for you. I LOVE Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball method for getting out from under debt. I also use YNAB (You. Need. A. Budget!) to make a plan and keep track of our spending habits.
Try using a digital calendar to keep track of bills and when they’re due, so there are no surprises and you’re not spending unnecessary money on late fees. I use good old Google Calendar to set up recurring events for each bill – for bills that vary from month to month, like utilities, I add the amount into my calendar when the bill comes in. Check it once a week, pay what’s due, no stress!
3. Find a routine and establish systems!
Routines are KEY in my life-simplification process. I like knowing that by lunchtime, I’ll have my morning routine finished. I like knowing that on Monday evening, I’ll have meals prepped for the week. Find routines that work for you, so you don’t have to wonder when and if things will get done.
Also, create systems that work in your life! I mentioned keeping track of bills using Google Calendar. That system works for me! It’s one less thing I have to think about each day, because I know I have a system in place to handle it.
Think about the parts of your life that could use a routine or system. Try a few out, see what works for you!
Please please please don’t try to do all the things, all at once. Multi-tasking is great in theory, but it’s not nearly as productive as you might think. When your attention is divided, you’re likely to make mistakes or cut corners. Instead, take one task at a time. Focus on it, be aware of what you’re doing, and limit interruptions until it’s finished. THEN move on to something else. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you will do a better and more thorough job if you are focused and mindful of the task at hand…which means you’re less likely to have to redo it or fix mistakes later. And THAT means less work in the long run! (More on single tasking here.)
5. Say no!
This is difficult at first, I won’t lie. Especially if you have an established pattern of agreeing to whatever is asked of you. But it is absolutely acceptable to say no to things if they are not beneficial to your life or health. Someone asking you for your time and attention does not mean you are obligated to let them have it. Be aware of your needs and time constraints before you agree. If you can and want to do something, say yes! But if it’s going to add stress to your life, you have my permission to say no.
6. Be content with what you have and where you are RIGHT NOW
Stop waiting for “better”. Enjoy where you are! Do you have a roof over your head and food on the table? Good! Even if it’s not your dream house. Even if it’s not steak on the table. Work toward what you want, but don’t get so wrapped up in the goal that you forget to enjoy the journey and what life is like right now.
Are you waiting to buy that cute summer dress until you’re one size smaller or your arms are a little more toned? Are you working toward it? Then you’re doing great! But don’t forget to live your life NOW instead of waiting until things are “better”. There’s a line in a Regina Spektor song that I’ve always liked. It says “I have a perfect body, because my eyelashes catch my sweat.” When I get hung up on some little thing, like wanting better abs before I rock the two-piece at the beach, that lyric pops into my head. It reminds me to reframe my thoughts and that I’m lucky to be healthy, even though I could be doing “better”.
Don’t get so hung up on pushing for things to be better that you forget to enjoy the simple fact that you’re here, living, right now. Enjoy now and make the best of where you are!
7. Set goals and PRIORITIZE!
Yes, that’s capitalized for a reason. Goals are important. They give you a path to productivity and getting things accomplished. But I think the PRIORITIZING is even more important. You can set all the goals you want, but if you don’t make a plan to make them first on the list, life WILL get in the way. Decide what needs to be done each day, what can wait, and what really doesn’t matter. When you PRIORITIZE, you will find that you are capable of so much more progress with MUCH less stress and guilt. You can read my post about how I do this on the reg right here.
Simplifying is about streamlining your life. Dialing back. Take a close look at your life and decide what you can cut out, cut back, or find a better way to get done. Remember to take it slow. Don’t try to change everything all at once. That’s a surefire way to end up overwhelmed and in a worse position than when you began! Focus on one area, then the next. Soon, you’ll begin to notice space opening up in your schedule and in your mind…time to relax and enjoy life instead of just getting through it!