14 ways to Simplify Your Life
What Do You Want Most?
Modern life tends to be complicated. Notice I say ‘complicated’ and not ‘complex.’ The difference is that something complex is naturally multi-faceted, but something complicated is made that way artificially or by outside forces. Hear that clearly: if your life is complicated, you’ve complicated it yourself. Or, you’ve allowed someone else to complicate it, which is really the same thing, isn’t it?
Daily life can be as simple as you make it. One thing, though. It takes a bit of planning to get into that simplicity mode. The first step is to decide what you want.
First, Break It Down
Your complicated life is made of a lot of different parts, often conflicting parts, and you’ve superimposed them on top of each other to fit them all in. But, what are the parts really made of? What parts go together and which of them are even necessary?
So, start by considering what you did yesterday. Everything you did from the time you heard your alarm go off for the first time to the time you finally drifted off to sleep at night. If you’re like most people, your day was chockfull of tiny tasks that seem to have nothing to do with each other.
Ah, but they do. Each thing you did yesterday, you did to meet some need or get something you wanted. If not, why would you do it? You wouldn’t. So, write down all those little things you did. Then, break them down into categories of things you want or need.
At first, you may have dozens of categories, but if you look at the root need or desire behind each category, you may find that you can group many objects and time-eaters together. For example, you need to feed your family. That probably means you need a job. Once you have a job, you’ll have to get there. So, you’ll need transportation. Once you have a vehicle, you’ll have to pay for insurance, repairs, maintenance and fuel.
You’ll need clothes and shoes suitable for your profession. If you have young children, you’ll need someone to look after them and provide them with meals and transportation, because you’ll be gone from home for the day. See how complicated this has become? And all you wanted to do was support your family well.
Get Back to Basics
Okay, you’ve determined you need to support your family. Start with that. Is there some way you can do that without all those complications? Think with a new attitude. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to do everything you’ve been doing. And, you don’t have to do what other people do.
Have you considered not having a vehicle of your own? That eliminates a lot of time, money and aggravation. Maybe you could ride the bus or use your bicycle to get to work. And, do you even need to go to work every day? Working from home is becoming more and more common as technology makes it easier. Maybe you don’t need to work at all. Sustainable farming can provide a family with enough food, energy, shelter and even durable goods to keep you going without hiring yourself out to others on a regular basis. Think creatively, and you just might find another solution that doesn’t involve all those complications.
Choose 5 Things You Want
Now, narrow down that list of categories to five main “I want” statements. When you look at your life as it has been, it may seem impossible to narrow them down to just five. You can do it. Your list might be something like this:
1. I want to support myself and my family.
2. I want to spend time with the ones I love.
3. I want to do something fulfilling.
4. I want to keep learning.
5. I want to have nice things.
That’s just an example, and your list might look a lot different. That’s okay. As long as you get down to five categories, you’re golden.
Eliminate the Unnecessary
With your five “I want” statements in mind, look through the things you did yesterday. How many of them had nothing at all to do with those five final categories? And, how many could be eliminated without depriving you of the five things you want most? Be ruthless about cutting unnecessary objects and tasks.
Rethink what it takes to get what you want. Do you really have to spend a fortune to have nice things? Find a new definition for “nice things” that doesn’t include saddling yourself with outrageous debt and responsibilities. Literally stop doing things that don’t serve your five “I want” statements. When you accomplish that, your life will be much simpler and almost invariably, more pleasant.
How to Find More Happiness with Less Stuff
The modern world teaches us to be rabid consumers. Toy companies market directly to children, knowing the little tikes will beg their parents for the great stuff they see on TV or online. Children’s toys give way to game systems and clothes as the children become teens. Ads aimed at adults market everything from home theatre seating to small kitchen appliances.
Before you know it, your child’s room is a litter of dolls, toy cars and building blocks. Your teenager can’t organize their room because there’s just no place to put everything. Your kitchen counters are stacked up with gadgets until you can’t make a decent meal. Your whole house is so filled with stuff you can barely get through it.
Yet, none of this makes you happy, at least not for very long. All that excess stuff becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. You may not even realize what the problem is, and if you do, you likely don’t know what to do about it. Don’t worry. You can find true happiness without all that junk.
Stop buying so much
This is a no-brainer. You can’t have more space in your house if you keep buying everything you see. But, how do you decide what to buy and what not to buy? That’s simple, too. Ignore the seduction of ads and store displays. You don’t need to know what’s out there to know what you want and need.
It’s a radical departure from business as usual, I know. But, you don’t have to know about the latest object that promises to make your life easier, more interesting or fulfilling. Do you actually need to add to the piles of stuff that litter your house? Will buying something new make you happier. Probably not.
You can find out all you need to know by looking within. Is there really anything more you need to manage your daily life? Before you buy something new, stop and ask yourself if something you already have can do for you what the new object promises. If it does, just don’t buy the new thing.
Pare down your belongings
Okay. Now that you’ve stopped bringing in more pointless stuff, look around you. What can you do without having? If you’re not sure, try this. First, get rid of anything you have that you haven’t used in the last 3 months. Unless it’s something seasonal. Then, think about whether you used it at all the last time you could have.
At this point, you might still have a lot of extra stuff in your house. Now, dig deeper. Go one room at a time. Take everything off the shelves, counters and, yes, the floor. Put it all in one huge pile. It looks more like a pile of junk now, doesn’t it? Good. That’s what most of it really is.
Pick up one object. Hold it in your hand. Do you feel better now? If not, put it in a box. If it’s something you’ve used recently, ask yourself if you were happier because you used it. If it didn’t, it goes in the box, too. When you come across something you truly need or that makes your heart happy just to hold it, find a place to put it away. But remember as you do this: you only have so much space. You’re going to have to be very selective. When your cabinets are full and you still have plenty of open space in your home, you have two options. When you pick up the next object, the only way you get to keep it is if you can part with something you already put away.
When you’re finished and everything is put away or in boxes, take the boxes out of your home. Throw it in the trash or donate it to a charity to help someone that does need it. It you’ve done a good job, you’ll know it immediately. Your house will feel roomier and more open. Ah…that’s more like it!
As you might have heard, life is a journey. On this journey, you can be weighed down by unnecessary burdens. Or, you can travel light, leaving behind anything you don’t need for the trip. You’ll feel freer and more alive. And, you’ll probably find that your just as happy without the extra things in your life as you were with them. Probably happier.
So, where do you find happiness?
Ownership is a funny thing. It might make you feel good for a moment, that’s true. But in the long run, having isn’t nearly as fun as doing. And it isn’t as fulfilling as having a good friend or doing something you’re good at. At the end of the day, it’s full-out living that makes you the happiest, not the accumulation of stuff. Find happiness within yourself and in your circle of friends. And that’s the kind of happiness that lasts.
Taming the Time Crunch
Why is it that just when you get a chance to do something you’ve always dreamed of, you’re so busy with everyday life that there just isn’t time? Well, it probably has something to do with how complicated your life has become. You spend every day doing a seemingly endless variety of tasks, most of which – listen closely – get you absolutely nowhere. If that sounds familiar, take this time to simplify your time commitments so you can do all those wonderful things that can really make your heart sing.
Think About It
We do so many things automatically during the course of our days that we usually don’t realize where all our time has gone. Spending some time in reflection can really shake things up. Take a walk outside in a beautiful, natural setting. While you’re walking, think about each thing you did the day before your walk. Ask yourself: Did I enjoy doing that? Did it really make my life better? What would happen if it didn’t get done? When you think about your day in this honest, reflective way, it’s pretty likely you’re going to realize that you waste a lot of time on things that don’t really matter.
Make a New Kind of Commitment
If you’re like most of the modern world, you spend your life making commitments to do things you feel need to be done. Sometimes, you’re right: you’re the only one who can do them. But a lot of the time, you’re just kidding yourself. You may find yourself doing things that are someone else’s job. Or, they might be absolutely pointless. So, make a new kind of commitment to yourself. List the things you won’t do. And, I’m not talking about necessarily bad things here – just time-eaters that can be eliminated.
Do you really need to see the latest TV drama that’s on Hulu because one of your friends has recommended it? If it isn’t interesting to you, don’t do it to please your friend. You can find other common grounds with them without wasting time with something that bores you. Is it really important to you to be the first one to try a new technology? If that excites you, then go for it. But, if you’re just doing it to look smart, don’t bother with it. What might be a waste to you might be good for someone else and vice versa. Do what’s right for you, and put the rest of those things on your not-do list.
Let the Phone Ring
We’ve all become slaves to our mobile phones at one time or another. We rush to answer it the moment it rings, regardless of whether the number on the caller ID looks familiar or not. But, what would happen if you controlled your phone instead of letting it control you?
Here’s what that might look like on an ordinary day: You put your phone on airplane mode, ignore it and go about your day. Then, at a few different points in the day, you take a few moments to listen to all the voicemail that’s come in since you last listened. You reply as needed. The rest of the time, you’re relieved from the duty you feel to answer every call. And those calls you would usually hurry to answer but turn out to be unimportant? All you have to do is listen long enough to know you’re not interested, The delete button can be so empowering! By the way, this system works great for email and Facebook, too.
Nail Down Happiness
Happiness is what we all strive for in life. Funny how we spend so much time doing things that don’t turn out to make us any happier at all. It’s partly because we haven’t nailed down exactly what happiness means to us as individuals. Some people are happiest when they are at the top of their career path. Others see travel as a means to happiness. A few noble souls get the most enjoyment out of doing things for those less fortunate than themselves. Each of those things can bring happiness to someone. But, to others, any one of those things can be draining and unsatisfying.
So, write a happiness plan or talk to a friend about happiness. Think of all the things that could make someone happy, and then narrow your focus to those things that actually make you happiest. You might be surprised to realize that you really don’t enjoy travel, or that business success is less fulfilling than you thought it would be. You might find that some of the simplest things you do make you just as happy as the complicated ones. For example, a stop by the local produce market for some fresh fruit might make your day better, while being the first one to the meeting is an empty victory.
Sure, you’ll still end up doing a few daily tasks that aren’t altogether exciting or fun. I mean, who wants to spend their time cleaning the house, for example? (Okay, some people do enjoy that, but not many.) Apart from the necessities of life, you can basically spend your time any way you want to. In the end, you’ll see the bigger picture in a new way and focus more time on what matters most to your happiness.