How to Simplify Your Life
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Do you often feel overwhelmed? Is your appointment book or calendar running your life? Do you have more debt than you are comfortable with? Do your job and household chores leave you exhausted.
It’s easy to let life get too complicated. Advertisers tell us we must have the latest, the biggest, and the best. Our culture teaches us to admire the super-busy person. If you are over-scheduled and constantly on the go, you must be important!
Do you sometimes yearn to simplify your life? Today can be the first day of that process for you. Here’s how.
What Really Matters To You?
The basic principle: Your lifestyle should enhance your life rather than spending your life enhancing your lifestyle.
Start by identifying what really matters to you. What gives you joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment? Learning new ideas? Spending time with your family? Adventure and travel? Accumulating wealth? Being engaged in work you love? Playing with children? Enjoying nature and the outdoors? What matters to you? Write these things down.
What Are Your Dominant Values?
Next, examine your dominant values. What do you stand for? What guides your choices in life? Honesty? Competence? Friendship? Security? Pleasure? Religious faith? Integrity? What values mean the most to you? Write them down.
What To Keep, What To Dump
The point of this is to see if your lifestyle is enhancing your life (what matters to you and what you value) or if you are spending your life in the service of your lifestyle (what advertisers and culture tell you to buy and do).
You can check this out by taking two pieces of paper. Title one “Enhances My Life.” Title the other “Serves My Lifestyle.” Think through three categories: my stuff, my activities, and my friends/social contacts.
When you think through your stuff, consider your car, your house or apartment, each of your furnishings, your appliances, your clothes, your communications and entertainment equipment, and all the rest of your things. Judge each item – whether it enhances your life (is consistent with what matters to you and what you value) or whether it simply serves your lifestyle (what advertisers and culture say you should have). As you judge each item, list it on the appropriate sheet.
Do the same process with all your activities and with all your friends/social contacts.
Start Simplifying Your Life
Now you can simplify your life. Look at the sheet titled “Serves My Lifestyle.” Notice all the things, activities and friends/social contacts that you decided mostly serve your lifestyle instead of enhancing your life. Decide today which things you will sell or give away, which activities you will quit, and which friends/social contacts don’t support what’s important to you.
Look at the sheet titled “Enhances My Life.” Which things will you keep? Which activities will you do more of? Which select friends/social contacts will you spend more time with?
Complexity in life is likely to separate you from the things that are really important to you. Simplicity will help you to focus on what matters.
Ideas From People Who Have Simplified Their Lives
Un-clutter and organize your home and office. If you haven’t used something in six
months (except for seasonal items and financial records) – trash it or give it away.
Carry the smallest wallet or purse possible.
Cancel subscriptions to magazines and newspapers that you don’t read.
Make communication devices serve your needs. Turn off your cell phone, pager, etc. and
protect personal time. Let voice mail or e-mail collect communications until you
are ready for them.
Quit organizations that don’t add to what you want out of life.
Only watch select television programs. Otherwise, leave the television off.
Manage online surfing to what actually enhances your life and not just helps you pass time.
Outsource, delegate and automate all the errands and chores that you possibly can. Don’t
try to do it all. Ask for help. Get a virtual assistant. Shop by phone or on the internet.
Say “No” to requests that seem unnecessary or stressful. Say “Yes” to what brings you
satisfaction and fulfillment – not just to please others.
Schedule at least 10 – 15 minutes that are sacred and just for you. Reflect or meditate.
Luxuriate in the peace and quiet.
Schedule time that is just for you and your children or just for you and your spouse or
Take a moment each day to be grateful.
Make a list of all your activities and personal projects, in order of priority, top to bottom.
Draw a line through the middle of the list. Quit everything you can below that line.
Nurture relationships that support you. Identify a handful of people and intentionally
deepen those friendships. Avoid people who drain your energy.
Save time by living near your work or working near (or from) your home.
Reduce or pay off debt that creates stress in your life. Track your expenses. Spend
money on what enhances your life.
Find work that you love, work that uses your talents and engages you fully.
Eat more nutritious and right-sized meals.
Simplicity is not about poverty or deprivation. It is about maximizing what enhances your life and minimizing the rest. Free yourself for the essentials. Take the first step today and patiently persist until a simpler life is your new way of life!
© Glen Rediehs, Ph.D.
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