Have you ever wondered what it means to “simplify” or “simplify your home or life”? Simplifying things gets a lot of press and is a great little segment for morning TV, but simplifying is not always a “simple” as it sounds.
If you had “simplify my life” as one of your New Year’s resolutions and you have not figured out how to make that happen yet, don’t get discouraged. With a little effort, it is within your reach. Here are some ideas on how to get started.
Assess your life and space. The is the most important step towards living a simple life. It is wise to take an inventory before we start the process. If you don’t know what’s really going on, it will be hard to make any changes. Take your time when you assess your life, this is a time for quiet introspection. Create a categorized list of the areas of your life. Most people can categorize their lives into;
- Personal – includes anything that affects your own well being like time for exercise, diet, spiritual life, hobbies and leisure time etc. What is working in your personal life and what is not?
- Family – Are there relationships that are strained or difficult? Why?
- Friends – Even if you are married or in a manful relationship, friends are a very important aspect of your life. We were created to be social. Whether you are someone who needs many people in your circle or just a few really faithful friends, you need this aspect of your life.
- Work or school – it is sometimes hard to assess work/school because we feel that it is beyond our control, however, this is a time for assessment, not changing. Even if you can’t control your work/school life, it can be accommodated in other areas of your life to make your days simpler overall.
- Extracurricular activities – these include church or community involvement, fun with family and friends or even events you must be involved in for work related reasons. (Rotary Club, networking etc.)
- Space – this can be your home or work space or both. Is it easy to keep order in both places? What specific areas cause the most problems for you. Does clutter in your life create chaos for you?
Determine what is important to you now and in the future. Simplifying your life is not really about figuring out how to “get it all done”, but rather how to get the most important things done. So as you prioritize what you want to simplify, start by making a list of the most important aspects of your life. Ask yourself; “what do I want people to say about me at my funeral?” This will give you perspective for taking action.
Prioritize your need. Now that you have taken an honest look at your whole life from 10,000 feet, you can see where you are and where you want to be. Don’t try to fix everything at once, rather start with areas that can have the most impact in creating positive change. Sometimes something as simple as going to bed earlier can make an incredible difference in your whole life.
Thoughtfully consider the urgency of the need for change in each area. For instance; most people believe work and family are a priority, and they are important. However, if you are setting aside exercise and eating well, so you can work through lunch or get to a soccer game consider how that will affect your long-term health. Then consider how poor health with affect your work and family in the long run.
Create a plan. Your plan of action should be a written, living document. By that I mean, as you create a plan and implement the changes, assess the plan’s effectiveness. So let’s say that you determined that you needed to start a regular exercise program. Excitedly, you determine you will get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and walk, either outside or on a treadmill. You start your plan and a week into it, you find that when you get up you wake the dog who wakes the kids and you end up being late for work because that 30 minutes actually make things more complex. Or you start your plan and you realize you are more tired than before you started and instead of feeling better you feel worse. Go back to the document, and think about how else you could exercise and not mess up your entire life. Perhaps you are home before everyone else and could easily fit in a quick walk, or maybe you could walk during your favorite TV show. Don’t abandon the plan altogether, make the plan work for you.
Simplifying one’s life is not necessarily always about getting rid of tasks and items you don’t need (although that is part of it) it is really more about making life work more efficiently. Because most of us rarely take the time to examine what or who makes our lives and spaces “out of control”, we never get to the step where we actually do something about it. As a result, many people lead frazzled, frenzied lives and think they are normal. Before you start throwing things out and dropping out of your favorite activities, take an assessment of where you are and where you really want to be. So what do you want people to say about you at your funeral?