“Simplicity brings balance, freedom, and joy. When we begin to live simply and experience these benefits, we begin to ask the next question, ‘Where else in my life can i remove distraction and simply focus on the essential?'” ~ Joshua Becker
“I think the most wonderful thing about voluntary simplicity is that it means different things to different people. There is no one way to do simple living right. Everyone has a different concept of how they want to live, what is most important to them, and what they need to make them happy. Trying to live someone else’s idea of simplicity will never work.” ~ from “There Is No One Way To Do Simple Living Right“
Choosing a life of volunteer simplicity has many benefits — more time, less debt, less stress, better health, better diet, to name a few. You don’t have to completely upend your life, quit your job and move to the country, or join the minimalist movement to enjoy the benefits of living more simply.
You can choose to make a few choices to simplify any area of your life. Once you experience the benefits, you may choose to make changes in other areas. The beauty of simple living is that it is as individual as the people who choose to live a little more simply.
With that it mind, here are some ideas and suggestions for simplifying different areas of life.
There are many areas of the home that become magnets for clutter: closets, drawers, cabinets, or entire rooms.
Try my “a PLACE for everything and everything in it’s PLACE” method:
P = Purge. When you start a decluttering project, first get rid of anything that is obviously trash.
L = Like with like. Know where each object lives and keep it in it’s house when you aren’t using it. Keep like things together.
A = Access. Keep items you use frequently close at hand. Store items you use only occasionally further away or in those difficult to reach areas.
C = Contain. Find ways to store items that make them easy to see and identify. This could include using a clear storage bin to contain items, hanging file folders that are clearly labeled, and drawer dividers that keep small items in place.
E = Evaluate. Before you begin organizing, take time to plan the space. The purpose for organizing is to give space to the objects you use most and to clear out the clutter. Without a plan, you’ll end up merely re-arranging the clutter (at best).
Your calendar has it’s own challenges for organizing and controlling. One of the most effective steps you can take is to have only 1 calendar for all your appointments, meetings, etc. If you use a calendar for the family, color code it so each person’s entries are readily apparent. Using an online calendar (such as Outlook or Google Calendar) allows you to share your calendar with others.
Add all appointments, meetings, etc. Get everything out of your head and onto the calendar. Also, remove any entries that are no longer relevant.
Organizations / groups / clubs
Are you giving time to clubs or other organizations that you’re no longer interested in? Play the “Zero Sum Game” with all the groups to which you belong. Take each one in turn and ask, “Knowing what I now know, if I didn’t belong to this organization, would I join it today?” If your answer is anything but an enthusiastic “Yes”, consider if you still want to be involved. If not, take immediate steps to withdraw yourself from the club or organization.
Use a planner / scheduler
If you already have a planner system in place, good for you. Just be sure you are using it for all your activities, tasks, events, meetings, etc. This includes personal as well as professional. If you aren’t using a planner, you may wonder how adding something is a way to simplify? Well, simplifying isn’t only concerned with removing things from your life. A planner, properly used, can bring control over all the things you have going on. It can remove the stress and hassle of forgotten tasks or appointments. Doing things correctly and on time the first time prevents a lot of extra work, inconvenience, and bother.
Set up a filing system for papers
Have you ever spent an hour looking for an important document? Estimates for time spent looking for lost objects, including paper, range from 16 minutes to an hour or more per day. [Ahmed, et al] However much time you spend retrieving lost papers, you can simplify by having a filing system that is easy to use and then <u>using it. In general, it is better to have fewer files rather than trying to get too granular with them. Otherwise, you spend your time shuffling through file folders, just like shuffling through papers. Use broad subjects, then be sure that you take the time to actually file things. The few minutes of time invested in this can save hours later.
Set up a filing system for electronic documents
You know what I said about filing papers? Ditto for computer files.
Whatever method you use to set up your filing system (for both paper and electronic documents), you must periodically clean them out. For example, I have 12 monthly folders labeled “January”, “February”, “March”, etc. I put monthly receipts for bills paid and so forth in the corresponding monthly folder. At the beginning of a month, I remove the contents (items from the prior year) and shred them. I now have an empty folder to begin accumulating items for the current month and year. This works well for e-mails and other electronic documents, too.
Speaking of e-mail, don’t let your inbox get all junked up. (And please don’t look at mine where I currently have 490 unread messages. In this case, do as I say, not as I do. Eek!) The best way I know for simplifying in this case is to unsubscribe from newsletters and blog feeds that are no longer of interest. (I hope that doesn’t include The Excelerated Life newsletter, but if it does, please go with my blessing.)
Meals / menus
Can you simplify food preparation and grocery shopping? The best ideas here are to have a few go-to meals that your family enjoys. I once experimented with the idea of having the same meal on each day of the week; for example, spaghetti on Monday, bean soup on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, etc. My family didn’t buy into that idea so my experiment didn’t last long. What we do now is to have a few basic dishes that we like but without having them tied to a certain day. We have simplified our shopping and cooking but still have a bit of variety. Of course, it goes without saying that your meals should be made from fresh ingredients as much as possible.
Possessions / clothes
I’ve written a good deal about purging possessions and clothing and the benefits that come with that. See for example, “Why I Wear A Uniform“. Again, there are ways to simplify your wardrobe and other possessions, without going to an extreme. Keep in mind the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) and consider which items you use most of the time. Could some of the other things be discarded?
Let go of Gazingus pens
In the book Your Money Or Your Life, Joe Dominguez introduces the concept of the “gazingus pin”. A gazingus pin is anything that you can’t pass by in a store without buying. When you see your gazingus pin, your mind goes on auto pilot, you forget that you already have 100 or 1000 gazingus pins at home that you never use. All your attention is focused on this fresh, clean, lovely, new and improved gazingus pin. When you finally come to your senses, you find yourself adding a new gazingus pin to your drawer that is already full of other gazingus pins. [Robin & Dominguez]
In the concept of abundance, we find that we are – or should be – like conduits. Things flow into our lives and things should flow out of our lives. If your pipe is stopped up, guess what? Eventually it’ll be full and there is no room for anything else. Not even another gazingus pin. In order to keep the flow going, you must keep things clear.
Chores / Hobbies / Past times
Are there things you are doing that you no longer enjoy (hobbies & past times) or that aren’t really necessary (some chores)? Often, we fall into the habit of doing a thing because we’ve “always done it” (which is partly what a habit is). Now may be a good time to mindfully consider if these activities still bring the joy or fulfillment they once did.
You might also consider your reasons for beginning a new hobby or pasttime before you add it to your life. Are you doing it for you? or for some other reason?
TV / social media
I believe it goes without saying that these can be the biggest time-wasters we face. They can also be one of the hardest to get rid of. Tap in to the power of tiny steps to build new habits that reduce or eliminate wasted time spent on mindless viewing and surfing.
Add, not only subtract
As we have seen, a lot of these ideas deal with removing things from our lives, letting go of those things which no longer serve us or bring us joy and fulfillment.
But simplifying is not just about letting go, not only subtracting. It’s about adding more as well. More free time, more me time, more family time. Simplifying is about having more peace of mind and peace of heart.
You don’t have to embrace full-blown minimalism or voluntary simplicity. Taking even one or two of these small steps can begin your journey to a simpler life and a life of well-being, meaning and purpose. In fact, to the Excelerated Life!
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Excelerated simplicity — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Ahmed, Saleem, Muhammad Ziaullah, Leena Rauniyar, Meng Su, Yue Zhang. (2015). “How Does Matter Lost and Misplace Items Issue and Its Technological Solutions in 2015 -A Review Study” [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://iosrjournals.org/iosr-jbm/papers/Vol17-issue4/Version-1/L017417984.pdf.
Becker, Joshua. “The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life” <http://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-10-most-important-things-to-simplify-in-your-life/>,,06-08-2018
Robin, Vicki and Joe Dominguez. Your Money Or Your Life. New York: Penquin Books, 1992, 2008