Do you ever wish your life could run more smoothly? Like a roller coaster, life has its ups and downs. And while life may never be hassle free, it can be simplified. This article provides a range of ways that you might find applicable to your own situation, and that might help you to simplify your life. And given this is such a subjective notion, and not something where one-size-fits-all, use your own judgement and needs to choose which steps work best for you; it’s doubtful that all steps will apply or benefit one individual, so simply skip that which isn’t applicable to you.
1. Try the simplified approach to simplifying. This is about identifying what’s most important to you and eliminating, or downsizing everything else. While the remainder of this article provides specific examples of how you can simplify your life, don’t sweat the simplification process, or you might be tempted to put it aside too, overwhelmed by changing all the things you’re finding too complex in your life. It is important to realize from the outset that:
- Simplifying your life is a journey, not a destination. What might work for you this decade might not fit the next.
- You will find some dead ends that don’t work for you. That’s perfectly fine; just keep learning and unlearning as you go. Don’t judge yourself harshly in the process.
- Sometimes others around you will feel threatened by your need to simplify. Be gentle with them because they are probably feeling mired in complexity deep down and wish they could simplify too. When you’re ready, you can help them simplify too.
2. Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out.
Home and Family Life
1. Simplify your daily chores. Think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).
2. Simplify your wardrobe. Owning fewer clothes of better quality means you’ll always look good and feel good and you’ll spend less time deciding what to wear.
- Have a versatile, but basic wardrobe.
- Choose a few basic essentials and styles.
- Mix and match two or three colours.
- Add different tops to black pants or blue jeans.
3. Downsize your life.
- Have a small, but comfortable home. Less clutter, more space to move, breathe, and do the things you really care about doing.
- Learn to live with less. Buy less, savour quality more, and put the spare money in the savings account for a rainy day or a reward vacation.
- Rent rather than buy a home or items you need to use. Then the repairs, rates, and dry rot are someone else’s problem, not yours.
- Trade your car for a smaller one. Find something that works for your family but is smaller than an SUV.
- Own fewer items but make sure that what you do own has greater versatility. Objects able to do double, triple, etc., duty are the most desirable to have around. Remember that working to pay for objects is not an ideal approach to living happily; review your priorities.
4. Prepare quick meals. Find recipes that are quick to prepare. Spend the spare time enjoying the meal and your family rather than over-complicating the cooking process.
- Make use of the internet for fast recipe finds. Look in your pantry to see what ingredients you have. Decide the main ingredient that you feel like consuming for that meal and type it (and maybe some of the other ingredients) into a search engine with the word “recipe”. Don’t labour the search process – check up to 5 recipes and choose one for that meal. This can be a lot faster than browsing through cookbooks.
5. Simplify your parenting. Many modern day societal expectations have brought about a parenting revolution where parents are doing everything for their children, from their homework, to tying their shoelaces, to letting adult kids stay at home when they’ve long outgrown it. Stop doing it all for them and simplify your parenting, safe in the knowledge that in doing so, you’re also raising a resourceful and resilient child rather than a child who expects everything to be done for them.
- Teach by omission. Don’t make lunch, don’t clean the dirty clothes, don’t put the toys away. Expect your child to start doing things for themselves at age-appropriate stages. It isn’t easier to “just do it” for your child in the long run, as that teaches your child you’ll always do it and that they don’t have to. Do tell your children where they can find the things to do tasks for themselves, showing them how the first few times, but then let go.
- Create a chore chart for all children to follow and complete weekly. Involve them in its creation and they’ll be more ready to buy into using it.
- Stop reading parenting manuals, books, and blogs. Other people’s parenting advice can often be a source of distress and perfectionism that you can do without in your life. We have the innate ability to be good parents, and you’re more likely to be a good parent if you’re seeking out other people’s advice than not. So trust yourself more and do what comes naturally. Your kids will appreciate not seeing “How to Tame Unruly Kids” open on the sofa!
- Allow your kids to discover nature more often and push them outdoors. There is plenty to keep them enthralled in nature and it’s free, interesting, and healthy. Many children deprived of time in nature are suffering from “nature deficit disorder”, which impacts parents too because you’re always on the treadmill of finding things to keep your children from getting bored or experiencing life’s little bumps and scrapes. Let go of your fears and find the benefits for both of you.
6. Expect everyone in the house to pull their own weight. After all, it’s everyone’s home and everyone is responsible for its maintenance. Avoid letting anyone off the hook. If you have been doing so, it’s never too late to change. Sit down and hold a family meeting about how the whole family is now going to simplify home life and discuss together what each person’s role will be.
- Accept that people won’t change. However, demonstrate to them that this isn’t about changing. It is about doing chores and tasks that are everyone’s responsibility and that nobody is more qualified than anyone else to do the cleaning, clearing away, and laundry, meaning that everyone is equally suited!
7. Prepare celebrations and gifts in advance. Avoid last minute anxiety and craziness by having these things already organized well in advance. Keep a gift cupboard to help you throughout the year, along with a list of favourite home-made gifts that can be produced quickly and easily.
Simplify your financial life. Finances enable us to thrive by owning a home, running a car, putting our children through education, enabling us to take vacations in interesting places, and ensuring we can survive with all the basics. Instead of resorting to the temptation to stick your head in the sand and hope that your finances will simplify themselves, here are some great ways to simplify them:
- Create a minimalist budget. Learn to manage your money regardless of your income. Save for the future.
- Pay cash. If you don’t have the money, you won’t spend it.
- Think before you buy. You may not really need it.
- Save receipts for six months to a year and store them in a large envelope or shoe box. Keep important receipts with warranties. Making it easy to find everything will remove the panic if you need to return broken or unwanted items.
1. Cut back on the amount of time spent working. If you are working longer hours than what you’re being paid for, it’s time to reassess why. Ask yourself what you’re getting out of and be honest. If you keep telling yourself “just this once”, how many times will it take before that excuse runs dry?
- See if you can work less hours than now. Ask for a part-time role. Readjust your spending habits to cope with the decrease in pay, increase in time for yourself.
- Leave your work at work. Quit taking it home every day. If it didn’t get done at work, it’s time to reassess your working habits. Ask yourself what value you and your workplace are getting from taking work home every day.
- Stop working weekends. Even if you love your work, dragging work into your weekends starts unbalancing the proportion in your life. It might not feel it right now but eventually, this will lead to burn out and/or passion reduction. Block off every weekend for the next six months. Not a single one of those weekends can include work from here on.
2. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.
3. Try commuting less. See if you can perform some telecommuting for a change, even just a few days a month.
4. Take break times. Whatever your job, however much you love it, breaks are an essential part of rejuvenating your life. Life becomes much more complicated when you stop seeing things afresh. So, be sure to take all breaks, from morning tea and lunch, to vacation times. Your work won’t feel half as complicated on your return.
5. Clear your desk. If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and disorganized and stressful. Clean it off regularly, perhaps every Friday afternoon before leaving work.
Technology and Communications
1 Simplify your on-line life. Your on-line life can quickly dissolve into a mess. Bookmarks here and there, emails cluttering up the inbox (many unread), sites you’ve joined and have no memory about, etc. All of this has the potential to decrease the utility and enjoyment of time spent on-line and give you a sense of complexity that really shouldn’t be there given the ability of technological solutions to clear the clutter. Avoid this by simplifying your on-line life as follows:
- Declutter your digital packrattery. Do a massive purge of the things that are cluttering up your computer, start keeping things simple and maintain a regular purging regime.
- Try to keep your email box empty. Answer, file, or delete emails upon reading.
2. Simplify your media diet. TV, the internet, radio, magazines, newspapers, pod-casts, there is a lot of media available. The trick is to use media effectively without letting it dominate your life.
- Take regular media fasts. Have weekends where you are completely unconnected to the internet, the TV, your electronic games.
- Place timers on electronic things that suck your time without you noticing. If you can spend more hours than you’d like on-line install a timer – and use it! You might be surprised at your level of intensity. Even if you simply add in enforced regular breaks, your use of the technology will instantly simplify.
3. Simplify your communications. Communicating with other people is a vital part of life but it can be too easy to let it take over in the form of IMs,emails, texting, etc. Limiting the times for communications can help you to keep this part of your life simple and effective.
- Keep email replies to certain times of the day only. Stop checking them every few minutes. Turn off the ping noise to stop your reaction for checking.
- Make all return phone calls at a set time of your day.
- IM or text for a limited time each day.
Personal health and well being
1. Simplify your health. There are a number of ways to make your health care less complicated:
- Choose a healthy diet and exercise daily.
- Monitor your blood pressure and heart rate at home. Keep a record of comparison for your physician.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, drugs and risk-taking behaviour, such as base jumping or speeding.
- Have regular pampering treatments, such as massages.
- Meditate. This has long-term benefits and helps to keep you focused on what really matters.
2. Save for an emergency. One credit card and $1,000 should be sufficient for an unexpected car or home repair.
3. Find a good physician. Be sure they listen carefully before treatment is prescribed.
- Request copies of your doctor visits and tests for review.
- Your accurate history enables a physician to make a better decision.
Time spent with others
1. Spend time with people you love. Re-evaluate time spent with people you cannot mingle with and choose to spend more time with people you can enjoy. Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them.
2. Spend time alone. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. While it may sound new-age like, it is extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.
3. Simplify your interactions. There are some absolute basics that can make your relationships far simpler, far less trying on your nerves and time:
- Learn to say no. If you can’t say no, you’ll always be the person who is trying to fix everyone else’s problems as well as your own. Learn to discern what is important enough to agree to and say no to the rest.
- Don’t keep giving to people who always take and fail to reciprocate. Don’t try to please others by neglecting yourself.
- Use your instincts. Don’t be easily led. If you feel there is something wrong, there probably is.
- Limit worrying. It changes little but uses up an enormous reserve of energy and complicates things unnecessarily. Instead, be proactive about whatever it is that is gnawing at you. Draw up action lists and just get active dealing with it. Worrying and stress go hand in hand so stop worrying to avoid stress
- Record your day if you’re not sure where the hours are disappearing to. Keeping a calendar can also simplify your day because you don’t have to rack your brains to remember everything continuously.
- Everyone says “be yourself”. There is a reason for this oft repeated cliché it being principally that when you’re denying your real self an outlet by pretending to be a personality style or type that you’re not, it’s all about constant effort to not let the façade slip. If you’re more true to yourself, then it’s likely that you will be much happier inside, and a lot less tied up in complications.
- Make sensible choices about pets. For example, dogs need more attention than cats because they must be exercised every day. On the plus side, however, this exercise can be a form of unwinding and reconnection with the outside world for you.