Simplify

There was a time in my life when I had a full-time job, I was going to school to work on my second degree, I was commuting over an hour (one way) to school, I was a newlywed, and I was maintaining and partially remodeling a big old suburban four-bedroom house with a big yard.  I wanted all of those things at the time, but honestly it was miserable.  I hated the days when I’d wake up knowing that it would be 18 hours until I got back into the bed again.  I was tired all the time and unhappy most of the time.  Dude was very unhappy with is job and eventually landed a new position that was in the city and had him commuting over an hour each way too.  He traded an unhappy position for another and added rush hour to it too.
Thankfully we have a low tolerance for stuff like that because Dude and I decided that being grumpy for most of the day wasn’t how we wanted things to go.  So we decided to simplify.  I had saved enough to quit my job and devote all my time to school, we sold almost all of our furniture and sold the house to move into a much much smaller place (one bedroom, one bathroom condo in the city), we sold one car, and divested ourselves of all the STUFF that was causing us to be grumpy, unpleasant, workaholics.  Dude looked for a new job (again!) while I finished my degree.  We basically went from living a complicated existence of juggling schedules, DIY projects, school, distasteful jobs, driving all the time, and spending the money we were earning on stuff we didn’t need or want to owning only what we truly needed and doing what we truly wanted to do.  Ahhhh!
Now, I realize that our story is a bit extreme and it wasn’t as simple as selling everything and moving.  Not everything fell into place as easily as it may seem in two short paragraphs, but after about 18 months of transition and making choices that would bring us closer to our more simple life, we were settled.  Everything changed for us. We were happy, fun-loving people again!  Our marriage became stronger, we started working out and eating right, we saved more money, and spent more time together.
I also realize that not everyone can take such drastic steps — selling most of your personal belongings was very hard to do and I know that it is not a possible scenario for everyone.  But the take-away message here is shedding away all the unnecessary stuff (whether it’s literally belongings and possessions or other, intangible static) can change your life for the better.
So, I invite you to examine the literal and figurative clutter in your life.  What is weighing you down?  What makes you unhappy on a regular basis?  What is the one thing you can do today to simplify your life?  A total life overhaul might not be what you need or might not be what you can do right now, but working on eliminating the small things that unnecessarily complicate your life will make a huge difference.
Here are a few things you can do to simplify:

  • Clean up and get it out. Choose 10 songs that you love and really get you going.  Play those 10 songs on your iPod, stereo, whatever.  While those 10 songs are playing devote that time to cleaning out a closet/drawer/room/desk.  Get rid of clutter.  Throw things away.  Donate things that are still usable but don’t have a place in your life or your home.  Enjoy your favorite music and take some steps towards completing a chore that you’ve probably been putting off.  Do this as often as you can until you’ve purged your whole house.
  • Say no.  We all want to be superheroes to our family, kids, friends, co-workers, superiors.  But if your resources are spread too thin, you’re not useful to anyone.  Take unnecessary obligation out of your life.  Focus on doing a few things well.  Devote yourself to doing what you love.  Say no to things that you don’t really want to do.
  • Stop spending your time and effort on negative people.  Having someone in your life who drags your mood down, complains all the time, puts you down, and hates everything is not accomplishing anything but making you that way too.  The people in your life should help you, not bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself.  Surround yourself with those with the same goals, the same attitude, and the same way of thinking.
  • Be present and grateful.  The past is the past and we can only do so much to prepare for the future.  Enjoy this day.  Enjoy what you have and be thankful that you have it.  Appreciating what is going on today can make yesterday seem so far away and tomorrow not so bad.
  • Treat your body well.  Taking the time to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep is like putting money in a savings account.  It seems like you’re just doing something small and meaningless each time you deposit those pennies, but the interest accrues and compounds.  It’s the same with treating your body well.  Choosing to do what’s best for yourself might not seem like a grand effort at the time, but the cumulative effect will be so enormous and have such a grand impact on your overall life.  You cannot be productive if you’re not fueled and rested properly.
  • Don’t live outside your means.  I saw a poster recently that said, “Too many people spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need to impress people they don’t know.”  Is this true for you?  Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it.  Ask yourself how this item will enrich your life.  Ask how this item will simplify your life.

What tips can you add to this list?  What is going to be the first thing you do to simplify?  What have you already done to make your life easier and how did your life change?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

8 Comments

  1. Diane D.
    May 10, 2012 1:27 pm

    This is a GREAT post. I don’t think I could possibly agree more and I could add my experience to every one of your points above (so I won’t’!). I do have a tip that is a great first step for women who have a difficult time clearing out and letting go of “stuff”. START WITH YOUR PURSE! That giant bag that you carry is filled with crap that you don’t need, or at least you don’t need to carry around! This evening, dump it all out and only put back what you will definitely need for JUST the next day. Resist the temptation to put back things you “might” need. Then go live your life the next day and you will be amazed that you really didn’t need all of that stuff. Throw it in a box and if you absolutely need something in the future, put it back in but then vow to dump the purse again at least once a week until you know exactly what you really need. Then buy a smaller purse. Once you can let go of those “necessities” in your purse, you’ll find that taking clothes to a consignment store, or taking extra sets of dishes to the thrift store is a breeze. It will take weight off of your shoulder and off of your life as well.

    • Jill
      May 10, 2012 1:42 pm

      I love this idea, Diane! I just came home from running errands and I was carrying around a heavy purse. I’m sure there is much in there that I DON’T need at all. I’m going to start this right now!
      Thank you!

  2. yunker
    May 10, 2012 2:06 pm

    GREAT POST!!! A good reminder to people to de-clutter and great suggestions for people to begin the process.

  3. Lynsey
    May 11, 2012 1:03 pm

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Well, I love all of them but this by far is my favorite one!
    I’ve realized over the years too that I don’t NEED stuff. Patrick has geared me towards less spending over the years…and when we went down to one car it made a huge difference in our savings! I’m much better in my 30’s then in my 20’s! I remember watching an episode on Oprah about this type of thing…Living by Less is More type of thing! I can’t wait to DE-Clutter our place soon! Our second bedroom looks like a hoarder show! Yikes! And everytime I think about it I get over whelmed but the playlist of songs is a great idea! Thanks Jill for sharing your story!

    • Jill
      May 11, 2012 2:40 pm

      Thanks, Lynz! I have some major decluttering to do myself too. It just feels so much better to have things clean and neat, right?!

  4. Jake
    May 14, 2012 1:22 pm

    Simply put….in two words, a lifestyle of “Simplicity Perfected” is the goal.

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