Simplify Your Life Week is observed during August of each year. This holiday encourages those who need to refocus their lives and declutter – that doesn’t just mean objects. The idea is to eliminate anything that causes stress or anxiety. Most of us have a tendency to clutter up our lives, both physically and psychologically.
“We’re all familiar with the idea of spring cleaning, but some late-summer simplifying is a great way to keep the clutter to a minimum going into fall. But simplifying your life isn’t just about removing the physical clutter out of your life. It’s meant to make us look closer at our lifestyle, and eliminate the things that keep us from enjoying life.” ~Ideal Living website
There are many ways we can simplify our lives. Simplification at work involves saving energy and balancing projects to work more efficiently and prevent fatigue. Alternating between light and heavy tasks can help our body and mind stay focused throughout the day. Planning work projects helps things go more smoothly when approaching deadlines.
Simplifying our environments at home is always a good practice to have. The easiest way to do this is the scale down our lifestyle. Organizing through schedules often work for families who have a lot of activities outside the home. Schedules keep everyone on task and support a well-balanced home life. Families that follow schedules help children develop self-discipline later in life. While most of us probably struggle with too much social activity outside of work and home, we still have a problem with saying no. On occasion, we have people in our lives that cause stress. It can be tough to eliminate these people from your life, but it’s worth it in the end. Life is too short to be hampered by people who cause more problems than they are worth.
There are so many ways we can simplify our lives. Taking a break from social media is one activity that can help refine our life. By logging off once and a while, we allow ourselves to find other things to accomplish or get in that needed afternoon nap. We need to choose simplification that best suits our own needs. It’s important to remember we are all different and situations affect us uniquely. Once you find what works for you, stick with it.
Here’s how to simplify your life
Although a “simple life” might look a little different for you than for me, below are three underlying principles for simplifying that we recommend.
1. Start with mindfulness
The best starting point for making a change in your life is to notice. We live in a busy world with many demands on our time and energy. Technology, which has brought many incredible benefits to our lives, has made it increasingly difficult for us to disconnect from the outside world and simply be in the present moment.
Take a moment to practice mindfulness. No matter where you are – sitting, standing, or lounging – close your eyes and take a deep breath. Aaaahhhh. If you’re able, take a moment to stretch your body and remember what it feels like to be you.
You may notice that your mind resists this pause, and resists lingering in the present moment. Our minds can get stuck in management mode, reminding us to remember this or do that. We’re so accustomed to doing that taking a moment to pause might be difficult! Which brings us back to the idea of simplifying your life:
Think of 2-3 adjectives to describe how it feels to be in your body and mind right now. Comfortable. Overwhelmed. Energized. Drained. Accept how you’re feeling with compassion, perhaps by saying, “I’m feeling anxious right now. And that’s okay.”
Now, think about how you would prefer to feel. Some who yearn for simplicity wish to feel more relaxed, present, or at ease. Do you long for these feelings or did something else entirely come to mind? It might help to think of a time when you felt as if life was simple and good and consider what was happening that contributed to those feelings. Were you on vacation? Were you in a great place in your work? Had you just decluttered space in your home or cancelled something on your schedule?
Now that you have grounded yourself by being mindful of where you are in this place and in this moment, make a mental inventory of all of the moving parts in your life. You can make a list if you like, but you don’t have to! What do you feel responsible for? What are the activities or objects that fill your days? How many hats do you wear?
What you might discover is that you’re expecting a lot of yourself! You expect yourself to be on time, to respond to emails within an hour, to cook meals, to grocery shop, to tidy the home, to perform well at work, to keep the car repaired, to send birthday cards, to attend children’s activities, to exercise, to get rest, to spend time with your partner, to call your mother, to… Well, you get the idea!
Think back to a time you felt really good, and remember what contributed to how you felt. Can you bring more of that into your life somehow? You might notice that some of your lifestyle habits are in opposition to what you know makes you feel good! Now imagine your ideal world: what responsibilities would you let go that would make you feel relief, excitement, or gratitude? If a fairy godmother appeared in front of you and offered to take on some of your burdens, what would you give her first?
Perhaps you can see where this is going In order to simplify your life, you must say no sometimes! Many of us are people-pleasers by nature and feel uncomfortable refusing a request. In fact, many of us habitually take on responsibilities that were never requested because we think we “should.” Often this can be traced back to how we were raised.
Nevertheless, it’s your job as your keeper to let go of assumed responsibilities, and to say “no” to requests that don’t enhance your life. I once said “no” to a request to volunteer for an event in my religious community. The person making the request said, “Wow, I wish I could learn to do that!” By honoring what I knew was right for me, I modeled a behavior that I hope helped that person reflect on her commitments.
If saying “no” gently but firmly is a new experience for you, it will take time to get used to. That’s okay! It’s normal to feel awkward or vulnerable at first. If it helps, you can ask your spouse, friend, or coworker to be your accountability partner. You can even write sticky notes on your bathroom mirror! The important thing to remember is that a “yes” to someone else may very well mean a “no” to yourself.
Thankfully, there are many creative ways to say “no” to assumed responsibilities these days. For example, food subscription services can help if you struggle to get meals on the table. If it’s within your budget, consider hiring a cleaning service. Or for that matter, maybe it’s okay to clean less often!
Parents, consider saying “no” to some of your children’s requests. Many children are enrolled in back-to-back activities, requiring parents to shuttle them all over town. It sets a good example for your children (and helps your mental sanity!) to choose their activities carefully and to spend more unstructured time together at home.!