Friday, 1 January 2016

7 Ways to Start Simplifying Your Life

Let me ask you a simple question: what do you think of when you read the word "simple"?

Pic from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

To some, a "simple life" might sound unpleasant, boring or even a sign of poverty. However, to a growing number of people, simplifying and downsizing means many things: it's a statement against a system that helps the rich get richer and the poor grow poorer, a step away from consumerism and towards a deeper, perhaps spiritual appreciation of life, as well as being a great way to save money and reduce stress.

If you're unsure about why simplifying is a good idea, check out my recent post 5 Reasons to Simplify Your Life.

Through future blog postings I hope to help show you some of the various ways in which you can de-clutter and simplify your life, as well as bringing your awareness to some of the individuals and groups across the globe who are already embracing a more authentic, compassionate, simple and sharing-based lifestyle.

For now, here are some starting points for some of you who want to take a step back from the stress and clutter of modern life and start to simplify. I've gone with the theme of areas of your life (physically and otherwise) where you can start to act.

1. Your Kitchen

You'll see from other posts that I'm a big fan of cooking your own simple, vegetarian, healthy food. Ideally, you should aim for local, seasonal vegetables, avoiding things that have been flown halfway across the world, as simplifying also means doing things like reducing your carbon footprint.


Have a rummage through your kitchen cupboards and go with the rule that anything out of date or that you know you'll never eat gets thrown out. Start to check the labels on vegetables in the supermarket and go for locally grown things, if possible. Look up recipes that only use a few ingredients (hopefully some of the ones on here are good examples) - I generally find that if I have rice, pasta, noodles, spices and vegetables in the house, I can create a wide variety of quick, simple, healthy and tasty meals.

2. Your Wardrobe

We all have that outfit that we pretend we might wear again, one day, but know deep down that we won't. There are bound to be a few items in there that were gifts, or perhaps those jeans that don't really fit (but you feel will - one day - convince you to go on a diet).

Be ruthless. Ask yourself for each item of clothing - "have I worn this in the last two years?" If the answer is no, it might be time to get rid. Take them to a charity shop, sell them on eBay, or perhaps get your friends together and have a clothes swapping party - that way you might end up with something new that you like.

I try to keep my outfits to a bare minimum, so I have one pair of party shoes, one pair of climbing shoes, one for work/interviews etc. The idea is that if I move house again, I can fit everything into one suitcase. This can be terrifying for fashion addicts, so go with what works for you - as long as you are "cutting down" relative to what you're used to, it's a start!

3. Your Schedule

Do you find that you load so much into your calendar that you never have any time to yourself? Living simply is partly about reducing stress, which means having time to actually relax, take things slowly, spend the morning with a cup of coffee and a bit of yoga and think about what really matters to you.

I'm not advocating cancelling on your friends, but have a look at things coming up and try being as honest with yourself as possible. Are there any events that you really don't want to go to, but you agreed to out of a sense of obligation? Is there anything you could cancel? I often bite off more than I can chew out of a strange fear of being bored, meaning I end up with a chock-full schedule and little time to breathe.

It might be too late to back out of some things now, but for future situations, put at least an hour a day into your calendar and mark it as "doing nothing" time. This can be where you exercise, meditate, read motivating articles, generally your "me-time", which I think is important - constantly rushing around like a headless chicken will leave you tired, stressed, and unable to really stop and think about your life/goals/lifestyle.

4. Your Friends List

A bit of a harsh one, and something I need to listen to as well! We often load up our "friends list" (on Facebook, or other such sites) with people we've met once, people we vaguely know and people we don't really like.

Now, I'm not really saying you need to delete everyone you're not close to, but I've often found myself scrolling down the News Feed, reading crap I don't really care about, losing a lot of time that I could be using elsewhere. The result of this is often feeling a little bored, annoyed or empty.

With friendships and relationships, it should be about quality, not quantity. Spend real, face-to-face time with your friends and put your phone away. Nurture the friendships you've got, or those you feel would make you happiest, rather than trying to keep up with a hundred people at once.

5. Your Junk

This might not need to be said, but we all have junk - things we don't really need, books we'll never really read (or read again), gifts we don't want to get rid of for risk of offending, things we keep "just in case". Trust me - my poor parents are storing boxes and boxes of stuff for me, and when I come home I have no idea what most of it is any more... yet I feel resistance when I think about getting rid of it, because... "you never know" when you might need it!

Unless your items have massive sentimental value, it's likely that you own a lot of things that could be replaced if you really needed them again. I'm talking about cushions you don't sit on, ornaments you don't display, books that are not limited/first editions that you have no real intention of reading yet keep, collecting dust. If you really need such things again, you can buy new ones (from second-hand shops, for example).

Try categorising things into items that you can sell, items that are probably worth very little (and use eBay or other research to find out the difference, just in case), things you will actually use again and things that would make nice gifts for people. For those you can sell, why not have a garage sale or sell them online?

Clearing out junk can be therapeutic. I find that I can face scary life decisions more easily when I have less "stuff", because the thought that I might have to up and move somewhere else suddenly doesn't seem like such hard work! Besides, a cleaner, tidier room perhaps can lead to a tidier, calmer mindset.

6. Your Entertainment

What do you do for fun/entertainment? I don't know about you, but I've seen friends spend hours scrolling through their phones, playing mindless games, watching crappy TV (especially bad if you're just channel-hopping). Not only does this seem like an unproductive use of time, but how does it make you feel? I usually end up feeling pretty bored and exhausted after flipping through channels or clicking news links for any significant period of time.

What does "simple" entertainment look like? Well, perhaps it looks like a simple board game or sitting around a room with a guitar and some friends. A nice walk through a park instead of overloading your brain with the digital equivalent of junk food. It's not just about what you do - it's about how you do it.

Focus exclusively on whatever you've doing, whether it's talking to a friend, watching a show or walking your dog, rather than trying to multi-task. You might also find your friendships growing much stronger when you make eye contact rather than distractedly trying to chat to them while scrolling through your news feed and responding to other people's messages.

7. Your Future 

Well, OK, what I mean here is - the way you plan and set goals for your future. It can be easy enough to go through our days, vaguely thinking things like "one day I'll be able to...", putting off following our dreams or true ambitions until we reach a certain level of skill, money or have a certain amount of time. This can lead to confused, disorganised planning; for example, when I don't really sit down and work on setting goals for myself, I find that I only put in a couple of hours on my blog and other coaching-related activities every week, and only if/when I remember!

To "simplify" your future, what I mean is to start writing down your goals, working out exactly where you want to head and setting specific times and activities that will bring you closer to them. This will be easier if you follow the other steps, as you're likely to end up with a lot less of your time slipping away on time-wasting activities!

If you want to go into more detail about any of these things, contact me - we can look at the areas of your life that you need to simplify the most, and I can help you set goals to de-clutter, focus and generally live a happier, clearer and more balanced life.


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