The start of the New Year is a great time to “turn over a new leaf”, so to speak, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing ideas and resources to help you achieve your 2012 goals. Be sure to check out this list of ebooks to support your resolutions as well!
As the world seems to spin faster and faster on its axis every year, we can often find ourselves caught up in the rat race of live — shuttling kids around, trying to do more and be more and feeling overwhelmed with the clutter and chaos around us.
Simplifying your life looks different for different people, but here are 9 relatively easy ways to simplify. There’s no need to tackle them all at once; just pick on and begin practicing the principle in your life. As it becomes an established habit, pick another one. And so on.
Which one will you start with?
1. Eliminate clutter.
One of the best things you can do for your sanity and happiness is to eliminate the clutter around you. Stuff not only costs money, takes up space and requires time to clean/move/organize/find it, but it also takes energy and brain power just to see it and process what you’re looking at.
I’m not saying you need to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. However, all of us have things we can get rid of to clear the clutter and make room for the truly important stuff!
There are a lot of reasons to not decluttering — fear, sentimentality, not knowing where to start — but all of those reasons steal time from today in favor of yesterday or tomorrow. Look around you right now. How many things around you do you truly love? How many make you smile just to look at them? And how many of them do you have simply because you’ve always had them? Wouldn’t it be better to make room for things you love?
Resources to help you declutter:
- 10 Questions to Help You Declutter
- The Clutterfat Challenge
- Simplify by Joshua Becker
- And more decluttering posts from Organizing Your Way
2. Lower your standards.
I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the saying, “A good mom has sticky floors, a dirty oven and happy kids.” Frankly, I don’t think the state of your floor has anything to do with whether you’re a good mom or not, and there are good moms with clean homes and good moms with messy homes just like there are bad moms in each group.
That said, for those of us who tend to lean toward the perfection side of things, learning to lower our standards is just as important as any other item on this list. It is virtually impossible to maintain a spotless home with small kids around, and chances are the people who achieve it count the cost for doing so — either by spending hours a day cleaning or paying someone else to do it.
Lowering your standards doesn’t mean throwing them out the window; it means accepting that your home is lived in and that it won’t be perfectly clean all the time. A dirty oven is really not that big of a deal in the scheme of things!
3. Institute daily clean ups.
Rather than trying to keep your home perfectly clean all day all by yourself, institute daily clean ups…and involve the whole family.
Before the girls go to bed every night, we spend 15-30 minutes cleaning as a family. They take toys upstairs, gather laundry and take it to the laundry room, wipe the table, straighten the entryway, etc., while Sean works on the dishes and floors and I work on eliminating piles, folding laundry, helping the girls put things away, etc.
We’re all working together, which means no one person has to carry the load, and we can get the whole house clean (or at least straight) during this time so that we wake up to a clean slate in the morning.
4. Identify your pressure points.
When there’s simply not enough time to do everything, it’s important to identify those things that will have the biggest impact on your mood and energy level and start with those.
I talk a lot about pressure points because discovering my own pressure points had such a big impact on my mood and productivity. I realized that having an unmade bed was making me feel out of control and chaotic, and simply making the bed as soon as I got up in the morning easily solved that issue. Whether your pressure point is a messy entryway, a full kitchen sink, a full inbox or any one of a thousand other things, identifying those things that make you crazy and then taking simple steps to eliminate the source of your frustration can actually motivate you to tackle other areas as well!
5. Plan your menu.
If you’ve been hanging around Life Your Way very long, you know how I feel about menu planning. Whether you love or hate to cook, menu planning simplifies your life. With a meal plan, you eliminate the “What’s for dinner?” question, buy the things you actually need for the meals you plan to make and save money by avoiding waste. Some people simply plan dinners; others — like me — plan all meals. Some assign specific days to each meal; others allow for more flexibility in the week by simply planning enough meals for the week without worrying about what will be eaten when.
Like most things, it’s important to figure out what works for you. Once you do, though, menu planning becomes an invaluable tool for simplifying your life!
Resources to help you menu plan:
- Plan to Eat
- Top 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Plan a Weekly Menu
- Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie
6. Eliminate paper clutter.
In this digital age, it’s amazing how much paper clutter we still have to deal with on a daily basis. Notices from school, junk mail, paper bills and statements, etc. all take time and energy to deal with. Whether it’s through a file system that actually works, creating a home management notebook or digitizing all of your records, get out from under the paper clutter by creating a plan for paper before it even comes in the house.
For example, open mail as soon as you bring it inside, discarding junk mail, envelopes, etc. and moving the rest to your inbox or file system. Sign up for e-bills to eliminate paper bills. Eliminate unwanted mail.
7. Practice saying no.
Repeat after me:
- “No, I’m sorry, my schedule is already full.”
- “I’m afraid we won’t be able to make it this time.”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but this isn’t a great fit right now.”
- “I’d love to contribute X, but I won’t be able to do Y at this time.”
No matter how you say it, learning to say no — confidently and without leaving any question about whether you really mean it — is an important skill. Whether at church or school, with friends or family or even at work (especially if you’re a freelancer), there are so many great opportunities available. There are times we need to do things we don’t really want to do, but for the most part, every time you say yes to something that is not right for you, you’re saying no to another opportunity.
Instead of trying to do all and be all, practice saying no this year and use the extra time and energy for the things that really matter!
8. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe.
How many emails do you get a day? How many of those emails are from real people who you really want to hear from?
Although I love email and communicate through it almost exclusively, I absolutely hate to waste time on emails that don’t matter to me. I unsubscribe from sales emails ruthlessly, and I’ve been known to ask people to take me off their “funny forwards” lists. If you are getting emails that you don’t open and aren’t anxious to read, unsubscribe. You may even need to unsubscribe from Life Your Way (but I hope not!).
Email is a big enough time suck as it is. Don’t waste your time by staying subscribed to lists you don’t care about!
9. Get it done early.
And finally, one of my favorite tips — and one I need to practice more in my own life this year — is to get things done early rather than waiting until the deadline. From menu planning and getting clothes and lunches ready the night before to getting posts written in advance and turning in projects ahead of time, getting things done early takes the pressure off as you go through your day or week so that you can better handle the things that come up unexpectedly!
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How are you simplifying your life in 2012?