9 steps to simplify your life
‘A simplified lifestyle allows you to focus on quality over quantity and experiences versus stuff.’
Looking back to my life before the pandemic, I realise I was far too busy. I honestly have no idea how I managed all my commitments.
With things returning to ‘sort of normal’ I’ve been taking stock – thinking about what I can do to avoid sliding back into the overcommitted ‘busy busy’ person I used to be.
I mostly do this through journalling and consciously checking in with myself and how I’m feeling.
My two aims:
- A balance between work and personal life
- Quality time alone, and with people who are important to me
Looking at those two bullet points, it seems quite straightforward, but it really isn’t.
It feels that I have to be constantly focused on simplifying otherwise I will find myself busy.
Here are some ideas that I find helpful.
They’re not especially exciting or new but added together, I find they make a big difference.
9 things I do to simplify my life
1. Tidy and declutter
I find visual clutter incredibly distracting and very stressful. When I’m too busy I am less tidy generally and that has an impact on how I feel.
My favourite way to keep clutter at bay is to clear out a cupboard or a drawer. Even doing one a week helps keep things tidy.
When my book shelves are full, I take them all off and donate or sell any I know I won’t read again.
When the shoe cupboard is overflowing, I clear it out.
And so on.
The answer is never,
‘I need more storage.’
For me, it’s simple,
‘I have too much stuff.’
When I let it go, I feel better immediately.
This brings me to the next step…
2. Avoid unplanned purchases
When I’m busy, I’m far less in touch with my intuition, and way more likely to make unplanned purchases.
When I am less busy, I have more self-awareness. I know our home is quite compact, and we don’t have much space for storage.
I try to live by this quote:
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’
My goal now is to have links to things I know I might want to buy in a list app on my phone. I make myself wait, and try to decide if it’s really needed before I make a final decision.
‘Why do I need this thing?’
‘Where am I going to keep it?’
(Maybe I just want to admire it instead of buying it.)
3. Plan meals
We had weekly supermarket deliveries for years until I reached a point where I realised I was relying on special offers to decide what we were going to eat.
We were also wasting food by overbuying.
I’ve been working on planning meals instead, which I generally do once a month, and then each week I adjust it based on what needs to be used up etc.
My favourite cookbook is Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. The recipes focus on seasonal vegetables and store cupboard basics and are reliably easy to cook.
I try to always have herbs, lemons, limes, ginger, garlic and chilli, so there are fresh flavours, whatever I cook.
Cooking is much quicker when there’s a plan and all the ingredients are to hand.
4. Capsule wardrobe
I realised some time ago that I only ever wear dresses, or jeans with a t-shirt or sweater. That has simplified my wardrobe hugely.
That, and going shopping with my friend Gabby, who used to be a fashion stylist. She makes me try everything on, and asks me,
‘Do you love it?’
Or she might say,
‘We can do better.’
These two phrases have become mantras for me when clothes shopping.
Nowadays I only have a few clothes, but I try to buy good quality clothes that are not ‘fast-fashion’.
I recently bought a jacket through Paynter Jacket and I’m delighted with it.
I know I’ll be using it for years, and it works with both jeans and dresses, plus it has lots of pockets.
Pockets make me very happy!
5. Watch films
When I was growing up my parents watched TV every evening. Everyone did in those days.
I loved the regularity of scheduled TV in the days before Netflix and iPlayer. I never missed Top of the Pops and I’m happy I grew up in those times.
I know there are excellent documentaries, comedy and drama programmes available, but often the things that are available aren’t what I want to watch.
There’s so much choice, and I just find it overwhelming.
I made the decision to gradually build up a personal list of films I want to watch more than once, and to buy them on Apple TV (unless I already have them on DVD).
We make popcorn and cuddle up under a quilt with our cat and dog.
I also try to go to the cinema at least once or twice a month. Seeing something on the big screen is one of my favourite experiences.
6. Listen to music
Music lifts my mood like nothing else.
I have Spotify but I also have lots of albums downloaded on iTunes where I can find them easily plus listen on my phone, my laptop or my desktop computer.
I love to make new playlists, and I do this a couple of times a month. It’s a quick and simple way to freshen up what I’m listening to and helps me discover songs I didn’t know I had.
I often listen to music when I’m cooking, cleaning, or sewing.
Life is always better with a soundtrack.
I love writing things down, and I use a journal to plan and review my days, weeks and months.
At the start of each new month, I review the month that’s just finished. [Related post: How to make the most of a new month]
My monthly review comprises everything I feel I’ve accomplished, large or small, people I’ve spent time with, films I’ve watched, books I’ve read etc.
I take time to think about how I can find more balance as I write out my schedule for the next month.
Doing this by hand helps me take stock, and decide whether I’m overly busy or if I have some space.
Also, whether my commitments are in alignment with my values, or whether I’ve said yes to some things I wish I hadn’t.
Taking time to plan and review on a daily and weekly basis is something else I enjoy that also helps me stay on track.
I always think better with a pen in my hand, plus I am more likely to remember it.
8. Put things away
Living in an uncluttered home is one thing. Being able to find things is something else.
When I can’t find something, it’s usually because I haven’t put it away.
I’ve worked hard on finding places to put things so I can find them easily, and on auto-pilot.
I group like things with like, which I learned from reading Marie Kondo books.
This seems like a small thing but it has made a big difference in my stress levels.
If I can’t put my hands on something quickly, then I realise I have accumulated too many things and need to declutter.
9. Keep Sundays simple
I used to treat Sundays like any other day of the week. I’d exercise, shop, go out for the day, see friends and family, catch up on work etc.
Last year I realised that Mondays were often a stressful day of the week for us as a family, and when I thought about why that was, I realised that our Sundays were often too busy.
I talked it over with my husband and we agreed to keep Sundays simple.
For the last few years, our Sundays usually look like this.
Morning: have tea, take our dog to the park, come home, and potter about.
Afternoon: potter about, maybe spend time on a hobby, cook dinner, and eat together.
Evening: plan for the week ahead, read, have a shower and have an early night.
I really look forward to our Sundays. I know that I feel more ready for the week after having a restful day, and the rest of my family appreciates it too.
Progress not perfection
This might make it sound like I have everything sorted, but really, it’s a work in progress.
I just try to make space for what’s important.
I hope there’s been something useful here for you.
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