Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
I’ve always been a pretty simple person, but a few years ago I noticed that my life had become increasingly busy and cluttered, and I made a conscious effort to change that. I read books, magazine articles, and blogs about simplifying but noticed that most focused on getting rid of “stuff”. I believe, though, that having more with less begins with limiting and maybe even eliminating intangibles, so I decided to take a very serious look at what filled my days. I bought a small Moleskine journal and carried it with me everywhere for 2 weeks. Every few hours, I would stop what I was doing and jot down every single thing I had done in those last hours. Everything! After the 2 weeks were up, I was astounded at what I found. Here are a few of the changes I’ve made as a result.
- I realized I have never received an email that required a response or action on my part within the next 4 hours in order to avert some crisis; logically, then, I don’t need to check my email every few hours! I now check my personal email once a day and work email twice a day on work days only.
- I combine “like” activities and do them less often. For example, done assembly line fashion, I can fix 5 lunches in just a little over the time it took me to fix just 1 every night. Every Sunday evening, I prepare a baggie with 10 slices of bread and containers of enough tuna salad, lunch meat, soup, fruit, etc. for the week, fruit, and take them with me to work on Monday.
- I significantly eliminated time-wasters. At work, I no longer stop by a colleague’s office to chat; instead, I smile and greet colleagues when I walk by, but I keep moving. Not only does this save time, it also keeps me from engaging in what often makes up office chit-chat — gossip and griping. At home, I only turn on the TV when I’m going to watch something, and I’m much more selective about what I watch and how long I watch.
- I reduced the number of my fb friends and the amount of time spent on Facebook and other social media. At first, this was hard for me. As an empty-nester and fairly recent widow when I began this process, chatting on Facebook filled lots of lonely hours. I realized, though, that I was refreshing the screen every few minutes for an hour or more only to discover where a friend was having dinner or to look at pictures of cute kittens and puppies. All the while, my own very real, very cute dog lay asleep at my feet. I downloaded a program that allows me to set limits on my computer use, site by site, and I limit myself to 15 minutes of Facebook every day.
- I spent an hour calling and emailing about 98% of the companies that sent me fliers, ads, newsletters, etc., and asked them to remove me from their contact list.
- I eliminated “services” and subscriptions I didn’t use/need. I no longer have a land line, for example, and receive no monthly magazines. My local library subscribes to my 2 favorite magazines, and I borrow them once a month. I also cancelled my newspaper subscription; instead, I read the same paper online — this saves me both money and time, as I can quickly scan the main page and the sections that interest me.
- I no longer serve on committees or belong to clubs or groups out of a sense of obligation or habit. The sky has not fallen because I no longer say “yes” to every request or because I stepped away from some activities. I’ve made room for others to become involved and freed up time to pursue new activities that interest me.
What have I lost from these — and other — changes? A significant amount of physical and emotional busy-ness, stress, negativity, and pressure. What have I gained? Time to pursue things I’ve always wanted to do, peace, a more relaxed pace of life, and even a growing savings account!
Should you do what I did? Yes and no. Don’t just adopt my changes — or anyone else’s changes. Do, however, evaluate your own life, priorities, and wants/needs to determine the changes that are right for you at this point in your life. Enjoy the process, tweak as necessary, and create a lifestyle that works for you. And then — enjoy!
Patti is a mom, teacher, and writer. Her blog, A Life Redesigned, focuses on creating a new life after sustaining a life-changing event or loss. You can find her blog at www.aliferedesigned.com.