How to simplify your life without getting all complicated about it.
There was a time when I felt like I was too busy to brush my teeth (I wish I was joking), and even though I knew simplifying would help restore harmony in my life and to my health, I had no idea where to start. I mean, if I could barely squeeze time in for personal hygiene, how would I be able to pull off major life changes?
“People generally look to simplify their lives for a number of reasons—most commonly after they get fed up with the stress and chaos of their daily lives,” says Heidi Freeman, PhD, assistant professor of exercise science and wellness management at USciences. “However, simple living requires a lot of patience while adjusting, and generally entails a good amount of physical work.”
It’s worth the effort though: A recent study at University of the Sciences revealed 90 percent of people who considered themselves part of the “simple living movement”—where you favor values such as family and the environment over material consumption and income—reported improved physical and mental health. Cha. Ching.
You don’t have to start big, you just have to start somewhere. If you want to step away from the chaos like, now, here are 11 easy ways to simplify your life:
1. Define your priorities
This can be hard to do when you’re busy since your bod is automatically reacting to your day as if everything’s urgent. Deep down, under all the rush-rush-rush and panic, you really do know how you want your life to be. Take 10 minutes and picture what your ideal day consists of on both a professional and personal level. What does “future you” need “now you” to ditch in order to make it a reality?
2. Establish a morning routine
I’m a big believer that how you start your day is how you’ll spend the rest of it. If you start it all cracked out on coffee, wired and distracted, then your entire day will reflect that—and you’ll barely get anything done. Get up earlier and establish a morning routine that sets you up for success.
3. Clean as you go
When you stay on top of your chores, they feel like less of a chore. For example, do your dishes while your coffee brews. Put your groceries away right when you bring them home from the store (properly). Wipe down your tub after you shower. Rinse your sink every time you brush your teeth. You won’t believe the time you save!
4. Take out the garbage
Take out the trash as soon as you have a full bag. There’s something symbolic and soothing about an empty garbage can, no? Bonus: You’ll burn a few calories while you’re at it.
5. Do “one thing a day”
Make a list of tiny things around your home that you never make time for, such as finally buying a new lampshade or giving your stove top a thorough cleaning. Make sure the tasks themselves only take five to 15 minutes at a time, then do one of them a day. It puts the kibosh on mental clutter in a big way.
6. Set your schedule in stone
Once you’ve made your schedule for the week, make a rule to a) not add more tasks to it, or b) not rearrange your schedule to accommodate something that can wait. We often add and change our schedules for the wrong reasons—usually, it’s an urge to not disappoint someone—and ultimately end up disappointing ourselves.
When someone asks you to do something, instead of saying yes right away, say “I’ll get back to you.” Check your schedule, and if accommodating their needs interferes with your ultimate goals for the week, either let them know when works best for you, or learn to how to say no.
7. Move more
Vehicles are becoming more and more overrated (and expensive!) by the day. Consider walking or biking to your destinations, or carpooling or using public transportation when the weather’s nasty. The first will help you score some exercise points, while the latter’s better for the environment (and your wallet).
8. Don’t accumulate
For every new item you bring into your home, choose one to sell or donate. Otherwise… well, you know that show “Hoarders”?
9. Pay your bills right away
Paying your bills five minutes before they’re due is a waste of mental space and energy. Once you deposit your paycheck, pay the bills that have arrived during that pay period and any that come due before your next one. Not only won’t the bills be hanging over your head anymore, but you’ll know exactly how much money you have to work with. It’s a super easy way to avoid overspending.
10. Spend time outside every day
Anytime you feel you’re spending too much time living in your head (or in front of a screen), go for a walk around the block or have your morning coffee on the patio. Even as little as 10 minutes outside will reenergize you.
11. Choose one small change
If you want to simplify your life but the thought alone exhausts you, choose a really tiny change to get started. For example, make a rule to stop checking your email after a certain time, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Once you’ve mastered that one change, it’ll give you the confidence to not only make another, but work your way up to more challenging ones.
“A common conception about this style of living is that environmental sustainability and scaling back on consumption requires unpleasant sacrifices – these are things that people don’t want to do,” says Dr. Freeman. “However, people who have adapted to this lifestyle reap the benefits, including a higher quality of life and a better state of health overall.”
How do you want to simplify your life?
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Image: Relaxed woman photo via Shutterstock