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7 Steps to Simplify Life


It’s National Simplify Your Life Week, a fitting opportunity to be reminded: “The most precious resource we have is time.”

If we want to live happier, productive, and healthier lives, we must simplify.  

Consider these random and eye-opening statistics about the cost of materialism:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 25 percent of people with two-car garages have so much clutter they cannot park a car inside the space
  • 80 percent of papers we keep are never used
  • 1 in 11 American households rent a self-storage space for excess belongings
  • 20 percent of the clothes people own are worn 80 percent of the time
  • The average American spends one year of life looking for misplaced items at home and at work

Here are seven helpful ways to begin to simplify your life:

  1. De-clutter and streamline personal possessions. Buy one new piece of clothing, dispose of one piece of clothing. Love reading books and magazines? When finished, donate magazines and books to public libraries, senior centers, and schools. Inherited family furniture and sentimental treasures? Take photos and document stories behind the original items. Curate and rotate a few things for display. Donate, resell, or repurpose items to give them new life outside of storage. And, as tidying expert Marie Kondo says, cherish and only keep belongings that spark joy.
  2. Say NO more often. Overbooked but afraid to hurt someone’s feelings? Remember that when you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else that may be more meaningful and productive – like making time for personal pursuits or time with a spouse or children.
  3. Practice OHIO (only handle it once). Over our lifetime, an average American receives 49,000 pieces of mail. Nearly one-third is junk mail. Sit down and handle mail productively. As it comes in, choose to toss or recycle immediately, keep for later reading, or take action to pay or file it appropriately. Nearly a quarter of all Americans incur finance charges for misplaced bills paid late.
  4. Plan ahead. Why cause unnecessary worry and dread the morning rush? Establish a menu plan, shop weekly and prep food for the week ahead. Each evening, make lunches and set out work clothing. Have a designated staging area for things that need to go out the next day.
  5. Write it down. Keep a visual list of priorities each day on paper or on your digital device.
  6. Set new habits on autopilot. Do you fret not having enough time to go to the gym, read a book, or engage in a favorite hobby? Just schedule it into your calendar and make it a habit.
  7. Take a break from technology. Some students of simplicity report benefit from spending an hour less each day from texting, television, or computer use in general. When the brain gets a reprieve from electronic over stimulation, better sleep and a clearer mind have been noted.

Might there be benefits from simplifying your life? Life is driven by values including health, relationships, passions, personal growth and societal contributions.

A recent study showed participants who spent money to help create free time rather than just buy more material things increased satisfaction by 16 percent. Simultaneously, stress decreased by 17 percent. An ongoing 78-year-old study begun with Harvard students who attended the school between 1939 and 1944 shows the top predictor of longevity and health is happiness and relationships.

Dr. John D. Day, author and cardiologist of The Longevity Plan further suggest we focus on what is essential in our lives. Do we have what we need? Do we need what we want?

What do you think? Do less stress, better mental health, and a sharper brain appeal to you? Are you ready to simplify your life?

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