Everything can be minimized and simplified, it just takes some thinking and organizing to figure out how because, of course, everything you’re looking to simplify is going to be different.
Often times, if you’re just looking to simplify life in general, there’s plenty of things you can do. A few years ago I had made up my mind to work at making my life as simple as possible. It was hard in the beginning because I discovered some of my lofty goals and ideas didn’t fit well in that simplified life, and at first I thought it would make me unhappy. But then I tried it, and I found that I was happier, all because I will eliminating a very big and very effective part: stress. When that diminishes, even just a little, the results are astounding.
There are a few simple ways I found to minimize stress:
- Number down your projects. This is probably one that’s been preached before, but maybe not fully explained. On my take, it doesn’t mean do less, because some of us just have really great ideas and a lot of them. It means do them in a timely manner. I’ve discovered the beauty of doing things one at a time, and for those who love being busy, it can be hard to embrace it. But trust me. Next time your brain creates another genius plan, weigh it against your other projects and determine how much time and effort it’s worth.
- Read and Learn one thing at a time. Unless it doesn‘t stress you out at all, limit your reading to one book at a time. Personally I do not like reading more than two books at once; it just overwhelms me. Same thing with learning. To keep your brain from frying with information, choose to study at a pace. Your results are better even because you’re able to put much more focus on that one subject. And for someone like me who loves to learn, I want to get as much as I can out of it (especially if I’m paying for it).
- Respect your limits. I’m all for striving and advancing and making yourself better at something, but the personal limits must not be forgotten. Be knowledgeable of what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. And you needn’t be ashamed of the things you’re not so good at. We’re not supposed to be pro at everything. In high school I was always in all the AP classes and doing all the fancy smart stuff, but by my last year I knew there would be extra stuff to worry about so I wanted to make it as stress-free as possible. I chose AP for just my English classes, because English is my best subject. My other classes were just Pre-AP or Regular, and therefore there was less work to have on my hands and I was able to put more focus in graduating and other things. I respected the fact that I am great in English and crappy in math and science. It’s a form of self preservation, because you’re not pushing yourself beyond what you can handle.
- Have one passion. You can have as many hobbies as you want, but you should focus your serious passion on just one thing. Usually that would be what your career is based on, and if it isn‘t, maybe you should rethink your career choices. Passion is not the same thing as obsession. I have many obsessions, which come and go flamboyantly, but a passion stays rooted in your heart. My passion is writing. I love many other things, like dancing, singing, scrapbooking, movies, fashion, video games, but none of those make my heart flutter and my world light up. It’s like the feeling of being in love, and you can’t be in love with many at once.
- Coordinate your gift giving. When you only have to think of one particular item at Christmas and Birthday time, it sure relieves the stress of gift shopping. At Christmas make a theme for your gifts, like spa treatment or movie night, and give everyone on your list a little spa gift basket with soaps and lotions or a movie according to their taste. And at birthdays make a reputation for yourself. Are you the person who always takes them out to their choice of restaurant or gives a gift card to their favorite store? Do something that will be continually desired and will never go out of style. Then you don’t have to come up with something new every year, and if the person likes it anyway, why not do it?
- Shop at the same stores. If a certain store has always satisfied you, then be faithful back to it. I only ever shop at Target for all my department store items. For clothes I always go to JCPenney’s, Ross, Target, or Forever 21. I can’t recall getting clothes anywhere else. For craft items I only go to Hobby Lobby. For books, Barnes and Noble. I only shop online at Amazon. I base my shopping not just on price (because sometimes my stores will be pricier than others) but on overall experience. Some things may be more expensive at Target than Walmart but the environment of the store offers a much less stressful shopping experience. Barnes and Noble is notably more expensive than Half Price Books but it’s more organized, classier, cozier, and will always have the latest and greatest. Limiting the amount of stores I visit makes shopping a pleasant activity, and a faster one, because I’ll know the store like the back of my hand.
- Minimize your electronics. Why have all these devices that can practically do the same thing? If your new phone can play music, then get rid of your ipod or mp3 player. If your new ipad can download ebooks, then get rid of your nook. If you get the keyboard attachment to your ipad and it can basically do everything your laptop can do, why keep the laptop? With less of these things to maintain, the less stress you’ll have. And you can sell them and make money.
- Buy clear bins. You know, for all that junk (or maybe it’s not junk) you need to store in a visual spot. Having them clear sure eliminates the time pulling them all out to locate an item.
- Minimize your decor. Less is more. Especially get rid of fake plants (they’re terrible dust collectors, and they’re pretty dated now, anyway). Your house doesn’t quite need all the knick knacks and pillows you thought it needed. Plus it will make it cleaner and look more professionally designed.
- Keep one folder. Or at least eliminate a few folders and binders you have. Get one of those multi pocket folders, the ones with twenty tabs or so, and keep everything in that. If you must have a separate folder for something, then coordinate them. Have them all the same color, design, or material, and label the front with a sticky label. Then, of course, store them in the same place, in a handy place, like a basket or a shelf.
- Invest in a white board. This is a person’s saving grace; well, at least mine. It is the artist or business man’s scribble spot. Have a board for random note taking and a board hung up for reminders (those dry erase calendars are the best). If you need something recorded that you wrote on it, take a picture or rewrite it in a word document, then file that in a computer file.
- Keep one calendar/bulletin/reminder system. There’s lots of neat apps and sites and materials all meant to help get you organized, but if you use more than one that just becomes counterproductive. I have one big fat desk calendar to remind me of set dates, and then I use Wunderlist to remind me of projects and such. I have Evernote (amazing app; you should use it) to virtually organize notes. Using virtual systems is great to eliminate physical paper systems, but unless you prefer the paper system, that’s fine too.
- Save templates for emails/cards/posts/etc. Take a little time one day to create templates for specific emails or thank you cards or regular post updates. That way when you have to write such an email/card/post, you know exactly what to write and it’s done faster and with less stress.
- Color coordinate your closet. I find a shirt in a second because I know exactly where it will be. I also separate short sleeve, sleeveless, long sleeve , dresses, and skirts from each other.
These are some things I’ve learned on my own, and they’ve really helped simplify my life. One of my life goals is to strive for balance, and simplifying my life helps get me there.