By Marie Sherlock
In the first part of our How to Simplify series, we asked that you do a bit of soul searching to help you determine what matters most to you and – going deeper – what your values are, what your most cherished beliefs are.
While it is very helpful to have this discussion with yourself (!), it’s not an absolute necessity that you engage in that “examination of conscience” before you take steps to simplify. The idea of simplifying – slowing down, feeling more calm and peace in your life, smelling more of those roses – may just be appealing to you. You may KNOW intuitively – with very little reflection at all – that you are not thriving in your current life situation, be it your soul-sapping job, your over-extended social life, your month-to-month-paycheck lifestyle, your attempts to take on TOO MUCH.
So you may just be ready to jump on the Simplicity Bandwagon. That’s fine. I would only caution you here that if some of the simplifying tactics become difficult – and they well might – having that soul searching session and its epiphanies under your belt can help you to persevere. Just a thought.
Part Two of this series is going to cover those simplicity tactics that really are not life-changing on their face. Indeed, they may sound very easy to implement – and hopefully they will be just that for you. But some of these seemingly straightforward ideas may diverge significantly from your current routine. If you have a partner – or partner plus kids – they may require a family meeting to actually implement.
Let’s get started (a side note: the following steps are just a handful of numerous possibilities for simplifying your life, making it more meaningful, authentic and purposeful. See the resources at the end of this post and at the end of Part One for more ideas.)
# 1. Turn Off Your ‘Devices’ During Meals (and at Other Times, too)
Several years ago, I was visiting one of my sons at college. We went out to dinner and as we were being seating we walked by a table of six other college students. EVERY ONE of them was scrolling through their phones, texting, facebooking, etc. I almost laughed out loud – except, truly, it wasn’t funny. It was sad. Here was this group of young people, paying good money to go out to eat together, and they were all communicating with someone or someTHING else.
So this is my first Simplifying Baby Step: Have a rule – in your house/family or your life – that you turn off your phones (iPads, tablets) during meals. And, further, during visits with other people. If this sounds radical, ponder this thought: What did we all do BEFORE cell phones? We PAID ATTENTION to those we were with. Not to sound too dramatic but isn’t that the essence of being human?
There could be exceptions to this rule – someone is in the hospital and you’re waiting for news, an IMPORTANT (and I mean really important) business call is coming. But those exceptions should be extremely rare.
# 2. Kill Your TV
Say what? I’m quite serious about this: REALLY consider killing your TV (or at least your cable service). Or – at a minimum – cut way back on your viewing.
If you do decide to continue watching television, at least try to understand WHAT you’re watching, especially if you have young children. “Deconstructing” TV ads – asking questions like “who is the audience for this product?” and “how can a bottle of soda make you cool?” – is both educational and fun. Remember this basic rule: most advertising is aimed at getting you to feel crappy about yourself, to feel that you are “less than” without the product being advertised. 🙁
# 3. Walk or Bike Instead of Driving
This step will be immensely easier for those of us who live in “walkable” neighborhoods. But it’s something to aspire to even in the ‘burbs. You’ll see your neighborhood differently, meet people and get exercise in the process.
# 4. Use Your Library
I have a dear friend who reads a lot, probably a book a week – but she always buys her books. I don’t get it! You’re already paying for your local library – USE IT.
Don’t forget all of those beyond-books-extras: from DVDs to free computer access to numerous classes and workshops. And whoever came up with the divine ability to place holds on books should be canonized.
# 5. Just Say NO.
No, we’re not channeling Nancy Reagan. We’re referring to automatically saying yes to YET ANOTHER activity or obligation that is just too much for you. This is especially true if you have young children. There’s nothing wrong – and a lot that is right! – with hanging out with the family, eating pizza and playing board games.
So there you have it – five Simplifying Baby Steps to get you started. In our last installment – coming soon – we’ll offer some Heavy Hitters, actions that can result in MUCH more time for you and your family. And, possibly, an early retirement. Stay tuned. 🙂
Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James (Hachette, 1994)
The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living by Janet Luhrs (Broadway Books, 1997)
The Simple Living Handbook: Discover the Joy of a De-Cluttered Life by Lorilee Lippincott (Skyhorse, 2013)
Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock (Random House/Three Rivers Press, 2003)