There’s more than one way to simplify your life
Every since Marie Kondo exploded onto Netflix last year, encouraging people to let go of things that don’t “spark joy”, living more simply has become a bit fashionable.
Especially while the coronavirus pandemic has given us plenty of time to stay home and hang out with all our stuff…
Online, there is a growing network of content creators who advocate for the benefits of living well with less. Each one puts a different spin on things and uses different language to describe their approach.
The most popular word used to describe this way of life is “minimalism”. I use this term a lot, but it doesn’t always sit well with me because I’m a bit of a “maximalist” when it comes to certain things.
Like cheese. Bubbly wine. And travelling…
I could never bring myself to spend $2000 on a piece of furniture, even if it might last me 20 years. Yet I’ll happily spend the same amount of money on a round the world plane ticket without even thinking twice.
For that reason, I might be classified as an “Experientialist” — someone who values experiences and making memories over material goods. This term was discussed by James Wallman who wrote Stuffocation, one of my favourite books on the link between excess and stress.
Another popular term is “Essentialism”, which promotes the idea that happiness is found in committing to only what is essential in your personal and professional life.
Then there are “Reducitarians”, a term originally used by people reducing their meat consumption, but which has now spilled over into reducing material goods and other excesses.
One thing is for sure: People who promote the benefits of simple living often invent weird, made-up words to describe their unconventional approach to life. And it seems we’re no exception…
One Question To Ask When You Feel Overwhelmed
None of these other terms seemed to fit for us because our focus has always been more on simplifying.
We definitely make the link between having less stuff and having less stress, but we don’t set rules for ourselves, like “You can only have 7 pairs of underwear!” or “When you buy one thing, you have to throw one out!”
We just find that when we take pro-active steps to simplify things at home and work, we give ourselves more space, time and freedom to really enjoy life with the people we love.
Simplifying became our motto, and from that came: “The Simplifarians”. Now whenever David and I are stressed or struggling we look at each other and say “Oi, we’re supposed to be simplifarians. Not complicators. There’s got to be an easier way to handle this.”
And if we dig a little, there usually is.
Our aim is not to work our asses of now so we can retire well one day, but to create a work-life balance that we won’t need to retire from.
To do this, we’ve had to simplify every area of our lives as much as possible. And when stress and overwhelm creep in, then we just need to simplify some more.
That’s when we ask ourselves one question:
“What can I downsize, declutter or delegate to make my life easier right now?”
When it comes to simplifying for us or our clients, there’s three things we look at doing first:
#1: We downsize.
The most obvious thing to downsize is the home or office. By downsizing from a bigger home to a smaller home you save money on rent, mortgage, utilities and repairs. You also save heaps of time by having less space to clean and maintain.
Now that we live and work in a converted house bus, I’m not sure we can go any simpler…
But downsizing isn’t always about space.
We downsize our expenses — because the more we have to spend on our outgoings, the harder we have to work to cover them (and the less we can put towards savings and investments). So we find ways to cut back on bills and expenses, like installing a solar panel inverter to reduce our electricity consumption… or shopping around between phone providers once a year to make sure we’re on the cheapest plan.
We also downsize our commitments — because the world is full of excitement and opportunity and it’s tempting to try and fit 36 hours of activity into every day. So we consciously downsize our commitments, blocking time in our week for rest and nothingness so we don’t completely fill our days.
It’s scheduled boredom and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental health.
#2: We declutter.
The less we have, the less we have to take care of.
We get rid of the things that don’t add value to our lives so they don’t distract us from the things that do. The brain craves order and when we’re surrounded by mess, our body actually produces a stress hormone called cortisol.
Even though we’re consciously living with less in a house that’s smaller than most people’s living rooms, we’re blown away by how quickly we still accumulate so much crap. Decluttering is a never ending process.
Wherever possible, we resell unwanted items and turn that clutter into cash. Everything else we donate to important causes like the Save The Children and Lifeline op-shops.
Digital decluttering is just as important, and this is the area I still struggle with the most. Just because all that digital clutter is neatly packed away into a shiny little device, it doesn’t mean it’s not stressing me out.
Digital decluttering means keeping email inboxes as close to zero as possible, regularly clearing out junk folders and unsubscribing from businesses we no longer wish to hear from. It also means deleting multiple photos and videos that weigh down our phones and computers with memory storage. I could definitely do better in this department…
Then there’s the mental decluttering — when we’ve got so much going on that our minds feel as full and shambolic as the second drawer in the kitchen (or wherever you put all the random bits and pieces that don’t belong anywhere else in your home).
We need lots of different tools to clear out mental clutter, depending on the day. This might be project management software to get organised, coaching sessions to get support, journaling to brain dump before going to bed… or boxing classes, because sometimes the only thing that will help is just hitting something really hard.
#3: We delegate.
If there’s anything we can’t do, won’t do or just really suck at, we outsource it.
I refuse to spend hours struggling to do something myself — either because I don’t have the skill or the time — if I can pay someone to do it for less than I would earn if I spent the same time on an income generating activity.
For example, I once hired a contractor to format a Table of Contents on a Word Document because I’d already wasted an hour getting frustrated, trying to fix the bug myself. It cost me $7.50 to get an expert to do it while I calmly and happily worked on something else that brought more money into my business.
I’ve spent the last five years working as an online hiring manager — a service we now offer our clients through the Simplifarians — so I know that in the magical land of the internet, you can find a contractor to do just about anything…
I’ve also learnt to use the technology in my iPhone so I can delegate micro-tasks throughout the day to Siri.
For example, instead of manually adding events and reminders to my calendars and sending a text or invitation to David, I have it all set up so I can do it automatically with my voice.
When my phone is within earshot I just say, “Hey Siri, can you add an event to my calendar for September 12th at 10am, meeting with our accountants.” Then it automatically creates an appointment that syncs to all my calendars and David’s calendar so it appears on his phone a few minutes later.
I became completely reliant on Siri two years ago when I ruptured a tendon in my right hand and had to wear a cast over it for three months. Now I use my voice to do loads of different tasks and I can’t imagine organising my days without it.
It’s as simple as that…
Whenever we find ourselves getting overwhelmed or stressed, we stop and ask, “What can we downsize, declutter or delegate to make things easier?”
In the beginning you’ll probably have a long list! But just choose the one that feels most urgent, or the most achievable, and start there. It’s impossible to declutter the entire house today, but maybe you can just do the pantry so meal times aren’t so stressful…
Never underestimate the power of one small, simple change.
When we work with clients who feel “stuffocated” and time poor, we step in to ease their load using the same techniques. If you start small, you’ll gather momentum and set your simplifying snowball in motion…
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