How to Simplify Your Life
Maybe you read a couple of Marie Kondo books. Maybe you went on a spending diet. But you still crave a life that doesn’t seem quite so hectic or scattered. You’re tired of feeling pulled in a million directions. You feel like you’d be able to get the juicy bits of life more often if you could just simplify your life a little. Let’s dive in – I’ll show you how.
I believe in simple. In baby steps and in making slow, sacred ritual out of your entire life. I’m dedicated to cutting the crap and boiling things down to the essentials. To what is potent and necessary and beloved. I am dedicated to letting the rest go.
I still have a full life, it’s just not overwhelming the way it used to be. I’m not chasing my tail or letting things drop because I’m not juggling way more than I can handle.
There’s a lot out there about simplifying these days. And there’s a lot of useful information. But the question remains:
How do you simplify your life without throwing away half your sh*t?
(Especially if what you’re looking for isn’t a Pinterest-perfect Scandinavian-eque home, but a more potent, sacred everyday life.)
Write everything down.
The first step to simplify your life is to build awareness around what that means in your very personal situation. What does chaos look like for you? What would simple look like? Since it’s different for everyone, it’s impossible to set a standard or a definite finish line of “simpler.”
Begin by writing everything down. What are all of your commitments? What are all of the elements in your life that require your attention on a regular basis? And finally, what are all of the things you’re not getting to, but are metaphorically hanging over your head?
Build mindfulness around what it is you’re actually doing. Notice what you say yes to. Sleuth around your schedule, your home, your relationships, and your work. To simplify your life, you first need to fully understand all the elements that make up your life.
Why am I really doing this?
Ask yourself this question any time you feel any of the following: resentful, overwhelmed, jealous, frustrated, exhausted, or overburdened.
In a now (semi-)famous story, I once turned to my now-husband and cried out, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?!” (Referring to over-scheduling myself, once again, and feeling exhausted.) Why, indeed.
It wasn’t until I really dug into why I was overcommitting myself that I was able to stop. Knowing your “why” is a big piece of the puzzle, if you want to de-overwhelm your life. Because each person’s motivations are different, there is a different path out of the maze of overwhelm for each of us.
To simplify your life, you need to understand the underlying motivations for over-committing, over-compensating, and over-complicating.
What do I really want from this?
This is really the inverse of the last question, but another juicy thing to ponder. What outcome are you seeking from whatever it is that you’re doing? What’s the ideal result of what you’re pursuing? In your wildest dreams, what would your hard work/time/energy/money yield?
Hint: that’s what you’re really looking for. The thing you’re doing to get there is actually a means to an end, most of the time.
Understanding your motivation for saying yes is one thing. What you think the result will be is something else. We often don’t make commitments or sacrifices (or even purchases) if we don’t think we’re getting something in return. What is that something for you?
When you know what you’re really looking for – the outcome, result or experience you’re really seeking – that knowledge is a source of power. Armed with that understanding, you can start to make other choices. You can decide that perhaps there are other (simpler?) ways of achieving that same result.
Where am I making things harder than they need to be?
Now that you know why you say yes and what you’re really looking for, it’s time to go back to that original braindump you did. Look at everything on your plate. Examine your motivations and desires. And then dish out some truth (to yourself).
Where have you overcomplicated what could be simple? Where could you simply decide to simplify your life right now?
Maybe it’s outsourcing something or asking for help. Perhaps, it’s cutting something out altogether. Other times, it just means reframing or restructuring how you’re approaching something. Regardless, you may start to see patterns where you’ve been unintentionally making life tougher than it needed to be.
In those places, bring some compassionate awareness. You may have been suffering needlessly. There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Just take that knowledge and start to (slowly) apply it.