In 2001, my sister gave me a Christmas present I will always treasure. It was a wooden wall plaque about two feet wide with the word "SIMPLIFY" in block letters. It was the perfect gift because it spoke a word of truth that resonated with my soul and at the same time made me laugh at myself. The sign is hung in a prominent place in my family room and has challenged me countless times to keep things simple in an increasingly COMPLEX world.
THE ENDLESS TREADMILL
Have you ever felt like a hamster running round and round on one of those wheels in a cage, never really going anywhere but wearing yourself out? Well, you get the picture of what my life felt like on the inside. I was tired and frustrated trying to JUGGLE so many balls and knew there had to be a better way to live. Here are a few things I did in my quest to simplify and gain control of my life and sanity:
LIVE PURPOSEFULLY AND THOUGHTFULLY
Start by getting quiet and listening to what your heart is telling you. The beauty and simplicity of nature helps me to silence the INTERNAL clutter so I can hear more clearly. Begin by listing the main areas of your life such as family, spiritual, career, etc. -- under each write several things that are vital for wholeness and peace -- a quality of life you yearn for. Remember, this is not an intellectual exercise, but a heart exercise.
FINDING YOUR CORE
Do you see any patterns developing as you write? I quickly discovered that having QUALITY time for the people and activities that were most important was essential. It was more important than a title, staying in a job that paid well but stifled me, or doing things because they were expected (people pleasing). In practical terms, that translated into thoughtfully TRANSITIONING out of a career path I'd followed for 21 years that no longer fit where I was in life.
LEARN THE ART OF SAYING NO GRACEFULLY
This was a big one for me because I had bought into the super woman myth that I could do it ALL. What a relief to realize there were other people around who could do it better and should do it -- whatever "it" was! Saying "no" is less likely to invoke a sense of GUILT once you have taken the time to discover what is truly important. If you've always been a "yes" person, it may take a little while for the people in your life to get used to the new you, but it can be done -- and with a smile. There's nothing like the freedom that comes from making conscious choices instead of succumbing to peer pressure, ought-to's, and should have's.
DEVELOP HEALTHY HABITS
Learn about good nutrition and eat right, take your vitamins, exercise regularly, and get proper rest. In other words, make a point to be PROACTIVE in your approach toward wellness -- don't assume your body will function without proper care and maintenance. It's hard to live simply if you're in poor health, taking a lot of prescription medicine, and spending time and money running to the doctor. Since I'm not one of those naturally slim and athletic people, I've found I need to work at it. My favorite form of exercise is walking and bicycling, which gets me outside, connects me with nature and exercises my body all at the same time. These are things I can do ANYTIME and don't have to spend money on a health club membership.
Whatever you do, don't UNDERESTIMATE the value of sleep. Many studies point to the fact that Americans are starved for sleep and it's taking a huge toll on our health. Since I need eight hours of sleep a night to feel my best, I turn off the television or quit reading at a reasonable hour. Try to avoid changing your sleeping hours dramatically from one day to the next because your body likes ROUTINES and predictable times. You'll feel better and be more alert for the day ahead.
LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
I know you've heard this a thousand times before, but it really is true. Simplifying is about being light on your feet and having the freedom to make choices, not feeling TRAPPED by your circumstances. It's sad but true that many people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their financial lives. There's nothing more draining than spending your time and energy worrying about how to pay your bills -- and not having a plan to improve your situation. Begin by TRACKING your monthly expenses -- including cash -- so you know where your money is going. Most people greatly underestimate what they're spending in various categories so this may be a real eye-opening experience. Once you know what you're spending, develop a budget that takes into account living expenses, debt repayment, savings and giving.
GET OUT OF DEBT
When we began this process years ago, we discovered the need to sell some property and a truck, which eliminated two monthly payments. The money that was freed up was then applied toward debt. As shorter term debt was eliminated and we made choices to live within our means, working toward eliminating our mortgage became a reality. Taking the time to thoughtfully PLAN your financial life will pay huge dividends in peace of mind -- and simplifying your life. Even if it means moving into a smaller home or driving a less expensive car, do whatever it takes to live within your means and get out from under the BURDEN of debt.
Hiring out simply means paying someone else to do a job that I cannot do, do not want to do, or is difficult for me. Remember, you don't have to do it all YOURSELF and experience the stress of an overly busy, complicated life. In paying someone else to do a job, you also help the economy and possibly a self-employed person make a decent living. For example, we pay someone else to steam clean our carpets, do our lawn maintenance, and paint the outside of our house. Are we capable of doing these things ourselves? Yes, but living simply is about making CHOICES that work for the way we live and having the means to do so.
So what are some of the BENEFITS I've personally experienced from consciously choosing to simplify?
Terri Stephens, founder of Clutter Buster, specializes in helping stressed out people gain control over their time, space and activities by providing customized organizational solutions in residences, home offices, and small offices. Her motto is "Simplifying Doesn't Cost. It Pays!" Visit her website at www.clutterbuster.biz or contact her at .
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