The Secret to Simplifying your Life

Q: “I’m so overwhelmed I don’t know what to do or how to start! What do I do?” - Joleen

A: Joleen, I completely relate to your problem! We all need desperately to simplify our lives, but that’s easier said than done. We are good at focusing on the bad things that overwhelm us, but we are unaware of all of the good things that overwhelm us.

Our lives are filled with good/fun things and there just isn’t much room to spare. Do you ever feel stressed out because you are having trouble keeping up with a certain show you really enjoy? Are there times when  you feel anxiety from the fear of something expensive or priceless getting damaged? Is your calendar filled with things to do?

The problem isn’t that you are overwhelmed with bad things, the problem might be that you are overwhelmed with “things”…many of which are actually good. We all need to simplify our lives! But, how?

The thought of simplifying your life can ironically be overwhelming. But, there’s a secret that will help you!

Do one small thing every day to simplify your life.

That’s it. Just one small thing. It doesn’t matter how small it is. It could be as simple as hanging up a pile of clothes that have been sitting there forever. It could mean you throw away something you’ve been resisting throwing away. It could mean you grab something off that cluttered desk that you’ve been avoiding cleaning forever. Not the whole desk, mind you, just one small thing off of it.

One thing! And refuse to go to bed until you’ve done it.

There’s a rule, though. It can’t be anything that’s part of your regular routine. It has to be something adding to your stress, something that’s too overwhelming to start. Add it into your routine. Do it at the same time each day if you can. That will help. When you stick with it, you will be shocked at how quickly things change!

trashIt doesn’t matter how small the thing you do is. Always be proud of yourself for what you’ve done! That small accomplishment is a big deal! You can go to sleep feeling good. But, sometimes you might be so proud of yourself that you’ll want to do a few more things right there since you have already started. That’s great!

Then, at the beginning of each month, make one significant change in your life to simplify it. That usually means reducing or getting rid of something good/fun. Give up watching a show. Give up an activity. Sell something expensive you have and buy something more reasonable to replace it. When New Years comes around, why not make a big change? Do something crazy! I promise you will be happier!

If you are like most families, most of the things in your life are for your children. Simplifying your children’s life makes you feel guilty, so you feel like you shouldn’t do it. Don’t give in to that feeling! Simplifying your children’s lives is one of the best things you can do for them. It will be more stressful at first because they will scream and yell. But, they will get used to it. And eventually they will get used to having things change every month. You don’t want them growing up stressed and overwhelmed like you, do you?

You are creating their “normal”. What they have growing up will be what is normal to them as adults. The more simple their “normal” is, the happier they will be.

“Substitute” > “Adding to”

Humans will become bored with whatever fun things are added to their lives, and doing them will eventually become a chore. If you combat that by continually adding more fun things, you will end up with a life full of fun things that cease to be very fun and an overwhelming task list just to keep up with them.

The solution is counter-intuitive. If you have less fun things in your life, then the less things in life you will be bored with. And you will be more free to enjoy them!

Eventually, the fun things will get boring. If you feel you must make a change, don’t just add something new on top of the old. Get rid of the old completely and substitute it with something new. If the old show isn’t fun enough to watch, stop watching it and watch a new one in its place. If a toy isn’t fun enough, get rid of it and replace it with something better. If an activity isn’t fulfilling enough, drop it and do something else instead.

Once you simplify your life, you’ll be able to start enjoying life again. Then you’ll wonder why on earth you were living the way you were before!

But remember, it all starts with just one small thing every day. Focus on that. The rest will take care of itself.

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- Jim Graham
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