How to Simplify Your Life in Four Easy Steps

You know the Netflix documentary, Minimalism?  My friends have forbidden me from watching it.  

They know that I am one step away of running my arms across every surface of my house and clean sweeping it all to Goodwill.  Easily distracted, I have to consciously minimize the audio and visual clutter in my life – not an easy task as a single mama of three under six – so that I can focus personally and professionally.  I am a gal who likes simplicity and thrives in beauty. 

Our lives can feel increasingly inundated with stuff: stuff we bring in, stuff our friends and family bring in, endless stuff our kids bring in.  Some clever trendster in the early 2000’s hooked us all on “organizational beauty,” meaning we brought more stuff into our lives, so that we could better organize our stuff.  But what that really did was find us further enslaved to our things, because of the new level of management it takes to sort, store, and keep track of all that stuff.

Then you’ve got to add on the whole onslaught of digital stuff we bring in too: post likes.  Post notifications.  Page notifications.  Skype pings.  Pins you might like.  Pins added by a friend to her renovation board that you somehow got added to.  Texts.  More texts.  Another benign OS update.  Another benign Snapchat filter.  Another 30% off The Gap, today only.  Messenger alerts.  Viber alerts.   Bumble alerts.  Shows you might be interested in on Netflix, hand picked just for you.

It’s too much.

And when it’s too much, it detracts from all the good stuff happening around you in real life.  So in the spirit of simplifying your life – without, you know, moving to Scandinavia – here are four quick and easy steps you can take to calm the chaos around you, therein calming the chaos within you, allowing you to breathe deeply again, and allow you to enjoy the intangible qualities of your space, and the people in it.

1. Consider the Uniform: my best friend and I have nearly fetishized this concept.  It’s been said that creative minds and the most successful people tend towards wearing the same thing, every day.  Men have been calling this “a suit” for decades.  For women, it feels like we have some kind of responsibility to look different every day.  Acquiring all of the pieces to make this happen adds up: in your time, in your wallet, in your laundry room, and in your physical space.  And for what?  To be a girl, standing in front of her closet, asking it to have something beautiful to wear.  If you’ve ever gone through seven wardrobe changes and fashion crises before leaving your house, you know what I’m talking about.  

If Karl Lagerfeld can wear a tux everyday, I can sure as hell get away with rocking jeans and a white t.  Add heels and a statement necklace, or sneaks and a leather jacket and you can go from look to look, pretty darn effortlessly. Suddenly laundry is one load of jeans, one load of whites.  All I hear is “easy.”  Plus, once you have the uniform that works for you, it’s a cake walk.  You can invest in higher quality pieces that last longer, fit better, and kick fast fashion and all its eviro-impact to the curb.

If that sounds like too much all at once, consider editing your wardrobe to a particular palette.  Go to three neutrals as your base (a la black, white, and denim), and add pieces outside that pattern sparingly.  Don’t necessarily give the rest of your clothes away – it’s ok to treat this as a transition period – rather, pack it up and set it aside in your basement for a month, and come back to it again to re-edit.  If there’s something you find you really do love, keep it.  Otherwise, take it all to your local women’s shelter.

Imagine the freedom of looking at your closet – that now actually fits everything you own, and everything you own fits you – and feeling the simple joy that comes from the implied possibility of loving every piece. Minimizing decision fatigue, having just a handful of items from a heavily edited, highly curated wardrobe is better for your brain, and starts your day off in a calm and collected way.  

2. Tidy Up the Digital Clutter: Remove yourself from (almost) every digital mailing list – I mean, not this one, obbbbbbviously.  But remember all those times you gave away your email to get 10% off your first order, every time you subscribed to something of interest at the time but is irrelevant now, every time you ordered something online – including flights or hotel bookings – and they added your email address to their list?  This pollutes your air space. 

Take 10 minutes right now – for real – and go through your promotions and social folders.  Scroll down to the very bottom of each bulk mail feeling email, and click through to manage your subscriptions to unsubscribe from all.  

Then do the same thing with your social networks; you know how we do that thing, where we follow a bunch of people we feel we have to, even if we don’t know them or give AF about what they have to say?  Delete.  Unfollow.  Unfriend, whatever.  Clear up your digital landscape by burning off the binary fat.  You’ll be left with the solid gold people and aspirational accounts that fill you with joy and goodness.  Move towards checking on your social channels sporadically through the day, rather than getting click baited every time your phone lights up with a notification.  Even better?  Turn those notifications off.  Unless running social media is your job, there’s no real need to engage in the Pavlovian response we’ve created for ourselves.  

I promise you that spending this ten minutes will buy you freedom.

3. Burn Shit:  And no I don’t mean burning excessive clutter around you, but actual burnable things.   Incense ain’t just for hippies anymore, and you may find that setting up an alter-style plate dedicated only to house white sage, incense cones or sticks, or my favourite – palo santo – will give you a small and meditative practice that has energy clearing properties. Sage (a sacred herb) and pale santo (a holy wood) will cleanse negative energies from your mind, heart, and home, and a high quality incense with leave your space with a clean and fresh fragrance that will ground you. 

Every now and then go to this little happy place and burn whatever it is that makes you feel calm.  Maybe it’s an after dinner ritual, maybe it’s just to ease a troubled day, whatever feels right.  The process of lighting the alter and letting it fill your space with clear and lovely smelling air has a simplifying and soothing effect on your senses.  

4. Bring the Outside In: There’s no doubt that nature is the perfect space to simplify and recharge.  Effortlessly beautiful, we all share a connection to green space.  There is something inviting a living thing in your house in need of gentle care that will simplify and calm your environment.  Commit to buying fresh flowers weekly – just a simple bouquet will do – and put them in a central place for everyone to enjoy.  Got kids?  Let them make their own flower arrangement in a tiny bud vase for their bedroom, and spread the love all over your house.

Bring in a few plants as well.  Note that this is written by a person who has killed parsley.  Parsley!  I am not known for my excellent plant caring abilities, however I have found that even I am able to keep succulents and air plants alive.  There is a ritual quality to plant care, even if it’s a simple weekly watering routine, that will connect you to nature, as well as to your space and mind.  That connection will motivate you to keep your house less cluttered, to appreciate the simple beauty that plants bring.

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These four practices are no BS, and easy to accomplish within the week: I’d challenge you to do so, to edit your clothes, clean up your digital world, burn some good smelling stuff, and get a couple of plants and flowers.  Comment below on what worked for you, and if you felt the difference this clearing of the space had on your day to day.

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