Glancing at my life, you might think not much has changed. There's always room for growth and improvement. But I actually feel like a lot has gotten checked off my list, I'm finding more energy (at a time of year when I'm usually losing it), and I'm feeling satisfied in areas I was previously discontent and frustrated.
I still have some changes and improvements to go, which I'll likely keep at one small task, or one 4-minute chunk, at a time.
10 Quick Ways to Simplify + Refresh Life
Here are ten ways I've been revisiting simplicity and reviving areas of life. Alone, they're not exactly life changing. Together, they've built up momentum and are making a real lasting difference.
1. Exercise Daily
It's amazing how a little intentional movement every day can influence other choices like how much water I drink, what I eat for breakfast, and how much I move the rest of the day. 4-minute exercises or tabata training or HIIT (high intensity interval training) can go a long way in getting in an exercise habit. It's easy to fit in everyday, it's over quick, and it still makes an aerobic impact. We're currently getting back into a 3x/week gym habit, but I plan to also maintain a few exercises every morning and stretching every evening.
2. Make One Quick Fix
I learned in the book Apartment Therapy about starting home projects with listing repairs that need to be made, and quickly fixing at least one thing from the list. Top of our list was a couple burned out bulbs, that actually turned out to be six light bulbs out throughout our home. That quick fix was just the beginning of addressing issues throughout our home and in my life.
3. Empty a Cluttered Cupboard
After that quick repair, I kept going. There was a cupboard in our kitchen that was overflowing with uselessness. It took me a few minutes to empty it out all over our kitchen counters and remained there for a day or two. But I slowly started addressing it. Put the items that I felt "iffy" about in a paper bag, put the items that didn't belong away, and slowly started putting the items I was sure of back into the cupboard. By the end of the week what resulted was all of my kitchen cupboards cleaned-up and simplified. The overall change took a lot of time and energy. But emptying out the cupboard was the initial commitment that only took a few minutes.
4. Donate Unwanted Items
I usually have at least one, and sometimes several, "outboxes" going throughout our home. The outbox is simply a way to coral items while deciding whether or not to keep them. (Some of us might be able to call a lot of our extra closets, rooms, garages, basements an outbox.) I love using the idea of the outbox to make quick decisions when going through our stuff. And the longer the stuff sits in the outbox, the more I'm sure I can get rid of it. Once I do, that feels like the simplifying is complete. It's so freeing!
5. Unsubscribe Emails
A while ago I learned about Unroll.me and signed up. It's a free email service that lets you roll up your subscriptions (from any email list you're on) into one daily email. This has helped tremendously, because I was losing important emails in the mix of promotions and ads. I spent a few minutes unsubscribing to emails I no longer needed or found weren't all that valuable. Some subscriptions let you say how often you want updates, so on those I changed the settings to monthly updates and no more than weekly. If anyone or any company sends emails more than that, I unsubscribed because they simply weren't that valuable to take up that much of my time. I don't feel so overwhelmed about the whole email situation. Since email is usually connected with other tasks I do on my computer/online, it's helped me have clarity for those other tasks.
6. Shop Purposefully
Shopping gets a bad rap when it's done on a whim. Unplanned purchases cause problems for finances, keeping the house clean, and does a poor job of numbing deeper pains. That said, buying a needed item can actually help in simplifying the home and saving some sanity. Over the last couple months I've done some intentional retail therapy. A few items have been on our running wish list. The fact that they've remained on the list for longer than a couple weeks was a clue that they were worth purchasing. It included a rug to put on the cement floor in front of the washer/dryer, a soap dispenser to replace the cruddy disposable one we kept reusing, and metal shelves to organize our seasonal items like camping gear and Christmas decorations. Checking off a few items from our wish list was therapeutic and worthwhile in the value they added to our home.
7. Get Help
For a culture and generation that values independence and self-reliance, getting help can be an actual challenge. But making that appointment to see a doctor, talk to a counselor, get a massage, or whatever the symptoms point to, is important. This time I was able to find and correct a Vitamin D deficiency; in the past it's been an iron deficiency, or depression. Scheduling that appointment took less than four minutes and was a vital step to become myself again. It was also the swinging motion to revive my energy for the other things on this list.
8. Say No + Yes Intentionally
The welcome freebie on this blog is a printable journal for simplifying focus. It goes through 5 steps and corresponding questions I use to make sure I'm focusing on the yeses in life that truly matter, because a life overflowing with good things can distract from focusing on the truly great. I recently read Essentialism and The Best Yes which both reinforced this process for me. I've been following through on saying yes where I really want, and saying no when I'm not sure. There's a phrase something along the lines of, "If it's not a hell yes, then it's a no." That way of thinking has come in handy. Learning to say no has put boundaries in place so I can keep my family a priority and use my limited "free" time and energy on tasks I really want to pursue. The little bit of turmoil over saying some nos is easier and quicker to deal with than the ongoing turmoil of having to follow through on too many yeses.
9. Plan Week Ahead
I can usually pinpoint feelings of loneliness or just plain feeling down to too much tech and not enough life. Even a few minutes of planning for the week ahead can be enough to be sure I'm spending some time intentionally living--interacting in meaningful ways with our family, making deeper connections with friends, and getting a breath of fresh air that actually keeps me alive.
10. Make One Small Change
None of the above could have happened if I tackled it all at once. I didn't make a list of all the ways I needed to improve and dive into them all at once. (Although, I've definitely tried and failed at that approach a time or two.) Instead, I took it one small change at a time. Each one started with something small, quick, doable. I git it into my routine, then, when it was a natural rhythm, I went onto the next thing. Everyday I have 4 minutes to spare. Maybe not 60 or 30 or even 10. But I can definitely get off my butt and be productive for 4 minutes.
These simple changes have been just the mix-up I've needed to revisit simplicity and revive my life.
Here's to more simple changes to come!
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