I was never one to look back and reflect upon how things started at the beginning of the year and compare to where I am now. But I had made 2016 the year I was going to be more mindful of things. In order to focus on what was important throughout my day, I had to weed out the distractions. I did it by keeping things simple.
I had been surrounded by useless stuff I thought I needed to enjoy my life – to have purpose. Christmas dinnerware I rarely used, gold-coated ‘charger’ plates to go under my china (which, again, rarely used), those floral, fabric 3″ pumps I could barely walk in. And then there was my woeful creative outlet. Various brands of colored pens (when I’m monogamous to black ink), blank notebooks (because I couldn’t pass them up), sticky notes coming out of my ears, a stamp set that was cumbersome (and time consuming) and stickers I had tried (and failed at) using. Once I recognized what I needed to cover the different facets of my life, I was able to purge what I didn’t, whether it was clothing, household items or stationery.
Once they were gone, a weight was lifted. Less stuff meant I had less pressure on me to use it. Believe me, they were like tiny nagging voices crying, “Use me….use me….puleeeeeeze!” For someone who is dealing with some attention and focus issues, it threw me off balance. With the air (and closets, drawers and desk) cleared, my surroundings jumped out at me. Everything I had neglected which could have brought me joy in the past was now visible. Non-tangible things such as having less to clean, letting go of a problem client, having more space, increasing my productivity due to having less action steps, etc. were worth more than purchasing another handbag I didn’t need or another blank journal to add to the pile of others that would only cause me stress about filling up. The last one not a problem, you say? True, it isn’t, but I’ve learned something about myself – that it’s sometimes what I don’t see that makes me anxious. I really do believe, in my circumstances, that less really is more.
Keeping to a routine of simplicity has relieved my jumbled brain and given me peace of mind. I have learned to identify what needs to be done and embracing boundaries and better use of down time for what has to be done. This has resulted in a lot of boxes checked off my daily task list. A few ways I’m keeping things to the bare minimum:
- Decluttering the house. Back in June and November I did a pretty good declutter of my home. Closets, drawers, basement, garage, cabinets – I either tossed, donated or consigned stuff we either hadn’t used in ages, would never use or was just plain useless. Why did I need 8 serving platters and crystal ice cream sundae dishes? Even hidden in the basement, it agitated me knowing it was down there collecting cobwebs. Removing my home of material things that didn’t matter made what remained stand out. It allowed me to see what was truly useful on a regular basis and what was just sitting there for that one ‘someday’ where I might need it. I now have more room, less to organize and less to clean, which equals more time for me.
- Wardrobe. I remember a time when I was a clothes horse (like, in the big, gluttonous 80’s!) Now, at the beginning of every season I usually buy either a few new tops, a pair of boots or sandals. But I’ve always made sure I’d gone through my closet and drawers to get rid of anything that I no longer wanted. Because I work in an office where there isn’t a strict dress code, I can get away with wearing jeans or even shorts and flip-flops (usually, when the boss is traveling) so I don’t need separate work and play clothes. I also rotate a lot of the same outfits (winter ones especially as I’m not stylishly creative when I have to trudge outside in 10 inches of snow!) Having less to choose from makes for easier and quicker selections and a much smoother morning. But one of the best things I do to stretch my wardrobe (and my clothing budget) is maintaining (or – even better – losing!) my weight so that I don’t have to wonder what fits and what doesn’t.
- Meal Planning. I shared this post on how I plan weekly meals. I have found this extremely helpful for not only separating what I have on hand from what I need to get ahead of time, but I have a record of what I made when so I don’t make the same thing too often. None of these meals are complicated and having a record of them handy helps with decision making when I don’t know what to make. Really, hub is happy with soup and sandwich most nights! I check the meal plan the night before to take out anything that has to be thawed and line up ingredients on the counter. Those few steps buy me time and makes for a peaceful night and morning. It also allows me to keep pretty much the same basic pantry, cupboard and fridge staples (boxed chicken stock, canned diced tomatoes, baskets of potatoes and onions, misc. frozen vegetables) that we use a lot of so it saves from having to shop for quirky ingredients that would cost additional time and money.
- Routines. I don’t have these written in stone, but I pretty much try to keep to the same things every morning before work and in the evening before bedtime. I begin waking at 5:30a.m. I use the first 30 minutes to slowly wake up in bed while catching up on any overnight news (just scroll through the highlights on my home page for anything that interests me), scan any incoming emails and checking ones that need more attention as ‘unread’ to be dealt with during the day, then read some scripture on my Bible Gateway app. By 6a.m. I’m up to do 20-30 minutes of exercise. I then check the dishwasher/washer/dryer to see if anything needs to be emptied or folded then begin getting ready by 6:30. In the evening, I prepare my breakfast and lunch to pack to take to work with me the next day (I leave too early to eat breakfast before I leave), check the weather, mentally put together an outfit, check my planner and prepare my daily page in my bullet journal, do some pre-bed self-care, say my prayers then off to sleep. I try very hard not to add anything extra because, as what this post is about, I want to keep these routines as simple as possible.
- Journaling. One cannot reflect upon little moments throughout the day without having them documented somewhere. I had never been a journaler – one to sit down with a notebook and pen, stare thoughtfully out the window and then fill up several pages. So it’s most likely why I cannot do that now. Oh, I tried. I began with good intentions, filled up a page per day for the first few days then….nothing. I just didn’t feel the ‘call’ to journal that way because it wasn’t something that had been ingrained in me. I would feel guilty going several days without the pull to write and, when I did, my entries sounded repetitive and forced. I learned I’m more of an ‘abbreviated’ person. So I simplified the process by not forcing what wasn’t meant to be and, instead, writing ‘daily blurbs’ when I feel so inclined right on the daily page of my bullet journal. Really, those daily pages are pretty much a daily journal entry of my day anyway!
- Planning. This is where keeping it simple has really paid off for me. Since January of this year I have been using the same planning system – a Filofax Pocket Malden for future planning, contacts and reference storage as well as my wallet and a companion notebook (currently using a Linshi Tasks Traveler’s Notebook) for my bullet journal/daily pages, meal planning, long-term lists and project management. I also pretty much use the same pens for each (retractable Sharpie in my Filofax; dark brown Micron for text and black Staedtler for date headers in my TN) and, occasionally, a yellow highlighter. That’s it. I’ve kept to this same setup and system going on 6 months and have no desire to change it. Consistency and simplicity has been the key. Not worrying about fussing and faffing with switching inserts or binders, using different color pens for coding, stamping dates, using pretty washi tape, etc. has kept my planning routine stress-free. I’ll leave all the pretty stuff to those who master the art of washi, stamps and stickers much better than I!
- Exterior home care When we first moved into the house, we planted perennials such as double-knockout roses, mini blue spruces and pink flox strategically about the perimeter of our home. We do have flower boxes and planters that we purchase annuals every year to fill to which I would spend hours at Home Depot figuring out which ones to get, how to arrange, what colors don’t clash, etc. I used to get marigolds, posies, impatiens, silverdust and begonias. It was a color explosion. Pretty, yes, but my brain didn’t process it as ‘uniform. Last year, I decided to go for a more monochrome look with just geraniums that had different hues of red. We liked it SO much better. The decision process was much easier – just head for the geraniums, pile ’em up, pay, go and plant!) and the look is simple, yet so, so pretty.
I’m sure I’ll come across other ways to simplify things in my life that are sucking valuable time and energy from me, but these are the top ones that have really helped me rid my home and sanity of useless items, tasks and routines, allowing me to relax, savor and enjoy what remains.
Till next time,