Why is it that humans – especially American humans – collect so much stuff? It is not that we need all this stuff and it is not that we necessarily want it. It just is.
Perhaps we should blame the Madison avenue types so aptly portrayed in Mad Men (love that show, by the way). We are bombarded by ads for every conceivable item, from toothpaste, to fashion, to pharmaceuticals we never knew we needed. And oh, the seduction of shopping! It is simply too much sometimes and at least for me, it takes more than a modicum of will power to simply say no.
But it is not just consumables that get collected and stashed away in the various nooks and crannies of our lives. The paper also overflow-eth. And so do the obligations or perceived responsibilities that fill our lives with an endless to do list. The mental clutter of bill payments, household chores, and lunch with a long lost, but boring friend can be just as bad and perhaps worse than the physical stuff.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it. I hate the excess stuff, the excess paper, and most of all, the excess list of obligations, chores, and must-dos.
So what’s a gal or guy to do? Today I offer some practical tips for both getting rid of the clutter and adding simplicity to your life.
1. My number one tip – and one that I embraced almost eight years ago – is to downsize your living quarters. I downsized from a huge 4,000+ square foot home to less than 1,500 square feet. Yeah, I miss having a separate room for each segment of my life but at the end of the day, I do not regret my choice. Smaller living space = less furniture, fewer clothes, less room for clutter period. And the bonus? Fewer housekeeping chores.
2. Go paperless. You can purchase a decent multi-function scanner for less than $200. Make it point to scan every new piece of paper that comes in the door that would normally be filed. This includes receipts for purchases as well as copies of invoices, bank statements, tax returns and other documents. Where possible, sign up for paperless billing, That way you don’t even need to scan a copy – the vendor has done it for you.
And did you know that you can download copies of most product manuals online? Check the manufacturers website. You just might be surprised.
3. Put your financial house in order. Live within your means. Come up with a simple budget. And I mean simple. If you try to create an elaborate schema of money in and money out you will become overwhelmed, adding to the mental clutter. Stop it. Keep it simple – think grade school level simple.
Getting rid of money woes is one of the best ways to remove stress and to de-clutter those brain cells for more important and interesting matters. Hint: check out George Ure’s e-book “Live on $10,000 A Year”.
4. Get rid of at least five items a week, every week. Get out a trash bag and fill it up with junk. Look around and surely you can find five things you do not need anymore. Stow those items in the bag and get rid of them. But please, junk is junk. Only give usable items to charity. No one, not even the homeless, deserve your stinky old sneakers.
5. Just say no to social commitments that do not interest you. This is the most difficult thing of all. How do you say no, not interested to folks that invite you to share some time with them? What if you no longer have anything in common, find them boring, or simply don’t feel like it? I will probably take a lot of flak for this but be kind, but firm and simply decline the invitation with grace. There is no big kahuna out there that will give you ten lashes for saying no to a social invitation. Just be nice, tell a little white lie if necessary, and stay home to watch a movie or take a nice long bath instead!
6. Recognize that good enough is just that: good enough! This applies to house cleaning, cooking, laundry (forget the ironing) or any other aspect of life that is overwhelming in its exacting standards. Learn to live with a lesser standard in those areas of life where it simply does not matter.
I have mentioned this before but some of the better books on de-cluttering your life are by Peter Walsh. I especially like his book It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Pick up a copy at your local library or online. You life will be better for it.
Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!
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