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Beyond Prepping: 72 Ideas That Will Simplify Your Life

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: October 5, 2020
Beyond Prepping: 72 Ideas That Will Simplify Your Life

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Every once in awhile, I come across something that is perfect just the way it is.  It could be a list, a concept, or simply an essay on a topic that brings understanding and meaning to life.

Today’s article needs no adornment.  Is is a list of ideas that you can embrace to simplify your life and heaven knows, I raise my hand and say “yes, that is something I need and want to do”.  As you read through these, keep in mind that a  simple life means something different for every person.  For me it means cutting out the clutter and spending time doing things with people that I love.

72 ideas that will simplify your life

I feel the urgency of time marching by in a world that holds an uncertain and chaotic future. I want to embrace the simplicity of waking up each morning and being the best I can be.  Heading down this path is a journey I share with self-sufficiency.

Enjoy this list from Zen Habits. I hope that you will find something that works for you.

72 Ideas That Will Simplify Your Life

1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.

2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things.

3. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.

4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.

5. Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).

6. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much.

7. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.

8. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast.

9. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss.

10. Get rid of the big items. There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way.

11. Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else.

12. Edit closets and drawers. Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time.

13. Simplify your wardrobe. Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close (I’m talking about dresser drawers here, not underwear). Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other.

14. Simplify your computing life. If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly.

15. De-clutter your digital packrat-ery. If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you.

16. Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out.

17. Limit your buying habits. If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it. I was there, and although I haven’t escaped these things entirely, I feel much freer of it all. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, less freneticism.

18. Free up time. Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.

19. Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else.

20. Spend time with people you love. Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them (not necessarily in sexual ways).

21. Spend time alone. See this list of ways to free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.

22. Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.

23. Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a try.

24. Be present. These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity.

25. Streamline your life. Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then stick to it.

26. Create a simple mail & paperwork system. If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. But a simple system will keep everything in order. a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst.

28. Clear your desk. If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and disorganized and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away.

29. Establish routines. The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines.

30. Keep your email inbox empty. Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps.

31. Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity.else. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). .

33. Find other ways to be minimalist. There are tons. You can find ways to be minimalist in every area of your life.

34. Consider a smaller home. If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. I’m not saying you should live on a boat (although I know some people who happily do so), but if you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and greatly simplify your life.

35. Consider a smaller car. This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, harder to maintain, harder to park. Simplify your life with less car. You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably. Maybe not something you’re going to do today, but something to think about over the long term.

36. Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes. More stuff. But when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a never-ending cycle. Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough. And then stop when you get there.

37. Create a simple weekly dinner menu. If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly menu. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, go grocery shopping for the ingredients. Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).

38. Eat healthy. It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term. We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots … you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly, over the long term.

39. Exercise. This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it simplifies your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great. Here’s how to create the exercise habit.

40. De-clutter before organizing. Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk or filing cabinet or closet or drawer, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you de-clutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.

41. Have a place for everything. Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized. After you de-clutter.

42. Find inner simplicity. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I have found that spending a little time with my inner self creates a peaceful simplicity rather than a chaotic confusion. This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.

43. Learn to decompress from stress. Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress (except in the case of the ultimate simplifier, death). So after you go through stress, find ways to decompress.

44. Try living without a car. OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think. A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas and more.

45. Find a creative outlet for self-expression. Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dance, skateboarding, whatever. We have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.

46. Simplify your goals. Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.

47. Single-task. Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time.

48. Simplify your filing system. Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. Create a simple system.

49. Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace.

50. Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less.

51. Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing.

52. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something.

53. Create morning and evening routines. A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day.

54. Create a morning writing ritual. If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual.

55. Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life.

56. Read Walden, by Thoreau. The quintessential text on simplifying. Available on Wikisources for free.

57. Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time.

58. Read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James. One of my favorite all-time authors on simplicity.

59. Fill your day with simple pleasures. Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day.

60. Simplify your RSS feeds. If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading.

61. But subscribe to Unclutterer. Probably the best blog on simplifying your stuff and routines (along with Zen Habits, of course!).

62. Create an easy-to-maintain yard.

63. Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging. Consider carrying only the essentials.

64. Simplify your online life.

65. Strive to automate your income. This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself.

66. Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated.

67. Simplify your financial life.

68. Learn to pack light. Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip?

69. Use a minimalist productivity system. The minimal Zen To Done is all you need. Everything else is icing.

70. Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.

71. Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.

72. Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.

Why This, Why Now?

In recent months, my email has been full of comments regarding the need for guidance in simplifying life and in paring down the unnecessary material goods that are carried around with us as baggage.  In the quest for self-sufficiency, this baggage becomes a distraction and a burden, making it more difficult to find clarity in the why and how of a preparedness lifestyle.

For those without the luxury of excess physical space, this becomes even more poignant as we seek room for our food storage and our gear.  But even putting that aside, the spiritual burden of truth and our quest for skills and knowledge leaves little excess room for distraction as we go about our daily business.

The solution, in my opinion, is to de-clutter and embrace our own unique version of minimalism.

The Final Word

There are those that will say that this  list is too long or too daunting or simply just too much and an oxymoron.  That sounds self-defeatist but heck, we all are different and it is what it is.  For those of you that feel that way, Leo at Zen Habits says that there are really only two steps to simplifying:

1.  Identify what’s most important to you
2. Eliminate everything else.

And for now, that is all that I will say about that.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Spotlight:  Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System – Zen To Done is a simple system to get you more organized and productive, and keep your life saner and less stressed, with a set of habits. ZTD teaches you the key habits needed to be productive, organized, and simplified… and no more than that.

Bargain Bin: The article I wrote on DIY cleaning turned out to be hugely popular all around the web. In cased you missed it, here is a link to the article Prepper Checklist: DIY Cleaning Supplies and to some of the products that I use to make my own cleaners.

Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, (Pack of 36): No list of DIY cleaning supplies would be complete without these wonderful microfiber cloths. They will last you for years and will allow you to replace paper towels forever. Truly. I color code using blue for glass and windows and the other colors for everything else. I love these.

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleanser: I know that Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile soaps have a cult-like following but I prefer the Sal Suds. I call my DIY cleaner “Sudsy Sal”.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap: Of all of the Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps, peppermint is my favorite.   I use it to make “Peppermint Magic”, an all purposed cleaner.

Soft ‘n Style 8 oz. Spray Bottles: I happen to like these smaller bottles and you can not beat the price for a set of 3. Likewise for these Pump Dispensers.

NOW Solutions Vegetable Glycerin: You will need this for your Dirt Cheap Soft Soap. I paid almost as much for only 4 ounces locally. This is a great price and 16 ounces will last forever.

Peppermint Essential Oil: I favor peppermint and tea tree (Melaleuca) essential oil in my cleaning supplies. But there are many types of essential oils to choose from. Take your pick. One thing you will find is that a little goes a long way.  The nice thing about essential oils from Spark Naturals  is that they are also excellent for therapeutic and healing use and well as for use in DIY cleaning supplies.  Just remember to use the code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout to get 10% off your order.

Budget Essential Oils:  For the budget minded – and especially for use in cleaning supplies – consider NOW Foods Essential Oils.


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18 Responses to “Beyond Prepping: 72 Ideas That Will Simplify Your Life”

  1. I’m wondering why you left out a most important contributor to cluttered up lives: Television. When you give up television you will find that you have time to accomplish the more important things in life. Your soul will have time to communicate with you. You will have more time to read more than just listening to sound bytes that come flying at you by the hundreds or by the thousands. By eliminating television from your life you will be able to enjoy life more fully. Besides, what can you do about the misery that is portrayed minute by minute? You will become more aware of the needs of those dearest to you.


    • Tom – my sister says she loves to visit me because I don’t have TV. I also seldom have the radio on. So, she can come down and relax, without having to worry about things like: Is my soap opera on? Is it time for the news and weather? What show do I want to watch tonight? – Instead we talk or read or work on minor (or major) things.
      TV may not be space clutter as much as it is time and mind clutter!

    • My answer to why tv is a convenience. It’s a tool of today, just as the internet is. When used properly, it has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Tools are about helping and using wisely. Which is why I will keep my tv. Then again, I don’t just see ‘misery’ on mine. Just a different viewpoint, not debating, just sharing.

  2. Granting yourself permission to do nothing is one of the most difficult things a person can do. Remember the 80s when it was a badge of honor to have a crammed Daytimer or Filofax?

    I go back to the city to visit family once a month but I would never go back and live in that rat race.

    And by the way, I only drive my car 800 miles a year so I am selling it. We will still have the Subaru for getting around but one car is plenty. And it is an old one at that.

    Anyone interested in a sky blue Tbird convertible?

  3. Great article! All things that I learned to practice years. “They” are making it very difficult for the average person to live simply. One must steer clear of the biggest traps (or extricate themselves from them, if already caught-up in them).

    The biggies: Debt. Don’t do debt- EVER; For anything! Avoiding interest and the obligation of having to make a payment is like doubling your income! Taxes! Keep your income below taxable levels…live just as well, or better than someone who earns three times as much; also, get out of high property tax areas. Can’t live simply while having to pay the goobermint thousands of dollars a year just to live in your own home. Places with the lowest property taxes also usually have low real estate values and a low cost of living. Living in a rural low-cost area, and maintaining 2 non-fuel-efficient vehicles and earning a thrid of what I used to in NYC, I now live better than people I knew back there who were millionaires! Seriously!

    Take care of those big issues, than you can have the time and ability to implement all the smaller ones. And most of all: Value your time- as it is the most precious thing we have- and just enjoying the simple pleasures of living simply; being alone;p doing nothing; etc. are truly ways to maximize the precious resource of time…rather than cramming it full of activities, which one ultimately will realize when they look back, were meaningless.

    Most of all: Wherever and whenever…take the time to THINK and be quiet! Most people today feel the need to constantly be stimulated by outside input from gadgets; they have likely NEVER heard that inner voice; communed with God; or just been alone with their thoughts and enjoyed their own company. These aren’t just little things to do as you’re stuck in traffic or sitting on a bus…they should be a way of life that ultimately will make you value your time too much to ever want to sit in traffic or on a bus with all the zombies who are running the rat race.

    Now i’m going to go and watch the thunderstorm which is rolling in, and I will not be posting about it on FaceRook[sic] or TWITter!

    • One thing I gave up over 10 years ago, and do not miss, is television. Where I live only satellite TV is available. One day I realized I was paying $100/month for a few minutes of reruns and decided I didn’t need to waste my money. I now get my news and entertainment from the internet, and have gone for a week or more without that. So, if it went I wouldn’t fret it very much. Just string up a long wire and listen to shortwave, if I felt the need.

  4. I also want to ask how do you purchase lumber, other building materials, bulk groceries, or any thing heavy or bulky with out a vehicle ? I will stand buy my original comment that getting rid of your vehicle is counter productive
    both economically and the use of time. This week I purchased fertilizer, mulch and potting soil it would have cost $75.00 to be delivered. As it was my son
    loaded it in the truck, unloaded in the yard and helped with using it. Total
    cost was Thank you Sweetheart, and a cold beer.

    I have prioritized and a truck is a joy forever. Doing things the hard way is not a virtue.

    • If the vehicle belongs to a family member, AND you’re getting help from time to time…why have 2 vehicles if one will do? Just a thought, when 2 families share, they share the expense of using it too. Anyway, that’s how I was raised.

  5. My wife and I are trying to stick to a new rule.
    If something is bought then something old must go.
    Usually anything we buy is really a replacement or improvement of something that we already have. So out with the old to make room for the new.
    With that said, plan now to find the places to part with the old. Find the best consignment shops to take your furniture to, the best resale shops to resell you clothes, how to sell on eBay, etc. We have figurered out our favorite charities to donate most of our replaced items.
    Thanks for an excellent list. We always can use a pep talk.

    • 🙂
      I would suggest you go with the last two she gave:

      1.  Identify what’s most important to you
      2. Eliminate everything else.

  6. Been purging belongings all week- couldn’t agree more, feels damn good. I find doing 1 thing a day related to prepping gives me a good sense of accomplishment as well as getting me closer to what I would define as a “safe” level of supplies/preparations.

  7. I would add one more. People can only have so much stuff. No matter what it is, we only have so much room. 8 years ago I began a law in my home. Nothing comes in unless something leaves. Sometimes even now that’s hard, but once I decluttered, I don’t like having to work at doing it again. This law keeps me from doing so. 🙂

  8. Your list is very helpful on the most part but the one that says to get rid of your car makes me wonder.

    How on earth can waiting an hour for a bus that is almost never on time, transferring and waiting some more making sense to you? With the average
    American city all over the map and not being designed for public transportation.

    The only time it has ever been practical is in cities like New York or Philadelphia. I live in Florida and the shopping is not centralized and is
    in malls all over the area. I can hop in my car, go to the grocery, post office and bank etc. Get it all done in the hour I’d be waiting for the bus.

    Also if your a senior citizen like myself you can’t walk the distances from bus stop to destination easily.

    Let’s rethink that suggestion please.

    • Bebe, I’m a senior citizen and don’t own a car. In my 40s I was a full time university student, single mom, and part time worker AND didn’t own a car. I/we took the bus everywhere. It’s about that prioritizing included in the list. So you (the general you) have many small chores to do…fit the ones in the same general area together and while waiting for the bus, riding the bus, read or do something you can carry with you. I did much of my homework/reading while waiting for the bus or riding. Once you begin riding the bus, you can adjust your body to the length of the ride and get an amazing amount of stuff done.
      I do not dispute the walking…that you adjust to what you are capable of doing. If you are not able to walk and use the regular bus system. Every public transportation system, by federal law must also have a para transit system check to see it you qualify, if so, they do door to door service. Remember these are guidelines and each must adapt them to individual cases.

    • Dee – the only thing is, where I live it’s 25 miles to the nearest town, and 35 to the town where I shop. There is no bus service out here. I personally have two vehicles. A half ton pickup and a VW Beetle. The VW gets used the most because of the gas milage. However, there are a lot of things (like firewood) that cannot be carried in it. That’s when I use the pickup. It has been parked for as long as six months, so it isn’t used often. However, both are older models (not as old as I would like them to be!). The VW is an 02 and the pickup is a 96. Both bought used and needing minor repairs, that I did.
      I do limit my trips to town and do several chores in one trip. That VW has been packed a few times! 🙂

    • Even in NYC it’s not practical. Waiting 20 minutes or more for a subway, and then doing the same again when you transfer….plus having to take a long round-about route, because the system is geared to mainly bring people from other areas into one centralized area….means that it can take an hour and a half to get somewhere that you could drive or bicycle to in 20 minutes. Not to mention the rabble you have to ride with; the tax burden of such systems (they can not sustain themselves on fares- not even close. Even the smallest bus system can’t do that)… Mass transit is truly a huge evil- no matter where it is implemented. Actually though…the “need” to travel so far and so frequently is almost as bad. Our modern cities and suburbs (and restrictive zoning laws) create that need. It’s a vicious cycle that will not be broken until we go bust from it…. (Getting away from NYC and to a very rural area where my life revolves around my own home and property was the best thing I ever did, and set me free from that vicious cycle)

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