It was once predicted that (we) future humans would have a lot of spare time. Microwaves, cars, washing machines and technology were all supposed to give us more leisure and less stress.
But the future is here and we are busier than ever. Our complex brains and capitalist society mean we are in a vicious cycle of hectic pursuit. Katharine Fullerton Gerould said “Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life.” (1879)
If only you could simplify your life, reduce your stress and find more joy.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
“Instead of working so hard to make ends meet, work on having fewer ends.”
— Courtney Carver
Simplify your life – 13 things to declutter
- Possessions. Material possessions complicate our lives. You may not realise how much time you spend managing your stuff. Coveting it, buying it, cleaning and repairing it, putting it away, organising it, replacing it when it’s not fashionable and generally thinking about it. Declutter.
- Desires. Forget keeping up with the Jones’, they are not happy either. Consumerism is a trap. Requiring the latest trends, biggest house and shiniest car to satisfy someone else’s notion of success, is an exercise in futility. It never ends. Turn off the ads and choose your social group wisely. Minimalist Courtney Carver said “Your stuff does not have the power to change your life. Nothing you buy will make you a better person. Only you can do that.”
- Debt. This flows on from reducing your desires. Simplify your life by getting rid of credit cards and extra bank accounts. Sacrifice luxury today to enjoy freedom and simplicity tomorrow. Also Afterpay is a ruse.
- Work. If you can reduce your reliance on materialism and your debt, you can afford to work less. They are all related.
- Time. Commit to fewer things. Joining book clubs and going to dinners is great, but if you find yourself busier that you would like, it’s time to say no and prioritise. Also I don’t know who needs to hear this but your kids don’t need to attend every after-school activity that interests them. Simplify your time = simplify your life.
- Responsibility. Declutter your to-do list. Better still, have a to-don’t list. Giver fewer fucks. Let go of all the ‘should’s. If you don’t clean your oven for a whole year, so what? If your bench becomes dusty or you let your armpit hair grow, nothing bad happens. Simplify your life by not caring.
- Tasks. Research shows that multitasking doesn’t increase productivity. Do a job with focus, finish it and move onto the next.
- Words. Stay out of petty discussions. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”. This might mean staying out of WhatsApp groups and online communities where you feel compelled to weigh in. Detach a little.
- Social media. Related to the previous point. Be intentional with your time online, log off, turn off notifications, delete apps, unfriend, unsubscribe and unfollow.
- News media. If you limit social media this may result naturally. Humans haven’t evolved to know or care about happenings in far-flung communities. It’s great to be across major issues but trying to keep abreast of all of it is pointless. Also, news is designed to shock rather than inform, often to the detriment of your mental health.
- Friends. According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, we have evolved to function well in groups of up to 150 friends and acquaintances. 150 sounds like a lot but there is more to it. The tightest circle within that has has just five people, plus maximum 15 close friends, 50 mediocre friends and outwards it goes. Our social bandwidth is finite, and while community is important we are better off focusing on quality rather than quantity. Relationship minimalism is a thing.
- Products and food. Contrary to what the ads tell you, a six-step procedure for your skin is unnecessary. So are 10 kinds of olive oil. Keep it simple and use the basics to preserve space, time and energy. Find a list of household items you don’t need here.
- Negative thoughts. Mostly they are unproductive and harmful. Work on your self esteem, get into therapy, meditate, exercise – flush those demons out any way possible.
Simplify your life. Don’t let FOMO get in the way. A more peaceful, joyful life awaits you.