What the Heck is Simplifying, Anyway?

As I sat down to write this, I thought I should do a quick Google search to see how others define simplifying.  But you know what?  I didn’t, because it doesn’t matter how other people define it.  Here’s what I mean when I say simplifying, and how it’s improving my life.

Play & Passion Don’t Have a Deadline

There are an amazing number of things vying for our attention every day.  We have our personal and professional emails coming straight to our phones, so we can be constantly disrupted by the latest thing we need to pay attention to. But what about the really important things that aren’t coming to your attention through regular emails and reminders?  Last I checked, spending quality time with your kids doesn’t pop up a reminder on your phone every evening.  No bill collector calls if you forget to get to the gym today.  And taking time to pursue your passions?  Yeah, that’s all too often the very bottom of the list; something we think we’ll have time for AFTER our to-do list is done.

Making Room for What’s Important

Simplifying, then, is really the idea of clearing out some of the mental and busyness clutter to make time for what really matters to you.  It’s related to decluttering, of course, because some of what makes us busy and takes up our valuable time and resources is simply too much physical stuff.  As I’ve written about previously, every item you own costs you both time and money. But simplifying is getting rid of all of the tasks and to-dos that just aren’t really necessary.  It’s also making a conscious decision about how you spend your time, and refusing to allow unnecessary items to change that plan. I am particularly guilty of this when it comes to events with friends.  It’s not unusual for a last-minute invitation to something or other to come in after I’ve already made a plan for the weekend.  All too frequently, I say yes, because I value the person and value time with them, without considering how that event will throw off other plans.  This happened a lot over the last few weeks; we had home projects we wanted to get done that never even got started because there were constant events and celebrations. And while it’s not a problem to prioritize a celebration over a DIY project, it is a problem if you’re not doing it consciously. We need to start looking at every opportunity like we do in business.  There is an opportunity cost, and a carrying cost, to every activity.  If you’re happy with the fact that you missed working out today because you had to spend 30 minutes on the phone with the bank, great – but most of us aren’t.

Saying Yes More

What we want to get to, then, is the ability to say yes to the really important activities, while saying no to the mundane.  Or at least the mundane that isn’t absolutely necessary. We can also say no to the random, sure-I’d-like-to-do-that items so we can say yes to the things we’re the most passionate about.  And when we do say yes, we can do what’s necessary and valuable without adding in all those little “but shouldn’t I…” items we think we’re supposed to do. I’m working on putting this into practice.  My husband loves hosting events, and so we end up being the center of activity for our group of friends probably twice a month.  But each event has so much work going into it, between cleaning the house ahead of time, prepping food, shopping, and inviting people. So we’re pushing to simplify – to keep the important stuff (spending quality time with friends) while eliminating the mundane (making 5 types of quiche).  We’ve started saying “Yes, please bring xyz” when people ask, and our friends always do, so we can share the burden.  And when I asked a friend if she wouldn’t mind hosting occasionally because the clean-up is always a pain, she explained why she couldn’t right now but also started doing the party dishes before she leaves after an event (we have great friends!).

Reducing Stress

I am an absolute expert in stressing myself out.  Most Moms I know are – we set deadlines and task lists for the house, and then beat ourselves up when we don’t get to things by our self-imposed deadlines. Why are we doing this to ourselves? What if we changed the story we’re telling ourselves?  What if, instead of having a must-do list that includes the curtains you haven’t hung yet, the flowers you want to plant, and the project you started but didn’t finish, you had a want-to-do list? Take a look at your to-do list – are there things on there that really have no deadline or timeliness aspect to them that you’re treating as urgent?  What if you tried keeping a list of home upgrades that have no deadlines or urgency attached, and then just schedule an hour a week to work on whichever one you feel led to work on that week?  Heck, let’s go all the way…let’s title it our “Want-To” list! Not only would you end up with a shorter – and probably more realistic – to-do list, you might actually find yourself looking forward to your home-project time each week! You’ll also probably find that you’re less overwhelmed every morning when you look at your daily list.  If this way of doing it doesn’t work for you, guess what – do something different!  Stop forcing to-dos upon yourself; either put up the darn curtains already, or donate them to Goodwill and decide it’s just not that important to you. Whatever you do, make a conscious choice to take on fewer tasks and let go of what’s not important.  That, my friends, is simplifying.  And it’s crucial if we want to be engaged, happy women, wives and moms.

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