how to make time to do what you love: simplify

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Simplify - image courtesy of Etsy

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately relaxing at home and reading novels.  This time of year is particularly suited to squirreling oneself away and cozying up with a good book while the snow flakes fall gently from the sky.  I took a trip last weekend to Value Village to donate a couple of bags of outgrown clothing, and felt instantly lighter.  I’ve decided to keep a bag at the ready to keep donations flowing from our home as a way of decluttering without too much effort, and I’ve recently listed some more of the kids’ items for sale on Craigslist.   I’m finally starting to reap some real rewards of having downsized the contents of our home.  Simplifying in one area of your life or household can have cascading effects in other areas of your life, so if you are feeling overwhelmed the best thing to do is pick just one thing and get started.  Here’s a few ideas to get you on your way:

  • Simplify your clothing.  Reduce your wardrobe to a sensible size (check out Project 333 for inspiration!) and enjoy wearing clothing that fits, looks good on you and feels good to wear.  I used to buy clothing and shoes for my “fantasy” self – I would come across a pair of cute shoes and think to myself “those gladiator sandals with the sky-high heels are so hot!  I have to have them!” In reality, I had no where to go that would make wearing high-heeled sandals appropriate (or fun).  Most people only wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time – consider paring your wardrobe down to the 20% of items in your closet you actually wear and stick to a clothing diet for a couple months before you reevaluate how your limited wardrobe is serving you.  You just might be surprised at how little clothing you need to be happy with how you look.
  • Simplify your diet.  Eat whole foods, and incorporate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.  Eliminate as much processed food from your diet as possible.  Practice portion control.  Personally, I’ve also adopted the practice of eating only at designated meal times rather than whenever food is available – allowing myself to think about food only at given times in the day frees up my mind for other things.
  • Simplify your home furnishings and decor.  Eliminate furniture you don’t use and belongings you don’t need or love.  There are tons of charitable organizations that would be happy to accept your donations of items that are still in good, useable condition.  Items that are in your home purely for decorative purposes should be viewed with a critical eye – do you love and derive joy from having this item in your home?  If not, consider removing it.  Consider that everything you own is a potential dust collector – if I don’t want to take the time to clean and maintain something, it probably isn’t worth owning.
  • Simplify your cleaning schedule.  Keeping my home tidy is a lot simpler after having decluttered.  I find I spend most of my cleaning time in the kitchen, as it relates to cleaning following meal preparation.  Otherwise, I focus on keeping things tidy and throw in a little elbow grease weekly to clean my bathrooms, carpets and floors.  Of course, having children means there might be more cleaning than I would ideally like, but as my mother-in-law always likes to remind me, “There will come a day when there will be no little ones left to clean up after.  Enjoy this moment.”  Smart lady.
  • Simplify the paper in your life.  Remove yourself from mailing lists and opt out of flyers so they don’t even get delivered to your home.  Read your favourite publications online rather than receiving them by subscription in the mail.  Consider reading books in digital format, either on your computer or tablet or electronic reader.  Let go of books you used in your previous life as a student by donating them to used book stores so that other students might derive some use out of them.  Sign up with any service providers to receive your bills in electronic format via email – this will save both trees by eliminating printing paper bills and save you the space, time and effort of having to file your paper bills.
  • Practice the theory of “one is enough.”  One pair of mittens, one television, one computer, one set of sheets, the list goes on and on.  I used to shop and buy in multiples – if one nice shirt was good, then three had to be better, right?  Not so much.  Often the shirt that first grabs your eye is enough and doesn’t need any company in your closet – forgo buying any extras “just in case.”  Stores will never run out of shirts in your size.  Or mittens.  Or bed linens.  You get the picture.
What has simplifying my life done for me?  In short, I spend less time (or no time) doing what I don’t enjoy and more time doing enjoyable things.

I spend very little time cleaning.  It takes me less than five minutes to clean my bathroom, and five minutes to vacuum my home.

I spend very little time organizing.  I prefer decluttering (donating and/or tossing) to organizing.

I hardly spend any time at all travelling by car.  Most of my travel is done on foot, which is beneficial for both my health and my sanity.

I spend even less time shopping.  The only shopping I do is for food.  Fact.  Staying out of stores and avoiding shopping except for necessities like food keeps me from accumulating things I don’t need, and prevents me from falling back into the cycle of consuming/creating unnecessary waste.

I do spend some time putting things away, but it’s pretty negligible given that the contents of our household have been pared down considerably in the past year.  I spend about 5 minutes each morning emptying my dishwasher.  I put away a load of laundry twice a week.  Most of the time I spend putting things away is dedicated to toys and other things kid-related.  Note to self:  Must train children to pull their weight more in the tidying department.

What do I have time for now that I’ve simplified my life?  Pretty much anything my heart desires.  I have more free time than I know what to do with, and in my free time I enjoy baking, reading, and meeting up for coffee with friends.  I enjoy taking my kids to the playground and the library.  I love cozying up with a good book and a cup of hot coffee or tea, and spending some quiet time alone.

Are you simplifying your life this year?  What goals do you hope to achieve by simplifying?  In short, what does “good” look like in your world?  

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9 responses »

  1. Great post, Erin! This year I’m focusing on buying even less. I made good strides last year, but there is more progress to be made. I also continue to question my stuff. I’ve given away a lot, to the point where sometimes it feels like I’m done decluttering. This makes me a bit sad though, decluttering can become pretty fun actually!

    • Thanks! I’m sticking with buying less this year too. I’m only buying groceries or food related items, and everything else I’ve resolved to finding second-hand. I’ve found I actually prefer the challenge of trying to find what I need at the thrift shop.

      I love decluttering too – in fact, I find it can be a bit addictive! With small kids, I’m finding that I am never actually DONE decluttering, because as much as I like a simple, orderly home, my little ones are still bringing things home that I am forced to deal with (like sticks from the park or scribbled on paper from school!) I guess they didn’t get the mininimalism memo… 🙂

  2. “There will come a day when there will be no little ones left to clean up after.”
    Sad, but true! Thanks for putting all this great info into one post. I am a member of the one is enough club now as well, after too many experiences of buying two of something in different colours and only ever wearing my favourite one.
    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!”

    • It’s taken me a long time to get the message of “one is enough” – I feel like I’ve been following the “more is better” theory since I got my first job, but I’m finally unlearning that lesson. And it’s so freeing! Less truly is more!

  3. One is enough do you do that for towels too? So family of four only four towels etc? I’ve been telling myself I need to do this… And I did get rid of two towels from my rotation without an issue! What about kitchen towels too??

    • Currently we have about six bath towels, but we could easily get away with four. My husband and I reuse our bath towels by hanging them to dry after each use and toss them in the laundry after a few uses – this saves on laundry piling up and definitely reduces the amount of wear on the towels! As for kitchen towels, I do have a ton of those – since we don’t use paper towels or paper napkins in our home, our kitchen towels do double duty, but I just toss them in the wash with the bathroom towels. Confession: I actually use flat cloth diapers instead of kitchen towels – they are all white and the same size and take up very little room in the kitchen! I do about two loads of towel laundry weekly.

      • We have 8 towels out right now, a lot usually stay in the cupboard most of the time. I was towels once a week so it’s an in case to have the second set as back up really while I’m washing. But I can say we actually run into the problem often that there is no towel to use on wash day since I wash and they’re finished and folded before hubs even gets back from work!

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