Simplify your life. It's a goal that many of us share. It even sounds simple. Or maybe it sounds daunting. If your life is complicated by stuff you don't use and activities you don't enjoy, simplifying might seem like just one more thing on your to-do list.
And it's hard to define. Simplifying your life may require different steps and result in different outcomes than the steps and outcomes for your friend, your co-worker, your sister. Simplifying your life may be different if you live in an in-town apartment or if your home is large and filled with furnishings.
Simplifying in just a few ways can lessen your sense of overwhelm and make your to-do's more manageable. Here are some tips to help organize and simply a few different areas. Some seem minor, while others require a significant change in your habits. Regardless of what "simplifying" means to you, taking even a few small steps can have a positive impact.
Create lists ahead of time. This set of Essential Everyday Forms from Real Simple includes a family contact sheet, a form for emergency numbers, a household appliance inventory and even a form to write down your family's rules, routines and quirks. Having information documented before you need it makes it easy to hand off the kids to a babysitter for the evening or find the serial number when your refrigerator needs service.
Pare down. Work with your family to decide what "enough" is, and stop when you get there. For every new item that enters your home (toys, shoes, cook books, video games), donate two.
Simplify meals and shopping. Create a weekly dinner plan and shop just once a week for groceries. Getting a healthy meal onto the table is easier when you know ahead of time what to prepare and everything you need is in the fridge and pantry.
Process Email 2-3 times per day. This sounds difficult at first, but it can have a significant positive impact on your productivity. Most email communication doesn't really require an immediate response, and in trying to multi-task, we're less efficient overall. Turn off notification chimes or close email altogether so that you're not tempted to "just check in." Use dedicated "email time" efficiently - respond to inquiries, move action items to appropriate follow-up folders and delete messages that you don't need to respond to or refer to later.
Learn to travel light. Skipping baggage check, especially when you're traveling for business, saves time and aggravation. Pack light using items you can mix and match (one pair of shoes to go with everything!) and invest in a good carry-on bag.
Eliminate the unnecessary. Excuse yourself from meetings that you don't really need to attend, and don't schedule meetings that aren't vital. Regular "check-in" meetings can often dissolve into unproductive complaint sessions or social gatherings. Unsubscribe from emails, newsletters or RSS feeds that you don't read regularly.
Do your banking and bill paying online. This reduces the amount of paper flowing in and out of your home, provides a way to track payments and ensure on-time delivery, and eliminates the time and money spent purchasing envelopes and stamps.
Use cash. What could be more simple?
Set up automatic savings. Fund your retirement plan, college savings fund and other savings accounts with automatic electronic funds transfer or payroll deduction. This is an easy way to ensure that you're saving where you need to be, without having to remember to write checks or transfer money.
Go to bed early. Everything seems more manageable when you're well-rested. Don't skimp on sleep - 6-8 hours a night is essential to your physical and mental health.
Get outside. Exercise - walk, jog, swim, do yoga, read a book on a park bench. Just getting outdoors for fresh air and sunshine can relax and re-energize you.
Say no. It's easy to get overextended because you want to help everyone who asks, or because you don't want to hurt someone else's feelings. Practice saying no to requests that aren't something you really want to do or don't fit your interests or skills. Check out 7 Simple Ways to Say No for suggestions on how to opt out firmly but with grace.
Spend time with people you love - and spend time alone. Both are vitally important. Make time in your schedule (and write it on your calendar) to enjoy dinner with friends, a family afternoon at the park, or a solo hike in the woods.