Here we are, back again with another month’s worth of small changes or decisions I made that simplified my life in some fashion. This time, however, I have included a change in our family that absolutely has NOT simplified our life. I figured it would be helpful to point out that often our journey to simpler living is not a straight-line trip. Bumps in the road will occur, whether they are intentional (as ours was) or unintentional.
Without further ado, here are four things I did to simplify my life in April, and the one thing the Starks family did that did NOT make our lives simpler.
Strategically bought a dress
As a rule, I dislike wearing dresses. It’s just not my thing. But given my work, there are a handful of occasions each year that require a dress. In April, we had an annual client function, and I decided to splurge on a new dress. I had been wearing the same couple of dresses for the prior … several … years. So, off I went to buy a dress.
Shopping for clothes is my least favorite shopping to do. My motto is: get in, get what I need, get out. There is no lingering to enjoy the outing. I am a woman on a mission at the department store, and this time was no exception.
I will spare you the details of the ordeal, but the dress I ultimately bought was a rich royal-blue color. At first, I figured I would get a light-colored spring dress, given that the event was a ladies’ tea. But a light-colored dress would require the purchase of light-colored shoes, since I only possess a single pair of low-heeled black pumps for the rare occasion that I wear a dress. That would not do.
Choosing the blue dress, which was not, strictly speaking, a spring color, gave me lots of flexibility. That dress is suitable for any season, and it can be worn with my black shoes. And it was on sale. A total win.
Turned down several social and charitable events
Both our family and my financial planning firm do significant charitable giving throughout the year. A nice, but complicating result of our giving is that we are invited to many events hosted by the charities. The invitations we receive always look appealing and fun, and more times than I can count, I have been tempted to accept the invitation to attend.
I have an issue that haunts me: I dislike saying no and disappointing people. It has been a long journey for me to improve my ability to politely decline and not feel guilty. In a way then, I suppose, having ongoing practice is probably a good thing. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to always say no.
In April, several of these event solicitations came in, as well as a couple social event invitations. While I was tempted, I steeled myself to decline, regardless of how appealing the event seemed. Perhaps someday I will have more time to spare for such worthy causes, but for now, my priorities are different.
Tidied up by walking around
I wrote about this method of tidying up in my weekly newsletter recently. (Not a subscriber? You should be, it’s free!!) On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being perfectly tidy, our house is normally at a 7 to 9 level. We are pretty good about staying on top of clutter in the majority of the house. But occasionally we encounter a busy week, and things at the house get a bit out of hand.
When this happens, I will spend a few minutes here and there throughout the day tidying up, but randomly. I think the thought of buckling down and tidying a whole room feels daunting (not to mention boring), so I balk at that approach. Instead, I spot an item that is out of place, and I carry it to where it belongs. While there, I might notice another misplaced item, so I pick that item up and carry it to where it belongs.
Sounds silly and inefficient, doesn’t it? Well first, I often will pick up multiple items for each trip and make multiple stops to stow the items in their proper places. I walk briskly and challenge myself to see how much I can get tidied in, say, five minutes’ time. By “gamifying” the tidying in this way, it doesn’t feel like a chore. And getting a bit of movement in between writing sessions (or other work that requires me to sit or stand still for a period of time) is a bonus.
Another bonus has developed from this method: I now habitually scan my immediate area for items that can be tidied every time I change locations. In other words, I have automated this response so that I don’t even have to be trying to do a major tidying. I automatically tidy as I move throughout my home during the day.
Worked on my morning routine
One of the best ways I stay on track and feel like I am being productive is by getting many desired activities done before breakfast. I have always been a morning person. My “best” days are those where I am sure to get some writing and exercise in. When that doesn’t happen, I feel disappointed in myself at the end of the day, regardless of how many other tasks I managed to complete.
I have developed a lousy morning habit of checking email, news, and social media first thing after greeting the pets and making my tea. In order to combat this habit, I made some adjustments in my morning routine. Before I shut down everything in the evening, I put my journal right on top of my computer. This reminds me to do my “morning pages” (hat tip to Tim Ferriss for this concept) instead of immediately firing up my computer. But inserting this disrupter (the journal on top of my computer), it causes me to pause and alter my morning sequence.
So far, I would give myself a C+ on my efforts. Oh, I do my morning pages first thing, which is good, but my desired follow up activity would be to immediately start that day’s writing project instead of falling down the rabbit hole of the internet. I am not even at 50% for that habit at the moment. The temptation to just make a super-quick check on the world via email, texts, news, and social media is strong.
I will keep working on this morning routine, because it is important to my feeling more relaxed and satisfied throughout the day. In a week, I start a summer sabbatical from work, and that will afford me the opportunity to have most of my mornings start in an identical fashion. It seems like it shouldn’t be so difficult to simply get the writing and running done before hitting the internet, right?
And yet, it is just about as difficult as walking past the box of donuts in the kitchen at my office without taking one. Work. In. Progress.
Doubled the size of the Starks family by adopting five chickens – NOT simple!
Rowan and Greg had been talking about raising chickens for eggs for quite a while. I shared the whole story in my free weekly newsletter, so here I will just point out that chickens are not simple. They lived in a large box in the bathtub for a few weeks until they were mature enough to move to the coop. By and large, care for the chickens is not on my task list, so their arrival hasn’t added things to my to do list.
But having something else to be worried about does add to my mental load. On days when Greg isn’t here, I take on the “farm wife” role (as Greg calls it). Garden watering and chicken coop monitoring isn’t terribly time consuming. Even when Greg IS here, though, I worry about the well-being of the chickens. He has taken numerous precautions to keep them warm, dry, and safe from predators, but I am a worrier by nature. Work. In. Progress.
It all adds up
None of these recent things I did were major lifestyle changes (well, except for the chickens). Instead, they were small projects or subtle shifts that led to some gains in white space in my life. Are you trying to simplify your life? Consider what small things you can do today to move you further down the path.
It all adds up.
What small steps have you taken recently to simplify your life? Share below! Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your thoughts!
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