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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Self-improvement

Basic training: Simplifying your life

Chances are, you have too much stuff…in your head, in your closet and in your life. The problem with stuff is that it requires work and work requires time and energy—two things you probably have too little of. How can you make sense of career opportunities, community commitments, meal preparation, self-improvements, home improvements and child development while keeping sane? By uncluttering your life!

Throw it away

If you don’t need it, won’t use it or already have one, don’t buy it. If you receive it as a gift and it meets the same criteria, donate it. The idea is to have less stuff around: After all, the more you have, the more you think you need. Start by going through closets, storage boxes and drawers. If you haven’t worn it or needed it in more than a year, get rid of it. Charity groups are always willing to accept clothes, shoes and housewares.

As for that dusty box of memorabilia, save only the items you truly cherish. If you have children, make good use of your keepsakes by sharing the memories with them.

Activity check

Between piano recitals, tai chi classes and dinner dates, streamlining your life can seem like an impossible task. Start by taking a commonsense look at your agenda. For example, if you spend a lot of time chauffeuring your kids to and from activities, organize carpooling with parents in your neighborhood. When it’s your turn, bring something to do between rides: Read the paper, pay bills, write a letter or go grocery shopping.

Limit yourself to a handful of social obligations a week—and that includes calling friends and relatives. For example, make Monday “talking” day and chat with a loved one on the phone. Tell him or her you have 20 minutes to catch up—and stick to your time limit. Make no more than one lunch date and one dinner date a week. Carry a pocket planner to avoid overbooking yourself.

Just as you did with your wardrobe, weed out unnecessary social commitments. Become a member of just one or two organizations. Don’t volunteer to take on a major duty all by yourself; work with others to reach your goal.

Simply stated

It may take some discipline at first, but you’ll soon reap the benefits of uncomplicated living. Apply these basic principles to your life and see for yourself.

  • Make a to-do list each week, with tasks listed in order of priority. List family members, friends or co-workers who might be able to take over a task.
  • Watch no more than eight hours of television a week.
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Shop by catalog; bank by computer.
  • Organize important records and keep them in an accessible place.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes each day doing something for yourself—reading, exercising, listening to music, sitting quietly.
  • Enjoy a guilty pleasure once a month.