By Rita Schulte –
Stop for a moment and take a good hard look at your life. It’s a hot mess. You’re over-committed, overwhelmed, you don’t know how to say no, you have way too much stuff, too little time and no idea how to organize all the things that are complicating your life.
The problem isn’t that you don’t want to simplify your life; you just don’t know what next steps to take. The truth is, most of us don’t have the first clue about how to simplify our lives, and here’s why:
These are the problems, so what can we do about them? First, we have to notice how all this mess is affecting us and decide if we’re serious about really doing something about it. Then we have to identify what needs simplifying in our lives. Is our primary goal to simplify in terms of our “possessions” or is it to slow down and live a more balanced lifestyle?
To begin the journey, you’ll need to discover the one thing that will keep you motivated to reach your goals. It could be inner conviction that things are controlling you, the realization that time is slipping by and you’re not spending it with the people who are really important to you, or it could be you’re just burned out living with such a hectic life.
Simplicity is an attitude or mindset that begins inwardly and is reflected in an outward life-style. We can say we want a simpler life, but unless we’re convinced we need one, cultivating a less complicated life will elude us.
A simple life is a free life. It set’s possessions in the proper place with the proper perspective. It keeps “things,” or the drive for worldly pursuits from ruling over us. It enlarges our capacity for gratefulness and sharing. If you’re serious about getting started on the road to a simpler life, here are some first steps to consider:
How is all the stress and disorganization in your life affecting you? Is there too much clutter in your mind or too much clutter in your home? You have to identify the problem before you can do something about it; to do that you have to pay close attention to what is weighing you down. Start by making a daily list of what you notice is controlling you.
The more you have the more you have to maintain. Things can complicate life. Most of us could get rid of half the stuff we have hanging around without missing a beat. Practice the one-year rule; if you haven’t used an item in a year, chances are its life is over. Try giving unwanted stuff away to a charitable cause, it will make you feel really good to know you’ve blessed someone else and simplified your life at the same time.
Learn to use the “NO” word
We all want to help others, but sometimes it’s at our own expense. We worry about what others will think of us and so we over extend ourselves. Weigh your decisions to commit carefully. Count the cost to yourself and those closest to you before you agree to add something else to your plate. The people who really care about you will understand, and besides, there may come a time you when you will be more available to say yes.
Cultivate a grateful attitude
Let’s be honest, we live in an on-demand society where we expect things instantaneously. This does not make for fertile ground to cultivate being grateful for the simple things in life. To do that you need to be intentional about it. Start by making a daily list of at least two things you can be grateful for: a gentle rain, a hug from your child, a warm embrace, or a beautiful scene from nature. You’ll be amazed how in time your mood and feelings will lift. Slow down to do this exercise, don’t blow through it, but savor the things you’re grateful for spending time to reflect on how they affect you body, soul and spirit.
Decide what’s really important
This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Take time to look and reflect on your core values. Who and what are the most important things in your life? Once you get that down you can brainstorm ways to cut back in the areas that aren’t so important. You can cut back on extra stuff at work, say no to extra projects, and quit working on weekends. Doing something as simple as de-cluttering your desk can make you feel less disorganized and fresh. You may find you need to cut back on your use of technology gadgets. Just start paying attention to all the things you’re paying attention to, and ask yourself this: Are the people I love most getting the most from me? If not, simplify!
Refresh yourself daily
A simple life is a healthy life; it’s all about balance. Balance means we take care of ourselves through tending to our physical and emotional states. To do this, try a massage, stretching or Pilates is great, or a walk in the park. Whatever you do, do it regularly and make sure it’s something that will refresh you.
Trading in our chaotic lives for simplicity is no easy task, we’re used to them. In time, however, you will love the freedom simplicity provides you and you’ll feel a heck of a lot better too!
Back at you: Do you feel a little out of control in your life? What have you done to simplify? Did it help?
Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in No. Virginia. She hosts a weekly podcast show called Heartline where she talks to the leading counselors and authors in the country about cutting edge topics affecting the lives of people today. Heartline is now airing on 90.5 FM in NC, and Rita’s 1 minute devotional spot, Consider This is airing on 90.5 FM and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, Va. Heartline will be coming to Christian Life Internet Radio in February 2012. Follow Rita at www.siftedaswheat.com for counseling help and to read the first chapter of her book.
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