The battery of my favorite go-to vacuum cleaner gave up the ghost recently after five years of dependable service to keeping my home tidy and debris-free. Initially the tracking information stated that the battery would take 10 days to arrive, so I resigned myself to sweeping and using a dustpan, something I do regularly outside to clean my porches and prior to the the ease of vacuums, an approach people have used for centuries to keep floors clean. However, when I double checked my shipping and saw it would arrive five days sooner, a deep sigh of relief washed over me. Absurd it may seem to be so overjoyed to be able to use a vacuum cleaner, but the reality was I was ecstatic.
Why? The ease and simplicity having a quality vacuum brought to my day and life at home.
Ultimately what losing temporarily the ability to keep clean my floors and furniture made me realize was how knowing my home was clean brought calm to my days, whether I was home or was returning home, and the peace of mind of a chore that was complete and when it needed to be done, it could be done quickly and efficiently. Which brings me to living a simple life.
Now, we’ve talked multiple times here on TSLL about simplifying in general and in regards to specific topics as at the core of simply luxuriously living is the fundamental concept that living simply is what makes life feel luxurious (read this post); in fact, TSLL has an entire category set up in the Archives to house all of the posts and episodes that address Simplicity in some way; however, inspired by my own realization of what simplifying feels like over the past year, and really since June as many big projects wrapped up at this time, and I settled into my one-job life for the first time without also simultaneously working on the prior projects as well, to feel on a regular basis the nourishment of living simply has been life enriching. No doubt, this won’t surprise you for those of you who have already cultivated the richness of a simple life, and there are many different ways this presents itself – minimalism can be a form of living simply, but so too can living in a cozy cottage with oodles of books and items that bring us joy to be surrounded by, something a minimalist would not choose to do most likely, but without question both can be how one lives simply.
To simplify goes beyond the surface of having ‘less stuff’ physically and asks of each of us who desire to live in such a way to understand (1) what brings us calm, (2) what grounds us, and (3) what enables us to avoid becoming overstimulated – to use the term often associated with highly sensitive persons, but really, simulation resides on a continuum, and it is if we find ourselves near the far end of being intensely aware of our surroundings and thoughts, thus stimulation, that we identify as HSP. So that is our homework – knowing the answer to each of the three above questions; that is the key to understanding how to simplify our days, but what does that look like?
First, examine and explore for insights the following areas in your life and answer these questions:
- What details in any given environment you spend time (home, work, restaurant, hotel, museum, airport, etc.) bring a sigh of relief, of calm, of appreciation? What are the commonalities in what you see in each?
- What food and drink makes you feel good (both in the moment and thereafter)? In what scenarios at home when you prepare food is it enjoyable? Why? (i.e. a well-stocked refrigerator, time to go grocery shopping with a clear mind, etc.)
- What is your sleep routine? How do you feel in your bedroom where you sleep? When have you enjoyed the best deep sleep that upon waking you felt energized and ready to enjoy the day?
- What do you do regularly/or have done regularly that brings fulfillment and purpose to your day and thus a feeling of contentment as you both move through the day and conclude it?
- What activities, when you partake in them, immediately lift your mood and energize you even if they are physically or mentally taxing?
Last year I wrote a detailed post about How to Live a Simple Life, and it explores conceptually six items to explore that when we address each, help to cultivate the life that will bring us the calm and elevated enjoyment we seek. And as I shared in this post, it is when we simplify thoughtfully that the quality of our lives elevates dramatically in wonderful ways, so today what I wanted to do is, after taking into consideration your answers to the above five questions, share specific ideas for dialing up the quality by consciously and specifically simplifying your days.
1. Organize and eliminate
Books bring me great comfort. The more books, the better may be one of my many mottos, as depending upon my mood, I will want a particular topic to explore, but having a book is essential to my calm and my enjoyment; however, a straggly pile of books, haphazardly finding a home in a corner in my office (or any room) just ratchets up my stress as I would never be able to find what I was looking forward should it even exist in that corner, let alone be at ease with the untidiness. Which is to say, you don’t have to toss the clutter if what the clutter is brings you enjoyment, but organize it, and while you are organizing you may realize there are a few books you can consign and remove from your library or bookshelves to make room for a new book that catches your interest.
Once I finally found a home for my books that were stacked in piles in my office by having bookshelves installed, working in my office became even more enjoyable, primarily because I wasn’t distracted by the disorganization, but also because I could find easily what I was looking for when “I knew” I had a book on just that topic if only I could find it. (Look for a tour of my office later this spring – bookshelves, curtains, etc. – and if you are already a TOP Tier Member, you can tour in detail the office bookshelves and how I organized them in February’s A Cuppa Moments.)
2. Eliminate what distracts your mind
When I cut the cable cord a few years ago, it was a choice I had been wrestling with for quite a few years leading up to my final jump – What was I going to do when a live even was broadcast that I enjoyed watching – i.e. Wimbledon, The Oscars, etc. ? Well, now such a question seems absurd, but along with eliminating all of the choices on the Guide screen, as well (and especially) all of the advertisements, I realized I didn’t need to watch certain events live, and not watching certain events versus reading about them the next day reduces the stress levels (last year’s Oscars being case in point, the first year I didn’t watch, and following news of “The Slap” I am glad I didn’t watch it – too much drama that would have brought unnecessary overstimulation overshadowing the reason most people tune in).
I have also begun to walk without my AirPods and instead, let myself be fully immersed in the music of Mother Nature as I wander along the trails and watch the pups explore. While I did take in the natural beauty around me when I would walk previously, I always tended to have one AirPod in, so my attention, regrettably, was not entirely focused on where I was. What I have discovered was that part of me, by choosing to turn on the music or podcast while I walked, was trying to calm myself down, so it wasn’t entirely a bad thing, but now, I already am calm most of the time, and then being in Nature brings even more tranquility because I am letting myself be fully engaged and witness Nature’s awesomeness. One less thing to do as I get ready to go for a walk (i.e. find my AirPods) and a more quality experience.
3. Focus on what brings you joy, what makes you feel like a child again and without trying, you let go of what stresses you out
I wanted to present the idea in reverse by which I mean, instead of focusing on what stresses us out, what overwhelms us and thus should address and possibly eliminate, let’s flip it on its head and ask the question, What makes me feel as I did when I was lost in the reverie of being a kid without a care in the world? Do more of that Shannon, do more of that. Perhaps it has helped to be raising a puppy to participate in this activity, because going outside in the yard and jumping around with Nelle, playing fetch, being completely focused on playing and having fun with her so that she is having fun being young and energetic, without thinking about it is a joy and captures my full engagement versus something else that is less fun, less constructive, is not being given time or my energy. And so by default, when we focus our energy and time on those activities and way of living that make us feel joyous and giddy, something else falls away as we have less time for it and that can be a very good thing. We don’t miss something if it don’t enjoy doing it, so why not permit yourself to let of some of the ‘shouldn’t that actually reduce the quality of your life because you aren’t in it with your whole heart and do something you love to do? It really can be that simple.
Such changes may not be able to be made over night, but being conscious of the effect of how you spend your time will provide insight into making different choices moving forward.
4. Check your email less often, check more regularly and communicate clearly when you do respond to be both professional/appropriate to the relationship and honor your life boundaries
In other words, select two or three times throughout the work day, and once or twice during your personal time on the weekends or days off that you will check your email (if necessary) as it makes the most sense to do so.
For example, (1) check the email for the first time upon sitting down at your desk with a cuppa of tea and never before breakfast or in bed. Turn on the "No Disturb" button and work up until lunch, take lunch and (2) upon returning from lunch, check your email again. Read, respond as necessary, make notes as to future communication if needed, and then turn on the "No Disturb" button. Work until the end of the work day, (3) check your email one more time, then look over what you will be doing tomorrow, make a list as necessary so you don't forget anything of importance, and then email and computer are off for the day.
Of course, each of our days at work and at home are unique and different, but when we consciously construct an approach that will retain our professionalism but also give us quality time to work, focus and enjoy ourselves fully (during our personal time), we become the director of our attention and our days and thus our lives (work and play) become full of more quality.
5. Refrain from texting as a substitute for conversations with loved ones and professional relationship as well
I share this one because if what you are seeking is more depth in your relationships, to feel as though you are seen and understood and visa versa, then recognizing that texting can never create anything more than a surface connection is vital to acknowledge. One of the fundamental aspects of texting is that it keeps us at a distance, which can be great for certain situations and beneficial when we cannot be in proximity to whom or where we want to be, but if we are trying to stay connected in relationships beyond transactional, we must be willing to learn how to communicate and connect in such a way that involves more vulnerability.
You may be wondering, what does this have to do with simplifying our lives? Everything. If we want to know and build trust that who we talk to and where we invest our time and energy is worth our time and energy, if we never step away from surface connections, we’ll always wonder and we’ll never give our lives the opportunity to elevate. Quality relations are both a result of living simply and how to live more simply because they help us clarify our priorities and where we give out attention and full energy.
6. Value the freedom that control over your finances brings in into your daily life
Financial freedom is a priceless gift to give ourselves that paradoxically involves money. Coming up in April, on the 5th, in episode #354 of the podcast I will be talking more specifically about financial freedom and how to attain it, but as it pertains to simplifying our lives, an over-arching question to ask yourself is what preoccupies your mind throughout any given day, and if money worries or financial stressors take up mental space regularly, it’s time to focus intentionally our energy on how to establish financial freedom and set ourselves free. By doing so, we simplify our lives. (Explore all of TSLL’s Money posts here in the Archives.)
7. Unplug regularly
Related to #5, especially if you are someone who works in front of a computer screen, it can be hard to acknowledge that we look at a screen for too many minutes of our day. However, it was when Nelle came into my life and as she always wants to be on my lap that I acknowledged, I have a laptop on my lap far too often. Even now as I type, she has ran in from being outside and is sitting on my lap. And I started to wonder, is the reason Norman doesn’t sit on my lap because for his entire life (the blog began months after he came into my life in 2009) I’ve always been typing away nearly every day? My heart breaks thinking about that, so I am consciously trying to carve out more time each day to put the laptop down, put the phone down, turn off the television and be fully in the moment whatever that moment might be. And already, I feel lighter, I feel happier, I feel reassured that I don’t have to be attached to my computer so long as I do my tasks well when I tend to them.
Each day is the painting of what our lives are. What is your day full of? Stress, worry, hustle, frustration or is it full of snuggles, laughter, deep breaths of exhilaration and awe, wonder, discovery and joy? I hope the latter is ringing true for you, and if there are moments or days that blend any unwanted with wanted feelings listed above, now you can be conscious to what is making it so, and consciously simplify constructively and with intention to cultivate a life you love living. That is how to master the art of living simply.
Wishing you a wonderful week and happy first day of Spring. 😌🌷 (P.S. Gardeners, look for the monthly gardening post to be shared next Monday! We’ve had snow up until this past week, so I haven’t been able to be outside as much, but that is now changing. Thank you for your patience.)
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY