Many of us feel called to simplify our lives and do less. Not a fluffy, it-would-be nice- to-have-clean-closets simplicity, but a new way of being.
This new simplicity is about purging and streamlining our thinking, our doing, our giving and receiving, and, of course, our stuff. We crave more time to just be — so we can actually integrate into our hearts and souls what we’re experiencing moment to moment. For some, simplifying might be changing a girls’ night out to a girls’ night in; voicing clear boundaries to friends, coworkers, or clients about your phone availability; consciously building unscheduled weekends and evenings into your family calendar; moving into a smaller or less expensive home; standing up for what your child or family needs in order to not feel rushed; or maybe serving oatmeal and fruit for dinner. Ultimately, simplicity is one path to enhancing peace, both personally and in the world.
What simplicity looks like for each of us will be different, whether that’s living a pared-down lifestyle, getting rid of stuff, taking on fewer obligations, or being mindful about who you let into your life and how and where you spend time. It’s about doing and having less, so we open ourselves up to experiencing — and feeling — more. It’s also about realizing and accepting that often the simpler we keep things, the happier we are.
I once participated in a writing and movement workshop with men and women of all ages. We were asked to write about what we love for twenty minutes and then read our responses out loud. It was a cool, rainy Sunday afternoon, and we were deeply moved by one another’s simple but profound responses. What do people love? Sleep, rain, cuddling with one’s child or pet, holding hands, clean hair, getting a foot massage, making popcorn, the smell of wood shavings and fresh-cut grass. Simple, everyday things. Interestingly, going to Europe, eating a ten-course feast, or gorging on weekend activities like you’re at an all-you-can-do buffet wasn’t on anyone’s list! Our level of happiness and contentment takes a nosedive when we have too many choices or when we are faced with too many decisions all at once. We don’t need twenty salad dressing options. We need two, if that. Simplicity helps us create more space in our lives — something we all want more of. As we know, this isn’t necessarily easy to manifest. In fact, we sometimes need to call on our inner spiritual warrior to stay the course and resist the urge to have and do more.
Here are some of the practical, everyday ways you can simplify your life, so you can do less and experience more:
• PLAN AHEAD. Meet with your partner and children and preview the coming week: Is there anything you need to let go of, reschedule, or postpone to create more spaciousness in your week? Can you build more unscheduled time into your family calendar?
• KNOW WHAT YOUR PRIORITIES ARE. Each quarter, schedule a one-day personal planning retreat and clarify your top three priorities for the upcoming ninety days. Then make sure your activities and to-do lists support these priorities. Use them to help you decide when to say no and when to say “not now.”
• GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO SAY NO AND TO CHANGE YOUR MIND AT ANY TIME. Change a “yes” to a “no” if you need to, and voice clear boundaries to friends, coworkers, and clients.
• PAUSE BEFORE COMMITTING TO A NEW OBLIGATION OR SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT. Let yourself sit with and consider it for an hour, or a day or two, before signing on. Ask, “What is my motivation for doing this?” And, “Will this activity enhance my life and sense of well-being or detract from it?” Then act accordingly. If your main motivation is a sense of obligation, or a desire to please or go along with someone else, perhaps let this event or commitment go. Be willing to make the hard, sometimes unpopular choices.
• TAME THE EMAIL AND SOCIAL MEDIA DRAGON. Unsubscribe from lists. Be mindful about overusing these tools and getting lured into the “look how productive I am” mindset. Establish boundaries for when and how often you communicate online, and have set times that you completely unplug (such as in the evenings, on weekends, and so on).
• BUILD IN MOMENTS OF STILLNESS THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY. Create a habit of “being” to balance all your doing.
• LIVE A PARED-DOWN LIFESTYLE. Get rid of stuff. Go ahead and clean out those closets. If you don’t love it, let it go.
• ASK, “IS THIS CHOICE OR ACTIVITY IN ALIGNMENT WITH AND SUPPORTIVE OF MY FAMILY VALUES?” If it’s not, reconsider. Less is more. Stand up for what you need in each moment. When anything feels hard or resistant to change, remember to take baby steps.
Adopting just one of the ideas above could make a huge impact on how you experience your days. Each Monday morning, I start the week by attending a wonderfully nourishing hatha yoga class near my home. When I see friends there, they often ask, “So, how was your weekend?” I like to slowly take this in because it challenges me to pause and check in. When you are asked the same question, how do you respond? Are your weekends “go, go, go,” slow as molasses, or somewhere in between? It seems there is always the desire for things to be even slower…and for us to do even less. (This excerpt is from the award-winning Nurturing the Soul of Your Family; pick up your copy here so you can create a less stressful, more mindful fall.)
INVITE: Ready to simplify and learn new tools/strategies for living in greater alignment with what matters most? I’d love to lead a life balance workshop or custom retreat for your team or organization. Learn more about my speaking and check out my new live telecourse launching Sept. 11.: Permission Granted: The Art of Extreme Self-Care.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.
Photo: The beautiful grounds at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. www.Kripalu.org