verb (used with object), sim·pli·fied, sim·pli·fy·ing.
to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier: to simplify a problem.
"Simplify" is one of those buzzwords that we've been hearing for the past couple of decades, but have you ever set out to truly simplify your life and surroundings? The first assignment we received in the Entrepreneur Workshop for Women, taught by Stephanie Lynn, was to simplify our life in three ways. The driving point that Stephanie made was that in order to prepare our lives for greatness, we had to first clear our lives of the clutter and the things which caused us stress. It hit me…we have to prepare for greatness! Of course, everybody knows that we feel better and function better when the house is clean and orderly, but we can simplify in ways which are even more strategic than a spotless house. (which, mine is definitely not. yet.)
I felt like I had so much in my life that needed simplification, I wasn't even sure where to start. Here are the questions I had to address to help me prioritize my immediate needs for simplification.
-What are my time-suckers?
-What causes me to run late for work?
-Where am I wasting money?
-What is interrupting the flow of my day?
-What are the frustrations that nearly bring me to tears or to the point were I'm swearing?
The answers to these questions were primarily centered around my morning routine of getting ready for work in the morning. The same silly little problems were causing me a great deal of stress, wasting limited time, and had even caused issues for the mister. (Looking for lost items, trying to figure out what to wear, trying to locate what I decide to wear, and spending too much time getting ready in the morning.)
Here are the three things I did to simplify my life to complete the assignment, and a few more tips that I've learned the hard way.
I MADE A HOME FOR MY WALLET AND KEYS:
Wasting time looking for my misplaced wallet or keys, has nearly brought me to tears. Actually, I had a near melt-down one day because I was so frustrated at myself for having misplaced my keys. This is pretty ridiculous. Why was it so hard for me to keep track of these things? I finally made the declaration that I would always put my keys and wallet in the front pocket of my purse. The front pocket of my purse was going to be their forever home. My husband would reminded me if he would find them elsewhere. I've finally ritualized the habit of putting both my keys and my wallet in the front pocket, I now do it automatically. If I get my wallet out to make a purchase online, I return it to my purse immediately. I've tried the key hook or basket in the past, but the front pocket works best for me. It was simply a matter of stating out loud that this is the way things are going to be from now on, and then sticking to it.
CUT DOWN ON MAKE-UP AND MAKE-UP ROUTINE:
This was a huge, drastic change. It may sound like something very simple, but it was a huge step for me. I can admit, and confess, I'm somewhat addicted to make-up and other girly products. My mom is a hair stylist so I've loved make-up and hair products since I was a child. I did a three-part make-up simplification.
1 - I cancelled my Birchbox subscription and my subscription to the BareMinerals eyeshadow club. This sounds silly, but I was actually sad to cancel these subscriptions. (all the more reason to do so.) The Birchbox subscription is a monthly club in which they send a package of sample sized make-up, hair product, and other fun goodies. The price was only $10 per month, but I was starting to accumulate a big box of product that I wasn't going to use and had no intention of ordering in a full size. The bareMinerals eye shadow club is actually a very good program and the only reason I cancelled, is because I've finally accumulated more eye shadow than one girl could ever possibly use. And, I've finally reached the point where I could actually say that "I have enough." The bareMinerals program was just a little over $30 and they ship 3 full sized eye shadows and a brush, every three months. In canceling the two subscriptions, not only did I reclaim some shelf space, but it will be a savings of $210 per year.
2 - I tossed anything that didn't fit inside my train case. (this does not include skin care.) I realize that a train case full of make-up is still more than a girl needs, but it was very good progress for me.
3 - I simplified my make-up routine and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer. I use to waste a lot of time going through my entire make-up collection, trying to figure out how I wanted to wear my make-up on any given day. My work is so busy right now, I need to get out of the house as fast as I can and get to work. I think it is still important to look put together, but I've been wearing as minimal make-up as possible, while still looking like I took the time to pull myself together in the morning.
TACKLED THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE "STORAGE" ROOMS:
Over the years, two of the spare bedrooms had become catch-all rooms to the point where they couldn't even function as guest rooms or even as a comfortable office. We didn't need the rooms for anything, so they basically became storage. (Storage is a nice way of saying they were the room sized equivalents of a "junk drawer".) Part of the contributing factor to always losing my keys and wallet, is that I didn't really have a place to call my own. My clothes were spread out over two closets and a wardrobe rack and it was impossible for me to get organized. We needed to get the spare rooms back into functioning order so that we could get the rest of the house to be like we want. We emptied both rooms, purged what we didn't need or want, put in new flooring and painted, and now I finally have my very own closet/changing room/office. I'm minimizing the effort that went into clearing these two rooms. This was a huge undertaking and one we had been dreading for a long time. I'm intentionally minimizing the effort in order to be encouraging. If you're avoiding your own junk drawer or junk room, just make the decision to simplify and you'll be pleased with how quickly things come together. We make things out to be so difficult in our minds but when we finally make up the mind to do something, it is never as bad as we thought it would be. We just have to start. We spend more time dreading something than we spend actually doing some tasks.
I've continued to be aware of areas in which I can simplify my life and make little improvements each and every day. One thing I've realized, ironically, is that sometimes in order to simplify, we actually need "more". This is counterintuitive in that most of the time when we think about simplifying, we think of eliminating. (like the giant room-clearing project.) However, there are times when in order to help your life run more smoothly, you may need to add "duplicates" of certain items so that you can have things in multiple locations.
-Stock your gym-bag with duplicate necessities so that you don't always have to transfer items back and forth from home and to the gym. For me, this mean't buying another hair dryer, skin care products, and filling a make-up bag that would be specifically for my gym-bag. The duplicate grooming items would stay in my gym-bag and I wouldn't have to give it another thought.
-Wear only one kind of athletic socks. I now only wear one type and color of athletic socks. (if you're curious, here they are.) I no longer waste time looking for mates. They're all mates!
-Follow the instructions that you give to your kids. (set out your clothes for the next day and prepare a lunch.) I hear funny stories from friends who have children that their kids are pretty self-sufficient in the mornings but it's the parents who are running around in the mornings trying to put together their own outfits and pack their own lunch.
-Buy multiples of the apparel items that you love. I wear black leggings several times a week. Instead of constant laundry, I now have about 10 pair of leggings. I never have to do a last-minute load of laundry. I always have a clean pair ready to wear. The same goes basics such as tanks, camis, t-shirts, and even the headbands I wear when working out.
-If it's broken, fix it. Immediately. Don't complicate your life with silly little broken items that can then become big broken items. My car remote became separated from the rest of the keychain because of a broken screw. If I had troubles keeping track of my keys before, this situation could have caused a very expensive nightmare. I dealt with the broken key chain for a good month until I finally realized that if I didn't fix the darn thing, I was going to lose either the remote or the key, most likely, when the the car was locked. I purchased the car without a spare key. The expense in replacing the remote and/or paying for a pop-a-lock would have been a few hundred dollars. Finally, I made it a point to spend the time to find the right sized screw and fix the remote. The screw and a new battery for the remote came to a grand total of $6, and took about 10 minutes of my time. (and a month worth of losing either the key or the remote and then stressing about it.)
-Get a wallet that is a contrasting color from your purse. I've always purchased black wallets to go in my black purse and sometimes I'd waste time looking for my wallet when it was already in my purse, right where it was supposed to be. A brightly colored wallet has now solved that problem. (that, and the fact that my wallet now only goes in one spot - has pretty much eliminated any issues of a misplaced wallet.)
-Use the right "tool" for the job. When I first decided that I wanted to start a blog, I would pack my purse, lunch bag, gym bag, camera bag, and laptop bag, to and from work each day. It got to the point where I wouldn't bring my camera anywhere because I couldn't pack everything around with me. I missed out on a ton of opportunities that I can never get back. I just discovered the Epiphanie bags! They're the answer to every camera-packing girl's dream! I'm so excited for mine to arrive because a camera is critical to having a successful blog. (you'll notice, I'm really lacking on photos which leads to a lack of content. It's a much needed area of improvement for me.) If you find yourself saying, "there's got to be an easier way," take a moment and google it. The "easier way" probably exists and if it doesn't, hey - there's your great business idea! I discovered the Epiphanie bags by googling "camera bag purse," and there it was!
-Solve the problems that are sucking away your time! This is a silly little example but taking the pictures for the Word Wednesday word of the day was quite laborious. I stored all of the letters in a single box. It would take forever to dig out the appropriate letters, of differing colors, to spell out the day's word. I knew it was a time-sucker so I tried to figure out how I could do this more efficiently. It became apparent that I needed to keep the letters already-sorted. Such a simple little solution - I purchased a craft storage container and separated the letters alphabetically. What, in your life, is sucking away your time, and is there a way you can improve on the efficiency? The answers are all around, if we just take a moment to identify that there's a problem to begin with.
I hope that you have a renewed view of the process of simplifying your life and things around you. I used to think of it as a chore, but now I realize there is more to it than that. Clearing our life of the things which are slowing us down and causing us stress, will ready us to welcome in all of the wonderful new things that we're all working so hard for. Sometimes it is as simple as cleaning out a junk drawer or junk room, and sometimes it may be as difficult as clearing out a few people from our lives.
What are ways you've simplified that I haven't thought of? I'd love to hear your tips!