Today, I was at a company meeting. One of the core values at the company is Simplify and the president was talking about the importance of this concept. While he was encouraging us to consider how to do this in our work, it struck a chord for me personally as well.
Definition: to make less complex or complicated; to make plainer or easier.
Huh. Now that’s a great idea. Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed and I know I am not alone. It seems like there is always so much to do and not enough time to do it all. Simplifying my life would certainly make me feel calmer and probably happier too.
Think of how many things are made more complicated than they need to be. I remember when I was pregnant and unpacking all of the various products people gave us, thinking, “Don’t I just really need a boob and a blanket?” Think about it. For centuries, mothers have been successfully raising children without the wipe warmers and electronic rocking swing with 14 song options and yet we have made having a baby this hugely complex and overwhelming process. As if it needed to me made more overwhelming! (If you want to see a great film about this, watch Babies, which features four families from different parts of the world and how they raise their new born. Fascinating and funny!)
Or how about birthday parties? When I was a kid, you played with the other kids, ate your cupcake and it was all good. Now, children’s parties include invitations with matching party supplies, food in addition to the cake, an activity like a jumpy house or trip to the bowling ally, and then gift bags as a thank you gift. Let me tell you, no one is more stressed out than a parent hosting a child’s birthday party.
This is how capitalism has affected America. Marketers have done a great job telling us we need this or that to make our lives better and now we are saddled with all this complexity. The good news is that we have lots of stuff to get rid of whenever we decide to simplify our homes so we can feel good about that (I’m planning one for November if you need stuff to clutter your home).
And I must admit, a lot of my overwhelm is of my own making. Being the over achiever that I am, I always set too high of expectations for the reality of my busy life. For example, we are trying to connect with another family. In my head, I thought, “Well, I have been meaning to go to the apple farm that’s an hour away so maybe we can plan an apple picking adventure with the kids with a picnic lunch.” Sounds fun, right? And it probably would be fun. But the truth is that we are exhausted, our daughter is still adjusting to kindergarten, and that plan takes what could be a 1-hour engagement and turns it into a “3-hour tour” (cue music from Gilligan’s Island).
Luckily, I shared my idea with my husband before I invited them and he reminded me of these things so now, we have are scheduled for a potluck meal in our backyard. Sigh. Much better.
And that’s the point, right? Having time to sigh and feel less stressed.
The more I look at my life, the more I realize there are so many things I can simplify. I can let go of some goals or some projects and just not do them. What a concept! And I can scale back on the things that I do do so that they are smaller, and more manageable. I can think twice before I agree to something and I can use some simple strategies to save time on everyday living stuff.
Here are some tips that are working for me — borrow any that you like:
- Cooking big batches of meals on the weekends and eating them throughout the week (think lasagna, chicken breasts, muffins, etc.) — not only saves cooking time but all those minutes discussing “what do you want to eat?”
- Picking out our clothes the night before (big time saver with a child).
- One day per month, I do “Grandparentpalooza” where I go through my iPhone and email 5-6 photos with captions.
- Buying clothes that don’t need any special treatment so everything can wash and dry.
How can you simplify your life? If you have any great strategies to share, please post a comment.