I do too many things, I have too much stuff. It all came to a head last month as I sat down to review all my projects, tasks, roles and commitments only to feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it all. So I made a decision there and then to do the following:
- Identify what’s most important to me.
- Eliminate the rest.
I worked out what I felt was important in my life and what made me happy. Most of them were pretty simple. Reading a good book with a steady supply of tea and music, having dinner with my wife, spending time with people who share my curiosity of life, cycling, enthusing others, building businesses, traveling, playing drums and yoga. These are the essentials for me.
Someone once asked a famous sculptor how he created a sculpture of a lion. “It’s really not that hard” he said, “I just chisel away everything that doesn’t look like a lion.”
So my job is to chisel away anything that isn’t essential, anything that doesn’t make me happy. Yes it may seem selfish but until someone can come up with a better plan it’s what I’m going to do.
Part 1 of simplifying my life is about decluttering my physical environment. We’ve got far, far too much stuff and I felt these possessions were holding us back. I broke it down into six parts:
1. One Room at a Time
I would go through one room at a time and put things into one of four categories. ‘Things to Stay’ was the first and I decided that I only wanted stuff around me that were either beautiful or useful. I have a lot of possessions that were neither. Anything that didn’t fit in the ‘Things to Stay’ category would go in one of the three others boxes, Sell, Skip or Charity. One of the rooms was where I keep all my CDs (around 600) so after going through them I decided to keep a smaller number that had sentimental value, burn some onto my computer and the rest were either sold at the local music store or given to charity.
2. Be Brutal
We’ve all got those things in our house which were given to us by friends or loved ones and which we feel we can’t really part with. Once again I adopted the useful or beautiful approach, much to my wife’s horror as she saw old vases and ornaments being carted off to the charity shop. I’m pretty sure that when I’m on my deathbed I will not be asking about what ever happened to that vase that Aunt Mildred gave us?
3. Stop Buying Stuff
We made a conscious decision to limit anything we bought to the absolute essential and that included food. It’s so easy to buy that latest gadget or DVD only to find it sitting in a cupboard unused and unloved a couple of months later. Thankfully I am not a big buyer of things excepted when it comes to books (I buy at least six a month). The Kindle changed all of that and on one little device I now have hundreds of books at the click of a button. I’m now in the process of selling off large parts of my book collection.
It drives me mad how much paperwork we have in our house and home office. Circulars, statements, letters, policy information, contracts, blah, blah, blah. So we bought a top end scanner and are in the process of scanning, digitizing and archiving everything. The next stage is to inform banks and utility companies that we no longer want paper statements but will use their websites instead.
If your house is anything like ours then there are lots of little jobs (tiling, painting, DIY) that you’ve never quite got around to. The paint is sitting in the garage but the colour of the hallway isn’t that offensive at the moment is it? We made a decision to spend some time and the money we made from selling off stuff to do all those little odd jobs. With the help of a neighbours son, who was looking to earn some summer spending money, it actually feels good to be looking at a tidy house.
6. Clean Surfaces
The final stage was to get all the surfaces in the house looking zen like. It’s amazing how much clearer you can think when you have a desk or table that only has the essentials on it. Once again you find yourself sending more things off to the charity shop.
So Part 1 of Simplifying my Life is nearly complete and my next blog post in this series is about prioritizing projects and commitments. Until then….