I love reading old novels, and something that often strikes me is characters complaining about how complicated the world has become. Trains then cars sped up travel, the penny post increased the amount of letters to read and write, and two editions of newspapers a day reflected the speed of world events as they unfolded. 1821, 1921 2021: It doesn’t matter when, the world had long seemed more complicated that we want it to be.
I sometimes wish I could move to the middle of nowhere and disconnect myself from everything and everyone, and I suspect that if everyone who had this urge acted on it there would be no middle of nowhere left! Instead of becoming a hermit I’ve tried out different ways of simplifying my life so I feel more focussed and less pulled in nine directions at once. Here are the things that have worked best for me.
Most bills come around regularly and the costs of missing a payment are high, so this is a great place to start simplifying. Write down all your regular bills and set up direct debits or, if they can’t be paid that way or it wouldn’t be practical, set a recurring reminder in your phone for paying it.
All my bills are set up as direct debits and my gas and electric are switched automatically by a third party switching site when a cheaper deal becomes available. For things that can’t be automated I have a set way of doing them every month, like transferring money to my husband to overpay the mortgage on payday every month, and the same with transferring money to savings.
Declutter but cut the supply
It’s frustrating when you’ve had a big clear out and you see clutter mounting up again. There’s some degree of acceptance needed here for most of us, unless you really want to commit to a minimalist lifestyle. Basically stuff happens…but it’s helpful to understand why.
I often used to (and occasionally still do) buy things for emotional reasons. I ended up with loads of clothes that weren’t my style because I wanted to feel better about myself and I wanted to feel more me. When I woke up to this I realised that no amount of clothes would make me feel more like myself, no matter how beautiful or special. Working on self-acceptance was the answer, it’s just that at the time it felt much easier to ignore uncomfortable, self-critical feelings and buy a dress instead.
If you feel like a magnet for a particular type of belonging that ends up as unwanted clutter ask yourself what it is you want from it when you buy it. When you know this you can address your real needs in a way that heals and nurtures you, rather than trying to fill the gaps with stuff.
Meal planning and batch cooking
I started doing this years ago when we didn’t have much money and had to stretch to food budget. Now it’s become a routine that saves a lot of time, as well as still being a money saver. Meal planning means you’re less likely to buy what you don’t need and you’re not wasting time and energy wondering what to eat every night. Batch cooking makes it even better as you cook once and get several meals, a massive time and effort saver. I find it incredibly satisfying to see a row of plastic tubs lined up on the kitchen counter, filled with home cooked pasta sauce, curry or chilli.
Maintain a Forward Look log
You know when you book something months ahead then by the time the event rolls around the confirmation is buried in your inbox? Or you know that in two months you need to start planning a particular project and now you feel anxious that you’ll forget? These are the sorts of things where a Future Log is a life saver.
I keep mine in my Bullet Journal, but you could attach a blank page to a calendar or use the blank pages at the back of a diary. The idea is to set aside a page for each one of the next few months where you’ll capture information that you’ll need at the time but that doesn’t really fit anywhere else. It’s easy to jot things down as and when, knowing that when, say, your sister’s 2022 wedding rolls around you’ll remember which B&B you booked yourself into and if you paid or not.
Keep your To Do’s in a single place
Make it easier to keep tabs on what you need to do by having only one To Do List, not several. Choose one place and stick to it, whether it’s you phone, a notebook or computer. Start by gathering everything together – every stray sticky note, scrap of paper, notebook and phone note – and follow these 7 steps for getting things in order. My preferred place to store all my to dos, ideas and appointments in my bullet journal as it’s structured but flexible. Keeping everything in one place means you know where to find what you need without wasting time and energy looking.
Simplifying your life is a journey, not a destination. It’s also not the be all and end all; sometimes things get a little out of control. And maybe life wouldn’t be as interesting if it all went according to plan! But it’s worth experimenting with different ways to simplify some of the things you do regularly so you can see what works for you. Less energy spent on things like paying bills and cooking means more energy to spend on what truly matters to you.