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The Secrets of a Simple Life

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default The Secrets of a Simple Life

Post by Adrian on 5th April 2011, 11:42 am

Do you find yourself rushing from one appointment to another? Do you grab a protein bar or fast food on the way to work without taking time to sit and enjoy a meal? Do you feel stressed or over-committed? If so, you're not alone. The American Institute of Stress estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems, and a 2004 survey by the American Psychological Society revealed that 54 percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives. The benefits of creating a simpler life can help reduce the stress you experience each day and support you in living a happier and healthier life.

The first step in creating a simpler life is asking yourself if you have enough time for the things that matter to you the most. If the answer is no, then it may be time to take some steps to prioritize, downsize and minimize.

Here are a few suggestions on how to begin experiencing greater ease and simplicity in your life, even when juggling multiple commitments and responsibilities:

Prioritize

One of the first ways to support yourself in creating more simplicity in your life is to prioritize. What's most important to you? I suggest creating a "Top Five" list (it can be more, but limit it to 10). This will give you a broader view of how you're spending your time and where in your life you can make changes to support an easier, simpler and more fulfilling life.

Write down the areas of your life that take up the majority of your time, such as family, self-care, work, home, creative projects, exercise, social time, volunteering, etc. Rate them in order of priority. Take a few minutes to review your list, then ask yourself these questions: "Does the amount of time I spend on each of these areas of my life match how important each one is to me?" and "Could I be spending more time doing what's most important to me and less time doing things in areas that are less important to me?" If you answered no to the first question or yes to the second, then it may be time to readjust how you're spending your time.

Re-Prioritize Every Week


Not only is it helpful to prioritize the big items (family, work, etc.), but it's also helpful to prioritize your life in smaller chunks. What you can accomplish each week varies, depending on what's going on in your life. One week you may have family in town and have very little spare time, and another week you may have a huge deadline at work, so it's key to adjust your priorities in relationship to the realities of your life. Try to keep your weekly "To-Do" list short and sweet. This allows you to focus your attention, simplify your activities and feel good about accomplishing what's most important to you.

Let Go

Okay, so you've got your priorities clear. Now it's time to look at what you can you let go of. Could you enroll your kids in only one sport instead of two? Could you say no to being on every committee? Maybe you can limit your social calendar to allow more time to relax during your weekend. Reevaluating your commitments and being willing to let go of 20 percent of your activities might be the slight adjustment that will make a big difference.

Another way to let go is to delegate. Are there tasks in your life that you don't have to do yourself? Asking for help from your spouse to run an errand, or delegating small chores to your children, are great ways to involve everyone in the responsibilities of daily life. This can sometimes feel like more work at first, but in the long run, getting others to pitch in can simplify your life while building strong and mutually supportive relationships.

Un-Schedule

Similar to letting go, un-scheduling is a way to cut back on how much you try to fit into your schedule. Numerous articles have been written on how our generation suffers from being over-scheduled. Parents and their children can benefit from having more time to relax, daydream and be spontaneous. David Elkin quotes Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., the leading expert on over-scheduled children in his article "The Overbooked Child": "Parents need to relax. Slow down. Activities are fine, but don't go over the top. Research says that what children need most are relationships, not activities."

How do you un-schedule your time? Make an effort to limit the amount of time you schedule for activities. You could even schedule your un-scheduled time! For example, every Monday and Friday you could leave 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. open, with nothing specific on the calendar. And leave plenty of space between appointments so that you don't feel rushed going from one event to the next.

Be Realistic

A big factor in simplifying your life is getting real. Many people put enormous pressure on themselves to accomplish so much on any given day. There are only approximately 16 waking hours in a day, with some of those hours used up for basic daily requirements, such as eating, bathing and commuting. Add on work, relationships and email (wait, whose idea was email?), and there's barely time to do much more. Setting your expectations based on what's realistic to accomplish each day can help remove some of the stress you put on yourself. Or, if you're feeling pressure from others, communicating what is realistic for you can help others understand what they can or cannot expect from you.

Enjoy The Moment

Are you busy thinking about what's next, what you're doing tomorrow, next week or next month? Focusing only on what's in front of you right now can assist you in feeling more relaxed and at peace. Although it's difficult to live in the moment all the time, it's something you can strive to do more and more.

Living in the present can be very simple. Take a moment now to breathe deeply. Ask yourself, "How am I feeling right now? Is there any tension in my body?" Whatever you're feeling, give yourself a minute to just focus on your breath. By doing this, you'll often quickly become aware of the present moment and your body and mind will begin to relax.

Initially, the road to creating a simpler life may appear to be anything but simple. You may wonder how you can begin to let go of anything or un-schedule your busy schedule. Like any other changes you apply in your life, start with small steps. Pick just one area of your life and evaluate how you can begin to simplify it. However you decide to make changes, keep it easy and doable. As you have some success in creating small changes, applying the secrets of a simple life will become easier and more natural.

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Adrian
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default Re: The Secrets of a Simple Life

Post by Chilli-head on 5th April 2011, 12:06 pm

Ok, I'm having a bit of a crisis here. I like the idea of simple living, I like the idea of self reliance, I love growing my own produce and making my own furniture ... and I hate the idea of paying someone else to look after your own children so that you can work more ...

But when it comes down to it, the bills have to be paid. I'm taxed even for my very existence. Which means having a job. And since so much can be mass made cheaply and most people don't care (see CW's comments about eggs), crafting and selling surplus isn't going to cut it. At least I have my own business so can do something I chose, but still I struggle to cram work, parenting, craft, gardening etc into one life whilst still having time to sleep. Simple life ? hardly, I'm not quite getting this right somehow [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] I suspect I am not alone in feeling this way ...
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Post by Adrian on 5th April 2011, 12:19 pm

You are quite right CH

When we moved here, we had some very pie in the sky visions of off-grid living, no bills, no ties to society. The truth is that we are billed, by the Province, for property taxes - even though we are too off track for them to provide the services we pay for, so we work to pay those bills and others.

I grow most of what we eat, work harder than I ever did in the UK, am Househusband, farmer, personal shopper, crafter, cleaner etc...

But, life is simpler, I have made certain choices and can now enjoy the freedom of space and the freedom of quiet that our land provides, so I guess the that simplicity must always be very personal quest and we have to choose the levels of downshifting that best suit our circumstances.

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Post by Compostwoman on 5th April 2011, 12:22 pm

Agree, utterly, with what both of you say.

have to go out to (paying) work, now. Would rather be planting stuff to eat later, or digging the veg patch, tbh - even though it is a fun gig and I love doing it ( I am lucky, I am self employed and mostly get to do what I want and like)

Will return to this thread later....

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Post by mark barker on 5th April 2011, 12:35 pm

CH, until recently I was in the same situation as you, paying over £1k a month in childcare costs so that I could go out and earn a "decent" wage. I decided to take the plunge and quit my proper job so that I didn't have to worry about breakfast clubs, afterschool clubs etc. Now i get to do a job that (normally) I love and I could happily list my work as a hobby, and I get to spend far more time with my children (which to me is priceless).

The downsides? Sure, I spend most of the time skint, but tbh if I had money I'd ony buy stuff that we didn't really need, so dropping out of the consumer race wasn't a bad thing. In reality I'm not sure I'll be able to do this forever, but if I can keep it up whilst my children are young enough to need (and want!) me to be around then I will.

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Post by AngelinaJellyBeana on 5th April 2011, 12:39 pm

If only it were SIMPLE

I've said it once and I'll say it again, I HAVE to work otherwise I lose everything. I don't have a working partner to rely on to bring in money or share household chores so I can give it up and just grow my veggies, look after my bees & chooks etc

I suppose living in a hostel for homeless people and trying to sell copies of The Big Issue would be simpler but it certainly wouldn't be a pleasant way to spend the rest of my life

Going to work isn't my priority but it takes up most of my time so unless I win enough money to pay off the mortgage and all the debts I got landed with I'm stuck with it.

These kind of articles really do my head in as they are written by people far better off than the likes of me.
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Post by Adrian on 5th April 2011, 1:08 pm

I quite agree Ang, I once heard a wise man say that you need to be quite wealthy to live a truly simple life.

We had to move halfway around the world to a depressed economy to buy our homestead outright, to become debt free in order to reboot our lives in simple mode and even then the LSS works in order to keep me at home growing and working on the homestead and house. Self sufficiency is a long way off and tools still cost money, feed costs money, bills still need to be paid...

We were fortunate, we sold our house in Leeds at the peak of the property boom in 06 and we had a favourable exchange rate which made our current home a viable option. But, we gave up our lives in the UK, we are distanced from our family and friends and in a very different culture. We are certainly far from wealthy, a combination of being risk averse in the UK, luck with exchange rates and living in a depressed rural economy has put us where we are.

I guess that in reality, simplicity can have a pretty hefty price tag.

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Post by MrsC on 5th April 2011, 1:22 pm

What you all say is so true. I would love to live a simpler life, but whilst we have a mortgage then it is impossible for us to have as simple a life as I would like. It also seems like the rest of the (developed) world is getting worse and worse in terms of consumerism (and I tie that in with the stupid fascination that this country seems to have with celebrity as well - but that's a whole separate subject).

Unless you can find a good bartering economy nearby then I think that many of us are still beholden to money.

A depressing subject, but also makes me more passionate about wanting to convince others to see sense (Had the local council recycling officer round this morning for an hour to talk reusable nappies and it made me realise how nice to is to find someone who thinks the same to talk to in person rather than online with you all) I see so many mums round here who are so caught up in having to buy everything for their little ones and it makes me so mad as kids are never going to learn is it carries on like this.

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Post by Compostwoman on 5th April 2011, 5:51 pm

In order to afford what we have now, we gave up a lot of things we liked to do, so as to save to afford a place like this. OK we had good jobs before we moved here, but that was due to hard work and studying a lot in our youth (and not earning much!) to get the good jobs in the first place. They also didn't pay that well, as they were in the Scientific Civil Service.

Granted we also had a bit of inherited money which helped us to buy this place 14 years ago , but most of it was due to going without, working hard and saving up.

Cm retired in 2005 after a lifetime of working very hard and (deservedly) getting a pension .

I don't have a working partner to pay for things, I have a retired spouse and even with my attempts at earning some money our joint income is pretty low. Ok we live well but only because we grow and make a lot of our own food and cook from scratch and are quite frugal and repair things and do our own DIY.

We don't go out to pubs or gigs or suchlike and we don't have holidays. Even if we were childless, we would not be able to afford to go out very much. We have a few consumer goods but they are all saved up for and tbh we have a lot less than most folk I know. We don't have new cars, or new phones or suchlike.

So our "simpler" life had to be saved up for and also has a "penalty" now, in material goods and treats.

I wouldn't change it for the world, though.

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Post by Dandelion on 5th April 2011, 7:22 pm

I've got a lot out of reading what everyone else has said, because it makes me realise that MrD and I are not alone. I know that what stresses me out is that when I get home after work I then begin to do what I would have done if I'd been at home all day (if that makes sense) but there just isn't time in the day (and my job makes me tired!). I'm lucky, in that I have a shorter day than some, and the school holidays, but I still stress myself out if I'm not careful. For me, watering and digging and cooking are the kind of things which are a good contrast to my day job and help me to work off any annoyance from the day I've had at school. One thing I'm learning is to live for the moment (as the first post said) and to be thankful for the positives. I've heard that if you fly in a balloon you can throw out ballast to climb higher. I think I need to identify more 'ballast' in my life - activities/belongings/habits which I can let go of to become less stressed. Now, I'd better go and take some headache pills then get on with the evening's jobs......

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 6th April 2011, 10:55 am

Well, I'm glad I posted what I said above, because my crisis feels slightly eased by knowing that i'm in good company.

I'm the one with the income in our household, Mrs C-H gave up work (quite gladly, I have to say, but I'm happy with her choice) so that we don't have to sub-contract C-H Jnr's upbringing ! For now we live in an ordinary house with an ordinary amount of space and I try to do what I can (and some !). We're a bit trapped for now as we are in a great place for schools, but can dream of moving somewhere with more space eventually. But of course by then we may well lack the energy or health for it ...
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