In September of 2014 I took a solo month-long road trip across the country. All of my belongings for survival fit into one Chevy Cruzer. During that month I came to realize that I could survive on much less than I was used to. When I returned home I started the process of simplifying my life. I was always an extremely organized person, but I wanted to get down to the basics and have more room in my life for what’s truly important – the people in it. I’ve slowly gone through different categories that have helped me take back control of all that “stuff” we all accumulate over the years. I want to share with you 8 steps that helped me take back control of my life.
1. Go through all of your paperwork. I mean everything. Paper hidden in filing cabinets, drawers, closets, laying in a pile on the counter. Make three piles – one pile of junk paper to recycle, one pile of paper to shred, and one pile of paper to file away. Then, as you go through your papers to file, see if you can go as paperless as possible. Enter every bill that you’re able to online. A lot of companies do automatic withdrawal so you don’t even have to think about it (as long as you have the funds in your account to cover your bills that is). For the papers you absolutely need to keep label file folders and neatly organize them in a filing cabinet so that you can easily find what you need when necessary. Every few months continue to go through the files and weed out what you don’t need. Also, when I get my mail I immediately go through it and do this process as well. I weed out the junk to recycle and put important papers in a bin to file once per week.
2. Clean up your computer. Go through your email and make folders so that you can easily sort your daily emails into the proper place. Unsubscribe from all the junk email you get so you don’t have to waste your time going through and deleting unnecessary emails. Organize your pictures into folders so that you can have everything neat and tidy. Delete old documents or programs you don’t use anymore. Then back everything up.
3. Go through your books. Do you really need all those books on your bookshelf if you have already read them? Pick out your absolute favorites that you will read multiple times, sentimental ones, or books you need to reference for work or school and then donate the rest. Go to the library for books, or borrow one from a friend. A perk to that is you can discuss the book with your friend after you finish reading it.
4. Clothes. Many people have more clothes than they need. Myself included. I had four closets full to the brim – yes, four. And that is after going through them year after year, yet I still found myself with too many clothes. My method to simplify was a challenge I gave to myself. I was going to wear every single article of clothing that I owned. If I didn’t want to put it on in the morning, then it went in the sell/donate pile. If it didn’t fit, then it went in the sell/donate pile. And if, at the end of the day, I didn’t like wearing it, then it went in the sell/donate pile. I had 24 pairs of jeans. Who could possible need 24 pairs of jeans? Not me. If an event comes up, instead of rushing out to buy a new dress, ask your friends if they have one you could borrow. Chances are most dresses you own have only been worn a handful of times anyway, but it would be like a brand new dress to one of your friends. Do you have a ratty old t-shirt…perfect, turn it into a rag to clean your house. Old towels? Make them dog towels for your pet, or donate them to your local animal shelter.
5. Use it up. I was going to use everything up in my house before buying more. That included all my bathroom toiletries, all my paper supplies, and all of the food in my pantry. Before, I tended to buy multiples of things so that I would never run out, but that just creates more “stuff” piling up around your house. The whole purpose is to simplify and reduce the amount of things you have. So, once you are down to the basics, you can keep an eye on when something is running low and then get it the next time you are at the store. That way you won’t buy unnecessary items, and your food will always be fresh. Clear out old medicine that has expired. If you have 50 pens and pencils do you have a friend who is a teacher who could use some extra supplies?
6. Refrain from impulse buying. Surprisingly I have done really well on this one. I used to get whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. If I walked into Target to buy one item, I would come out with five. Why? Because I saw it and thought I needed to have it at that exact moment and the next thing I knew I was paying for $100 worth of items when I came in to only spend $20. Decide what you are going out to buy before you go to the store and stick to it. The idea is not to bring extra unnecessary items back into your home when you are trying to clean it out.
7. Having less makes you feel like you have more. More freedom, and more room in your life for the things that truly matter. You appreciate what you do have, take better care of it, and use everything you own. You have less stress by having everything organized in it’s place, less clutter, and less to clean. And you will find that you have more money by not needing to buy everything you think you need or want. Also, try selling some of your items and then putting the money into savings for a rainy day, traveling, or an emergency fund.
8. Enjoy nature. Now that you have simplified your material life, go out and enrich your internal self. Time spent doing something you love is worth it’s weight in gold. Exercise your body and mind in whatever way makes you feel good, whether it be lifting weights, yoga, meditation, hiking, walking your dog, reading a book, a favorite hobby – whatever it is, just get your body and mind moving. You will 100% always feel better about yourself after you exercise or do something you enjoy. Eat better. Use food as the fuel it is meant to be. Keep yourself feeling good and staying strong by watching what you put in your body. Find out where your food comes from, read labels, educate yourself. We only get one mind and body. Take care of it.
I hope you find yourself headed towards a simpler, happier life! If you want help in clearing the clutter in your home contact the experts at Simplicity Organizers!
By Lauren Schilling of Simplicity Organizers