Between work, family, friends, and errands, we all have a lot going on. When you’re pressed for free time, even fun things like a dinner out with friends can feel like an item on a to-do list. The standard answer for “how are you?” used to be “good.” Now it’s “busy.”
Frantically trying to get everything done has become something we brag about, as if never having a moment to breathe affords you some kind of elite status at work or among your friends. You said yes to everything out of guilt, you bought more stuff in the name of “retail therapy,” and, somewhere along the way, you stopped enjoying yourself.
In the long term, constant stress won’t do you any favors. No one’s going to give you a prize for having the most packed calendar. So, for your own sake, it might be time to take a hard look at where your time and money goes.
When you know who and what really matter to you, and when you can say no to the things that don’t matter, you clear your physical and emotional clutter and truly simplify your life.
Simplify Your Stuff
When you get home after a long day at work, do you open the door to clutter, dust, and a pile of laundry on the sofa you meant to fold and put away two days ago? When you get dressed in the morning, do you face overstuffed drawers and a messy closet, yet still feel like you have nothing to wear? Do you buy more things — home decor, clothing — in an effort to make your home feel homier and your wardrobe seem trendier, but it doesn’t make a difference in how you feel?
Try to scale back. For the sake of your budget, hold off on buying more stuff until you inventory the things you already own. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, teaches a trick for no-fuss deep cleaning: When you’re deciding whether or not to keep an item, ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
If not, donate or throw out the item. No “maybe” pile allowed! Don’t miss other tips from her book, which asks you to examine why you hold onto certain items out of guilt or shame. Let go of the shame, and only keep things in your home that make you feel happy.
Simplify Your Schedule
Adventurous people say “yes” to everything. Who doesn’t want to be adventurous? Unfortunately, in reality, our time is limited. It’s okay to admit to yourself that you’re over-scheduled and want to make time to relax, pursue a hobby, or spend more quality time with your loved ones.
If looking at your calendar for the week fills you with anxiety, you could stand to scale back. It’s easy to say “yes” to things out of guilt or obligation, but it’s okay to say “no” when that will buy you back time for the things you’d rather be doing.
At work, figure out which meetings are essential and which you can skip. Prioritize your assignments so you know which need to be done first and which can wait until later. It’s okay to say no to taking on an additional project if it’ll set you back from completing your most important work. Talk to your supervisor about what’s on your plate and work together to map out your projects.
Outside of work, saying “no” is still a powerful exercise. It’s okay to say no when asked to volunteer for something. It’s okay to skip a social outing you’d rather not go to. Make time for the people and things that matter, and say no to everything else without an ounce of guilt!
Simplify Your Finances
Next, declutter your budget. Divvying up your income between all your accounts can be a lot of work every month — that is, unless you automate it. Taking just 30 minutes to set up automatic bank transfers will save you a ton of time, and help you ensure you’re saving enough of your income.
Decide how much you can allocate toward your savings, investments, and retirement. Your 401(k) contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. You can contribute to a Roth IRA in smaller amounts throughout the year, or in one lump sum. Set aside part of your take-home pay to put into savings — the recommended amount is 20%, but do the best you can.
Automating will keep you from overspending, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly your savings can grow with just a bit of effort. Anything you can do to simplify your finances will add up.
Simplify Your Attitude
Stop contributing to the cult of busyness. When someone asks how you’re doing, stop telling them how busy you are! Being busy all the time doesn’t make you seem important in the eyes of others. It makes you tired, stressed, and difficult to spend time with.
Clear your home, schedule, and finances of the things and expenses that don’t matter to you, and you’ll win back so much more.