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STRESS-FREE ZONE | Simplify Your Life

Life Too Full? Try Cutting Back a Bit

April 27, 1998|ELAINE ST. JAMES

I heard from a reader who took some time off so she could figure out how to simplify her hectic life. To save money, she moved out of her expensive apartment, sold her fancy car, bought a small camper and moved to a piece of land she owns in the country. When she first arrived, the driveway was a muddy, rutted mess. She decided to do something about it. Each day when she went for her walks with her dog, she brought back a stone and tossed it on the driveway. By the end of the year, she had built, stone by stone, a serviceable driveway that gave her easy access to her camper.

I sometimes hear from readers who say they'd like to simplify their lives, but they find many of my suggestions unrealistic or just too hard. There's a tendency to take an all-or-nothing approach to simplifying. But you don't have to simplify your entire life today. There are many easy steps to living more simply that can be worked into your everyday schedule. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Here are a few quick simplifiers you can implement today. Think of them as steppingstones to building a simpler life.

1. Go to your closet and take out 10 items you haven't worn in the past year. Have your spouse and kids do the same thing in their closets. Put all the rejects in bags and put them in the back seat of your car (not the trunk--you'll forget about them). Schedule 10 minutes into your day tomorrow to take them to the nearest thrift shop.

One day next week do the same thing in the kitchen. The week after that, do the front hall closet, then the garage, then the attic. Don't spend a lot of time deliberating over what to get rid of--if you haven't used it in a year, the chances are slim you'll ever need it again. Keep getting rid of stuff, piece by piece, until you've cleared out all the clutter.

2. The minute you walk in the door tonight, go straight to the phone, turn off the ringer and keep it off for the entire evening. Let the answering machine pick up any calls. Do this at least one night a week for the next three months.

3. Don't take any work home from the office tonight.

4. Say no to the next request for your time. If you feel you can't say no to the PTA, the church, the garden club or the boss, your life is always going to be complicated. Just decide right now. The next request anyone makes that requires a new commitment of your time, simply say, "No, I won't be able to do that." Don't apologize. Don't explain. Don't make excuses.

5. Take five minutes right now and figure out one thing you could do today that would make your life simpler. Then do it.

* Elaine St. James is the author of "Simplify Your Life" and "Simplify Your Life With Kids." For questions or comments, write to her in care of Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111.

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