As a writer, one of the most important tools in my tool box is being a good editor. Editing means taking out anything – any word- that isn’t necessary to my plot or story. One of my writing teachers gave me the nickname “Slash and Burn Brooks” because of my take no prisoners way of attacking a piece. Sentimentality has no place in the world of editing. If the writer has to explain to me why they wrote something, then it needs to go. Period. I’m like the Gordon Ramsay of writing.
Knowing that one year from now I will be living on the road means that I have to translate my slash & burn technique to the rest of my life. I don’t want to set off in search of freedom with 27 boxes taking up space in my mom’s garage. My life has been heading this way for a number of years and now is the time to take even bigger steps. I figure it has to be easier than moving to a new country. I’ve done that a few times so this should be a cinch.
Many of you have been asking for tips and tricks to simplifying your life. Hopefully this will help. There is no one way to do this, and it will be a little different for everyone. For me it means getting rid of both physical and mental clutter, seeking out peace, and spending my time doing things that are important to me. It’s a journey. Use this list as a jumping off point and see how it feels. Take one step this month and see if it fits. (I will go into more detail for each step in separate posts so this doesn’t take a decade to read.)
- De-clutter: Your home, your car, your work space, your purse, wallet, closet, pantry, kids room… you get the picture. Take it one step at a time and start getting rid of stuff! Having a clean home means having a peaceful home. It’s nice to walk into a home that isn’t filled with personal items and junk cluttering the shelves. Get boxes and garbage bags and have a purge party. Have a clothing swap with friends. I like to start in the closet – take one shelf, dump it on the bed, and separate it into two piles: Keep or Give. If it hasn’t seen the light of day in a year or more – it’s out. Set aside a few hours, do it, and you’re done. Remember – don’t get sentimental about T-shirts and sweaters, or any other junk you come across. You can keep memories without keeping physical items.
- Prioritize your commitments: All of it. Work, family, chores, kids, community/religious, classes, hobbies, freelance work, watching “The Biggest Loser”, etc. Your list may be really long, or really short. Just write it all down. Now, think about each item on that list in terms of what value it brings to your life and happiness.Think about how your life would change if you cut it out. Take on thing one thing on that list and get rid of it for a few weeks. The cream will rise to the top but it is up to you to implement the changes. When I realized how much time I had spent watching TV, or simply having it on in the background – I got rid of it. I haven’t owned a TV or paid for cable in about 10 years. I can still see shows if I want by streaming it online. For free.
- Practice saying “NO”, and following through: In order to start really editing #2, you’ll have to start saying no. Maybe even a lot. Once you figure out where your priorities are, and you begin to detach from commitments, people will start to make you feel guilty. Don’t let them. Others might be uncomfortable with your changes, and that’s cool. Free to be, right? Just don’t let them drag you back in to your old habits out of guilt. Once you start using your time the way YOU want to, saying no becomes easier. Others might be disappointed, but that isn’t really about you. You can’t control the way anyone feels so don’t bother to try.
- Limit shopping/buying/spending: You don’t need a big paragraph about this, right? Don’t go shopping because you are bored. Don’t buy your daughter that toy just because she wants it. Don’t buy that 60 inch flat screen TV because… ew. Living a simple life means limiting material possessions. I’m not saying sell everything and go live on a commune (which I plan to do next Spring/Summer) but be aware of what you are bringing into your home, and where it will go. Not having a TV helps because you are not bombarded with the words “SALE!” “BUY!” or “MUST HAVE!” And, I know some of my friends will think this is blaspheme but, limit or just cut out trips to “Super Stores” like Target, Wal-Mart, Cost-co, Globus or whatever they have where you are. Stores like that are designed for one purpose – to get you to spend MORE money. Just don’t go. Go hang out at a park or museum instead. It’s free, more fun, and has long lasting great effects on your personality.
- Streamline: Now that you have more free time to do what you love, hang with your friends and family or maybe nap, you can streamline. Go chore by chore, and really look at your system (or lack there of) and fix what needs fixing. Paying bills, laundry, emails, paperwork, cleaning, morning routines – all of these are household systems that can be made very simple. This article features a great method. A step further is to consider a smaller car and home. I mean, once you get rid of all that shit, you might not need all of that space.
That’s all for now. I will post about each step in more detail in future posts. I just wanted to get this out there. I’m excited to see that so many other folks are excited about living a more simple life. Single folks, couples, families – heck I read one article about a family (Mom, Dad, 2 boys) who produce only 1 quart of trash PER YEAR. Crazy? not really. Once you change your perspective you’ll see that what is really crazy is not changing.