Inspired by the degrowth movement (Degrowth – How a global movement can help inspire us to live better), I have been doing a lot of soul searching about what it is I really want and need in life. What is important to me? What do I dream about? If I could design my ideal life, what would my day look like?
Not surprisingly, my ideal day doesn’t contain paperwork and bureaucracy. However, there are these pesky things called nations that exist and each one comes with its own list of rules and regulations which can’t be avoided. Taxes must be paid and health insurance forms must be filled out.
My ideal day also doesn’t include clearing clutter and trying to find a place for the extra coffee press that we never use, but can’t bear to get rid of because it still works. It doesn’t involve going to read a book on my ebook reader, only to find that my recently updated books haven’t actually been updated, and the power is nearly empty. And it certainly doesn’t include deleting spam mail, answering emails and ‘liking’ posts on facebook or 9gag.
In fact, my ideal life doesn’t look much like my current life at all. It looks a lot more like Snow White’s life, when she lives in the forest with the seven dwarves: waking up in the morning to birds singing, drinking a tea on the front porch, tending to my plants in the garden, walking through the forest and then reading a book on a blanket in a sunny clearing. Well, I have neither a front porch nor a garden and I live in the city, not the forest.
Nevertheless, it is possible to make some changes in order to Snow-white-ify my life. If I remove the things from my life that are holding me back, I will have the space and time to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures, such as getting outside, spending time with friends and family, and pursuing my passions.
7 things to get rid of in order to simplify your life
- Anything that is broken or unusable – As obvious as this first item might sound, you would be surprised at how many broken bits and pieces of things we hold onto. How many old cell phones, cables, or appliances do you have sitting around? What about notebooks with three pieces of paper left in them? Look in your toolbox – is anything rusted? Do your pens still work? Does that t-shirt with the holes in it still even fit you? Will you ever play with that deck of cards again if the Queen of Spades is missing?
- Anything that you don’t use- If it’s not easy for you to get rid of things because they are not broken, or you can’t seem to part with an item because you once paid money for it (see – Sunk costs fallacy), then use this trick to convince yourself to get rid of the excess. Put all of those unused items into a box for one month. The trick is to leave the box right in the middle of the hallway or living room. Don’t just put it in a corner. If you don’t need any of those items for a whole month then you don’t need to keep them, and you’ll probably be quite happy to have that annoying box out of your life. Remember, you can donate all unneeded items to shelters, refugees, and organizations that could really use them. Don’t just through things away, share.
- Anything that you don’t like – Again, this might sound obvious, but there are so many items we keep around for the sole fact that we already have them. Maybe it’s that sweater your mother bought you in 1996 and you feel too guilty to get rid of a gift. Maybe it’s that ugly table that your husband brought into the family from his old bachelor pad. You don’t have to buy all new things. You can reupholster it or paint it, or just enjoy having more space without bumping into furniture.
- Appointments/Tasks that don’t make you happy – Before agreeing to do something, ask yourself the following questions: 1) Will I enjoy doing it? 2)Will it bring joy to someone else? 3) Will it be beneficial for my future? If you can’t say yes to at least one of those three questions then perhaps that task is not necessary. You don’t have to say yes to everything. If you really don’t like going bowling with your neighbour then suggest going out for coffee instead. If you don’t enjoy taking French classes, but you know it will provide you with valuable skills for your future then try to find a different way to learn that will give you more joy.
- People who drag you down – Negativity is sadly much more contagious than positivity. No matter how much you might like a person (or perhaps you hate them with every fibre of your being) if they are constantly complaining, gossiping, or nit-picking, it might be very difficult for you to avoid catching their negativity. If at all possible, try to avoid having to spend time with mood-drainers or emotional-vampires.
- Too much technology – Do you really need a PC, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, an Mp3 player, a GPS, a GPS watch, an ebook, five different types of gaming consoles, a mobile videogame system, a digital camera, a digital video camera, and a digital fitness tracker? If you love technology then let your geek flag fly! I’m not judging. But many people really don’t need all of that. Some people, such as myself (see my ebook rant above), actually feel a lot of stress and anxiety when they are surrounded by too much technology. In fact, scientists claim that one of the best ways to fight stress is to spend time in nature (Berman et al. 2008, Pearson & Craig 2014).
- Social Media – Does anyone recognize this narrative, ‘I’m feeling lonely, maybe if I browse Facebook for a while I’ll feel better. What? Not one but two of my University friends have had babies recently? My ex-boyfriend is getting married? I have 7 fewer friends than I had last time I checked?’ No! Facebook will not make you happy and it is not the real world! It can be a useful device for keeping in contact with people who are too lazy to pick up the telephone or write you an e-mail, but that’s it. Facebook users are the product, not the consumer Ted Talk – Jennifer Golbeck. Twitter can also be a useful tool for networking and spreaking news, but should not be a way you evaluate your self-worth. Instagram… is essentially a way for people to ask for external validation. Unless it’s integral to your income-stream, it might be time to let it go.