8 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Happy 2019!  I decided to launch my new blog by sharing with you all what my “Word of the Year” is for 2019 – Simplify.  New year, new Blog, new word.  It just seemed to fit.

Do you have a “Word of the Year” for 2019?  I didn’t even know that was a thing until “how I did on my word of the year for 2018” articles started flooding my inbox and newsfeed in Nov and Dec.  I hate it when I’m more than fashionably late to a party.

Looking Back on 2018

Those articles and blog posts made me think back on my own 2018, which was pretty much a belly flop.  I hadn’t achieved any of my major goals – not by a mile.  As Confucius wisely said, “the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”  I was chasing a lot of rabbits with about 500 lbs of perfectionism in my backpack (that’s a topic for another post – probably a LOT of posts).

Most days started out with good intentions, some of them even had good plans, but very few of them ever ended up where I wanted them to.  The To-Do List for most days contained a bunch of empty boxes next to the meaningful, purposeful, impactful stuff I wanted to get done, and check marks next to a bunch of meaningless, trivial, distracting things I added to the list AFTER I did them so I could congratulate myself on a day full of completed tasks.

Nailed it meme for when you simplify your life

In 2018 I wanted to start a blog, wanted to write a Bible study, wanted to finally take that trip to Iceland, wanted to improve my health, wanted to give my house the Marie Kondo treatment.  I spent 2018 learning everything I thought I needed to learn before I started a blog.  I wanted to get my blogging ducks in a row, only to find that those tricky duckies kept breaking loose and swimming to the other end of the pond – or flying off altogether!  Hello, FaceBook and Pinterest best-practices and WordPress interface! *sigh*

All together now…

Sad Tuba meme "womp womp"

Some Tearful Realizations

As 2018 drew to a close I tearfully wondered what went so terribly wrong?  Why did I accomplish hardly anything, yet I always felt so rushed, distracted, and overwhelmed?  I found myself thinking over and over “I want my life to go back to being simple!”  And the weird thing is, the “simple” time in my life I was thinking back to was when I worked full-time at a job I hated and had several ministry commitments, that while extremely fulfilling, were insanely time consuming and challenging.  My life was far, far more complicated than it is now, and yet “simpler” and less stressful.

I am freer now than I have ever been – I no longer work outside the home – and yet I often feel burdened, overwhelmed and downright nibbled to death.  However, I can barely focus long enough to make a sandwich from start to finish, let alone accomplish anything of value.  I am doing far less, while I am stressing far more.  How can that be!?

What on earth is different about life now than life 20 years ago???

Oh, yeah.  The Internet.  My beloved iPhone.  The App-pocalypse.

It’s not just the fun apps, the 10 ways to connect with people, the social media, the constant clicking and pinging and chirping for my attention.  For me it’s something more insidious.

My top 3 strengths in the Gallup Strength Finders assessment are Learner, Empathy and Input (another way of saying information junkie).  I am also a recovering Perfectionist.  You pair someone who lives to learn, who loves information and who has a deep fear of missing out (fomo) or making a mistake with instant access to billions of things to see, do, buy, learn, or read and it quickly becomes just. too. much.  Too freaking much.

Can you relate?  Are you doing more while accomplishing less and enjoying almost none of it?  Do you feel connected in a hundred ways but increasingly isolated?  Do you feel like you just need a time-the-heck-out?  If so, maybe the word I’ve chosen as my focus for 2019 will resonate with you too, and we can take our time-out together.

My word for 2019 is Simplify

Simplify definition graphic

Isn’t Simplify a lovely word?  It’s like taking a deep, cleansing exhale.  Less not more.  Easier not harder.  A few good friends instead of a thousand acquaintances. Doing 5 things well instead of 10 things poorly.  Simplify is a word that can mean different things to different people.  So let me share what simplifying my life in 2019 means to me, and hopefully you’ll find some ideas for simplifying your life, too.

8 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Simplify Your Life with a Well Thought-out Plan

Old Me:

I love me a good to-do list.  Written on beautiful note pads in multiple colors of ink.  They are works of art.  They are useless.  A to-do list doesn’t tell you what’s important to do, what needs to be done first and how long something will take to do.  Consequently what usually gets done is what is easiest, what will get you to the psychological thrill of the check mark first.  It is not a PLAN.  You pack a suitcase with a check list.  You accomplish meaningful, significant things with a plan.

New Me:

I knuckled down and got myself a pretty serious planner – Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner.  Thankfully it is also the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen.  I also bought a couple sets of Frixion pens – oh. my. word!  Gorgeous colors and completely erasable!!!  Swooooon.  At first I thought this thing was going to severely complicate my life, but it’s brilliant.  Yes, you do need to watch her free (short) videos to learn how to most effectively use the system, but it’s been amazing.  I now get more accomplished (accomplished – not just “done”) in a week than I used to in several weeks.  Having a plan helps me stay focused, say “no” to distractions and keep moving forward.

Simplify Your In-Box by Ruthlessly Unsubscribing

Old me:

Email is king.  Everyone is emailing you – ministries you support, stores you shop at, even friendly bloggers like me.  Some of it is spammy dreck.  Some of it is really useful information or at least entertaining.  A lot of it is superfluous – you are getting the same info from too many places or way, WAY too frequently.

Not wanting to miss a thing, I subscribed to every sales and product alerts, price drop alerts, new post/article alerts, daily updates & prayer requests, course updates, you name it.  Hundreds of emails a week.  Way too much info, and some of it contradicting which causes me to have serious analysis paralysis.

New Me:

For a few weeks now I have been evaluating everything that comes in.  I ask myself:  is this really useful to me?  Am I already getting this information elsewhere?  Do I need this level of detail?  Would I genuinely regret not receiving this information/contact?  Depending on my answers I either completely unsubscribe from the contact (pure bliss), choose to dial down the frequency (many times you can choose how frequently you want to hear from someone) or leave it as is.

My inbox is way, way more manageable!  And even then, if I have a packed day and I don’t have time to read something that comes in, I delete it without even looking at it, and I don’t regret it one bit.  Emails are like buses, honey.  There’s always another one coming along.

Simplify Your To-Do List by Not Padding Your Part

Padding your part is an acting expression that means going beyond what has been written for you in the script – and it usually leads to disaster, or at least some ticked-off costars!

Old Me:

If you invited me to your house for something, without your prompting at all, I would offer to show up early to help or offer to bring half the food and drink.  I could never just show up and let you bless me by being your guest.  Same thing if I’m asked to serve in any way.  I can’t just do what is asked – I have to “exceed expectations.”  Dummy!

New Me:

Last week some friends invited us to go out to dinner and stop by their house first for a beer and some apps.  The hostess then said she didn’t have any beer so she would be going out to buy some and what kind would we like.  Old me would have instantly shot back with “oh no, don’t bother!  I’ve got some I can bring and I’ll bring an app too!  Or would you like me to bring a dessert for after?” *eyeroll*  New me told her we’d be happy with whatever she chose.  Boom!  I had a lovely evening just being a guest and I got to work on what I needed to during the day instead of getting food and drink together to take to someone else’s house!

Bonus tip:  Not padding your part also means not saying “yes” to things that aren’t your calling/job/responsibility in the first place.  Full stop.  The end.

Simplify Your Life by Putting Down Your Phone

Old me:

Phone always on, right next to me, all alerts and notifications pinging away.  Any noise it makes at all is like a crying baby – it CANNOT be ignored.  Praise the Lord for 10 uninterrupted minutes when I can write or think or get anything done start to finish.

New me:

I have turned off all the notifications on my phone except the phone ringer, the text alert and the alerts from a prayer app I use with my friends.  I set my email to “fetch” only every hour – not instantly “push” or any more frequently than that.  And, I now only check my email a couple times a day and batch respond once or twice.

When I am driving or working on something important (like writing this post!) or you know, with another human being, I put my phone in silent mode.  I also put it FACE DOWN so I don’t see it light up for any reason.  I have also set my phone to be in Do Not Disturb (DND) mode from 10 pm to 8:30 am.  Fear not with DND – you can configure it so it lets specific people thru if you need to remain in touch with them 24/7.

Wow, it is VERY freeing and stress-reducing not to have that little beastie ruling your every waking moment!  If thinking about cutting back on your phone time is giving you the shakes, trust me.  Set it down for a few days, turn off the bells and whistles, and you will very quickly see a change.  You won’t miss it and you will have so much more time and focus to give to your work and the actual human beings around you.

Simplify Your Life by Kicking FOMO to the Curb

Old me: 

I love me some information.  I do.  Learning is my jam, my life and what God hard-wired me to do.  But every gifting comes with dangers or downfalls, and mine is rushing headlong into information overload.  If I’m buying something I research it/price shop on multiple sites and check out all the reviews.  If a menu has 50 items – panic!  Which one is the best choice?!  I can’t make a wrong choice, ever, and that requires a LOT of information gathering.  It’s exhausting.  And when something inevitably turns out to be “not perfect” I beat myself up for making the wrong choice.  It’s joy sucking.

New me:

As I said above, I’ve unsubscribed from a LOT of the newsletters, etc. I was getting.  And when I DO need to gather info and make a decision on something, I’m picking my battles.  Am I buying a refrigerator or choosing website hosting?  I’m doing some serious research.  Are there 50 kinds of beer on tap?  New me scans the board, and as soon as a hint of decision-panic creeps in, I turn to my man and say “I’m feeling like a Porter” or “I’m feeling like an IPA, pick one for me”.  Or I ask the server for a recommendation.  It’s fun to be surprised!

Good grief, it’s only money, as my mum would say.  If I make a bad choice, or pay a bit too much for something, I move on.  And a hearty shout-out to Marie Kondo for teaching me the liberating truth that it’s okay to toss/sell/give away a perfectly good thing just because you don’t like it.  The purpose of buying that thing was to teach you that you don’t like it, and that’s a mistake you won’t make again, so $ well spent.  And speaking of tossing stuff…

Simplify Your Home by Getting Rid of the Clutter, Junk, and Excess

Marie Kondo is having a moment for a reason.

Old Me:

I am highly organized and I hate clutter, so I’m not thaaaat bad here.  But I still have way too much stuff.  We ALL have way too much stuff.  Even tho I read Marie Kondo’s masterpiece, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I tried to pare down, I never really got all the excess “stuff” out.  I am the Queen of “I Could Use That/Repurpose That Some Day”, “I Paid Good Money for That and Never Really Used It” and the dreaded “It’s a Family Heirloom No One Else Wanted So I Took Pity on It”.  That last one’s a doozy.

New Me:

While I learned a LOT from Marie Kondo, I’ve gotta say I’m not down with the “throw everything in a pile and have a one-on-one cuddle with it before you decide what to do” method of decluttering.  My MO this year will be to go room by room and make four piles – keep, give away, sell and toss.  And the one and only criterion for keeping something is I like and use it.  Period.  So far I’ve done the Christmas decor, one bathroom (for WHY was I saving all of my old Invisalign trays???), my bedroom and the motherlode of stuff – the Kitchen.  Which leads me to…

Simplify Your Shopping and Cooking by Meal Planning

Old me:

Meal planning is for chumps!  I am a creative.  Cooking is my passion.  I cannot have my creative process fettered by some “meal plan”!  Therefore, my kitchen must be stocked to create anything my heart desires without having to go to the horrible bother of running to the store.

I don’t have a system for shopping or planning meals which leads to a lot of “shoot, I already have an unopened 5 lb. sack of Quinoa!” (true story).  Not to mention frequent 4 pm panics when nothing is thawed, and I’m not sure what we are having for dinner.  So creative.  And since I’m always overstocked with “ingredients I may use”, you guessed it – there’s a lot of food waste going on at Casa de Wild Olive.

New Me: 

Frankly there is so much change I’ve implemented here that it warrants its own post, which I will do.  However, let me just share 3 things I’ve done that have made an immediate impact.  One – when I purged the kitchen I made a list of the stuff that needs to be eaten in the next month or two and I’m focusing on those things in my meal planning.  Two – I am writing (and using!) meal plans in my Living Well Planner.  Three – no more impulse buys.

If it’s something that “looks interesting” but I have no idea what I will do with it THIS WEEK – it doesn’t go in the cart.  And if it’s a staple and it’s not on the list – it doesn’t go in the cart.  There’s actually some breathing room starting to appear in my fridge and pantries.  But boy am I glad we like Quinoa and it has a long shelf life…

Simplify Getting Dressed by Utilizing Capsule Wardrobes

Old Me:

Again, I am not a hoarder so my closets and drawers are neat, tidy and not crammed full.  However, I still have a lot of wardrobe items & accessories I don’t really love, don’t wear much, and which in no way qualify as “brings me joy to wear”.  You know, good stuff.  Stuff I got on SALE!  Stuff I thought was really sharp and trendy but which actually makes me look, um, frumpy. [What kind of witchcraft is going on in those dressing room mirrors!?]

And even tho I am known as a pretty good dresser, I’m in a skinny jeans/tunic/boots rut.  *snore*  I really don’t have the time or the desire to fall down a Pinterest fashion board hole or immerse myself in YET MORE blogs, etc. to keep up with what’s cute and age appropriate for me.  I also don’t want to become that “old lady” whose fashion and makeup sense came to a grinding halt at year X.

New Me:

I started hearing about capsule wardrobes last year but thought, “Capsule Wardrobes?  Are you kidding?  Too sparse! I don’t want to look like an extra on the Handmaid’s Tale!”  In the giant spaghetti bowl that is my online interconnected tribe, I stumbled upon Alison from Get Your Pretty On and her wardrobe curating service.  I love her personality and her adorable sense of style, so I treated myself to a year of the service.  My subscription starts with the Spring 2019 wardrobe, so I will share more about how it works when I really get into it.

Moving Forward

Thanks for letting me share where I’m at.  I hope you found some things that resonated with your life that you can implement to make helpful changes to simplify your life in 2019.  Let me know in the comments what struck you most and how you think you can apply it – or even better, some other ways we can simplify our lives!  I’m looking forward to sharing 2019 and beyond with you!


PS – if one of your goals is also to cut down on the amount of sugar you consume, here are 5 easy, painless ways to do that, without turning into a sugar monk.

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