When I shared the story of how I shattered my knee, I mentioned my immediate emotional response as I laid on the trail and waited for the ambulance to arrive: I felt an urgent need to SIMPLIFY. Everything. I thought about all the things in my life that felt undone, untied, unkempt. I thought about how my weeks were spent juggling, maintaining, making lists, checking lists, shuffling crap around, doing busy-work instead of growth-work, buying things I “needed”, cramming said things into already overflowing closets…and then spending my weekends trying to recuperate from the week, and also preparing to do it all over again the next week. I never had enough time for my family, friends or boyfriend because I was so busy tending to these habits. This lifestyle made me feel out of control. It made me feel like my stuff owned me, my business owned me, my tasks owned me. It made me feel hopeless. I remember thinking: why bother cleaning that closet? It will eventually become overwhelmed again. I felt spread thin, like I was doing everything poorly. For the first time in my 34 years, I was suffering from anxiety. It took a traumatic knee injury to slow me down. Bed-rest for almost 2 months will make you think about your life…a lot. It took shattering my knee into 20 pieces to fully recognize that I needed a big change.
So I return to those feelings of urgently desiring simplicity. This topic surfaces for me several times a day, and I’m still figuring out what it exactly means to me. My ideal life I’ve dreamt of does not require acquiring a lot of stuff, but instead creating a life of a lot of freedom. I’m learning that simplicity is not a default setting, the more we live, learn, meet, do, and see, the more complicated life can become. I’m learning that simplicity is like a muscle, one that needs consistent exercise to stay in shape.
There are business issues that I am still pondering how to simplify–because let’s be honest, we can’t all work for 6 months and then go bike around the world for 6 months on $10 a day like this guy. I know simplifying to that extreme would not make me happy. When I say simplicity, this quote from Leo Babauta embodies it best (for me):
It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.
Imagine a day, a week, a month, a year, a life that is only full of things that give you value. (Heart explodes with excitement!) I’m officially declaring Project: Simplicity a new long term goal. I know something like this doesn’t happen overnight. But I’m starting. Now. My BFF nonchalantly sent me a text recently that said, “Mindful not mind full.” Bingo. I have no doubt that simplifying all aspects of my life will improve it greatly, and help to make me more present, more alive, more grateful, more free, more mindful.
So as I start this life change, I’m working on the below ideas first, because they are creating the most immediate internal chaos.
1) A place for everything and everything in its place. This new dresser came last week. As I’ve been healing for the last 3.5 months, I noticed that piles were forming in my apartment. Not because I wasn’t hobbling around to put things away, but because I didn’t have enough storage space. Now that I have 8 drawers of new space, everything easily has an assigned place. When it’s not in use, it goes to its place. My chaotic temperature decreased about 10 degrees simply by making my home feel more organized.
2) Scan old photo albums, warranties, tax documents, etc. When we sold my mom’s upstate house this past June, it was a major accomplishment. She became free of maintaining a home she didn’t use anymore, so a huge weight lifted not only off her, but off my sisters and me as well. However, I lost a basement of free storage, and mountains of boxes of high school and college memories landed in my New York apartment. One of the bulkiest things? Photo albums. I’m currently working on pulling each photo out of its album and scanning to a specific folder (i.e., “family vacations,” “college basketball team,” “summer in Savannah” etc). Similarly, the documents I’ve been hanging onto like recent tax returns, my memory foam mattress warranty, social security statements…stuff that I’m not sure I want to pitch yet, I am scanning all those as well. Everything will be backed up, twice. I geek out over the weightlessness it will feel to be paperless!!
3) Digital overhaul. iPhone, MacBook, iPad…I’m always out of space. Maybe it’s the 30,844 photos in my library? I do this perpetual dance of deleting a little bit to make room for a little bit . It drives me crazy. And it’s reflective of how overwhelmed I’ve been in my offline life. I’m auto-backing up my photos and documents (twice like #2), so I can feel at peace deleting them from each device. I exist to live, not to manage my files every dang day.
4) Purge clothing, accessories, products, junk. We all are familiar with this one. “If you haven’t worn it in a year pitch it.” “For every new item you bring into your home, pitch 2 old items.” “If it isn’t functional or fashionable, pitch.” Pitch pitch pitch. I have enough sleep clothes to last me a year without doing laundry. WHY? Each time I open the drawer I break a sweat trying to close it. Why do I save so many old bras? I have zero room left in my triple bathroom vanity. Too many products. It’s like the suitcase rule: you somehow bring as much stuff as you can fit (at least I always do). I’m also guilty of saving odds and ends for future DIY projects or jewelry designs. If I haven’t used something in a few months, I am probably not that excited about the idea, and will never use it. Now that everything is in its place (see #1), I’ll be going back through each closet, drawer and cabinet and purging a lot of the excess.
5) Unsubscribe from all excessive newsletters. Clutter in my inbox creates clutter in my mind. The act of deleting each morning distracts me from other things I could be doing, reading, starting, thinking. I unsubscribed from all at the start of the 2015, and it felt GREAT. But the newsletters found me again somehow. I think this is a task that needs to be maintained every 3-6 months.
I will make Project: Simplicity updates here and keep you posted on progress and any bumps I come along. I hope this inspires you to think about simplicity as an intentional, conscious way of living.