It is a beautiful Saturday and I am having a slow day. I have been able to spend time with my husband and also enjoy baking some GF bread for my daughter. Now I am chilling out on the sofa. I am grateful for all the steps we have taken to simplify as they make it possible to have a restful weekend. I don’t have to tidy up 5000 items this weekend as we pared back so much the last 5 years. I don’t have to clean as we moved into a little house a couple of years ago and it is so fast to clean that it just isn’t a big deal and certainly doesn’t consume my weekends. I don’t have to spend all weekend gardening as we mainly have trees which look after themselves.
What I am saying is – there are many steps we can all take to slow down and to simplify, to free ourselves up so we can enjoy being alive, rather than constantly maintaining our lives.
It really is possible to live at a slower pace. With more time for the people you love, for creativity, for rest, and for your favourite activities. There are changes you could start making today that would significantly reduce stress and increase calm. For the adults and the kids in your home. Maybe even the dog. There is actually a story about a dog that lived in a hectic house and went to another families house for a rest each day. I am sure it is true somewhere in the world.
Anyway… Here is a list of seriously good ideas to reboot your life. Ideas you can come back to and keep working on. This article is part 1 of a series. The ideas have been collected over the last couple of decades of life and observation and reading others journeys too.
Just a few reasons why it is good to simplify and slow down.
Mental health. Way too many adults and teens are dealing with depression, anxiety or burnout. Even some children.
Life is not a competition. We don’t need to do it all, be it all, or have it all. I challenge you to rebel against those silly notions and embrace simpler choices. Then you can have less stress and more freedom. And if life actually was a competition the true winners would be the ones with the simpler car, simpler house, simpler debt, and the less high pressure job because they are likely having way more fun!
When you go slower you discover more joy. When you are not rushing to tick off as many things on your list each day, an interesting thing happens. Everyday life becomes really enjoyable and more interesting. Simple tasks (like hanging out the washing) or simple moments with people, can actually be awesome. Not having a time constraint on a conversation means you can really enjoy talking with that person and connect at a depth you maybe haven’t done in years. Maybe that conversation will change that persons life. It may be a conversation with one of your kids.
Seven ways you can simplify and slow down the pace of your life.
1. Protect your thought processes by turning off notifications and alerts on your phone. At the very very least, try this for one month. Take your mind out of the traffic intersection by turning off all noises and banners etc. You can check messages in batches, when you have time. All you really need to leave on is your ring tone, and maybe the red number on your app icons. If it is an emergency people will call you! Don’t worry! Allow your mind the freedom to carry out a thought from beginning to end. Allow your mind to focus respectfully on people when you are talking to them. Phone alerts are highly distracting and they literally barge in and disrupt your thought processes and conversations. When I turned all mine off I was actually shocked at the liberation! It is nuts that in the last 10 years we have become convinced that we need be so ultra available to everyone.
2. Have two To-Do lists. ‘Today’, and ‘Not Today’. Each morning selectively move 2-3 things into your ‘Today’ to-do list. All the rest can stay safe and sound in your ‘Not Today’ to-do list. Any tasks rattling around in your brain can be dumped any time in the ‘Not Today’ list, but they are not a burden for you today, don’t even think about them. You will attend to them when it suits you to move them to the ‘Today’ list. Naturally you can put highest priorities at the top of the ‘Not Today’ list but nothing on that list should weigh on you. Only think about your ‘Today’ list. This is a most freeing strategy. Try it out! (I read this life-changing approach in another blog ages ago and when I find the source I will post it here.)
3. Book your time with fat margins. When you plan your day and week, add in fat margins between events and appointments. Then you can feel relaxed as you travel from one thing to the other and if you suddenly need to spend more time with a particular person or task you can. If you want to spend more time with your friend than expected it is OK as you booked your dentist appointment a good while later in the day in case. Tight schedules are joy-killers. Fat margins make life more enjoyable and slow you down. I’d say even your heart rate will be going slower. Do less each day and you will get more out of life.
4. Cook once eat twice. This is a really great saying and approach you may have heard. It saves a lot of time, mess, cleanup and power. Every second night is an easier night! It may be just be just the main dish or it may be the salad too. Maybe you can cook enough for many nights sometimes and freeze a bunch of portions.
5. Relaxing room time for kids. Once little ones grow out of their day sleeps, life can get a bit edgy for them and us. An excellent survival strategy is to continue with the daily time in their bedroom but let them read or play. It could be on their bed. The important thing is that all the kids do it at the same time, in different rooms. It is quiet alone time. It helps them slow down, rest and process. When you consider how much they are learning about the world every day you realise they need it. They tend to play better with their siblings after a break too. But even more importantly – Mum or Dad get a rest too.
6. Travel lighter. Go through your cupboards and let go of a ton of stuff. If you part with 500 items this month or year, that is 500 items you will never ever need to pick up, tidy up, organise, clean, maintain or think about – ever again. Your headspace, time and house will be so much free-er. If you are pressed for time to do this, check out my article from last week on 10 minute de-cluttering sessions. Since living simply and de-cluttering are a passion of mine, and I have worked helping others de-clutter and organise, I will certainly be writing more on paring back and de-cluttering in future articles. Some inspiring writers are Joshua Becker at becomingminimalist.com, and also check out the blog nosidebar.com, and theminimalists.com, and Marie Kondo has a cool approach too.
7. Think big picture and be radical. If you feel like you are a mouse on a wheel, working non-stop at a job to pay for everything you have, then take time out to think big-picture. Maybe you could work 4 days a week rather than 5 if you made some changes. My husband is looking into cutting back and a few other main breadwinners we know have done this lately. Could you sell the nice car (get rid of the car loan payments) and get a cheaper car? Or maybe you could downsize to a simpler home and dramatically reduce your mortgage payment obligations. Maybe the kids activities can be pared right back to free up money and time? With some changes maybe work hours can be reduced for one or both of you so one is home with the kids and getting the house-stuff done so weekends are restful special times together. Where you live will make a big difference to your costs too. One time when our kids were younger, we sold our house and moved to a semi-country suburb a little bit further out (further from the city) and it meant we got a bigger house, and reduced the mortgage at the same time! And the neighbours you will get further out from cities will often be there for the sake of living simpler and slower so you’ll have instant friends. Our current home in Australia is in a semi-country area and we love it. When we had to move for work reasons, we chose to live out a bit and also found the cheapest smallest house we could find and are slowly renovating. But more on that in another blog post!… You can apply this approach to anything you need to buy or do. Just bypass the latest and greatest and you can save a fortune. Saving money means less financial pressure and more ability to slow down and enjoy life and the people in it.
I truly hope I have inspired you to slow down and simplify. Life is richer out of the fast lane. My personal thought is that God put us on earth for the purpose of relationships, not for achieving a ton of tasks and collecting a ton of things. And..our kids grow up so quickly and move away and get busy with their own adult lives. We can never get back that opportunity to just hang out with them and have fun with them as kids.
Part 2 of ‘Slowing down in a fast world’ can be found here.
Have a wonderful week.