It’s a new dawn, a new day. It’s a new year.
I’m actually coming off a fantastic year personally. I started a new job which I absolutely love. Our little family is healthy and happy. Life is pretty good.
That said, there’s a lot of unrest in the world right now. Many people seem upset, stressed out and overwhelmed. Our lives are busy. Full. Constantly filled with more and more–activities, responsibility and just “stuff.” Stress abounds.
Even for me, as great as my life is, I’m the first to admit I veer towards being high strung. I’m pretty emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m easily stressed out. I’ve learned to cope and I’ve certainly eliminated a lot of stressors but sometimes I still become a stress ball.
One lesson I’ve learned is to lean toward simplicity. The simpler my life is, from my social schedule, to my job, to my house to my wardrobe, the easier things are. When you have less to worry about, you simply don’t stress out as much.
So if you’re hoping to stress less, love more, and experience greater joy and peace in the new year, here are the tips I suggest to get you there.
How to Simplify Your Life in the New Year
1. Buy Less
The first tip I’ve discovered is to learn to live with less. Buy less stuff. When we go to the store, we stick to a list. When we go shopping, we try to only buy the things we need. Buying less means less waste–less trash, less money spent, less stress.
The same goes for spending money on cable, movies, eating out and other expense items that are more “want” than “need.” We still go to Starbucks every once in awhile for a coffee, but most of the time we just enjoy great coffee we brew at home. We still go to restaurants every so often, but most of the time we eat dinner at home and take the leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
To buy less stuff, I’ve found it helps to really focus on priorities. Whenever I’m going to buy something, I try to do a gut check and ask myself is it something I NEED or just something I want? Sometimes there are things I really want, in which case, I try to wait it out for at least a few days. If the feeling doesn’t pass and it’s in the budget then I might buy it. More often than not, I forget all about it.
2. Move More
Simplify your life by moving more? Sounds counter-intuitive, right? How does moving more often make my life simpler?
Well, we all know exercise lowers stress. Getting regular exercise like walking and running helps me burn off energy from the day. It helps me feel more focused and centered. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation, but when it’s over, I must admit, I haven’t ever once regretted a workout. Not once.
Usually I bargain with myself. I make a playlist I can only listen to on the treadmill. I tell myself if I just try it for ten minutes and hate it, then I’ll stop. I put it on my calendar and I remind myself a couple times throughout the day–I’m going to workout tonight. Exercise has helped me find more energy. It’s helped me feel happier and it’s given more stamina and strength. Exercise has simplified my emotions so I can deal with the stuff headed my way.
3. Organize Your Home
The week between Christmas and New Years I’m taking off work. Why? Because we do a giant overhaul of our house. We start in the attic and work our way down to the basement, organizing room by room and closet by closet. It often takes quite a bit of time but when it’s done our home feels completely calm, clean and ready for the new year.
When the house is a mess, it’s hard to relax. It’s hard to find things. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve bought an item at the store only to find I already had one stashed in a drawer somewhere.
When my house is organized everything is easy to find. I know exactly where it is and what purpose it serves. If we don’t love it, use it or need it, then we pass it on to the Goodwill or Craigslist so someone else might find some use for it.
4. Streamline Your Routine
If you’re looking for ways to simplify your life, take a hard look at your routine. Is your schedule jam-packed with stuff you don’t want to do or dread facing? Do you even have a handle on your schedule at all?
There are things we must do in life (dentist trips, figuring our taxes) that no one really wants to do. They still need to get done, of course. But there are plenty of other items filling up our schedules, we can learn to simplify and cut out. Sometimes even blocking out time on your calendar and organizing your schedule can result in a simplified routine.
Create habits by doing the same wake up and bedtime rituals each day. Like brushing your teeth, these will become routine and it will be easier to do them without thinking about it. Make your lunch for tomorrow and put your outfit out so it’s ready to go. Take a few minutes to pick up the house and put everything away. Spend just ten minutes check your schedule for tomorrow’s list and get everything in order before your head hits the pillow.
5. Eat Healthier
Eating simple, whole foods isn’t just easier, but it’s healthier! Processed foods may seem “convenient” but they’re far from simple. In many cases they contain plenty of ingredients that leave us feeling sluggish and not-so-great.
Instead, view food as healthy fuel. If you don’t mind eating the same foods regularly, embrace it! We regularly enjoy overnight oatmeal for breakfast and usually take leftovers, roasted vegetables with rice or simple sandwiches for lunch.
When making choices with food, look for ingredients you can pronounce and are familiar with. Foods in their most whole state are often better for you, so watch for minimally processed options. Enjoy a simple salad, steamed veggies, whole grains and beans.
6. Save More Money
Simplify your life? Stop stressing about money! Money keeps all of us up at night. We all worry about having enough, paying off debt, saving for the future and just the costs of living.
If money is stressing you out, find ways to save. Spend less, eat out less, learn to waste less and make do with what you have. If you need to boost your budget, look for ways to earn some side cash. Pick up a pet-walking job, offer to babysit for a friend, do jobs for a neighbor or try for online work.
Saving money isn’t easy. I don’t want to sound like it happens with the wave of a magic wand. It takes work. But if you simplify your budget–eliminate as many of the unnecessary items as you can–saving money will bring you peace of mind. You’ll sleep better knowing you don’t have debt hanging over you.
7. Learn to Say No
This one’s tough. It’s tough for me to tell people know. I feel guilty. I feel bad. I’m literally wracked with guilt if I think someone needs something and I can’t help them.
BUT, learning to say no is also freeing. Years back, a friend told me one of the most empowering things she’d learned was that it was okay to stay home sometimes. Even on a Friday night. She said, “Sometimes I just need to be at home on my couch after a week at work and I don’t want to go out.”
Now that I’m a little older, I don’t go out all the time anyway, but I still find myself struggling to turn down favors and requests, even when I don’t have the time or energy. When I do say no, however, it’s almost always less stress on my plate. When I overcommit I don’t do a good job or have a great attitude. It’s much better to just say no sometimes. It’s okay.
8. Stop Reading the Comments
This. Is. Huge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself stressed out, angry, upset and wasting my energy on stupid social media comments. These days everyone feels they have an opinion and can’t wait to share it in the comment section. Friendships are ruined. Family relationships are strained. It’s all because people feel the need to comment.
I realize, when I don’t read the comments, and even when I skip out on social media all together, I’m happier. I can still keep up on news and current events without reading every nuanced opinion of everyone’s cousin Stan.
If you want to lower your blood pressure and feel less stressed, take a break from reading the comments. If you really want to level up–take a break from social media all together. Even Facebook’s Founding President, Sean Parker said social media isn’t doing us any favors. There’s no harm in check out sometimes.
9. Look for the Positive
Similarly, find ways to discover and spread positivity in the world. Most of the time, when we’re looking for life to be simpler, it’s because we’re actually looking for life to feel happier. We’re hoping to feel better, unburdened, free.
Focus on the positive aspects of your life. What’s going well for you right now? What lessons are your learning from your struggles?
Recently a friend of mine was going through a rough time. She told me, “someone asked me, ‘when have you ever NOT landed on your feet,’ and it really made me think. I realized, no matter how bad things get, I always manage to survive and it always gets better.” So in the famous words from Winston Churchill: If you’re going through hell, keep going.
10. Give More and Think Bigger
One powerful way to simplify your life, is to realize as complicated and stressful as it seems, it’s just a ride (to quote Bill Hicks). I know our lives seem messy and chaotic sometimes. We give into despair and find ourselves feeling smothered and overwhelmed.
It helps to occasionally take a step back. Even if life is tough, what can you do to help someone else? I promise if you do, giving will leave you feeling better than before.
When we look outside of ourselves and realize there’s a big ol’ world out there, and we’re just a teeny part of it, it helps give us some perspective. One person can do a whole lot, but not if they’re only concerned with solving their own problems and focused inward. Instead, turn it around and do something for someone else.
Simplify your life by adding more positivity, more calm and peace in the new year. Eliminate the chaos and stress and move forward to a better tomorrow.