Simple steps to simplify your life


The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

— Hans Hofmann

It began with what I thought was a simple enough idea: I’d re-purpose a grown child’s former bedroom into a den while I enjoyed a few days away from work. I’d move everything out, clean the carpet, paint the walls, hang blinds and transform the space into a workable place to manage household paperwork away from our public living spaces.

That’s when it came to me: I’d have to work through some clutter to even get started. There was the extra bedding someone had graciously handed down to us. The discarded lamp not cool enough to go to college. I had easily ignored these items and more by simply closing the door.

A step away from my normal work routine, which gifted me with some quiet and contemplative time, had allowed God to open my eyes to a glaring reality: I need to simplify my life. Declutter my living spaces. Streamline some of my decision making.

It could be overwhelming, but I simply won’t allow it to become that experience for me. I’ve been asking God to help me find ways to give him quality, daily attention and I’ve been coming up with a ridiculous list of roadblocks: I should manage my sleep better; I’ve got to add daily exercise into my planning; I must spend more time creating ultra-healthy meals. In other words, I could not imagine adding another routine into what seemed like a cluttered schedule.

Give God time everyday? I’ve been struggling to make that happen.

Then came this week of solitude. Time to be quiet. Sip tea. Play with my chihuahuas. And look around at my home — a place I absolutely love to be but also a place that can drain me of my enthusiasm when I consider all it takes to keep things in order.

Thoughts of creative ways to simplify my life and better manage my daily schedule merged me right onto the information highway and I made use of my old navigational friend Google. Ideas I have found on the Internet have energized and enthused me and I share some of the best with you here, in no particular order.

Sometimes living faithfully is deeply spiritual. Other times, like now, it’s an exercise in the practical. Care to join me in my new springtime mission? I plan to eliminate the unnecessary so I will have more time to listen to the Necessary One.

Eliminate the Clutter

Be ruthless and begin with four boxes: one to collect worn out or broken items for disposal; a second for things to give away; and a third for items to recycle; and a fourth for the “keepables.” Be systematic and ruthless if you naturally hang onto things. If, for example, you’ve not worn a piece of clothing for a year — donate it to a local thrift shop or give it to someone who will happily wear it. Books you enjoyed but probably won’t reread should also go into box number two.

Daily Manage the Paperwork

If you are like me, the amount of expected as well as unsolicited mail that makes its way into my home is not only astounding but downright irritating. Once it’s there, I must now manage it in an environmentally responsible way. So here’s what works best: touch paperwork as little as possible! Open mail beside your shredder, near your computer, and close to a work space with the necessary supplies. Pay it, act on it, file it or shred it. But make those choices daily so there will be little buildup.

Sign up for Automatic Payments

To cut down on the unnecessary use of paper, communicate with companies using the Internet. Most now allow you to make payments, check balances and manage your accounts electronically. E-mail alerts that a bill is due will keep you on schedule. No more worrying about making out a check, standing in line on a regular basis to purchase stamps or having to drop items in the mail. Make sure you have enough money in your account, print off transaction receipts, immediately file your paperwork and life will be simpler.

Streamline Routine Decision Making

My kids have given me a bad time about this for years, but long ago I designed a grocery list on my computer and print it off weekly. It goes up on the refrigerator and when we need something the item gets highlighted. My list is sorted by topic, but you also can list things to match store aisles if you like. If this idea intrigues you, e-mail me and I’ll send you mine. Personalize it to your heart’s content.

There are many more helpful ways to simplify your life and we will continue this topic next week. In the meantime, try one that intrigues you. With the time saved, spend some moments with God. Quiet your body, thoughts and worries. Close your eyes and think about him. Share your praises and worries. Ask him to make his presence known to you throughout the week.

Let’s eliminate the unnecessary from our lives so we may hear the necessary.

Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to faithfulliving@hotmail.com.

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