…on simplicity

Simplicity on toast

Simplicity on toast

We seem to try a bit too hard at most things these days. Take “simplicity” for example.  I often hear myself saying I’m gonna work (note the word “work”) to simplify my life. Already I am primed for it to be a process that requires more effort than I currently put into my “unsimplified” life?  Every few years I seem to want to simplify things. It goes a bit like this:

1)   I realize that my diary is full of stuff and I’m not sure why

2)   I’m not getting any exercise or painting time

3)   I try and book a weekend trip or to see friends and I have to reach   for next year’s diary

4)   I can’t get into my study as there is too much stuff piling up

5)   My email inbox is rammed and takes me an hour before I get round to doing real work rather than just deleting stuff and replying to emails

6)   I wake up feeling like I am already on the treadmill

Its great that I actually notice these “symptoms” and decide to take steps to remedy the overload, but what I actually do, sometimes makes it worse. Some people just can’t see that they are overcomplicating things. My closest friend is a great example. Last year in an attempt to have a better, more simple diary system, she actually bought 3 identical diaries, all for different aspects of her life and run them together…it was an unmitigated disaster, but gave us all something to laugh about!

So, what follows are my favourite and time honoured attempts at simplifying my life, once I realise its all getting a bit out of hand.

Emails: I trawl through my inbox, After deleting and unsubscribing to millions of newsletters and emails, it still seems to take just as long to manage my email and I then start to sign up for things as my inner voice says “its ok, you’ve just dumped lots of things, so you can sign up for new ones” the problem with that is that getting something new and fresh in my inbox actually takes up more time and the cleaver copyrighting means that I invariably visit their lovely website and possibly buying something or signing up for a workshop, ecourse or webinar…ahhhh I am actually making it more complicated in my desire for simplicity.

My next trick is to cancel stuff, real diary dates. Try and keep my diary a bit clearer. Usually the life enhancing events go first – the exercise class and social date with friends. After a few weeks, I feel denied and start booking in lots of things again. You can tell I have been down this road before, many times.

The problem with making space and clearing stuff out, is that it leaves space for something else to fill it. Its just like money, if you get a raise, you start living to that financial space you have, if you earn less, you live to that.  If you live in small house, yearn for more space and move to a 4 bed detached house (yawn) you’ll find after a few years that you have filled up the space and need more.  This is normal human behaviour.

I remember when the M25 was built, everyone thought it was the answer to traffic problems but after a couple of years, we’d filled that up as well – all 117 miles of it.

Here’s another great way that simplifying things creates complexity. My bank offered me a paid bank account and you get lots of perks with it like phone insurance, breakdown recovery etc.  It seemed like a good idea, I wouldn’t have to buy separate breakdown cover and if my new appliance broke down it would be covered..(.wah hey I am a complete  domestically enhanced goddess)

So after going into my bank, setting up a new bank payment and producing the details and items they wanted (3 extras jobs already) I had another 9 jobs to do including registering my family mobile phones, 3 of them (this task involves asking all the family members, finding the IMEI number of each of them, finding the model number and writing all the numbers down and then ringing to register them) so that’s about another 9 tasks from one of the task.

Even if the other perks are easier to arrange, and I doubt it as one of them was a free will writing service which would have sucked me dry to sort out, I still end up with about 60 new tasks to do………………not bad eh… I am simplification goddess NOT.

And don’t even think about trying to simplify your finances by changing mortgage company or electricity supplier, that’s just a massive can of worms.

So what is the secret to simplifying your life…or is there one?

Well here’s my take on it:

  • Let go of the need for simplicity in the first place. Human beings are complex, messy and unpredictable. Striving for perfection just leads us to disappointment, very quickly. Love your messy bits.
  • Remember that every action we take (even with the intention of simplifying things) has an opposite and equal reaction – Isaac Newton, basic physics. Translated: we don’t live in a vacuum and even decluttering a room means a trip to tip, charity shop, ebaying things and various other new jobs-to-do.  Don’t feel frustrated about it, just understand it better.
  • Consider the plans you make to simplify things, very, very carefully
  • Why not take time to consider all the things you say yes to in the first place. Having a default “no, but I’ll think about it”, will over time mean you will only invite things into your life which enhance rather than fill up and complicate.
  • Use pencil rather than pen in your diary…it makes it easier to change your mind
  • Notice whether you feel less stressed and more happy after you have made big blank spaces in your diary or declutter other areas. If not, you will start filling them up with something – just choose stuff that enhances your life
  • Know that you are enough. Usually it’s our own feelings of lack that make us buy more, do more and want more. You are enough.
  • Make bread. It reminds us that we need very little in our life really (and after a bit of practice, it tastes really good)

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