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How I Simplified My Life

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I love summertime…mostly. Every summer I worry about the hottest year on record or severe weather, such as hurricanes and 100 year floods happening every few years, but I digress. Overall, I still love summertime. One of the reasons I love summer is because I get to spend more time outside, go to the beach, and eat ice cream (or nice cream).

>25 Nice Cream Recipes.

Summertime is a great time to reset and refocus on minimalism. In addition to being a zero waster, I’m also a minimalist. Minimalism is an important part of my journey towards zero waste. Along with removing physical clutter and disposable plastic from my home, I have simplified my life in many other ways. Listed below are the top 11 ways I have embraced minimalism. Everyone’s list will be different, but this is mine. I would love to learn about yours. I may have been a minimalist since 2012, but I’m still learning. I love anything that can make my life easier (and avoid wastefulness)!

1. Plan Your Year.

I love a good calendar! I have multiple lists and calendars, both physical and electronic. The first thing I do is enter all holidays, annual events, birthdays, anniversaries. We have certain days off every year, such as Martin Luther King Day, Good Friday, July 4th, Labor Day, and a few days during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also enter the week we typically take our family vacation, school events, doctor visits, storytimes, recitals, home repair appointments, taxes, church activities, etc.

Likewise, to-do lists are my jam. Writing down what I need to do helps me visualize my goals. There’s also documentation that physically writing things down with pen and paper helps your memory. I use my iPhone Reminders and Notes App religiously. If you’re an Android user I would recommend either Wunderlist or Todoist.

>How to Plan Your Life with calendars, apps, reminders, and lists.
>Why Using Pen and Paper Boosts Memory.
>How to Use iOS Reminders.
>20 Tips for iPhone Notes App.

2. Cut down your to-do list.

This may sound counter-intuitive to the point above, but removing items from your to-do list can help you get more done. This is based on President Dwight Eisenhower’s method for organization. The Eisenhower matrix is four quadrants (see below). The first quadrant is “urgent and important,” the second is “important, not urgent,” the third is “unimportant, but urgent,” and finally the fourth is “unimportant and not urgent.”

>For example, you may have an urgent phone call, but it’s not important. Or an important item, that’s not urgent. Your goal is to eliminate the fourth quadrant of “not urgent and not important” from your to-do list.

>Separate your short-term and long-term to-dos.

eisenhower diagram urgent important

3. Lower your TV and social media usage.

After having two young children I rarely watch TV. I wish the same could be said for social media. Part of promoting this site requires me to be on social media, but I also need to unplug for a few days. I’m pretty active on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I lost interest in Tumblr, but I’m in the process of building a Twitter presence. I’ve discovered that taking a break from social media is very good for my mental health. It’s almost impossible to go cold turkey, so I have found other ways to lower my social media usage.

>The first method I use is to turn off notifications. It’s amazing how easy and effective this is. By not seeing a notification, I immediately lowered my social media usage.

>The second method I use is using certain platforms on different days.

>Here is a great post on the benefits of powering down.

>See this post on how to wean yourself off social media.

4. Stop Junk Mail

Junk mail takes up time, energy, paper, and space. It’s not only bad for the environment but also your home. Junk mail has a way of piling up and creates clutter. The first step I took was to automate most of my bills. This includes normal bills, school lunch accounts, and renewals. Bills are not technically junk mail, but still a major clutter contributor.

I have also spent the last year removing myself from various mailing lists by contacting companies directly. Honestly, this has not been easy. I have been in a year-long battle against junk mail. I have had many successes and some failures, which are still ongoing. You can learn more about my journey below.

>Learn how to Stop Junk Mail for Good.

5. Incremental Bites.

In 2016, I removed one item per day from a junk room. I documented my journey in this post from 2017. There are times that I do not have the time to clean out a closet or a room, so I will remove one item a day, whether it’s a piece of clothing, a vase, an old coffee mug, a painting, a treadmill. Whatever it is I will either sell, donate, recycle, or trash it. Removing one item per day adds up. In 30 days, you will have removed 30 items.

>The Simplest Organization Method Ever.
>83 Items to Toss Today.

6. Keep a Notepad Near Your Bed

Have you ever had an idea when you’re about to go to sleep? If you’re like me, you need to write it down or you will forget it! Do you reach for your phone? I don’t recommend keeping your phone near your bed. It’s too distracting. It’s better to keep a notepad near your bed. Remember writing something down helps you remember.

>Why You Should Keep a Notebook on Your Nightstand

7. Cultivate a Capsule Wardrobe

What is capsule wardrobe you ask? It means different things to different people. Some minimalists have 40 pieces of clothing (excluding undergarments). Others have 12. It really depends on what works for you and what you can mix and match. The key is to limit your wardrobe to items you like and fit into. The best thing about having a limited wardrobe is knowing exactly what I want to wear.

>How to Reduce Your Closet to 37 Pieces
>Take Courtney’s 333 Challenge | Wear only 33 pieces for 3 months.

8. Minimize Household Chores

Here are a few things I’ve done to minimize my household cleaning routine.

>I wash my shower curtain liner in the washing machine. How did I not know this hack sooner?

>I stopped folding undergarments. My undergarments have a dedicated drawer. Folding is not an option.

>Night prep – I make lunches, coffee, shower, or anything else at night before I go to bed.

>I stopped going to the post office. I live in a car-dependent area. So I have to leave work, find a post office, find parking, wait in line. I tried to mail a certified letter through the USPS website only to find out that you can do so with certain types of mail. Then I tried stamps.com which requires users to download their program and then pay a monthly fee. I finally happened upon Certified Mail Labels.com, which allows me to purchase exactly what I need. It also allows me to upload a pdf letter, which they print and send. So now I don’t even print labels!

>Clean up your email box. I rarely if ever deleted emails, but I recently learned about the emissions from not deleting emails. Cleaning up my email box has also had a positive effect on my consumption, as I have unsubscribed from newsletters and sales.

>Dishwasher indicator (CLEAN/DIRTY) – If you and your partner have issues determining if the dishes are clean or dirty, this is a game-changer.

>Get Rid of 50% of your belongings. I have given away, sold, or tossed at least 50% of my belongings. This site was originally created to document that and evolved into something else. You can see some of my earlier posts related to clearing the clutter.

9. Minimize Personal Care Routine

>Ditch contacts for glasses. This is less wasteful, less time-consuming, and easier.

>Simplify your makeup routine or stop wearing makeup altogether.

>Embrace your imperfections. Part of the reason I don’t wear makeup any more is genetic. I have naturally tan, smooth, clear skin. Melanin is truly a blessing. But I have also stopped caring about how I’m perceived. My face looks the way it looks. Oh well.

10. Drop the Mental Load.

A French cartoonist explained the mental load women bear perfectly. As women, we tend to be the designated organizers of our households. We didn’t necessarily sign-up for this position. It kinda falls into our laps. The cartoon is appropriately called “But, you should have asked.”

>How many times have you heard this phrase? In order for our partners to “remember” to do an essential household item, we have to be the one to remind them, write a list, or ask them. If they forget we have to ask them over again. Then we’re nagging. This is hardly fair. Like many women, I also have a full-time job. I married my husband because I expected a partner. My husband is an extremely intelligent person with a highly technical job. He can figure things out at home, but has been conditioned not to.

>There have been several viral posts featuring women (and one man) discussing the mental and emotional labor women bear. See Constance Hall, Lucky Orange Pants, Gemma Hartley, Meredith BodgasAlina Dizik, Anonymous Redditor, Kelly Mead, and Constance’s second post. One dad got in on the action too – Toni Hatinger.

11. Is There App for That?

There are days when I wish we lived like the Jetsons. I want the self-folding laundry machine, I wish my phone could really act like my personal assistant, but in most instances, technology is just a means to an end. It may simplify your life in a way, but we are still a long way away from self-cooking meals, self-driving cars (that require no human assistance).  Sometimes the oldest methods are the easiest.

When my second baby was born last Spring, I was in survival mode and barely conscious. We had a difficult delivery with complications, which required a hospital stay for both of us. To “help” myself I decided to download a baby app to keep track of my newborn’s feedings, poos, and sleeping habits. I used it for the first three weeks, then I realized I had a regular routine and didn’t need it anymore. But the app saved my sanity for the first few weeks of newborning!

Here is a list of my absolute favorite apps for everything from personal finance to shopping:

>Coupon Cabin
>Receipt Hog
>Receipt Pal
>When to Post

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the tips and tricks I’ve implemented to simplify my life. I’d love to hear some of yours.

simple living tips

#minimalism, #simpleliving, #simplelife, #lifehack

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