This year, I've been focusing more than ever on helping friends and clients simplify their lives. Within that process, I've been thoughtfully distilling my own definition of simplification. In no particular order, simplification means less wasted time, a feeling of peacefulness and flow, effortless order, more time to play with my son, modeling my values and what really matters to him and others, cleanliness and a sense of pride. I've also become more conscious of all the little systems I use to achieve simplicity in my life. And in the areas where I still need help, I turn to the Martha Stewarts of the world for guidance and inspiration. Here are 5 my Top Simplification Tips, culled from my own house, from Martha and everywhere in between.
1. Lists, Lists, Everywhere: Keep a grocery list in your pantry and jot down any item you're running low on so you're always ready for your next grocery run. Keep a wardrobe list in your closet to record which pantyhose need replenishing or exactly what size and color your next sweater purchase should be. Keep an up-to-date office supply list in your desk drawer so you'll know exactly what size post-it notes you've run out of to reference on your next Staples run. (image above from www.marthstewart.com)
2. Clean As You Cook: Every meal is more enjoyable if there is not a sink full of mixing bowls, pots and wooden spoons to scrub down afterward. Try to rinse off as much as possible while cooking so that only the dinner plates and serving ware need your attention afterward.
3. Make Your Bed Easy to Make: Three rows of decorative pillows may look pretty in bedding catalogs or magazines, but are not conducive to simplicity. Making a bed should take just a few seconds every morning: 1. pull duvet up and smooth out 2. prop sleeping pillows up 3. throw a decorative pillow or two on 4. done! I often suggest to clients that they only use a fitted sheet and a good quality, covered duvet with the appropriate warmth rating because straightening and tucking a flat sheet and blankets under the duvet can make the task much more burdensome than it needs to be.
4. Mail Traffic Control: We've all heard it a million times, but it is such a time saver and clutter reducer to sort your mail as soon as you walk through the door. So I just had to mention again! Take your pile over to wherever your recycling bin is located so you can deposit the junk there immediately. Then put the rest into two different folders, boxes or bins: one that you go through once a week to take necessary actions and the other labeled "to file" (for statements, etc) that gets your monthly attention. If you can live without the beautiful J. Crew fashion spreads, get yourself off all catalog mailing lists; every item that beckons from their glossy pages is available online and then some. Catalogs waste trees and suck up your time in disposal or in "window shopping." (image above by ngoc minh ngo at www.realsimple.com)
5. Go Shoe-Free: Create a dedicated place for several pairs of shoes for each family member (we created space for up to 3 pairs each in my house, as seen in the photo above) right by the front door and then religiously remove footwear upon arrival. Swapping shoes out for "house slippers" that get stashed in this same spot is a nice luxury for those who don't wish to go barefoot. This practice will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend vacuuming or sweeping your house and that is simplification at its best!