Simplify Your Life with Balance

Zen Habits

Hailing from Guam it's a pleasure to introduce Leo Babauta, who will be providing the Chelsey community with inspiration and tactics on setting and achieving your goals each and every week, check out his blog Zen Habits

What is the most difficult part about simplifying your life? It is fairly easy to clean your closets and organize your belongings. It is possible to eliminate activities that are not really important to us (watching TV, web surfing.) Evensimplifying your finances is not too complicated if you have a general plan.

Balanced on Water

The most difficult part about simplifying life is dealing with emotional attachments. Let’s say that you have an old picture frame (vase, shirt, shoes etc.) in your house. If it’s just a thing that you picked up on sale or bought ten years ago you will probably be able to change its permanent residence to “trash.” But how would you deal with this thing if you got it from your late grandmother? Maybe your parents gave it to you as a graduation present? Parting with this thing (even if you do not like it too much) gets much more difficult.

Another difficult part about simplifying life is going against social approval. We are so used to a certain order of things and certain cultural rules that we do not even doubt them. We assume that we need to have cable with 200+ channels only because everybody else has it in their homes. We break our backs to sell things for the fundraisers at our kids’ schools just because everybody else does. This list goes on and on.

I had trouble simplifying my life for all the reasons mentioned above and this is when I found a balanced approach to simplicity. Balance helped me find the simplicity that I was personally comfortable with. I didn’t have to limit my belongings to just 100 things and I didn’t get rid of all social commitments. However, I realized what is really important in my life and what is just clutter.

Here is the balanced approach to simplicity that I use in my life. Can you use it in yours?

Don’t try to win social approval

Our life is full of tasks and responsibilities that we assume important only because they are traditional in our culture. Most of these social norms do nothing but clutter our life and waste our valuable resources.

  • TV and cable. Most people believe that it is a must to have a TV and cable in your house. Why? You can save hundreds of dollars a year if you just cancel your cable. You can free up several hours every day if you quit watching TV shows and news. You can spend this time pursuing your passion, enjoying your time with the family, working out or fixing a deliciously healthy meal for your family. If you are in the mood for a good movie – pop in a DVD and enjoy your movie without annoying commercial interruptions.
  • Cell phones can be quite useful in emergency situations but there is definitely a limit to how much they should be used. I personally have the bottom-line model which I got for free when I signed up for the cheapest cell phone plan. You can save your time if you stop reading and writing emails on your cell phone, checking social media updates and sending text messages. Actually staying connected and plugged-in all the time causes enormous amounts of stress and clutters your mind. Do yourself a favor, simplify your cell phone.
  • Car is another necessity that most people cannot imagine their lives without. Granted, it is difficult or even impossible to survive without a car in certain areas (I live in an area like that.) However, you can always limit the number of cars in your household (currently we have only one car in our family of four and this is enough for us.) Actually having only one car helps my family spend more time together.
    You can simplify your life even more if you don’t buy a new car. Considering how fast cars depreciate over time (a new car automatically loses at least $2000 of its value when you drive off the dealer’s parking lot) it is always a better idea to buy a good used car. By choosing a used car you will be able to avoid a car payment that sucks a lot of money from your budget over time.
  • Kids’ activities. Some parents believe that their kids must be involved in every possible activity out there. I believe that some moms actually have an unofficial race of how many activities they can take their kids to. Let your children pick activities that they truly like and focus on those. If you teach your kids to find their focus from their early years then they will be able to maintain this focus in their adult life too. Don’t you wish your parents did that to you?
  • Don’t always be part of the team. Social commitments can be a good thing sometimes but they can also be a huge waste of time. Fundraisers at your kids’ school, social events at your work or at school, even family reunions can be a huge waste. There is no point in supporting causes that you do not feel strongly about or visiting events that are not interesting to you. We are often afraid of what others would think if we do not participate. Be brave enough to break away from the crowd and make room for what really matters in your life.

There are plenty more examples of social standards that we try to follow in life. How many social norms are you ready to break away from today?

Find the strength to let go

We feel uncomfortable letting go of things and memories that we are emotionally connected to. This connection makes simplifying life very difficult. We feel responsible for keeping certain things (gifts from our relatives of friends) and holding on to memories. Over time it leads to enormous amounts of clutter and huge emotional baggage that does not let you move on in life.

  • Gifts. Pick only the most important mementos that mean a lot to you. If your late grandmother gave you a present as a child – by all means, keep it to preserve her memory. However, it does not mean that you have to keep every single thing that she gave you. We do not need things to remember our loved ones, we just need true and pure memories of them.
    If you are afraid to offend somebody by throwing away a gift (like a hideous vase that you got from your mother-in-law) – talk to them honestly. Stuffing your house with things that you do not like and do not need won’t make anybody happy. You can even create a list of things that you do not want people giving you (I am personally pretty particular about interior decorations and kitchen utensils.) Let your family and friends know about them and ask them to create similar lists for you.
  • Memories. Some memories (especially negative ones) can suffocate you. You need to find strength to forgive the person or even yourself for what happened. There is no way to change your past but there is a way to change your future. Grasp the moment and focus on living in the present.
  • Stuff. Don’t let your house turn into a junkyard by preserving every drawing that your child made or keeping every single thing that your family members gave you. Thankfully today we can document most memories with pictures or videos that take no physical space (if you keep them on your computer of course.) Keep only mementos that are truly important (your child’s first drawing or a vase that have been passed through generations in your family) and preserve the other ones digitally.

Simplicity becomes very easy and enjoyable if you approach it with balance. Keep decluttering your life until you feel completely comfortable with the results and until you feel simply in balance inside and out.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Anastasiya Goers of Balance In Me.

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