Linda In The News - Woman's Day

Ways to Simplify Your Life: Less is Really More

by Amy Flurry, April 2001

You love being a mom, a wife, a friend and a volunteer. You even like your job. So why do you feel overwhelmed all the time? Paring down the list of things that eat up your day may make a considerable difference -- not to mention give you more time to savor life's real pleasures, both big and small.

Stress-Free Scheduling

  1. One in, one out. Ease into toning down a harried schedule with this basic exercise: Never add to a full schedule or volunteer your time unless you take something else out of your schedule. This is also a good rule to follow when you're considering new purchases.

  2. Streamline appointments. One simplicity-minded mom groups her children's medical checkups back to back on the same day. She requests the first appointment of the day, so there's less waiting and stress for the kids. Instead of lugging the gang to the clinic on separate visits, she gets it all done in one fell swoop.

  3. Pad your schedule by an hour a day. Give yourself a cushion for inevitable unplanned activities. This way, when your doctor's appointment runs a little long, a neighbor drops in or you receive a call from an old friend, you'll have guilt-free time for it.

    Give Yourself Permission

  4. Stop justifying your no's. You don't have to explain why you can't commit to a request or invitation, whether it's for a lunch date, driving the kids to soccer, volunteer work, whatever. Simply thank the person who asked, and say you're sorry you can't do it at this particular time.

  5. Envision the life you want. If you called the shots, what exactly would your ideal simple life look like? Leisurely Saturday mornings in the garden? A spotless kitchen after every meal? Linda Manassee Buell, a personal life coach and founder of Simplify Life (www.simplifylife.com) in Poway, California, says the first step to simplifying is to visualize the life you want. "Create as much detail as possible, including where you are, whom you're with, even what is around you," she says.

  6. Replace the word "selfish" with "self-care." Before each takeoff, flight attendants tell passengers that in the event of an emergency, they should put the oxygen masks on themselves before helping the people around them. Buell suggests that you apply this principle at home. "Your family looks at you as a model of behavior," she says. "If they never see you play, read, or take an hour to yourself, they won't have the confidence to do it either."

  7. Trap your time thieves. "Many people don't have any idea what's complicating their lives until they see just how overscheduled they are on paper," says Buell. She suggests writing on your to-do lists the amount of time it will take to actually do each task.

  8. Underpromise and overdeliver. The next time someone requests your help for a project, give yourself ample time to complete the job. Then, if you're able, turn it in early. Why choose unreasonable deadlines if they put you in a crunch?

    Simplicity by Design

  9. Balance your expectations. Lives often become cluttered because we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, says H. Norman Wright, author of Simplify Your Life and Get More Out of It! He suggests concentrating more on the process of what you do than the outcome. "When you get satisfaction from what you're doing, you're much more accepting of the outcome, whatever it may be."

  10. Extinguish emergencies fast! Few things are more stressful and frustrating than not being able to find what you need in a minor emergency. Odette Pollar, author of Take Back Your Life: Smart Ways to Simplify Daily Living, suggests choosing an easy-to-remember date or holiday to update your medicine chest and supplies, and to change the batteries in all flashlights and smoke detectors. "Supplies for minor medical emergencies should be stored in just one safe, convenient place," she advises, "and every family member should know where to find them." Knowing you're prepared to handle a crisis will put your mind at ease.

  11. Make "low-maintenance" your motto. Reduce the time spent on home upkeep by choosing low-maintenance fixtures, flooring and surfaces. Oriental rugs with small designs distract the eye and camouflage dirt. Dark or earth-toned upholstery and carpet colors hide stains. Distressed surfaces, such as weathered wood, are easier to maintain than polished finishes. Shades and shutters need only be vacuumed.

    Family Matters

  12. Think of ways to cut down on work. For Jenny Aldin, the mother of three children aged 3 to 5, their requests for something to drink constantly interrupted whatever she was doing. Now she makes it easy for the kids to help themselves by buying water in individual bottles. "I label each one and place them in the refrigerator door, then refill them with tap water once they're empty," says Jenny. "The kids think it's fun to have their own bottles."

  13. Makes room for spontaneity. Pollar recommends leaving two weekends each month free of social plans or commitments. "This dramatically reduces the feeling that you don't have enough time for the family or to do the things you love," she says.

  14. End mealtime madness. Jenny Aldin taught her 5-year-old twins to help her prepare for supper by drawing a model table setting and hanging it in the kitchen. "I keep their plastic cups and plates and utensils in a low cabinet so they can set the table without my help," she says. "Even my three-year-old pitches in."

  15. Be a supermarket star. Make an ingredient list for several quick-fix meals and keep your pantry stocked with them for nights when you're in a pinch. Also, do some of the prep work for that week's meals just after you bring the groceries home (for example, clean, slice and bag vegetables).

  16. Make communication foolproof. Lea Turner, a preschool teacher and mother of two in Kingsport, Tennessee, created a command center for telephone messages, records of her husband's credit-card transactions, and sign-and-return homework. "Too often my husband or kids left important notes on the bathroom sink or kitchen counter assuming I couldn't miss them, but I did," says Lea. "Now, there's no confusion because they know just where to put the material."

  17. Take a joy break. What simple pleasure do you relish most? Why not share it with someone? For Buell and her husband, a beautiful sunset soothes their nerves and fills them with joy. Now, when one of them happens to catch a spectacular sunset, they stop whatever they're doing and enjoy it together.

  18. Form a clean team. Establish a cleaning routine, then delegate chores to each family member. Pollar advises posting a calendar every Sunday night that assigns tasks for the coming week. "That way, it's clear whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher," she says. "When responsibilities and outcomes are clearly defined, the pressure is off, because you don't have to manage everything."

    Live Well With Less

  19. Get a grip on the gadgets. They may claim to make your life easier, but those "must-haves" and "timesavers" on the market can also clutter your life. Before buying an item, ask, "Is there anything I already own that can do the same thing? Examine your cabinets and closets with the same eye toward efficiency, then weed out the excess.

  20. Give your home a makeunder. Which two or three rooms in your home do you enjoy the most? "Put most of your effort into these to create an environment you value," says Jerry D. Jones, author of 201 Great Questions to Help Simplify Your Life.

Copyright 2001, Amy Flurry. All rights reserved.
Used with the permission of Amy Flurry.

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