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10 Ways To De-Clutter, Simplify, and Streamline Your Life

10 Ways To De-Clutter, Simplify, and Streamline Your Life

So you know you need to get organized, but don’t know where to start. You may lose things, purchase a new thing, and find that thing (you thought) you lost one week later. You’ve read something about Minimalism, but aren’t sure how it applies to you. You know you’re not ready to get down to 100 possessions, ditch your car, or work only from remote locations.

Sound familiar?

If you are looking to live a life free of the stress and (physical) weight of your clutter, but you don’t know where to begin, here’s how to start. Consider these manageable steps a process, one that may not happen overnight. But take it one step at a time, and you’ll find that less is really more.

Step 1: Start Now

Assess what you have. Admit to how many pairs of shoes you own, how much storage space you have, or the fact that you haven’t seen your garage floor in years. Don’t make yourself wrong for getting there, or feel bad about being there. Just admit how it is now so you can accept it and move forward.

Step 2: Clear the Clutter and Clean the Slate

After you’ve taken stock of the areas in your home that need decluttering, prioritize which area is most important. You may want to start with what seem easiest, to gain confidence and momentum. This will catapult you toward cleaning out the other areas that take more time and energy.

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Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking you’ll do everything at once. Put out a bag or a box for items that need repair, one for items to donate, one for items to sell at your garage sale or through ebay. (Might as well make some money off of all that stuff!) Take breaks, play some great music, and enlist the help of a family member, friend, or professional organizer.

Don’t save things for “someday.” If you don’t need them, just let them go. It is just stuff.

Step 3: Let Go of “Shoulds”

The “shoulds” create clutter, both physically and mentally. There may be a list of things you should do, but that you’ve been avoiding. Put those things on your calendar and get them done.

If they take follow-up action, put those actions on your calendar. Set yourself up to win by making commitments to fulfill these tasks. If you are challenged by self-discipline, there are great reminder apps out there for your mobile phone, or you can enlist the help of a Life Coach to hold you accountable.

Also, let go of what other people think you should be doing with your life. Those are their shoulds, not yours. Don’t let them clutter your brain.

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Step 4: Start a “Don’t Do” List

Admitting what you have been “meaning” to do and “just letting go” is a powerful step. You may never go back to college to finish that degree. You may never hike that 100 mile trail that you have on your bucket list. That’s okay. In fact, let the bucket list go.

If it happens, it happens. If not, don’t sweat it. These are not your non-negotiable items, but things that hold you back from feeling great about all you have already accomplished.

Step 5: Go Paperless

Reduce paper clutter as much as possible.

Unsubscribe from catalogs or magazines that you don’t need. (There are even websites to help you avoid receiving junk mail so it can’t accumulate in the first place.) Get your bills online, and don’t print anything out you absolutely have to.

Of course, be aware that certain documents (e.g., tax statements and other important files) may need to be kept in paper form for a specific amount of time, but do as much as you can to streamline the rest.

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Step 6: Get Organized

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the clutter and all of the things you don’t need, it’s time to organize what you have. You may find that you don’t even need  those file cabinets or storage bins you thought you needed (when you had more stuff). The great part about getting rid of things is that it leaves you with less to organize.

Put everything in its place according to how and where you use it. By keeping like items in one place, you’ll find you don’t have to go searching the entire house for them.

Step 7: Automate

Since you’ve now gotten your bills online and out of your mailbox, you can take the next step and automate your bill payment. Set this up through your bank, through payment sites that auto-deduct directly from your bank account, or through your credit card of choice.

Step 8: Clear Out the Digital Clutter

When it comes to digital clutter (such as emails, files, photos, etc.), create a system for backing things up and for storing them. There are online file storage sites that you can use so your data stays secure and backed up. Only keep emails that you think you will need to refer to later. Start unsubscribing to emails you do not want to receive, or use an email filter to make them simpler to view.

Step 9: Maintain

Now that things are looking good, be determined to keep clutter from accumulating again. Create daily, weekly, and monthly strategies to keep things clean and clear. Bad habits start small – resist the urge to leave things laying around or let dishes sit in the sink overnight. Make it your firm determination to put those dishes away and clean up before going to bed. Keep your desk clean and clear, rather than letting things pile up.

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Another tip: When you are going on a trip, clean up the house before you leave so that it is clean when you return. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this makes in giving you time to decompress from your travel.

Step 10: Enjoy the Simplicity

With less stuff and less need for storage space, you can take the time to enjoy the fruits of your decluttering. Who knows? You may be able to downsize and get a smaller place. That will leave you with more money. And more time.

Time you can use to enjoy your new, simplified life.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Bridget Baker

Web Presence Sherpa

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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