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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

67 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and Feel Better Today

67 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and Feel Better Today

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you. In order to simplify your life, you have to know where your priorities lie.

“Simplicity is the peak of civilization.” –Jessie Sampter

Simplicity means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter’s guide.

The Short List

For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The Long List

There can be no all-inclusive step-by-step guide to simplify your life, but I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you — choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life.

One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.

1. Make a List of Your Top 4-5 Most Important Things

What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.

2. Evaluate Your Commitments

Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life: work, home, kids’ activities, hobbies, side businesses, personal projects, etc. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing.

Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things.

3. Evaluate Your Time

How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep?

Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.

4. Simplify Work Tasks

Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest.

5. Simplify Home Tasks

In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list, and we’ll never get that done either. Focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).

6. Learn to Say No

This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much.

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You can learn how to say no with this article.

7. Limit Your Communications

Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it.

Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes. Limit phone calls to certain times, too. Set a schedule and stick to it.

8. Limit Media Consumption

The media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate everything else. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it.

9. Purge Your Stuff

If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss.

10. Get Rid of the Big Items

There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way.

11. Edit Your Rooms

One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else.

12. Edit Closets and Drawers

Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time.

13. Simplify Your Wardrobe

Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close. Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other.

14. Simplify Your Computing Life

If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly.

15. Declutter Your Digital Excess

If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you.

16. Create a Simplicity Statement

What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. 

17. Limit Your Buying Habits

If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it in order to simplify your life. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, and less freneticism.

18. Free up Time

Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.

19. Do What You Love

Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else.

20. Spend Time With People You Love

Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, or be intimate with them.

21. Spend Time Alone

Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.

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22. Eat Slowly

If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, but you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.

23. Drive Slowly

Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out, and endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful.

24. Be Present

These two words can make a huge difference when you want to simplify your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity.

25. Streamline Your Life

Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then, stick to it. 

26. Create a Simple Paperwork System

If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. A simple organization system will keep everything in order and simplify your life.

27. Create a Simple System for Housework

Another example of a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst.

28. Clear Your Desk

If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away.

29. Establish Routines

The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines.

30. Keep Your Email Inbox Empty

Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient, and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps.

31. Learn to Live Frugally

Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity.

32. Go Minimalist

A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else, so it’s a great place to start to simplify your life. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). You can find ways to be minimalist in other areas of your life, as well. 

33. Consider a Smaller Home

If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. If you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and it will greatly simplify your life.

34. Consider a Smaller Car

This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, is harder to maintain, and harder to park. Simplify your life with less car.

You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably.

35. Learn What “Enough” Is

Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes, but when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a never-ending cycle.

Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough, and then stop when you get there.

36. Create a Weekly Dinner Menu

If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly meal plan. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, and go grocery shopping for the ingredients.

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Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).

37. Eat Healthy

It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term.

We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots… you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly over the long term.

38. Exercise

This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it works to simplify your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better.

39. Declutter Before Organizing

Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk, filing cabinet or closet, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, but it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you declutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.

40. Have a Place for Everything

Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized after you declutter.

41. Find Inner Simplicity

This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.

42. Decompress From Stress

Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress. After you go through stress, find ways to decompress and relax.

43. Try Living Without a Car

OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think.

A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas, and more.

44. Find a Creative Outlet for Self-Expression

Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dancing, or skateboarding, we have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.

45. Simplify Your Goals

Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.

46. Single-Task

Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time in order to simplify your life.

47. Simplify Your Filing System

Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful.

48. Develop Equanimity

If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace.

49. Reduce Your Consumption of Advertising

Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure to advertising. You’ll want much less.

50. Live Life More Deliberately

Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing.

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51. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) List Each Day

Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. Use a simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something.

52. Create Morning and Evening Routines

A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day.

53. Create a Morning Writing Ritual

If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual.

54. Learn to Do Nothing

Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every day if you want to simplify your life and eliminate negative thoughts.

55. Read Walden

This book by Henry David Thoreau is the quintessential text on simplifying and can motivate you toward the same.

56. Go for Quality, Not Quantity

Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life. Instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love and that will last for a long time.

57. Read Simplify Your Life

This book by Elaine St. James is another great text on simplicity.

58. Fill Your Day With Simple Pleasures

Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day.

59. Simplify Your RSS Feeds

If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading.

60. Create an Easy-to-Maintain Yard

Plant clover instead of grass, for example, to cut out the need to mow.

61. Carry Less Stuff

Are your pockets bulging? Consider carrying only the essentials.

62. Strive to Automate Your Income

This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself.

63. Simplify Your Budget

Many people skip budgeting because it’s too hard or too complicated, but it can ultimately simplify your life by helping you know exactly how much you have to spend and when.

64. Simplify Your Financial Life

Get your debt under control, set up automatic bill paying, and cut it down to one credit card.

65. Learn to Pack Light

Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip?

66. Leave Space Around Things in Your Day

Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.

67. Live Closer to Work

This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do a great deal to simplify your life.

The Bottom Line

If you want to learn to simplify your life, just pick a few of the above to get started. Simple living can mean very different things for different people, so find what works for you. Ultimately, a simplified life will mean less stress, more time, and more fulfillment in the end.

More on Simplifying Your Life

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better

How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “If I only had (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t have to worry anymore”? It’s hard to overcome those deeply ingrained beliefs around stressors in life.

“You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.” -Wayne Dyer

We all have stressors in life, things we worry about that keep us awake at night. Everyone experiences stress due to life events, but chronic stress can compromise our health. It can cause irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Stress can even weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to illnesses.

In this article, I am going to discuss the 5 most common stressors in life[1], and give you some suggestions for dealing with them more effectively, so you can live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

1. Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is the most common stressor in life for many people. It can come from tensions with co-workers or a boss, work overload, or simply the nature of the work, such as law enforcement. Whatever the case, there are things you can do to reduce the stress.

Here are some effective strategies.[2]

Start Your Day Off Right

Many of us are stressed out before we even arrive at work. We may have children to get ready and off to school, other responsibilities to tend to, and traffic with angry drivers to deal with.

Start your day off right by getting up early enough to take care of your responsibilities, eat properly, and cultivate a positive attitude. This reduces the likelihood of feeling all out of sorts when you arrive at work.

Know Exactly What Is Expected of You

Many of us are not entirely clear about what our boss expects from us. This usually happens in smaller companies that may not be as organized as larger companies. It’s important to know what’s expected of you, so you can avoid unnecessary tensions.

Communication is the key to avoiding this type of conflict. If you’re not sure what your boss expects of you, there is nothing wrong with asking your boss to clarify his requirements. In fact, it demonstrates that you are conscientious and sincerely interested in doing a good job, which your boss will appreciate.

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Stay Organized

A disorganized work environment creates a great deal of stress and negatively affects your mental health. You always feel rushed because you’re not sure where things are, you misjudge the time required to perform tasks, and you’re not clear on your goals and objectives.

To reduce stress, organize your work environment a little. Start by organizing your work area, so you can easily find your tools and papers.

Then, organize your time by determining how long it should take you to perform certain tasks, and try to dedicate the necessary time and avoid unnecessary distractions.

Forget multitasking, as the efficiencies of multitasking are a myth. Studies have shown that people are more productive when they focus on one task at a time.

Stay Away From Unnecessary Conflict

Much of the day-to-day conflict at work is unavoidable. Each person has his/her own responsibilities, which may conflict with those of others. However, workplace drama is unnecessary and counterproductive.

The best thing to do is to avoid this kind of conflict and stressful events and save yourself the aggravation and stress. Treat everyone with respect, avoid gossip, and avoid sensitive topics like politics and religion.

With conflicts in responsibilities, a good strategy for dealing with them is to communicate your goals and objectives when they seem to conflict with those of co-workers. Remember, you’re all on the same team trying to achieve the goals of the company.

2. Financial Stress

Finances are another of the common stressors in life. We worry about paying the rent, a mortgage, car loans, utilities, and food. We also worry about our investments, especially if we’re nearing retirement.

You may think that simply having more money will take away these worries, but that isn’t necessarily so. Even wealthy people worry about finances.

Here are some suggestions for reducing financial stress.[3]

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Live Within Your Means

One of the biggest mistakes people make is spending more money than they have. Credit card companies are quick to give you credit cards with high interest rates, so it’s easy to overextend yourself.

To avoid this mistake, keep track of your finances, and avoid the temptation to buy things you can’t afford. Set some money aside for unexpected expenses, such as car or home repairs. It’s a good idea to put money in a savings account every month, even if it’s a small amount.

Educate Yourself on Finances

For those of you who do not have a background in finance, handling money responsibly can be a challenge. Professional football players were notorious for making millions during their short careers, and then ending up broke when they could no longer play[4].

Now the NFL gives rookie players a course in financial management so that they invest their money wisely. This is a good strategy for everyone. Some important things to learn are:

  • Managing a checking a account
  • Using credit cards wisely
  • Borrowing money
  • Making large purchases (home, car)
  • Investing for retirement

Learning basic finances isn’t all that complicated. Once you have some understanding of finances, you can avoid the stress that comes from the unknown.

Ask for Help

If you feel lost or unsure about making financial decisions, it’s ok to ask someone for help. Make sure it’s someone you trust, as there are many unscrupulous people eager to take advantage of others.

I would suggest consulting a loved one or a trusted friend. Parents are a great resource, as well. Learn from their mistakes, instead of yours.

3. Health-Related Stress

For many people, health problems like illness and injury are some of the biggest stressors in life. This is more common when we get older, when our body begins to decline. When we’re young, we’re more resilient, and we can recover much more quickly from injuries and illnesses.

Experiencing an illness is frightening because, until we get it diagnosed and treated, we usually don’t know what is happening to our body, or if we will recover. However, there are things we can do to reduce the stress associated with health issues.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

The approach I’ve taken to reduce health-related stress is to avoid poor health as much as possible. Since I was in my early 20s, I’ve tried to live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve eaten healthy foods, and in moderation. I’ve also exercised regularly and maintained an active lifestyle, so I’ve never been overweight.

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I’ve also avoided abusing my body with risky activities. For example, when I was younger I was involved in bodybuilding in order to stay in shape. I wanted to compete, but I realized that would entail taking training and supplementation to an extreme that would compromise my good health, which I wasn’t willing to do.

Know Your Risks

Many of us have certain risk factors that are unique to each of us. Some may be genetic, such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, or cancer. Whatever the case, learn your family history of health issues.

It’s important to talk to your parents. Sometimes they don’t want to talk about sensitive issues, but it’s necessary for your good health.

4. Relationship Stress

Relationships are one of the greatest stressors in life, especially for younger people. We usually aren’t explicitly taught how to have good, healthy relationships. This is something we learn through experience and a lot of heartache, which can lead to having a stressful life for a long time.

When we’re inexperienced with relationships, we usually let our emotions make our decisions for us. We get involved with people that we’re not compatible with, but who we care for deeply. If we’re not compatible, then we engage in power struggles, each person trying to exert his or her will in the relationship. This leads to a lot of stress because we feel like we lack control.

Communicate

One of the keys to less stressful relationships is communication. It’s important to be open about how we feel and what we’re looking for in the relationship. Sometimes you can work things out, and sometimes you can’t. If you can’t, then you need to move on before each of you has too much invested in the relationship, which makes it harder to end later.

Practice Maturity

Another key to less stressful relationships is maturity. It takes wisdom and mature emotions to not create unnecessary conflict and drama. These take time and experience to develop, but by being aware of how you’re acting, you can begin to learn these skills.

5. Poor Nutrition

Another stressor in life is poor nutrition. Most of us are not fully aware of how the things we consume can raise our stress level. Here are a few examples[5]:

  • Drinking Too Much Coffee: While coffee has many benefits, too much can increase stress by raising the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Eating Foods That Increase Cortisol Levels: There are other foods that raise your cortisol levels, such as refined sugars and simple carbohydrates, red meats, fried foods, and other foods high in fat.
  • Skipping Meals: In addition to providing us with the proper nutrients to maintain good health, stopping to eat gives us a break from our busy day, which allows us to relax and de-stress.
  • Not Drinking Water: Our body needs water to function properly, and stopping to take a drink gives us a short break.
  • Eating Compulsively: We sometimes eat as a reaction to stress, and we usually make poor choices of what to eat when this happens.

Educate Yourself on Basic Health and Nutrition

You can eliminate a lot of health related stress by knowing what is happening in your body. Nowadays, there is a wealth of good information on the Internet about almost every health issue you can think of.

In order to live a healthy lifestyle, you don’t have to follow such a strict diet and exercise regimen. Mainly eat foods that are healthy, in smaller meals, and more often. Also, try to stay physically active.

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Keep in mind that healthy food isn’t necessarily bland and tasteless. I eat lots of delicious foods and desserts. And by staying physically active, I eat as much as I want without gaining any weight, even as I’ve gotten older, and so can you.

Meditation

When it comes to dealing with stressors in life, mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool.

Meditation doesn’t necessarily solve your problems, but it does enable you deal with them much better. In addition, it calms your mind, which leads to calmer emotions.

Mindfulness meditation is easy to practice, and you don’t have to meditate for long periods to get the benefits. If you’re new to meditation, just sit quietly for 5-10 minutes following your breath. Do this several times a week, and you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel, and you won’t react so much to things that trigger your fears, anger, or anxiety.

Final Thoughts

Most of us long for peace and tranquility in our lives. When we’re young, we tend to think that once we get or achieve certain things, we’ll be able to relax. Those of you who are middle age or older have probably realized the fallacy of this way of thinking.

“By changing your attitude, you also change your perspective and change your life.” -Roy Bennett

We all have stressors in life, things that cause us to worry about our future. That’s natural, but it is the unpredictable nature of the stressors that make us feel insecure and not in control.

However, it’s not really those things that cause us the stress, but rather how we view them. Therefore, if you want to lower your stress level, you need to change the way you mentally process the circumstances in your life. To accomplish this, you basically need to do three things:

  1. Choose wisely the things that are truly important in your life.
  2. Arm yourself with information about your stressors, so you have more control over your future.
  3. Learn to live with the remaining uncertainty.

If you can do these three things, then you can enjoy your life to the greatest extent possible.

More Tips on Handling Stress

Featured photo credit: Ivan Aleksic via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The American Institute of Stress: What Is Stress?
[2] Very Well Mind: 9 Simple Ways to Deal With Stress at Work
[3] American Psychological Association: Dealing with Financial Stress
[4] Forbes: NFL Players Need A Playbook When Managing Their Financial Future
[5] Exploring Your Mind: Stress and Poor Nutrition

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