It’s early to mid-December, and many people are planning for Christmas. Part of me thinks that I should begin to feel nervous because of my increasing workload, year-end planning, family visits, and gift purchases. But no, I don’t feel nervous at all. I’m tired, but not nervous.
What happens on the inside is a manifestation of our environment. Although I spend time taking care of my physical and mental health, I also strive to maintain an environment that’s clutter-free. I’ve been practicing meditation and a minimalist lifestyle for the last 3 years, and they have helped me focus on what’s important. So, instead of writing an article about staying calm during the Holidays, I’m going to share with you simple tips that will quickly simplify your life.
Get rid of papers
I deeply believe that if you can get rid of your paper piles in your house, you will immediately feel and see the impact. There are some categories of papers you can eliminate in the next few hours:
- Bank statements – Go to your bank’s website and enroll in paperless receipts. Not only will it prevent clutters from building up in your house, but you also don’t have to worry about people stealing your mail and stealing your identity. What happens to your old bank statements? Cross-shred them. Most banks these days allow you to sign in and access your digital bank statements.
- Digitize your other papers* – Some financial investment firms are required to send you paper communications. I get it. But unless they are tax documents, you most likely won’t need a hard copy. So, invest in a small but powerful scanner, open up a Google Drive or Dropbox account and digitize all of your financial papers.
- Receipts – I request for e-receipts as much as possible. But smaller mom and pop shops still will only print
youyour receipts. As a business owner, I need to keep all of my receipts. Ideally, I should download an app that will allow me to scan my receipts and automatically store it in the Cloud. But I’m still working through the logistics and workflow. So, in the meantime, I organize my receipts and tape them on pieces of papers. I scan them and upload them to my Dropbox for my accountant, and I keep them in my tax folder going back to the last 7 years.
- Instructional manuals and warranties – Go to the company’s website and see if they offer a digital version. If not, take a screenshot of the main pages and upload them to your favorite online note platform (mine is Evernote). For product warranty, I tape it in a discrete spot but definitely ON the product. Why? If I don’t, then the warranty will just end up collecting dust somewhere in one of my drawers.
Compile your emails
Going through emails is a real time-suck. I have to set aside 10–15 minutes each day to go through personal emails. I know it probably doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s because I use a platform called Unroll.Me to roll all of my unimportant emails into one. All of my Groupon-like emails, LinkedIn emails and Meetup emails all come in one email. I scan the rolled-up content quickly to see if any of them are interesting before I left click on them.
Shrink your wardrobe
I love Marie Kondo’s book (who doesn’t, right?) “The Magic of Tidying Up.” Why? Because it’s very much based on you – not the idea of tidying. Anywho, if I was to condense her books into 3 simple steps, it will be the following:
- Group your items into “joy” vs. “no-joy” items; you might want to create a third pile called “not sure.” If an item isn’t bringing you joy, it’s just occupying your space; thank them for serving you a purpose at the time of the purchase (even if you’ve never worn it) but sweetly part with it.
- Now you only have two piles left. Assess closely the “not sure” pile by touching each of the items. If you feel stuck, come back a different day. During your break, look at things that usually bring you joy – they can be trees in the park, pictures of mountains…whatever will bring you joy. Get in touch with that feeling before revisiting those “not sure” items. Additionally, don’t just look at an item by its usage. Just because you only wear something once a year doesn’t mean you do not have a need for it. Do consider if the item carries special meaning for you and if it flatters you. Spend time touching each of those items and see if it evokes any feelings. Many of us go by impulse and disconnect ourselves from feelings. Once you begin to establish connections with your possessions, you will quickly cultivate a bond.
- Repeat the same thing with the “joy” pile, especially if you end up having a huge “joy” pile.
Work on your bookshelf
Do you know that books collect a LOT of dust? If not, go over to your bookshelf and wipe the cover of 5 to 10 books you haven’t read in a long time. Dust aside, there are a lot of benefits to using digital books.
1.) Digital books take up zero physical space.
2.) Built-in dictionary function – you do not have to disrupt your reading to consult the dictionary if you come across a word you don’t know.
3.) You don’t have to worry about the bookmark falling off the page and losing your spot – your last page is synced to the Cloud across all devices
4.) Everything is searchable, as long as you remember the key concepts or keywords.
5.) If you are a fast reader, you can have several books on your tablet and you don’t have to worry about carrying the extra weight.
Ok, I’m done selling you on the idea of digital books, let’s get to the practical application. These are the steps I took to replace my books with the digital version:
A.) Donate the duplicates. Ok, I may be the only one with duplicate books, but I mentioned in one of my articles that I LOVED the idea of owning a physical book. That’s why I would frequent bookstores and buy books out of impulse, even though I already have the same copy at home (without knowing that at first of course).
B.) Only download books or download Audiobooks: I do not believe in the rip and replace method. I believe that when it comes to replacement, you have to like one so much more for it to feel OK to get rid of the other. So, download some digital books first and see how you like it. If you like it…
C.) Get rid of books that isn’t relevant to your lifestyle or bring you joy anymore: Again, I was an English Lit major. So, I would own books from Beowulf to Chaucer, Shakespeare to Virginia Wolfe. Did I enjoy those books then? You bet! But do I feel the same 15 years after college? Not at all. I’d also bought books such as 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But did I ever read them? No, not really. Why? If I want to look up something specific, I have to peruse 20 something pages to find exactly what I’m looking for. With the digital version, I type in the keywords and it immediately pops up.
Meditate at least 5 minutes a day
I strained a muscle in my back several months ago. As active as I am, I wasn’t exercising at the time of the injury, I was just getting up from my couch! That pain persisted for close to a week. I rolled my back, and kept stretching my back out; I even took Ibuprofen to ease the pain. It helped for a moment but the pain would come back fairly quickly. I tried to solve my problem by targeting the pain. What I should also do was to strengthen my core (that’s what protects my back muscles) while keeping up with stretching.
Where am I going with this?
It’s difficult to maintain a simple life if you do not have a strong foundation. Yes, you can keep your life reasonably simple if you keep up with your growing pile of paper, a growing list of emails and even your piles of clothes. But if you do not ground yourself on a daily basis, life will catch up to you and you will relapse into a life of chaos, whether it be physically or emotionally. So, get into a good habit by training your mind first.
*I highly recommend you to either get a cross-cut shredder or find a professional paper shredding company to destroy your financial statements. You do not want your personal information to be found in a pile of trash.