"We are people, not the sum of our possessions"
~ George H.W. Bush
The months of November and December are typically stressful for most people...
Naturally there are the holidays... Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s... with people scurrying around trying to get from one place to another, scouring the stores for the perfect gifts and emptying their garages and looking for all of the decorations that they so carefully packed away last year.
...and add to that the winter weather conditions, the short days, and trying to finish up all of the projects at the office... and it’s no wonder why the last months of the year are so stressful.
The biggest reason that the holidays create so much stress isn’t because there are so many things to do and coordinate but rather because there is so much to do and coordinate with a firm and fixed deadline involved.
No one celebrates Thanksgiving "sometime in November"... no, we all celebrate Thanksgiving at exactly the same time - the afternoon of the fourth Thursday in November.
The time constraints are the root cause of the stress we feel during the holidays not the necessarily the workload.
I have come to recognize that when I am highly stressed, I don’t work at my optimum levels and starting dropping several of the balls that I work so hard to juggle each day.
Over the course of my 50 plus years on this earth, I have discovered three key elements in helping me to reduce the daily stresses in my life and allowing me more time to do the things that are more important in my life.
Those three basic components are:
Implementing these key elements helps me to actually create more time for the things I want to do and to spend time with people most meaningful in my life.
Since the end of the Second World War, we have become a nation of consumers and hoarders.
Our factories became more and more efficient... producing more and more goods... giving us an abundance of choices while reducing the acquisition costs. The advent of the big factories gave us high-paying jobs and extra time to devote to hobbies and leisure activities.
The marketing companies on Madison Ave. told us all that we needed was a fast car, a big house, luxury vacations, and comfortable furnishings to be truly happy. We need drawers of beauty products, closets full of designer clothing and shoes, and expensive memberships to gyms that we never go to in order to make us feel attractive.
Not wishing to be unhappy or unattractive, we bought and bought and bought... and when we didn’t have any more money... we borrowed some to buy even more...
We buy so many things, in fact, so we were forced to buy bigger and bigger homes to put all those things and then we need to work more to pay for those bigger homes and additional things.
Today we are over-burdened by how much stuff we have. We have closets full of clothing we seldom wear, we have kitchen items that we rarely use, and we have three-car garages to store all of the things that we can’t even find let alone actually use.
Our possessions have become an exercise in redundancy as we hoard more and more.
We have so many things that we can’t even keep track of the things we have.
Minimizing means getting rid of unneeded stuff... things that clutter our existence...
Today is the day to start simplifying... to rid ourselves of unneeded "stuff"... today is the day we stop buying things that we may want but really don’t need. Today is the day to have a garage sale... go to Goodwill... start an E-bay account.
Minimizing means that we stop buying more stuff to replace the stuff we just got rid of... no longer do we buy 3 of the same things just because those items are on sale... especially if we really only need one.
Less things = More time and more money
Each day our alarm clock rings at the same time... we have our breakfast... take a shower... brush our teeth... and drive off to work using the same route... go to our cubical... log on to our computer... go to lunch at our favorite diner...
Whether we are aware of it or not... we have placed a variety of systems and processes into our lives helping us to navigate our very existence here on earth.
The more we can systematize our lives... the less we need to remember. Or in other words... the less opportunity we have to forget.
I have two packing checklists that I use on a regular basis when planning to leave on a trip... one for a weekend trip (2-3 days) and one for longer trips (5-10 days). Before leaving, I use the checklists to make sure that I have everything I’ll need when I am away from home.
Mind you, I don’t pack everything that I might need... I only pack the essential items that I know that I will need... business cards, phone charger, toothbrush, passport, etc.
With the help of my checklist, I don’t feel the need to try and remember everything that I need to bring with me... and my stress level is reduced significantly before hitting the road.
I get my teeth cleaned the first week of the year and the first week of July, my eyes checked on Valentine’s Day and get an annual physical on my birthday in October. I schedule these appointments a year in advance upon leaving the doctor’s office... I never worry about scheduling issues... there is a system in place to handle it.
I schedule a regular time slot to watch my favorite TV shows, my reading, to do the NYT crossword puzzle, my weekly Spanish lesson, my community volunteer work and of course, a time to write this blog each week.
Ironically, by creating repeating systems, I am actually able to create more freedom for myself while still staying incredibly busy.
This is because I’m focused on the things I’m doing... not worried about the things I’m not doing.
At this point, you probably think that I live with an obsessive-compulsive disorder... but I assuredly don’t (and my wife will tell you the same).
Organization is simply knowing what it is that you have and where it is at any given time.
If you follow the first two steps - simplify and systematize, then the third step is easy... because there is simply less stuff in our lives to organize.
In organizing... remember this simple mantra... "everything has its place."
If we know what is where... it helps to make life manageable.
Knowing that you have something, but not knowing where it is (especially if you now need it), causes stress and creates anxiety.
This idea is not limited to physical items... it works the same for digital media as well. With all the different devices and storage media that we have... it’s hard to know exactly where all of our files are at any given time.
Taking time to organize makes us more efficient as we no longer need to continually search for all the things that encumber our lives.
Minimizing takes away all the things we don’t need...giving us more space, time, and money.
Systematizing gives us boundaries in which in turn gives us the freedom to work within those boundaries.
Organizing makes us more productive and efficient.
Living a more simplified life brings us peace as we realize that life is more about the connections we make with people rather than with the possessions we keep.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we believe that a simplified life gives you more rather than less.
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