Why is it that we always want more? More clothes, more friends, more everything. When was the last time you stopped to appreciate (and actually use) the things you already have?
The beauty of life, in its simplicity, is found in subtraction, not addition.
The goal is just the right amount of “stuff”, all of which we cherish. Less is more.
Laundry overwhelming? Try cleaning out your closet. Only getting the “bad news” on TV? Try no news at all.
Think you’re too busy to exercise? Busy is a convenient excuse for poor prioritization and lack of discipline (Pro tip: Put “exercise” in your calendar for each session throughout the week, and give it equal priority as any other meeting that has a placeholder – no excuses).
Strip away non-essentials and distractions. It’s like packing for a year-long backpacking trip, just this time it’s for your whole life.
“The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean you are taking good care of them. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By paring down to the volume that you can properly handle, you revitalize your relationship with your belongings. Just because you dispose of something does not mean you give up past experiences or your identity. Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love and what you need.” – Marie Kondo
Let’s look over five areas in your life where you may feel cluttered, overwhelmed, or stuck - and how to fix them.
I’m fresh off reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, and consequently Kondo’ing the $*@# out of my new apartment.
It’s easy to have too much. With every new season comes new clothes and new technology. However, we seem to skip an essential step of shedding that which we no longer need. I’ve moved towards a strategy of making purchases that will bring me lasting joy, independent of the season, and will provide me value over the long term. You get what you pay for, so purchase wisely.
The first and easiest area of focus was clothing. Some things didn’t fit, some things didn’t suit my style any longer, and some items were worn out. Take some time to think about outfits you might put together, which can be further categorized into work, workout, night out, play, and technical wear. If something doesn’t fit a category, first donate, then discard.
My second area of focus was the kitchen. How many cups do you really need? Do you use 25 pieces of Tupperware, or do you find yourself washing out the same one over and over? If you’re not a chef by trade, try purchasing (or subtracting down to) one great knife. Learn to rely on it, take care of it, and treasure it - good advice for more than just owning a knife...
Physical Training
How often do you find yourself wandering around the gym for 10 minutes before settling on the elliptical or leaving altogether? “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
You need a plan, which should include timing. Use your phone only for music or your workout plan, not Snapchat or Instagram. You know how deep that rabbit hole goes.
If you’re a beginner (or intermediate/advanced, for that matter), stick to the basics. Incorporate elements of strength, endurance, and mobility - and for gosh sakes, have FUN. If you can’t find a way to enjoy training, it won’t be sustainable. If you like to be outside, run, swim, bike, hike, or practice yoga in the park. If you like to weight train, find a training split (i.e. how many days you want to train a week) that fits your schedule and stick to it.
Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity, every time. Manage your health by measuring it. Keep track of your progress and be accountable.
Self-reflecting on your relationships can be a controversial topic to review with yourself. This will likely be the most difficult area to address. All of high school your goal was to make as many friends as possible. This again occurred in college. As of late, I think I’ve worked my way towards needing less friends, but maintaining better relationships with the ones I cherish. I love connecting with new people, staying in touch with friends that may be more distant due to circumstance or location, and catching up with old friends.
But here I’m talking about subtracting in terms of people who are either toxic or don’t add value and happiness to your life. This is commonly felt in trying to win approval or feel accepted from someone. I’d ask you if they are worth the time, energy and emotion you are putting into the process. Will they bring you joy?
I often ask myself three questions when I get to know someone: 1) Are they conscientious? 2) Are they selfish? 3) Do they bring me joy? Think about criteria for people you want in your life.
The sheer volume of apps on iTunes is overwhelming. Just because “there’s an app for that” doesn’t mean you actually have to download it. If you need to scroll through 5 pages of applications on your phone or iPad, it’s time to subtract. Maybe try just one app for the weather?
My phone’s home page comprises apps I use on a daily basis, and everything else is confined to a folder on page two. Social media on one line and directional apps (Uber, Waze, Divvy) on another – do what works for you.
Do you find you run out of storage quickly? Try checking your photos and videos. Maybe time to delete some of the thousand concert videos you’ve taken but never looked back at? Listen to them once, feel the emotion from the show, and then discard them. Grab an external hard drive, digitally organize your photos, and then remove them from your phone or computer.
The biggest area of de-cluttering to focus on should be your email. I personally cannot deal with the little red circles on my phone, which drives me to the electronic decluttering mecca – Inbox Zero. I have zero unread emails (by day’s end). Even if your inbox is now in the thousands or tens of thousands of unread emails, set up some time to clear it out – you’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
News | Media | TV
We live with input overload. Between television, newspapers, radio, and (especially) social media, we cannot escape the instant delivery of news available every second of the day.
I propose the subtraction of “bad” news, even for a portion of your day. Try a “news detox” – avoid your twitter feed, talking heads, and gossip. Our mood is affected by the information we choose to receive. Your brain is both smart and habitual – if you check your social media pages constantly, this exercise will be difficult. I promise you the news will still be waiting for you when you want to receive it (side note: if something monumental were to happen, you’ll hear about it from conversation).
This also includes refreshing your email on a consistent basis. Try batching tasks together, like checking email or social media. Every time you switch tasks you give up “flow” and have to spend time (mentally) reorienting to doing something new (Pro tip: Just as you did with “exercise”, try adding “check email or social media” to your calendar and be disciplined about following your schedule).
Subtraction can be used for many things, but hopefully here it can be used to organize and clarify things in your life that you truly care about. Make this process about loving the things and people you have. It’s one more step towards having the best day ever, every single day.