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Last week I wrote about my quest to find my own way to an organized home and life. Organization did not come easily to me and I struggled for many years. After much trial and error I discovered that getting organized could be broken into 3 basic steps.
Step 1 is Letting Go (read about letting go here).
Step 2 is Simplify
When we simplify we focus on what is really important and leave the rest. I find that I have a tendency to make things far more complicated than they need to be. Simplifying makes things so much easier and organization seems to flow naturally.
How to get started?
Choose an area of your life you want to simplify. What annoys you? What seems cumbersome and awkward? What feels out of control? What causes stress?
Take a few minutes to ponder these questions
- What needs to go in order to simplify this one area? (It could be physical stuff, but it can also be unhelpful beliefs and practices.)
- What are the bottlenecks? What prevents life from flowing smoothly in this area?
- What can I put into place (or take away to help) to prevent the bottleneck?
- Is there a simpler way to do this?
Once you have thought about these questions you will usually find that a course of action becomes obvious. I find that it often takes some fine-tuning and several attempts, but simplifying almost always makes things much easier.
Some examples from my own life
To help you see how this works I’m going to show you how I used the first two steps of letting go and simplifying to help organize two areas in my own life.
1. Simplify Household finances
It is so easy to loose track of the household finances and when that happens chaos ensues. Bills get lost and go unpaid, debts mount, savings go out the window, and it is so easy to spend far more than you intend. Fortunately we never went into debt, but at one point my finances were out of control. We were living pay check to pay check and had no emergency fund. I knew that I had to find a better way to do things. I needed to find a simple way to
- Keep track of spending
- Coral and file the paperwork
- Make sure that bills were paid on time.
- Create an emergency fund.
- Keep the paperwork I needed for taxes (very important for a freelance writer)
Step 1 Letting go In order to make things easier and get organized I had to let go of a number of things including
- Paper bills and bank statements
- The need to record every transaction and reconcile my accounts each month. (This was a hard one as the belief that I should do this was deeply ingrained. The trouble was it took a lot of time each month and I found it tedious, so I put off doing it. )
- The belief that you only pay bills when they are due
- A complicated budget with so many categories it was impossible to track.
- Credit cards. (I kept one card with a low credit limit that is mostly used for Internet purchases).
- Financial software (although it was meant to make things simpler I found that it actually did the opposite).
Step 2 Simplify
- I developed a very simple budget with only four categories, so it was super easy to track.
- Signed up for on-line billing and bank statements
- Found an envelope file to hold all my tax papers and put it in an accessible place.
- Stopped recording every transaction or reconciling my accounts each month. (It only takes me 5 minutes each week to log into my accounts and check that I recognize all the charges. This one step saved me several hours a month! )
- Set up calendar reminders with alerts for bill payments
- Set up automatic transfer of money to emergency fund and savings at the start of each month.
Now that this system is in place it requires very little effort from me each month. A quick check each week and about 15 minutes at the start of each month to make sure all bills are paid. When it I do my taxes all the paperwork is in my file and ready to go.
This system works for us because money goes into our account once a month and rent and utilities are paid monthly. There may come a time when that changes and we have to move to a bi-monthly system. The point is to do what works for you. Take my ideas and adapt them, or find your own system. Just keep it as simple as possible.
2. Simplify Toy Organization
I was overwhelmed, tired, and felt as if my life had been taken over by toys. We were drowning in a sea of plastic figures, art kits, craft supplies, dress-up clothes, cars, planes, trains, and Lego. They were constantly underfoot and seemed to occupy every level surface in every room. Something had to change!
Step 1 Letting go
- The mistaken belief that my children would be deprived if they had fewer toys.
- Excess toys (I actually took drastic action and boxed up almost all the toys in the house! You can read about it and my boy’s surprising response here.
Step 2 Simplify
- Once the toys had been drastically reduced simplifying was easy. We only needed minimal storage. A small shelving units and a few bins did the trick.
My challenge for you this week is to this week is to identify one small area in your life where your organization could be improved. Now think about what you can let go and how you can simplify? Then take action. Take it one step at a time. Give yourself permission to ask for help. When you are done celebrate your accomplishments.
Now it’s Your Turn
Where do you want to simplify your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Want to read more?
Liz at The Connected Life shares 5 Savvy Ways to Invite More Simplicity into Your Life
Brooke at Slow Your Home has 21 Quick Actions to Help you Simplify Your Life.
Notice how many of these suggestions would help you become more organized?
Take a look at my Keeping Things Simple Pinterest board
Follow Rediscovered Families’s board Keeping Things Simple on Pinterest.