In my last article, I highlighted how by simplifying our lives, we could free up both our time and energy so that we could devote more of our focus to those things that really matter in our lives. I believe that in doing so we can create a healthy balance between living simply in the midst of the complexity of the 21st century! In this article, I want to make that idea more practical by quickly outlining two simultaneous actions you can take to do this. However, I want to spend more time providing some suggestions towards simplification as that seems to be the greater challenge in today’s world.

Action One: Simplify – eliminate the old to create the space for the new.

It’s an old adage that one has to release something in order to create the opening for something else to show up. Closed hands cannot catch falling water. A trapeze artist has to let go of the first swing in order to catch the second one. Hence, letting go of old things – whether they are material possessions or ideas and beliefs is an essential prerequisite. Many of the articles here on Conscious Bridge deal with letting go of old beliefs.

My focus lately has been on letting go of excessive material stuff. Below I give you some of my personal suggestions. However, there are many resources on the Internet to give you ideas on how to create a simpler lifestyle. Here is one that I have discovered that has a lot of wonderful ideas: “Becoming Minimalist” (be sure to check the links to key articles on his “start here” page)

Action Two: Identify – determine what you really, really want to do — and then do it!

One of the blessings of modern life is that we have an abundance of choices of things we can do. Sometimes those seemingly infinite offerings can overwhelm us. Rather than flounder around doing one thing without our full attention and enjoyment because we’re considering what were going to do next, we should stop and really enjoy the task at hand. The difficulty is that as long as our attention is focused towards the “choice not currently chosen” (that is, that other thing that we can’t wait to get onto), then our current choice is not fully chosen either.

How can we be content with what we have chosen and focus our attention on it so fully that it fills our hearts with joy? The answer is to create a very short list of personal goals and then ensure that our actions are in alignment with these goals. If you have too many goals, then your energy will be diluted and unfocused. If your actions are not directed toward your goals, then that very fact should assist you in modifying your actions. The bottom line is that your purpose and goals should direct your life actions.

Once again, there are many resources available to assist you in identifying your purpose and in setting goals. Since I’ve written a book on the subject (which I think is really good!), I think it’s the best resource for you to consider: Be Yourself: Evolving the World through Personal Empowerment (be sure to go through the exercises in part four to identify your calling and the recommendations in part five to create an action plan).

Suggestions for Simplification

As stated previously, simplification of our lives appears to be more of a challenge (or maybe I’m talking about myself?) so I want to offer a few suggestions in that area which I have found useful:

Develop the mindset to release items which you no longer need. Start with the idea that if you have not used an item in a reasonable amount of time, unless it has some special significance for you, it’s time to let it go. If you have unnecessary duplicate items, then realize you can let one go. Consciously recognize that your releasing this stuff allows it to be free to be accepted by someone who may need it more and use it regularly. See that you are gifting your abundance to the universe!

Set a goal to move through your entire house, garage or office by a certain timeframe. De-clutter one small area at a time. Identify one closet, one drawer, one room or whatever seems reasonable to you and go through it thoroughly.

Create a holding area for items that are being released. This can be a bag for items you are donating to charity or a box for things you are going to sell. Carry off your charity items at least once a month (or more frequently if you have a lot). Although many people like holding garage sales, I have found that giving away stuff works better for my time.  Things that I want to sell I list on either craigslist or eBay.

Be sure to go through your pantry and release food that may no longer be good or you know you will never eat.  My wife and I check the “use by” dates and create an area of consumable items that needs to be eaten sooner and make sure we are using it (or give it away).

Stop buying so much stuff and bringing it into your house!  I have heard other people try setting rules like “for everything new they buy, they give away one or two things.”  I don’t necessarily use such a strict measure, but I do stop and think “do I really really need this?”  Not buying things on impulse on Amazon is one of my challenges. Whenever I am considering something new now, I’ve begun adding the item to the website’s “wish list”. If in a few days, if I find that I still want it, then I will buy it.  For many books, I now add the extra step of borrowing the book first from the library.  I can always still buy it if I think I must own it.

Use virtual media more. Except in the rarest of cases, I download music rather than buying CDs. In fact, I’ve converted all my CDs into digital music on the iTunes program on my computer.  It is more convenient and I now have access to my complete music library on all my electronic devices. I no longer need the CDs and have given away most of them. Similarly, I rarely buy DVDs and have release a lot of the ones I owned. It’s easier and cheaper to stream them when I want to watch them – and I find that I rarely want to watch most movies more than once. Although I still buy some books in hardcopy, I am moving more of my purchases onto my Kindle. These steps have eliminated a lot of CDs, DVDs and books as well as the shelves to store them.

Don’t forget to consider reviewing and simplifying your personal calendar.  Are you committing to things that are not truly serving you and your passions?  If so, it’s time to let them go and free up that time.  Are you filling your time with a lot of “time wasters” such as TV, video games, surfing the net and other distractions?  I know that I can spend way too much time on social media if I am not careful! I think these things are enjoyable and add to a quality life if used in moderation.  If you are spending too much time on them though, you may want to set an intention to cut back.

These are just a few of my ideas. I would love to hear your suggestions!  Please add a comment below!

Summary

Although I have spent the bulk of this article talking about simplification, I want to stress that I am not a true “minimalist” (although I understand completely why someone would live that way).  I do think that we are marketed to so much that we do tend to fill out lives with way too much material stuff and way too many time commitments.  However, I also believe that it is a true gift to live at this time in our history when we have such an abundance of things to experience!  The key is to find a “happy medium” where we keep things simple in our lives so that we can enjoy fully those things that matter.

One final word — in all of this, we should remember that the most important thing — the one that matters the most are our relationships with one another.  I would encourage you that as you simplify areas of your life to free time and energy to focus on what really matters that you make your relationships with your friends and family one of the highest priorities! You won’t regret it!

Love and blessings.

Mark Gilbert

ps. so how do you simplify your life?

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!

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Photo credit: Alexander Steinhof / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)