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May 09, 20235 min read


Following are three steps to consider when trying to simplify your life. Is what drives you and also what brings happiness and peace into your life one and the same? And what of those things are in your control? If your goals, or one of your goals is creating unhealthy stress in your life that you are not able to handle in a reasonable way, drop the goal or find a way to make your stress or goal more manageable. If that is not possible, re-evaluate the goal and decide if the journey is worth the destination. It is not a bad thing to change directions. It is sometimes necessary and sometimes smart. 

You could look at the situation like you live an hour outside NYC (where you work) and you drive into the city. At first the drive in wasn’t stressful because you were used to city driving; weaving in and out, sudden stops, horns blaring, people offering suggestions with their sign language. The typical rush hour behaviors. But lately, that challenge into work has become more of a daily nightmare. By the time you arrive at work, you are stressed and angry. Luckily you have a choice in the situation. You can choose to drive fifteen minutes to a train station and even though yes, you will possibly have a few minutes of stress finding a parking spot, once you board the train you can read, catch up on sports, or work, and get in a five or ten minute walk to the office. And quite possibly you could negotiate some remote days in between. And there are other solutions if that doesn’t work, like moving into the city so you can walk to work. Or last solution, a different job.You could always just live that nightmare twice a day and hope you stay healthy and sane.The goal is to find a way to make stress more controllable. Remember, stress doesn’t kill you but how you handle it can. 

Say your ambition is to own four houses by the time you are forty. But the catch is, although it is doable, what is it costing you besides the obvious financial answers. What are the costs to your health (physical, mental, entotional), to your family life and to the overall quality of the life you are in the process of living? What or who is your primary (or most important) focus?

Are you so consumed by your future and living what you perceive as your ideal life after 65  that you are sacrificing your (and your family’s) life that is happening right now?  Or rather, not happening?

How much of your family’s lives are you willing to give up in exchange for that more lucrative and relaxed life thirty years from now? Not to say you shouldn’t have a good plan for your future, just don’t overplan to the extent that you might not even get to enjoy it. 

If you are doing a lot of the maintenance on those houses, there are not enough hours for quality time anywhere, even if you have help. If you keep hitting the same wall and realize your goals are creating more chaos than happiness, slow down, turn everything off and take a close look. Then make a decision you and whoever you live with, feels good about.  If you keep running against that wall you will sooner or later, hurt yourself. 

But if you’re the type of person who thrives on fixing problems and a little chaos, and little sleep AND still have a positive temperament and manage to find quality and fun times with family and friends (and your dog), on a regular basis, then you have it down. 

Now how about simplifying your life at the homestead?  Take a good look at your STUFF;  in your house, closets, basement, yard, attic and garage. Do any of these places raise your blood pressure instead of invoking satisfaction and enjoyment? If you answered no but your spouse feels just the opposite, then the answer is probably yes.

Discuss with whoever is living with you what your plan is to downsize and streamline your living spaces. Whether you are aware or not, the clutter that surrounds you in your home, also is cluttering your mind and taking away from the focus and harmony we all need to function with thoughtful intention. When your floors, counters, tables, and walls are cluttered, your mind and body fall in line with that disorder. Like taking your dog to a pond with birds, geese and ducks everywhere. His head is turning everywhere and his ears and tail show that he’s feeling anxious and maybe a bit overwhelmed. He can’t handle it! 

Is your living room wall to wall photos; dozens of 8 x 10, 5 x 7, and 4 x 6 framed photos claiming every available space?  When guests come through the door, are their heads spinning like the dog at the pond? Are the family pictures on walls and tables and stands creating warmth or chaos in your home? Look at me! No look at me!! No me!! Look over there, no here, up there. We all love our families but keeping our spaces to a thoughtful amount of pictures including some art that is meaningful to you, and also a section of your home for displaying all the kids' and family photos is a positive thing. Sometimes, what we think makes us comfortable, tends to overshadow the present moments. Too many is too much for most brains. How can one concentrate? Or relax? Also, think about taking a picture of someone in your home. What would the background be? Simplify walls as thoughtfully as you can and let your walls breathe. 

Just a few sentences on the signs: When signs are everywhere stating family rules and just how kind, blessed, and loving this family is, it frequently has the opposite effect than what was intended. How about at least switching blessed to thankful since “blessed” may imply we are blessed, and maybe you don’t have what we have because you are not blessed?  Ok, I get it and maybe I should delete that, but come on! Easy on the sign shouting. You’re blessed and you're happy and kind, right? Ah, and you spoiled the surprise. I wanted to find out on my own. 

( Okay, keep a few signs if they make you happy.) 

Read next week’s ARTIBLOG for Part II of Simplifying Your Life

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Stephanie Sharpe

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