By Gwenn Voelckers
One of the beauties (and benefits) of getting older is that I’ve gained enough self-knowledge and confidence to figure out what really matters to me and what really doesn’t. This is especially helpful when making decisions about how best to simplify my life.
Now that summer’s long, warm days have arrived, I’m finally finding time for cleaning, clearing, and getting rid of all those things that clutter my conscience and physical world.
With great anticipation, I look forward to shedding outdated clothing, time-worn routines, and unhealthy habits. I am ready to clean up my act and de-clutter my life.
Care to join me? Here are some tips:
• List your priorities. Write them down. Knowing what really matters will help you decide where to start first. One of my priorities is to live in the present. Holding onto that gorgeous, skimpy dress I wore in my 30s for old-times’ sake is not doing me any good. In fact, it only serves to clog my closet.
Off it goes to Volunteers of America.
• Start small. De-cluttering our lives can be daunting. I always begin by cleaning up one “corner” at a time. Today, it’s my desk. More specifically my desktop. I’ve gathered all the many documents, bank statements, Post-it note reminders, cards, etc. into one big pile.
Later today, I’ll sort it out and discard probably 90 percent of it, in favor of making space and time for the things that need attention.
• Purge your email in-basket. My “digital” life can be as overwhelming as my real life. How did I get on so many automated email lists? Oh, I remember now … I made a fatal decision and purchased a pair of shoes online. That will do it! This morning, I spent worthwhile time unsubscribing to unsolicited email newsletters and shopping site promotions.
• Clear your counter. Clear not just your clutter, but your counter. Nothing sinks my spirits faster than walking into to my kitchen and finding the counter covered with old newspapers, unopened mail, yesterday’s coffee cup and more. Ugh.
I feel so much better and in control when I come downstairs in the morning to a clean and organized kitchen counter.
• Purchase help. This is so not “me.” I’m a do-it-yourselfer. But lately, I’ve made an investment in favor of efficiency and in keeping with my priorities. While I like to iron my own clothes (I find it peaceful and satisfying), I have found myself getting way, way behind.
Shirts were piling up, and all my untended laundry was causing me stress! So I bit the bullet and decided to invest in pressing services offered by my local dry cleaner. It’s cheaper than full dry cleaning and I feel on top of things again.
• Reduce your choices. This has made a big and positive difference in my life. One tiny example: Like most women, I have makeup samples galore and have been reluctant to throw anything out. But, I’ve changed my ways.
I’ve discarded (or donated) many of the free makeup samples I’ve accumulated over the years and now only have my “go to” products within easy reach — one cleanser, one moisturizer, one mascara, one eye shadow, etc. How easy is that? My morning routine is simplified, and my bathroom counter is now easier on the eyes.
• Carry around less stuff. Many of us would do well to lighten our loads. I used to live in a “what if?” world: What if my car slides off the road and into a ditch? What if I needed to leave my house in a hurry to help a friend? What if TripAdvisor alerted me to an incredible discounted flight to Paris? Well, you get the idea.
My oversized purse and car used to be filled with boundless “just in case” provisions — a change of clothes, back-up makeup, spare boots, a hair dryer … you name it. But, no more. I’ve simplified my life. Now, I only carry basic necessities and my AAA card. Life is much simpler now that I’ve lightened my load.
• Stay vigilant. Clutter can sneak up on you. Before you know it, your desk, your inbox, your counter, car, and conscience can fill up with unwanted, unnecessary stuff. Routinely ask yourself: Will this stuff make my life simpler or more complicated? Does it bring me joy? If the answer is no, think twice, and consider making changes in favor of your priorities.
It’s as simple as that.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to invite her to speak, or to purchase her new book, call
585-624-7887, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com.