WISHING YOU A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
April 20, 2019
Unfortunately, mindfulness isn’t especially compatible with the conditioning and expectations of our post-industrial Western society. It’s a culture that glorifies busyness for its own sake, so we saddle ourselves with never-ending tasks to complete, many of which upon closer inspection are not actually necessary, and don’t add real value to our lives.
If mindfulness is the doorway to a purposeful and contented life, it’s tragic that we’re encouraged to create lives that prohibit it’s presence.
Crucial self-care activities such as preparing and eating nourishing meals, getting a full night’s rest, and maintaining a clean and organized environment become perceived as tedious chores and a waste of our precious time. And the time we take for activities that serve the important function of feeding our soul is virtually non-existent.With life as an exhausting blur of overextending to meet expectations and obligations we might, while on the verge of burnout, wonder– what’s the point of it all?But it doesn’t have to be this way. By taking steps to identify and eliminate the excess, all of the superfluous “clutter” that’s bogging us down, we can re-claim autonomy over our lives and make space for a more mindful and deliberate existence, filled with greater joy and meaning.
Before you even start with a radical rearranging of your life, its necessary to determine beforehand what your ideal life looks like. Get ready to do some major soul searching, and be honest with yourself. This is about your soul’s desire, not what society dictates as desirable because I guarantee that if material excess is your highest aspiration, you’re not going to find lasting joy in it.
Cultivating a life that’s in line with your higher purpose is a worthy lifetime goal.
It would be perfectly appropriate to play the game “If I had six months left to live, how would I spend my days? How would I choose to live ?”. This process will help you determine what your values are, what is actually important to you, and what the vital components are to living your best life. When you’ve discovered what you value most, you’ll also discover your passion, and with that you’ve found the aspect with which to calibrate your new life.
Now its time to identify what doesn’t serve you, and put it on the chopping block to eliminate outright, or devise a plan to reduce the space they take up in your life. This is where your visioning becomes really helpful– If it doesn’t mesh with your vision, it doesn’t belong in your life.
The following are some tips on reducing “clutter” in various areas of your life based on what I’m finding works for me. The idea is to reduce the superfluous excess in various areas of your life to allow for a slowing down, and to encourage mindfulness. We want to reclaim space for activities that bring you joy.
Not only does clutter make it harder and more time-consuming to clean, its also hard to keep track of what you own, so we waste a ton of time looking for items. All that “stuff” crowding up your space not only creates stagnant energy and a potentially unsanitary environment, but is also bogs us down mentally and emotionally, often creating anxiety and unnecessary stress.
This is when you are doing a lot, but nothing meaningful or especially important is being accomplished. We’re conditioned to create or take on extra work because our culture tells us that being un-busy is the equivalent of being lazy. The narrative is that your level of busyness determines your value as a member of society, and deems you worthy or unworthy of respect and status. Trash bin, please.
Not only does it save a lot of time, but reducing the number of clothing and accessory items in my closet has also been profoundly beneficial for my mental health. For most of my career working in an office setting, I’d start most mornings off by struggling with my wardrobe. I’d begin with a clean room and a full closet and end up with a pile of clothes and shoes on the bed or floor in a desperate search to find an outfit that “worked”. This of course would cause me to run late, miss breakfast, and start my day off with a generous helping of anxiety.
You can still be fashionable and have a great sense of style, with a fraction of the closet clutter. Determine what really works for you (colors, cuts, etc.) and respectfully (and responsibly) discard the rest.
Apply this same principle to your bathroom/ beauty/ hygiene habits.
Unless you’re a foodie and creating exotic, time-consuming meals fills you with joy when you come home from work, I’d suggest developing an arsenal of recipes (not a large collection of cookbooks!) to put into rotation. Start compiling your own recipe book filled with snacks, entrees, desserts, or whatever else that you know you make well and rotate through them regularly. It takes out the indecisiveness and eliminates the need for that annoying back and forth “what do you want to eat?” exchange.
Identify foods that are nourishing and wholesome, make large batches, and portion them out over a few days. Supplement those meals with some sauteed veggies or a salad and you’re all set.
If you make these recipes often, you’re more likely to have the spices and other ingredients in the pantry and will avoid the need to seek out unfamiliar items in the grocery store.
Bonus tip: Use and stick to a list when making trips to the grocery store. This saves a ton of time and discourages spending money on frivolous impulse buys.
Invest some time upfront to create shortcuts for yourself when appropriate.
For years, I had garden beds that were too large and required me to overextend my reach when weeding, planting, or harvesting. Adding a simple path that cut through the beds solved all of these issues.
Another example is labeling jars or using see-through containers. I cook at home a lot, and most of my dry goods I buy in bulk and store in glass jars in a cupboard below my kitchen counter. I recently discovered that the extra few minutes of the day that I spend looking for ingredients could be solved by labeling the jars clearly. Its really amazing how much more quickly I can identify and grab a jar out of the cupboard and shaves off a significant amount of time when preparing meals.
As the saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder”.
Mentally, I feel my sharpest between 6am and noon, so I try to schedule intellectually demanding activities like research or writing then. I try to get the bulk of my apothecary work done by 2pm, and spend the next few hours cleaning up, cooking dinner, and taking care of other household or garden tasks.
If you’re like me, you might hold the attitude that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Well, you can have your perfectionist hands in every pot and stress yourself to death– or you can accept “good enough”. You might be surprised at how often people exceed expectations. So delegate responsibilities! We don’t get any points for martyrdom by overburdening ourselves unnecessarily.
The night before, make a list of the day’s tasks, and allow ample time for each task. Everything will always take longer than you think it will, so account for that. Keep the list short and reasonable. You’ll feel more accomplished if the majority of items are checked off at the end of the day, rather than having an exceptionally long list that’s constantly rolling over from day to day.
Realize also that there is no end of tasks on life’s to-do list, so rushing through them is an exercise in futility that will only negatively affect your physical and mental health.
Many years ago I identified social media as a major time-waster in my life. Don’t get me wrong, there are definite benefits of maintaining a presence and engaging mindfully with social media. But we should all be very wary of how this technology is used to manipulate us and prey on our weaker qualities.
All social media is trying to sell you on a product or an idea. Be aware of this. Try to notice when scrolling through your feed if feelings of envy or inadequacy arise. Also if there is overwhelmingly distressing news showcasing hatred, violence or doom and gloom, please remember to counter-balance this information with inspiring and uplifting activities that rejuvenate.
Instead of getting alerts, schedule a period of time to check it and enjoy. Logging out and needing to manually sign in to look at your feeds will help discourage compulsive checking/ scrolling.
Keep only newsletters that you actually read, and definitely unsubscribe from online retailers that are flooding your inbox every week with a new sale or promotion. You can always sign up again later and oftentimes the seller will offer a discount at that time. Saving money is good!
Many of us are running a life program that we didn’t ask for, and its time to reboot and start fresh with software of our own design. The sooner we break out of this story that isn’t working for us, the less invested we’ll be in it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a David Byrne-like existential crisis, asking, “How did I get here?”
With that, I’ll leave you to ponder the mysteries of life with this catchy tune. I hope you’re able to find some clarity through this process of reducing the superfluous and as a result, the joy in your life increases a hundredfold.
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