10 Habits to Streamline Your Life...Now
Minimalism can be hard. It's easy to preach it and easy to read it, but the execution is a different story entirely. There are some big decisions to be made. Do you need a two cars? Should you throw out that box of junk, even if there's a 5% chance you might use it some day? Where should the stone garden go? It sucks that such a rewarding lifestyle can seem difficult, inaccessible and even outright unreasonable to the average individual, a perception that is sometimes helped along by minimalism as a movement itself. That's because, too often, the focus is on radical, intimidating changes. Well, here are some things you can do right now!
1. Prepare for the morning before bed.
As much as I'd like to be, I am not a morning person. I have about 3 different alarms and I hit snooze after each of them fail to drag me into existence. If you, too, are capable of strangling someone for your coffee each morning, this habit will make your transition from groggy man-beast to respectable human much smoother. Lay out your clothes, pack your bag, make your lunch and put some coffee in the filter before turning the lights out. It doesn't take long and you have time to read the news/do yoga/meditate instead of rushing out the door with your pants on backwards.
2. Put away your clothes...immediately.
If you live in a place with 100% humidity in the summer, the first thing you want to do when you get home is fling your clothes off and lay on the couch under the AC. Unfortunately, those clothes tend to carry a magnetic force that attract other clothes. Pretty soon you've got mountains everywhere. Simply hang the clean stuff up as you take them off and chuck the dirty stuff wherever you chuck it. This is a 'duh' piece of advice that can't really be passed off as a profound "life-hack", but if mess messes with your productivity like it does mine, then it is an easy habit that helps keep it to a minimum.
3. Wash your dishes...immediately.
I enjoy having a clean place and even find the process of tidying cathartic, but I absolutely abhor doing the dishes. I don't know why; just hate it and always have. You can imagine my dismay when a busy weekend of teaching classes and running back and forth has left a disgusting mountain in its wake. Keeping with the same theme above, just clean as you go. It only takes 5 minutes to wash up after dinner as opposed to an hour after the workweek. Fuck dirty dishes.
4. Create a dedicated file system on your computer.
Digital clutter can interfere with our productivity just as much as the tangible stuff, especially if your computer features often in your daily routine. Quickly saving that photo to the desktop just this one time is a shortcut to a deep, dark forest of files. Go through your files today and create an intuitive hierarchy of folders that suit your needs. Mine are Writing, Design, Work and Life, and beneath those are sub-folders that create an organized bread crumb trail to whichever individual file I need to summon at the time. Works a bit better than "stuff", "stuff 2" and "NOT PORN".
5. Unsubscribe from unwanted emails.
I go to my inboxes first thing in the morning. It's really irritating to see that I have new mail, thinking, "Oh, magazine X finally responded to that pitch" and it's actually Obama, 2 years after the election. Unsubscribe. Or a clothing company I ordered something from a long time ago and was somehow duped into receiving junk from them. Be gone! If you're tired of the slow flow of digital sewage into the pristine pastures of your inbox, Gmail has placed an unsubscribe option beside the sender's email address. Start using it and make email that much simpler.
6. Go paperless.
Why do we use paper? With the help of ink, it's been the easiest way to record, transfer and communicate information for centuries. Although we can't seem to shake it, this is no longer true in 2014. It creates unnecessary clutter and it's not sustainable. All it takes is a phone call and boom, electronic payment and electronic receipts for most of your bills. Eliminate your need for a bookshelf and pick up a Kindle (although I know some people prefer paper books which is totally fine, p - p - please don't crucify me!). For other fibrous nuisances, try to use a scanner at work to make digital copies. I've been debating getting one of these for a while for this purpose, although it would be a pain to lug around the world.
7. Declutter 5 items every day.
The grand purge is one of the most difficult transitions into a simpler life, so don't make it that at all. Do it gradually. Chose five items - a pair of socks, an extra pen, something from your junk drawer - and place them in a designated area every day. At the end of the month you can give your old stuff away, try to make a buck off it and trash the rest. No matter how insignificant the item, you are creating a minimalist habit that will eventually serve as a catalyst for real change in the way you live your life.
8. Make a to-do list.
I love a good list. No matter how cluttered my mind gets, I know that taking the time to sit down and write out what I need to do is going to quell the storm. If you have so much shit flying around in your head that you're having trouble pinning any one thing down, pulling it out and seeing it on paper will probably help you, too. Make a list for mundane tasks (cleaning the apartment, doing taxes) as well as work stuff and whatever else you have going on in your life. I used to write it all out, but now I use Wunderlist and it's just...wunderbar. Sorry for that. WorkFlowy is another great list app with a more minimalist swing to it.
9. Work in a half hour of fitness.
Personally, minimalism is just as much about living a wholesome life as it is living with less. Besides, if you've chosen to pursue experiences over material things, being healthy will certainly augment that quest. I try to run a couple of miles at least every other day and do yoga in the mornings. I find meditation to be a more difficult concept than I imagined it to be, but I'm experimenting with that as well. Try to make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday, although it depends on the individual and one should do research in order to develop a suitable routine. This is one habit that I can guarantee will improve nearly every aspect of your life as I have been on both sides of a rut or two.
10. Stop giving a fuck.
Yes, you heard me correctly. You're most likely giving too many fucks willy-nilly when you should be keeping them for yourself. What I mean is, focus your attention wisely. I'm asking you to not care so much about what others think of you. This is a problem that plagues so many people, some even to the point of anxiety. I know who I am, what I value and am happy with what I have and what I am doing. Work towards putting yourself in this position and do not feel bound to the expectations and opinions of others. Giving less fucks will make you more confident person capable of living for yourself and not the whims of other people.
Habit Creation over Radical Change
You can take the extremist route; pile your stuff up in the back yard, douse it with gasoline and top it off with a lighter. But what would that accomplish? What insight would you gain on your relationship with material things? Would it stick or would you have a brand new pile of stuff a year from now? This is why I think habit creation is much more important than radical changes. Making habits out of the above, no matter how simple they are, require willpower and constant state of reflection to create. Of course, this matter is completely subjective as some people find that radical changes can galvanize further changes in their life.