Becky Luigart-Stayner

Five ways to scale back and get in touch with what's really important in life.

August 14, 2008

Short on time and long on responsibilities? Overwhelmed bystuff? This year, resolve to simplify your life. The goal is to cutback on the clutter―both in your closet and yourschedule―so you can focus on more meaningful things. "Livingsimply means less stress and leading the life you want," says JanetLuhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide (Broadway Books, 1997) and publisherof the Seattle-based quarterly newsletter Simple Living Journal."It's about living consciously and deliberately."

To achieve the simple life, you don't necessarily have to quityour job and move to the mountains, switch to an all-veggie organicdiet, or trade your Toyota for a ten-speed. It's not aboutsacrificing pleasure; it's about zeroing in on what really matters.Here's how to get started.

Remove 10 items from your closet that you haven't worn orused in the last year. Then do the same in your dresser,bookshelves, and even the medicine cabinet. All that extra stuffnot only takes up space, but organizing and maintaining it canconsume your time as well.

For one month, try buying only food and absolute necessities, suggestsElaine St. James, author of several books on simplicity, including Simplify Your Work Life (Hyperion, 2001). In the end, youmay find you really didn't need most of what you would have boughtif you had spent with free rein. By shopping with awareness, you'llalso help spare yourself unnecessary debt and clutter.

Learn to say "no." Cut back on engagements and socialcommitments that have little meaning to you. Instead, give yourtime and energy to what you love most, be it family, a hobby, or acharity.

Do one thing at a time. Next time you find yourself jugglingseveral tasks at once―watching TV and reading the papersimultaneously, for instance―stop. "When you do severalthings at once, you can't fully enjoy any one thing," Luhrssays.

Seek silence. Quiet time without television, telephones, orcomputers is scarce these days. Schedule a time without thesedistractions. Whether you meditate, walk outdoors, or soak in atub, try to immerse yourself in total peace.

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