Reduce, Cut, Remove: Clarity

scissors(photo credit jurica)

All things in life want to grow: seeds become buds become flowers become plants. Our children grow faster than we'd like. But also, our clutter grows, our bellies grow, our commitments grow, our expenses grow, and those things bring with them complexity. Like a tree needs pruning to stay healthy, and our bodies need exercise to stay fit, we must strive to maintain the simplicity in our lives through reducing our clutter, pruning our obligations, and rethinking our expenses.

Your Closet- Start here because it's easy, somewhat cathartic, and brings with it some immediate returns on your effort. First, take two big garbage bags and decide just how much of your clothing you can donate. Do you have things you hope to wear again when you lose that 20 pounds? Donate it. You'll want newer, updated clothing when the time comes that you manage to lose the weight. Right now, that extra clothing in your closet is just complicating your efforts to get dressed in the morning.

Your Kitchen- Start with those weird appliances that seemed like a good idea, but that you never used. Donate them, trash them. Whatever you can do in two day's time. Look at your silverware, tableware, glassware. Do you have your full complement of sets of these, even though you only entertain that many people twice a year? Box the others in totes. Put them away. They clutter your space. Ditto your cookpans. If you use three pans all the time, take the rest and put them in a fairly easy-to-get-to storage area, and forget them.

Your Storage Areas- Determine how often "handy to have" really comes to pass. Take things that you haven't bothered to touch in a long while and donate them. Don't wait for that yard sale you keep promising. You can give your kids a week to sell them on eBay, if you'd like, but don't delay more than a week. You don't need all those extra everythings. Check especially around electronics and old computers and the like. We have a habit of saving these things because of what they originally cost us to purchase them. They are not still worth that much. Donate them to places that can make use of them, if they still work.

Your fridge- Remove everything, clean the refrigerator, and then take a good look at what you're eating these days. Is it whole, good quality, healthy, and reasonably easy to eat? Do you have 10 salad dressings? Chuck all but 1 or 2. Most things that can linger and be okay in a refrigerator are loaded with preservatives. The others are not worth the extra space they require.

Your linen closet- Keep 1 set of towels for everyone who lives in the house plus 2 extra sets tops. Donate the rest. Keep 2 sets of bedsheets for every bed in the house and no spares for guests. Use your second set when guests arrive. We tend to set up our houses for guests, and unless you have guests OFTEN, it just leaves too much extra around.

Your expenses- Check how many magazine subscriptions you have. Are you reading them all? Check how many cable TV channels you pay for. Those all equal time and money you spend to not be productive and work on the projects you say you're passionate about. Are you stopping for coffee every morning? At $3 a visit x 5 days x 50 weeks, that's around $750 a year you're spending. Add lunch and some snacks to the mix, and you'll see quite a cash sink right there. Look into recurring subscriptions you're paying for related to things like gyms, maintenance plans, etc, and determine if they're worth it one at a time.

Your commitments- Our time often gets eaten up by things we commit to at a certain point in our life, but that somehow lingers on even when it's not convenient or relevant. This is hard to share points about. It's up to you to decide which to cut, but look at each of your time commitments with a hard eye. Are you still up for coaching? Are there trade-offs to getting back into that club?

Your hobbies- Recently, I keep running into people who comment about how much I'm doing, and then go on to tell me just how many hobbies they have. It's great to have hobbies, but if you have a dozen, and they all eat three hours at a time, then you've got no time to focus on any one thing, and you've got no time to take on anything new. David Allen talks about the state of being Ready. You need that "ready" to be able to do much with anything in your life.

The purpose of considering all these items is to find ways to improve your productivity, make your planning efforts more meaningful, and give you room to do whatever your passions drive you to do. There's a business statement that says, "You can't cut your way to greatness." It refers to personnel at a company, and budget trimming. But I disagree, or rather, I see things differently. It's not that cutting is bad; it's that people must focus on the things they will be able to do once they accomplish the cutting.

Try this approach and see if it improves your overall experience of life.

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This is such a timely

This is such a timely article for me. I'm in my early twenties and just stopped doing a really expensive, time consuming sport in which my participation has been disappointing. It was hard, but I realized that if I focused on activities that a) contributed to my ability to make a living as a responsible adult, and b) I truly enjoyed and was successful at, I would be much more at peace.

Ditto for my education - a master's degree is enough, especially for someone who never liked or felt great at school. So that will be done in December. Add to this the fact that I just moved in with my boyfriend who had very little space in a studio apartment to give me, and I'm living very simply.

Do you have any recommendations about moving forward once you've pruned? A blank slate is very freeing but also kind of frightening.

I'm here to help.


When one has a blank slate, it is nearly as staggering as too much to do. Firstly, I think it becomes important to realize what matters most to you. This is a somewhat abstract concept for most. But you know what? It's easier if you try this:

*What do you want people say about you at your funeral?
*How do you LOVE spending your days? With people, quietly, etc?

If you can answer these, it'll start you down the road towards planning the END goal. Getting there just becomes a matter of aligning your goals around your desired end results.

If this is still too vague, try this: set up 3 month projects for yourself. Agree that the thing you're doing only has to be "real" for 3 months. This lets you try out new things without feeling locked into anything. (Funny: I just answered my own question, answering yours).

Feel free to email me with any follow-on questions, or post to the site, and I'll try and answer them for all.