One of the lessons I’ve learned through my life has been brought home as I’ve walked my Caminos: Simplify. While I think it’s a great lesson to learn and practice any time of year, this holiday season seems particularly appropriate to put it into play.
Simplify is a good practice while traveling so you can travel light and fast, avoid checked baggage with its fees and potential for lost luggage, and have less to keep track of. My first solo trip as a young adult was a train trip to San Francisco. My week’s worth of clothes fit into a small backpack, the one I used for my books. It was a great trip and I loved not having a big bag to wrestle with at my seat or on and off the train. Mixing and matching my clothes was fun and easy — and effectively gave me a different outfit each day of my trip.
Ten years later, as I was preparing for my first 2-week-long international trip, I remembered how efficient my mix-and-match wardrobe had been. I took a 3-piece navy, wool suit (skirt, pants, jacket), gray wool pants, and two blouses that went with the color scheme. Add to that a second pair of shoes and raincoat with liner, and I was set! It fit well into a small backpack and I was appropriately dressed for every activity I planned. What a happy traveler I was!
That’s been my mode for travel ever since, though I have to laugh that when I go by car I can overpack. Oh well. Being human can be entertaining.
Simplify applies to more than clothes and travel, though. Every so often I see a challenge that I take up, like Five in Five. That’s a challenge to get rid of five things a day for five days. My competitive nature kicks in and I’ll do Ten in Ten, or get rid of ten things in ten days. My closets, the kitchen entertainment cupboards, and even furniture have all been subjected to these challenges through the years.
The breath of fresh air that filled the house after such challenges was palpable. And then I moved my folks from their 3100 square foot home into their new 1200 square foot retirement apartment. They’d been in that house for 41 years, and Mom was a packrat. It was looking a lot like that at my home, so I culled even more furniture and clothes to put in their estate sale. Whew! Now my rule, one I mostly follow, is that I don’t buy an item until I get rid of another. For example, I won’t buy a new pair of shoes without getting rid of some old shoes. Occasionally I might fudge — or modify my rule — and get rid of a coat or purse instead, but for everything that comes in something goes out.
I was grateful for that simple way of packing, traveling, and living as I prepared for my first Camino. But you know, stuff isn’t the only place simplifying is valuable, though that’s an obvious application. Your time commitments and your work schedule are other areas of your life that benefit from simplifying. Yes, I see time commitments as separate from work schedules.
Let me summarize the concept this way: plan to spend time with the people who matter, doing the things that matter. Have enough open time in your day that you can “stop to smell the roses” and to enjoy sunrises or sunsets. Oh, go wild! Enjoy both sunrises and sunsets!!
In our culture of “More”, we put too much on our proverbial plates (we’ll talk about our dining plates and how they get piled high, too, another time). Don’t you think it’s time to take back your life? Focus your attention on what’s really important — both at home and at work.
Focus on your goal and priorities is a great technique to help you simplify.