A step by step Guide to making at least one good decision every day of your life.
Would a Guide like this be useful? If someone gave it to you, would you do what it said to do, or would you do the same thing you always do when you get advice you don’t really want?
You probably will do what you have always done so far. Right? Why not? Well then, it’s got you to this point in your life, the point at which you’re asking for advice about how to make at least one good decision every day.
On the other hand, maybe you’re ready to try something new, and give The Plan a shot. If you are ready to give it a try, then let’s get to it.
First, make a list of things you can’t live without.
The list can be short or long, it’s up to you. But just a suggestion, keep it as short as you can. The more stuff you can’t live without, the more stuff with which you have to live.
Take your time making this list. It is important. Who says? Well, for one, you do. So, take at least a couple of hours thinking about it before you decide finally what should be on the list. What do I think should be on your list? You really don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know. Because it’s totally irrelevant to the Plan. It’s also lesson one in The Plan – What I think is important to you doesn’t matter, and you should stop spending so much time worrying about it. I’d probably put all sorts of stuff on the list that you wouldn’t think of anyway, because it’s stuff that is important to me rather than to you.
I am sure you have a lot of experience at figuring out what is important to me and other people in your life. We have told you often enough, in enough different ways, so you have a pretty good idea of how to get through a day without once thinking about what matters to you.
Hmm. Back to the list.
Try to figure out stuff that matters to you, and that you really couldn’t imagine living without in your life. It’s probably not stuff, at least, not physical stuff. For some of us it really is physical stuff like cars, houses and other things like that…. If it is, then put it on your list. But ask yourself whether your life would be any better or worse without it? (Just a random thought to ponder on the way to The Plan.)
“It’s no accident that most ads are pitched to people in their 20s and 30s. Not only are they so much cuter than their elders…but they are less likely to have gone through the transformative process of cleaning out their deceased parents’ stuff. Once you go through that, you can never look at *your* stuff in the same way. You start to look at your stuff a little postmortemistically. If you’ve lived more than two decades as an adult consumer, you probably have quite the accumulation, even if you’re not a hoarder…I’m not saying I never buy stuff, because I absolutely do. Maybe I’m less naive about the joys of accumulation.” ― Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
This is where I admit that I have a lot to learn from my partner about eliminating unnecessary stuff from my life. Over the years she has driven me a little crazy, what with her habit of giving away things she no longer wants or needs, like lovely jewelry she hasn’t worn in a while. She’s given diamond rings away to our kids or their partners, and random bits of ceramics or glass wear, simply because it occupies space she doesn’t really want to maintain anymore.
Actually, she’s brilliant. She has always had a knack at being able to focus on what matters to her, and let the rest go, even at the risk of offending other people. Good on her, good advice for the rest of us.
But minimalism aside, which has critics as well as advocates , there are practical reasons for adopting a more limited list of important things to keep than just the amount of junk you have to pay to store or display.
The idea applies well beyond things, and includes non-purposeful or even destructive connections to organizations, companies, services, or even relationships. Imagine going through the things you pay for every month to determine which of them could be eliminated without reducing your quality of life.
Even if you’re resistant to eliminating television or cable vision from your life, how hard would it be to get rid of all the channels you never or seldom watch. Recently I eliminated over 50% of the channels on my Telus television subscription, and ended up basically with the minimum number of channels I could get on a basic service, as opposed to an enhanced package.
It’s not that we stopped watching television, or even that our interests had narrowed to the point where basic TV would satisfy us, rather we found alternative sources of programming at a small fraction of the cost, using internet based sources rather than broadcast TV. It wasn’t that we weren’t using these sources before, but despite using these alternatives we have been paying for all the extra channels on cable for years, even though we had stopped relying on them for content. It was a habit and being a little too lazy to go through the list and eliminate the unused or unnecessary.
We did go back, a month or so later, and added back a couple of channels we realized are of more valuable to us than we previously thought. It’s okay to backtrack. It’s rare to right about anything completely.
Now I’m going to talk about some of the harder things to reduce, eliminate or deprioritize. The harder things to let of are relationships that no longer serve a positive purpose in our lives, but in which we continue to invest time, energy and emotional commitment. Of these, the easiest ones to eliminate are people or time commitments that simply bore you to death, literally. How many social meetings or gatherings do you attend every month that actually fail to enrich your life experience? Do you really have to attend countless committee meetings, or have a hand in the governance of your local whatever organization. Is it really your duty to sit on your strata council?
For some people, these social organizations and gatherings provide meaning and purpose, and for those people they are far from unnecessary or a waste of time and energy. For most of us, not so much. So just stop going, resign or don’t offer up your time. Trust me, most often your absence will hardly be missed.
An even harder group to eliminate are destructive friends, relatives and acquaintances. It’s amazing how many of the people in our day to day lives take pleasure in inflicting misery on us. A good principle to follow – if someone really doesn’t like you, stop spending time on them. Also, if you really don’t like and admire someone, stop spending your precious life energy trying to fix them, or getting them to change into someone you might like. Stop trying to impress that opinionated aunt, or the bitchy neighbor down the block who never has anything positive to say. Don’t return phone calls to people who merely want to give you a piece of their mind on any subject you don’t want to hear. Especially people who phone or visit merely to criticize or put you down.
When was the last time you looked forward to a visit from/to your least enjoyable acquaintance, friend or relative? Just stop going, listening or participating. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself if you stop listening to poison, about yourself or anyone else you care to know.
So, make a list of what you don’t need or want. Whether it’s stuff like an old table wasting space in the family room, or a relative who hasn’t a good thing to say about you for twenty years. Invest yourself in those things and people that matter, divest yourself from those that don’t.
Step One could take a while, first to make the list, then to actually implement it. And then to revise it again. But do it with relish, and reward yourself whenever you eliminate something else or someone else that no longer serves your best interests. Enjoy the absence of unnecessary stuff as a kind of liberation. Likewise the absence of destructive individuals in your life.
A less cluttered life is by most accounts a better life.
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