Monthly Archives: September 2012

21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life

21 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Simplify Your Life


You want to live a simpler life, I know. That’s why you’re here, right? To create a life of simplicity, contentment and optimism.

But can I tell you something? Your life will not change, you will not be able to create that life you want unless you take action.

Take action. And take it today.

I want to make it easier for you to take action and move ahead on your journey to a simpler life. So all you have to do is set aside some time – anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour to tackle one of the 21 simple actions below.

Just one is enough.

More is better, but one is enough to start living a simpler life today.

You just have to take action.


Action #1: Perform a Clutter Bust (10-45 minutes)

This is hands-down the best way to tidy and declutter a space in a short period of time. You can apply it to just one room at a time (strongly recommended), or if you’re feeling ambitious or particularly over-run with clutter – tackle all the main areas of the home.

Whatever you choose – speed is the key here.

How to clutter-bust your home:

  1. Grab an empty laundry basket.
  2. Choose a room to begin.
  3. Moving quickly – pick up each and every item in that room that does not belong, or is out of place. Place them in the laundry basket.
  4. Every single thing.
  5. Once full, empty the contents of the laundry basket on the dining table or a clear space on the floor.
  6. Sort items into piles – according to where they belong, as well as a pile for rubbish/donations/items that do not belong to you.
  7. Working through one pile at a time, take every item back to its rightful place.
  8. Complete for each pile and whenever you feel the clutter begin to take over your home.

Action # 2: Practice Gratitude

Recent studies have shown that those of us who are regularly grateful for the good in our lives are likely to be more physically active, feel more content in our day-to-day lives and suffer less health problems.

Sound good?

How to Practice Gratitude and Reap the Benefits:

Once a week, spend ten minutes writing down 5-10 people/acts/events/things you are grateful for. Just one sentence per entry is enough.

That’s it. Just ten minutes a week will have truly positive impact on your happiness and well being.

Is That All? Ten Minutes a Week? What if I Do More? Will I Be Happier?

The Gratitude studies have shown that over-doing the gratitude journalling may have the opposite effect. Over time we become immune to the feeling of well-being gained through gratitude and lose the positive benefit.

Although I personally tend to think it would take a lot to over-do this. I can see no harm in thinking on the positives each morning or as you go to bed at night.


Action # 3: Rearrange Your Living Room (1-2 hours)

I’m not entirely sure when “living room” came to mean “room where we watch television”, but that seems to be the purpose of most living rooms in most homes.

But really, you want the living room to function in a number of ways, not only as a space to watch television.

In fact, you really should take the emphasis of the room away from mindless television viewing and instead encourage lingering conversations, nights spent reading books and listening to music.

How to Reclaim Your Living Room for Living:

  1. Look at the furniture you own and decide if it all needs to stay. Are you able to wall mount your TV? Get rid of the entertainment unit?
  2. Try moving the television to a side wall, rather than the main, focal wall.
  3. Arrange your lounges or armchairs to face each other, rather than the television. This helps to encourage conversation.
  4. Bring a selection of your book and music collections out to encourage you to read or listen rather than automatically reaching for the remote at the end of the day.


Action # 4: Add Some Life With Indoor Plants (1 hour – including purchase)

Indoor plants help detoxify the air inside our homes, by filtering the airborne toxins and fumes through the soil. They also help provide a point of calm and have been shown to improve productivity.

Some plants that are particularly good for the air inside your home:

  • Dracaena (There are over 50 varieties of dracaena and all have excellent air-cleaning properties)
  • Peace/Madonna lilies (Spathyphyllum)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Weeping Fig/Ficus (Ficus benjamina)
  • Bamboo/Reed Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)

Getting the most from your indoor plants:

Leave your new plants in their plastic pots and simply place in a decorative pot. This means you’re able to change out your plants and pots without having to re-pot every time.

Spend some time being kind to your new plants, watering and feeding them well for the first few months. Slowly ease back on the TLC, allowing the plant to “harden off” and acclimatise to its new environment.

Clean the leaves of your plants regularly by simply wiping over the leaves with a clean, damp cloth.

Apply a slow release fertiliser every six months – in spring and autumn.

Pay attention to the changing watering needs. In summer the plants will need watering 2-3 times a week, while in winter this will drop back to once every 2-3 weeks.


Action # 5: Keep Your Dining Table Surface Clear (5 minutes)

Clutter attracts clutter, so a dining table with knick knacks, or papers or craft items permanently scattered across it will be far more likely to end up a catch-all for incoming mail, handbags, etc. AKA A Clutter Magnet.

If you desperately need something to decorate the space try one (and only one!) of the following:

  • a simple bowl of fruit
  • a houseplant – an orchid, for example
  • a beautiful vase with or without flowers
  • a simple candle
  • a table runner
  • a pendant light suspended above the table
  • a colourful bowl


Action # 6: Use the “Good” Tableware and Glasses. (Daily)

Even on random Tuesday nights.

What good do these items do, what joy do they bring if you keep them locked away in a cabinet to be used for special occasions only?

What’s more special than making memories with your family or friends – each and every night?

The Benefit of Using the Good Tableware:

  • no guilt at having them hidden away
  • less storage required as you use the good tableware daily and therefore won’t need a “daily set” of crockery
  • making use of something beautiful and special daily
  • practice mindfulness and gratitude by focusing on the gift that someone has given you


Action # 7: Create White Space

White space allows us to highlight items of beauty and meaning. Items that are special to us. Items that we are choosing to surround ourselves with.

White space is so incredibly important in creating a slow home and a simple life.

Create white space in your home:

  1. Choose one surface – one wall, one shelf, the mantle, your bedside table.
  2. Remove everything from that one space.
  3. Re-distribute, donate or toss those items.
  4. Wipe the surface clean and leave it completely empty.
  5. Live with that empty space for a week, then put one thing and one thing only back in that space. Make it something beautiful or meaningful.
  6. Appreciate it.


Action # 8:  Prepare Yourself for the Morning. (10 minutes)

Preparation is half the battle in getting organised, so make your mornings easier – regardless of what they entail – by preparing yourself the night before:

  • Take one minute to clear the sink and wipe down the benchtops – it’s remarkable the difference it makes to your morning to walk into a clean kitchen.
  • Pull out your clothes and the clothes for your kids. If they’re old enough to dress themselves, then this is one less task for you in the morning.
  • Set the table for breakfast. An action as simple as putting bowls, plates, cutlery and coffee cups out means people can serve themselves as they get ready. Even young kids are able to pour cereal and milk.
  • Pack your bags. Prepare your work bag, the kids school bags or the nappy bag with everything (except lunches) that need to leave the house.

Action # 9: Find Storage for Your Kitchen Appliances (15 minutes)

Keep your kitchen as clutter-free as possible by keeping the benchtops clear of appliances.

Find a place in your cupboards for the kettle, toaster, blender and any other appliances that currently reside on the benchtop. It takes approximately 6 seconds to put these back after use and your kitchen will be so much easier on the eye and far less likely to become cluttered.

Action # 10: Create Secondary Storage for Pantry Items.

This one change will keep your pantry tidy and uncluttered – meaning you’re far less likely to waste food and far more likely to keep the pantry organised.

All you need is one or two shelves elsewhere in your house. Consider using a cupboard in the laundry or a shelf in the linen closet – providing it’s easy to access and out of view, anywhere will work.

Use this space to store extra flour, breakfast cereals, sugar, pasta, pasta sauce, tinned tomatoes and beans, rice, quinoa, long-life milk, stocks etc.

The benefits of having secondary storage:

  • It keeps the main pantry uncluttered
  • You always have something on hand for a simple, easy meal if caught out at the last minute
  • Fortnightly or monthly meal planning is made much easier by having the space set aside to store bulkier pantry staples


Action # 11: Meal Plan!

Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to encourage a simpler way of living. It means:

  • No more last-minute trips to the grocery shop at 4:45pm, looking for inspiration for dinner.
  • You’re more aware of your spending habits, as you’re only buying once a week or even less.
  • You’re likely to eat a greater variety of foods because you’ve taken the time to plan ahead.

To tackle meal planning:

  1. Decide how often you will write out your meal plan. Weekly? Fortnightly? I have a friend who plans her family meals 10 weeks at a time. Just establish what works best for you.
  2. How will you write the plan itself? I use the age-old method of pen and paper, but there are multiple apps, beautiful printables and online programs you can use to get you sorted.

I simply take a piece of paper, write out the menu for the coming fortnight on the bottom half and the grocery list on the top half. It’s easiest to do it all at once, to ensure no ingredients are missed.


Action # 12: Make Your Bed Each and Every Day (5 minutes)

No-one says it better than Gretchen Rubin, the mastermind behind The Happiness Project:

From my own experience, and what people have told me, I think there are two reasons [why making your bed every day is such a key to happiness]:

First, making your bed is a step that’s quick and easy, yet makes a big difference. Everything looks neater. It’s easier to find your shoes. Your bedroom is a more peaceful environment. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

Second, sticking to any resolution – no matter what it is – brings satisfaction. You’ve decided to make some change, and you’ve stuck to it. Because making my bed is one of the first things I do in the morning, I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.

Action #13: Start an Exit Drawer (1 hour)

An exit drawer is a place for you to keep everything that needs to leave your house when you do. It’s a place to store left-behind items, letters that need posting, clothes that need repair and bills that need paying.

Starting (and using) your exit drawer is one sure-fire way to reduce clutter. You will clear your home of things that don’t belong there, and you will clear your head of “things I need to remember when I leave”.

What do I Need?

Nothing hi-tech, just a space that you have set aside as your exit drawer. Ideally, it wouldn’t be used as anything else. Just your exit drawer.

It could literally be a drawer in your hallway. It could be a basket inside your coat closet. It could be a calico bag hung up on your hat stand.

Whatever/wherever it is, just commit to using it.

What Do I Do?

Then – this is the really easy part – put things in it that don’t belong to you. Those jackets, socks, toys, plates etc. Put them right in your drawer.

Add to that anything you need to remember for an upcoming errand or take to an upcoming appointment. Your referral, that bill you need to pay or the letters that need posting.

Then – and this is the tricky part – remember to look in that drawer every time you leave the house. Every time.

And every time you have visitors. Every time.


Action #14: Start a Donate Box (5 minutes)

Make decluttering easy – give yourself somewhere to keep the items you’re giving away.

Have a box – yes, a plain old box – where you can put the items you’ve decluttered, ready for donation.

When the box is full, take it to your local charity collection depot, op shop, thrift store or homeless shelter.


Action #15: Check Your Mindset

Why do you want to live simpler life? What do you crave about it? Why are you passionate about creating a slower home? A simpler life?

You need to know the answers before you can make headway.

Check your mindset:

  1. Write down your goals. What do you want from this change? Where do you feel the greatest need to slow down and simplify? What do you stand to gain?
  2. Write down your strengths. What are you already good at? Gardening? Organising? Planning? Cooking healthy, cheap meals?
  3. Write down your weaknesses. What challenges will you face? What circumstances will make change harder for you?
  4. Check your answers. You need to be in this for the right reasons. You need to understand that you come to simple living from a unique place. Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s. And that’s fine. Great, even. Perfect.
  5. Get to it. Committing goals to paper helps you achieve them.


Action #16: Get Your Finances in Order (1-2 hours)

If your financial situation is less than ideal, then talking about it or even thinking about it is likely to cause stress. You may break into a sweat, you may argue with your husband, you may feel sick or guilty or both.

But here’s the kicker – to make it any better, to escape the financial maze, to free yourself from the constant stress and worry – you need to face facts. And often that means having a difficult conversation.

If you do this, if you are brave enough, I can guarantee you will feel a weight off your shoulders. You won’t find an extra $10,000 hiding somewhere, but you will know where you are. Then – and only then – can you start to move forward, towards the simpler life you want.

Why is it so Important?

Once you understand how much money comes in, what your expenses really are and what financial goals you have, you can create a budgeting system that works for you.

Which in turn means you can rest easier, knowing there is enough money for bills, groceries, unexpected extras. As well as paying down debt or saving for a house deposit/holiday/car.

OK. How Do I Start?

I’ve written a three-part series on how to manage your household budget. You can check out the three parts here and get your finances in order today:

How to Manage Your Household Budget: Step 1

How to Manage Your Household Budget: Step 2

How to Manage Your Household Budget: Step 3


Action # 17: Be Accountable by Recording Your Simplifying Efforts.

Make a goal of decluttering 100 items this month. Or to remove 5 things from each room today. Or to cull 2012 items in a year.

Then tell people about it.

Blog about it.

Brag about it when you reach your goal.

If you share your aspirations for a simpler life with others, as well as the efforts you go to – the benefits are two-fold:

  1. You are far more likely to achieve your goals when being held accountable.
  2. You will inspire others to action and possibly introduce them to a simpler way of living. Which is all kinds of awesome.


Action #18: Declutter Your Wardrobe (1-2 hours)

Do you have too many clothes, yet often, nothing to wear?

Then you need to pay special attention to this task.

1. Clear your bed of any clutter or mess – this will be your workspace
2. Set up two plastic bags/boxes
– one is for donation and one is for things to throw away
3. Starting with just one section of the wardrobe (hanging clothes, or shoes, or folded clothes etc) take everything out.
Lay them all on your bed, and do not move on until you’ve completely dealt with this current section.
4. Pick up each piece of clothing and ask yourself:

  • Have I worn this in the last year? No? Let it go.
  • Is it in good condition? If not, do I love it enough to have it repaired? No? Let it go.
  • Do I feel good wearing this? This is a big one – it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is, unless you feel good wearing it, it will languish in the back of your wardrobe, taunting you. Let it go.
  • Does it fit me well? Again, it doesn’t matter how gorgeous it is or how much it cost, if it doesn’t fit well, then you won’t wear it. Let it go.
  • Is there a good reason to keep it? If it is in incredibly good condition, is very well made, and is a classic style (think black blazer, little black dress, black pumps) then you may want to keep it. But unless it is all of those things, then let it go.

5. Don’t put the item down until you have decided where it goes. If you decide to keep it, then return it to the correct spot in your wardrobe, otherwise put it in your donate or throw away bag.
6. If you’re really torn
, you can add things to a holding box and if there’s nothing you need/want in it over the following 6 months, you can safely donate everything in there, without opening it.
7. Move on to the next section and repeat the steps above. 
This is where you can choose how long you spend on this task. If you’re short on time, then you should just tackle one of these sections per day. But if you can find the time, you really should keep going. You will thank me when you’re done!
8. Once the entire wardrobe has been decluttered, it’s time to organise what remains.
Keep similar items together.


Action #19: Daily Meditation (5 minutes)

It’s a trendy buzzword, I know. But meditation has huge benefits for everyone – including those of us searching for a simpler life.

Meditation brings perspective, it brings calm, it brings peace and leaves you feeling grounded and well-prepared for the day.

If you’ve never meditated before, or if you’re looking for a quick, easy exercise you can do daily, then read on. What follows is more a mindfulness exercise, but one that is incredibly effective:

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And think of your five senses. 

  1. Touch: what can you feel at this very moment?
  2. Taste: what can you taste right now?
  3. Sound: what can you hear?
  4. Smell: can you smell anything?
  5. Sight: what do you see in front of you?

Be specific and really explore your senses. Slowly take stock of each of them – one by one.

Touch: I can feel the carpet beneath my feet. The seat under my butt. My shirt on my shoulders. My fingers are cold.

Taste: I can taste Milk Arrowroot biscuit and chamomile tea.

Sound: I can hear both of my littles stirring in bed, the rain outside and the tap of my keyboard.

Smell: I can smell coffee. Spring time.

Sight: I can see my computer monitor, a glass of water, a cup of pencils, the shadow from the blinds on the windowsill.

Immersing yourself in your immediate surroundings, actively thinking about each of those things, means you’re taken out of your own head for a moment. That pressing issue, that rising anxiety, that thing that’s stressing you out – it’s gone. At least for those moments.

It’s a simple thing to do, you can do it anywhere, and over time, it will teach you to be more present and pay attention to what is currently happening, rather than getting caught up in the complexities of what-ifs, whens and whys.


Action #20: Start with Acceptance (Undefined!)

Before you can make sweeping and lasting changes to your life, you need to understand where it is you’re coming from.

You need to accept your current circumstances, limitations, strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t start out from a place of acceptance, then all the work you put in to creating a simpler, slower life will be overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy, guilt and comparison.

1. Accept that where you are in life is your starting point.

That may be a family with 3 young kids, a single mum with a teenager, a retired grandmother…

Until you accept the place you’re currently in, it will prove almost impossible to make meaningful changes to your life. You will be too busy feeling inadequate!

2. Accept who you are – your strengths and weaknesses.

I don’t mean you should stop improving yourself, or stop learning, or stop attaining new skills. But don’t try to squish your square shape into that round hole any more. Some things will simply prove harder for you than for others. Accept it and move on.

3. Accept your limitations.

Be them personal or circumstantial. Some things are just not possible given your current situation.

Take pride in the fact that you are working with what you’ve got and doing what you can.

4. Accept that you will be making changes to your life gradually.

Deliberately, mindfully, intentionally. They are more likely to stick this way.

5. Accept that there will always be more you can do.


So stop trying to reach the finish line in the shortest time possible. The finish line keeps moving and this is not a race.


Action #21: Unplug (1 minute)

You need time to think, time to dream, time to talk and time to do nothing at all.

Reading blogs on your smartphone is not doing nothing. Just as browsing Pinterest is not fueling your dreams. So take one minute, turn off your laptop, leave your phone inside and relish in unplugging.


There you have it. 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life.

The key to making many of the actions above work for you is to do them consistently. Like with any major life changes, many of them need to become habit before you reap the biggest benefit, but starting with the actions above will get you well on your way to a simpler, slower life.

And as I said at the beginning, you don’t have to do everything on this list, just pick the ones that will work best for you right now.

The key is to take action. Try something above and let me know how it works for you.

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.


{Thanks to Corbett Barr for the inspiration for this post’s format. You can see his post 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Set Your Blog Up for Massive Success here and the original post from Adam Baker, 24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Can Change Your Financial Life Forever}


Creativity – The Simple Way

Creativity - The Simple Way

Can I tell you something?

I’m nervous to, because this may emerge and bite me on the arse when I prove – yet again – that I don’t finish what I start. But I’ll take that chance, because, well, I like you and want to share this.

I am in the (very) beginning stages of writing a novel. Yes, I know, a novel – how cliche.

Everyone has a story to tell and I feel mine bubbling away, just under the surface. It’s been splashing water in my eyes for six months, trying to get my attention. And now, for whatever crazy, internal reason, I am sitting up and listening.

I aim to finish the first draft by Christmas and am currently about, oh, 2% of the way there.

I am excited. Really excited. I have been devouring every piece of information I can get my hands on about writing, writers and our particular brand of crazy. I am a woman obsessed.

But What About Slow Your Home?

Last weekend, I took a much needed night away and spent many of the following 24 hours writing. It was wonderful. It was my own writers/sanity retreat.

But something was not quite right. Something was niggling away in the back of my head, making me anxious. I couldn’t quite work it out. I started to get nervous.

And then I realised what was worrying me: I was afraid.

I was fearful that I’d have to choose between writing here and writing my novel. Fearful that I couldn’t possibly do both. 

I didn’t want to give up either of them. Not this blog I love so much, and not this story I am aching to tell.

I love writing here.  I love talking with you and learning from you and occasionally helping you when you need it. I love what we’re achieving together. But I couldn’t see how I could manage both this and the novel – they are so different.

Thank God for Books

Quite by accident, on Sunday I discovered the most beautiful, funny, useful book I have ever read. ‘Bird By Bird’ by Anne Lamott.

If ever you’ve thought about becoming a writer, if you’re a blogger, or even just a very avid reader – a fan of the craft of writing – then this book is absolutely unmissable.

(In fact, along with Joshua Becker’s ‘Simplify‘ and Steven King’s ‘On Writing‘, it is one of the books that has absolutely changed my life.)

Anne has some incredible things to say, but the one that struck me – smack-bang in the middle of my forehead – was this:

“Writing is about learning to pay attention to the world – and you have to slow down to do that.”


Doesn’t That Idea Sound Familiar?

It is exactly what we’re all about here. (We being you and me).

We want simplicity, peace, contentment and joy.

We need to learn how to slow down, how to simplify, how to get organised.

You need to learn these things so you will have time and space for the things that light you up, for the people you love, the passions you hold.


And here I was thinking I had to choose between writing this blog and writing my novel.

But, dear lovelies, these two are the perfect counterpoint to each other. The first is what I feel passionate about – we need to slow down, drink in life in all its beauty and terror – and the second will benefit so greatly from doing exactly that. So much so that I can’t see how I could do one without the other.

I will, however, be writing a little less here. I Can’t Do Everything, after all. You will find new posts each and every Monday and Thursday. And they’ll be bloody good too…

But I simply need time to get through another, oh, 58,000 words or so. Give or take.

So thank you in advance for your understanding and for all the incredible support you give me and this community we’re building together. And if you don’t want to miss a thing, make sure to subscribe to the mailing list here.