In its starkest form, life is simple: we are born, we live X number of years, and we die. The period between when we are born and when we die is “the dash” e.g. 1918 – 2013 for Nelson Mandela.

Does “the dash” have to be a dash – harried, overwhelming, super-busy – or can it be much simpler and each day become one we can enjoy and cherish? Because soon, our dash too is over.

I believe that if we want our “dash” (our life) to be wonderful, meaningful, happy and a lot less stressed, it’s essential to simplify.

Less is truly more. The less you have to worry about, the more you can focus on a few things that REALLY matter.

In January 2008, I was attending a workshop in New York. During a 6:30 am walk in -20C weather with another participant, Melissa (she reminded me that she was a hardy mid-western farm girl, so the weather was just fine for her!), I mentioned that I was feeling overwhelmed. Just too many balls in the air, and I “could not” let any of them fall down.

She suggested I read Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever by Karen Kingston. I did – and it helped me simplify my life tremendously.

How did I simplify my life?

I decided, after deep reflection and after consulting with my spouse and business partner, to sell the family business, and refocus on a simpler business that made fewer demands on my time and where I could make a bigger impact in the world, doing more of what I loved.

I decided, after more consultation with my spouse, to move from a wonderful suburban home to a much smaller condo downtown, thereby not having to worry about maintenance, lawns, pool, etc. Happily, this coincided with a time in our lives when we needed less space as our children were leaving home soon. The selling of the business and the house move required us to declutter three decades of “stuff” – records, possessions, paperwork, etc.

You might wonder: how did my spouse and children take all this change in one year? Truth be told, my spouse had read Clear Your Clutter just after I did, so she understood my perspective. But initially it did seem like too much change, too soon, for her – and there were some tense moments! However, she trusted my instinct for change and was very supportive. Gradually, after the business was sold, taking a sabbatical year, and settling into the condo, she is thrilled at the much simpler life we now lead, as am I. And our children accepted the changes in great stride, even though we all have very fond memories of the house in which they spent 19 formative years.

Most importantly, revised thinking helped us all sort out what was really important to us: health, family relationships, spiritual practice and focusing our energies on what we love doing.

So look at what keeps you busy each day. Is all this busyness REALLY necessary? To what end? Does it help you with juggling those balls that I term glass balls – drop them when juggling and they take a long time to recover, as they are fragile (health, relationships, spiritual practice and contribution)? Or are you focused on the rubber balls like career and money and possessions – which you can generally recover and bounce back from, if dropped? We of course need to balance many balls in our lives – it’s just that dropping some involves paying a steeper price than dropping others.

Here are some opportunities to simplify.

  1. What would life be like if you got rid of most or all of your clutter? Maybe someone else might benefit from the “stuff” you are holding onto but don’t really need.
  2. What if you stopped being a perfectionist (something that keeps many people busier than they might otherwise be)?
  3. What if you delegated more at work, if possible, and shared more responsibility at home and with family and friends? No, the world does not have to be carried on your shoulders alone. Martyrdom is over-rated.
  4. What if you could reduce your commute time, as a recent participant in one of our programs just did, and saved two hours of commuting each day? This much-needed time is now being spent with family.
  5. What if you could get an expert to help you with your deepest challenge? For example, it may be managing finances.

It is important to develop the discipline to focus on the essence in whatever we do. Look for ways to simplify life in everything you do, and the world will become a much calmer, happier and meaningful place for you and your family.

Make your “dash” count.

I’d love to hear stories of how you’ve simplified your life: or how you plan to!