Local lifestyle columnists

It’s never too late to simplify things

By From page A2 | January 09, 2014

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name. Someone to love and someone to love you, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing.” — Jerome K. Jerome, “Three Men in a Boat”

I blamed being tired much of the time on not getting enough sleep, so I tried getting an extra hour of sleep, but that didn’t seem to solve the problem. After reading quite a bit on the subject, I decided to try to declutter my surroundings as well as my brain.

When we were a military family and moved every three years, it was a good time to get rid of things. That really helped to simplify things, but now, we’ve lived in the same house for years and you can only imagine what has happened.

From time to time, we’d talk again about getting rid of things – and clearing out that dreaded garage always ended up at the top of the list. One day, I called my oldest son and offered him what I thought was a beautiful upholstered chair, suitable for a living room or a bedroom. I thought he’d be so pleased, but instead he said, “I’m trying to simplify my life, mom, by getting rid of as many of my own things as I can.” So much for that, I ended up donating it to a local charity.

Most self-help books tell us women that we should simplify our wardrobes. I admit that I love clothes and have many hanging in my closets that I’ve never worn and still complain about nothing to wear. Recently, I attended a party and was surprised to hear any number of husbands complaining about the lack of closet space. But as one woman put it, men have the easiest wardrobes to buy and maintain, as they don’t wear jewelry, don’t carry purses and wear only one heel height.

A friend pointed out that when she goes shopping and doesn’t carry cash, credit cards or a checkbook, she’s less likely to bring more things into the house. She’s absolutely right. It’s amazing how many times that I’ve not taken a credit card or a checkbook and only a small amount of cash and found myself turning away from what looked at first sight like simply-can’t-do-without goods.

And how many times have I uttered, “I just don’t have the time?” The truth is that each of us gets the same amount of time – 168 hours a week and 52 weeks a year. But I can’t remember the last time that I sat down and figured out how my 168 hours were being used and how I felt about the use of them, especially since retirement.

One writer suggests that you begin to keep an “Absolute Must” list to help set priorities:

  • Make a list of absolute musts that need your attention, including taking care of yourself.
  • Don’t do things out of guilt.
  • Don’t overexplain or overdefend why you can’t do something.

According to a recent Mayo Clinic health newsletter, there’s a simple tool for decluttering the brain called “mindfulness” or learning to live in the moment. It isn’t new and goes back thousands of years. But it’s the opposite of multitasking because it causes you to focus on just the moment.

Another benefit of mindfulness is that it causes you to bring your full attention to a single task and you’re more likely to do it well.

A few suggestions for practicing mindfulness include:

  • When you’re eating or drinking, do just that. Don’t watch TV or read.
  • While you’re waiting in line, use the time to practice deep breathing or focus on details of your surroundings.
  • Each time the telephone rings, take a deep breath before you answer.
  • When your mind begins to fret and worry, focus on deep breathing, as this helps bring you back to the present moment.

Here’s wishing that 2014 turns out to be the best year ever for all of us.

Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.

Mayrene Bates

Mayrene Bates is a trustee with the Solano County Board of Education.

Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Maureen BairdJanuary 09, 2014 - 9:05 am

    Thank you for your suggestions. They were great. Also, regularly taking a very ddep breath protects your lungs from many chronic conditions. Maureen

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