Considering voluntary simplicity? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Clear out clutter
Be an Avenging Clutter Clearer! Start with three boxes; one for things to throw out(those items that are worn out or broken), one for things to give away, sell or recycle, and one for the things to keep(if you simply MUST). Be systematic. Go room by room, and work your way completely through the room before you begin the next.
2. Get a library card
In the information age that we live in, we are constantly acquiring books to tell us how to do everything smarter, better and quicker. See a book that you think will change your life? Check it out of the library and read it. Like what it has to say? Take notes. Simply cannot live without every word at your disposal? THEN buy it. Along with getting a library card, donate all the books that you've bought and never even bothered to crack the binding on to the library. If you ever decide to read one of them--go check it out.
3. Keep track of all your expenses for one month
Write down what you buy, when you buy it, and how much you're spending. Making three trips to the supermarket every week because you keep running out of this and that? You'll be able to see by looking at your chart how much you're using, and plan to purchase enough to sustain you on one trip to the market per week. Better yet, get on an auto-ship program through one of the many home shopping programs available, and you'll only have to stop for milk!
4. Just say NO!
Don't act out of obligation. It takes up your time and causes resentment
5. Just say YES - to yourself!
Now that you've said no to all of those obligations that were of no benefit to you, say yes to that little voice inside that wants a massage, a night on the town, a lazy evening by the fire, a weekend retreat.
6. Have the bank pay your bills
Most banks have bill payment programs. All you have to do is make sure that there's enough money in your account to pay the bills. You can attach a bill payment column to your expense graph to track when the bills come in, when they're due and for how much to make this an easier transition.
7. File everything!
Filing cabinets are generally not used to their full potential. By filing as much as possible, you not only eliminate clutter, you also become very organized as a bonus. You can file extra sets of keys, the kids' artwork from school (after it has spent an appropriate amount of time on the fridge!), photographs and negatives, appliance manuals--if you've ever looked for it and couldn't find it, chances are you could've filed it and saved yourself alot of time and aggravation. Along these same lines, all of the bank, tax and business documentation that you have to save, file it elsewhere. Most storage facilities have record storage for very reasonable rates. Nothing looks worse that walking into an office piled with boxes full of old accounting records.
8. Move to a smaller place
That's right! Now that you've cleared your clutter, donated your unread books, put your important documents in storage and filed everything; chances are that you now have a lot of space in your current home. Before you feel the need to buy more stuff to fill up all that empty space, consider downsizing. The added benefit: downsizing your living space greatly reduces your monthly expenditures. Less to pay for and less to take care of means more financial and time reserves for you!
9. Form community
In days gone by, you could depend on your neighbors (who more often than not were family) for a helping hand and small talk on the front steps. Reach out and renew that sense of community. Initiate carpools, babysitting circles, potluck dinners, support groups. Forming community benefits everyone involved, and you can bet that you are not the only one yearning for a sense of community.
10. Release societal mind-set
Keeping up with the Joneses? The question is are the Joneses worth keeping up with? Pay attention to what you truly desire, to that little voice inside that speaks the Truth about who you are. Sometimes it's OK to "go through life with blinders on," so long as you keep looking inside. Be true to YOU. If you want extravagance, GO FOR IT, just make sure that it's your idea of luxury, not someone else's. Don't be influenced by what others have, be driven by what you desire!
- Your Money or Your Life: A classic book on voluntary simplicity that will change your relationship to money and things forever.
- New Road Map Foundation: Website of the foundation set up by the authors of "Your Money Or Your Life".
- Organizing from the Inside Out: Professional organizer Julie Morgenstern explains it all for you. Her system really works, unlike any other I've tried. You will be more organized, more serene, and living a much simpler life once you're through.
- Clutter's Last Stand: Cleaning guru Don Aslett's classic on decluttering.
- Simple Living Network supports efforts to simplify your life. There's a step-by-step guide in voluntary simplicity, community services including chat, and a free email and online newsletter.
- Positive Futures Network: Publishers of the magazine Yes! (formerly In Context), these folks are dedicated in part to voluntary simplicity.
Vivian Rindik-Wiener is a personal coach, and the creator of the Lifedesigning method of coaching. She lives with her daughter Paige, husband Glenn, seven cats and two enormous turtles in Rockland County, New York. To find out more about Lifedesigning, please visit Vivian's website for more information.