One of the very counter-intuitive things about simplifying is that when you cut back on what you need to do, you end up feeling much more effective and accomplished even though you have done less work. I always offer to my clients a toleration clearing exercise that really at its core is about simplification.
Tolerations are things you are putting up with and include people, situations, behaviors, yourself, your body, your environments, feelings, reactions, problems, pressures, expectations, restrictions, stress, clothes that don’t fit, items that need repair. From clutter in your surroundings to people who are toxic, when you tolerate anyone or anything, you will feel depleted or drained. One way to identify something that you are tolerating is to notice when you hear yourself say, “I should do this” or “I should see someone” even though you don’t really want to.
When you tolerate things in your life, they keep a grip on you and act as resistance. They are taking away power and energy from you. As soon as you remove those things—I’ll suggest how to remove them in a moment—you will find that you are freed up to do things that you really want to do that give you more satisfaction.
Think about all the things you must do in your life—your giant to-do list, so to speak. Maybe you need to get your haircut, take the car in for service, bake cookies for your kid’s bake sale, mend some clothes, or clean out your closet. Often they are the littlest items but still annoying and have to get crossed off the list. Other times they are larger items like selling your house, getting your taxes prepared, buying a new car, having a difficult conversation with someone. All these things that you feel must get done but you don’t particularly want to do so keep on putting off doing, things that you tolerate. Here are some ideas for how to simplify.
Create a list of all the annoying things that you are tolerating. These are chores and broken items and things that are just making life more difficult. Maybe you need to replace your running shoes so that you have more comfort when you work out. Or have a door that keeps on sticking each summer. Or perhaps you have a bothersome health issue that you keep ignoring. Perhaps you need to call someone back who you keep avoiding. Just list everything that comes to mind. Here are some categories to help you out: work office, home office, house repairs, closet, clutter, clothes, food, health, garden, appointments, shopping, etc. List everything big and small.
Notice that many of the items on your list are essentially chores, like picking up the dry cleaning each week or making dinner each night that are recurring. Others may be one-time only tasks. You might want to group them into those two buckets. Now, for each item, determine whether you can delete it, delegate it, date it, or do it!
Delete it: Read each one on your list and think carefully about how it fits into your life. Do you really truly need to ever do this item? If not, delete it right now! That is a major act of simplification. I bet you there are many things that remain on your everlasting to-do list forever because they honestly aren’t so critical to you. If you have put them off forever, why not remove those items now? Delete them!
Delegate it: Now look through your list after you have deleted a bunch. Consider whether any of these items are easily delegated to someone else. In fact, someone else might actually welcome some of these tasks. For instance, I don’t particularly like polishing silver, but my mom finds it Zen. So sometimes I have asked her to polish our silverware before our Thanksgiving meal. Or maybe you have a budding chef in your family who would love to be responsible for dinner one or more nights a week. Delegation is a great skill to practice. It is very important to be able to ask for help. If the person says, “No thank you,” let it go and ask someone else. Delegation can also take the form of paying for someone’s service. For example, consider taking all of your clothes that need mending to a seamstress, even if you are handy with needle and thread. Delegate as many of your tasks as possible!
Date it: Now once again, review your list of the remaining items. Are there a number of items that don’t need to get done in the next few weeks? If so, put a date on them for when they need to get done by. Just make sure that you review this list periodically so that you can tend to the items that you put off. The lovely aspect of putting off things that need to get done is as time passes, they may no longer have any hold on you. You might find that at a future date, you can more easily delegate the tasks or even eliminate them!
Do it: So at this point, what you have on your to-do list should be a whole lot smaller than when you started this exercise. Do one more go through and ask yourself if each item is something that you must do yourself and must be done now. If yes, it’s time to “just do it!” Don’t wait a moment longer and get the annoying task done and over with and place a big check-mark after the item when you are done!
Isn’t that so much better now? Life will be much less taxing and you will have more energy to focus on the positive changes you want in your life when you get rid of as much of the stuff in your life that you are tolerating. If you stick to this approach and regularly simplify by only doing the chores that you honestly, truly, must do, you will be rewarded with greater freedom to do more of what you really want.