Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's Time To Simplify

Life in 21st century America tends to be lived at warp speed. Everything is go, go, go and get, get, get. We fill our lives with so much that matters very little. In the end, we can end up completely burned out and lonely because we do too much and drive people away while doing it. In recent months I've been trying to take inventory of my life. I began to look at some things that I can do to simplify life and get to a level place - freeing me up to really focus on the truly important things that reap tangible results and benefits both in this life and hopefully the life to come. I came up with three:

1. Clean House. I know it sounds simple but it just seems like you feel better when your house is clean. Now, I'm an extremely clean and organized person in general, but I began to think about clutter. It's easy to accumulate so much stuff that is completely unnecessary, or becomes unused that may benefit others. So I went through drawers, cabinets, closets, the basement, the attic, the garage - everywhere. I was amazed at how much clutter I had gathered. So, what to do with this stuff? Two things. Step one: Sell it. Have a yard/garage sale in conjunction with Ebay/Craigslist listings. One way to get through these tougher economic times is to sell what you don't need. People are always looking for deals on things that they don't have to buy new at the big box retailers. This serves to free up clutter and help pay for something you truly need that you don't have the cash to pay for. Last year this type of initiative paid for a new garage door opener plus installation for us. Step two: Give it away. There are plenty of people in need. Look around you. Give it to a neighbor or someone from church. Or donate to the Goodwill. Let someone else benefit from your excess. Erin and I do this quite often and it feels great to do it.

2. Balanced Schedule. This is a difficult thing to do. Every time I turn around it seems like we have somewhere to go, something to do - some commitment or activity. Volunteering for this and that - it can all add up to the point that by the time your head hits the pillow you've said very little to your spouse or your family, and even that was not meaningful. Not to mention the spiritual ramifications that can happen from doing, doing, doing instead of stopping and focusing on being. It's great to be involved in the community, or at church, or whatever. Just make sure you don't go overboard. Have a quality church life that allows you to minister and be ministered to without being detrimental to your home life. Volunteer and be involved with community associations and activities as long as you can have meaningful time with friends and family. Make sure the sports schedule doesn't dominate everything else - causing you not to be a family. One day you might wake up and realize you don't know your spouse or kids, and they don't know you. Balance in all things (my wife will tell you that's my motto for life - maybe it should be a bumper sticker). And if you want a good place to start - make and eat dinner together. Allow for conversation, sharing, listening, laughing - holding hands and praying over your meal. This is a great way to come together as a family and forget everything else. There is nothing better than this time together. And make sure the radio, TV, cell phones, and computers are off or no where near that dinner table. I promise you - you do this and it will leave an impact that will be felt for generations. Start this tradition alone and see just how far it takes you.

3. Stop Spending. Wow, this is a tough one. We are bombarded by goods of all sorts and commercials making you feel like you're missing out if you don't spend money you don't have on the latest and greatest whatever that you don't need. The consumer approach to life that we are exposed to can wreak all kinds of havoc on our lives if we're not careful. We must stop spending and start saving - "feed the pig" as the commercial says. Not only that, be charitable. Give generously to your local church. Support your community and charities - perhaps an animal rescue or Gospel mission. Adopt a child through World Vision or Compassion International. Instead of buying a Starbucks coffee daily, split the money in half - save and give. And, no matter what, don't spend money (aka buy on credit) that you don't have! And debt - DEBT! Get rid of it! Now! The quickest way to freedom in life is to become debt free. Until you are, you are a slave. Period. Develop a plan to get out of debt and stick to it. Utilize a budget and be faithful. Check out Dave Ramsey's advice - utilizing the "debt snowball" philosophy. It's worked once for me, and I'm doing it again (Lord-willing it will be the last time!) Seriously, people, - Let's stop spending. And while you're at it - utilize technology. We live in an amazing time - Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Google - it seems like there is very little that is not available within seconds from our computer or smart phone. When it comes to bill paying, you can set up online accounts and pay your bills automatically from month to month. Simply set it up and walk away (make sure you know when the due dates are AND make sure you have the funds available). This also stops the needless paper bills from coming in the mail - which is certainly helpful to the environment. I know this concept may be "newfangled" to some of you "old-schoolers" out there, but incorporating technology into your life in this way frees up potential hours of time a month which may be utilized in more meaningful pursuits, or more downtime with your family. Try it out. You'll love it. My wife recently had a free phone available to her through her Verizon account and she wanted to get the new Blackberry Curve, but then she would need to sign of for the data plan which she just knew she would never use. Well, she got it and signed up for it. Now she understands what the phrase "Crackberry" means. New technology can be abused and can chew up a lot of valuable time, but it's great to be able to set up accounts online and monitor them daily while getting notices via email - all of which can be done in seconds even from a "Crackberry". :) Technology isn't going away, so take full advantage of it.

These are just three suggestions that are helping me. I'm sure there are more things that could be added to the list, but the important thing to remember is simply this - simplify your life. In doing so you will be rich indeed.

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