Wouldn’t life just be grand if all you had to do was wake up in the morning whenever you felt like it, enjoy a cup of coffee, and leisurely decide how you might spend your day? I think that’s the beauty of summer vacation — while you may still have a few responsibilities, you can pretty much enjoy everything else. You’re not stressed about keeping the house clean, being at a certain place at a certain time, or worried about having a competition with yourself as to just how much you can get done in a single day.
That’s life. Especially with kids. A constant go-go-go and some internal pressure to do all the things. Swim classes for the toddler. Gymnastics for the pre-teen. Volunteer work. Work work. Cleaning, cooking, errands. More, more, and more. Sometimes it seems we’re so focused on doing and being the best that we sometimes forget to just be. To sit back a little and let some of that vacation-attitude seep into our everyday lives.
Every once in a while it’s nice to ask yourself if you really have to check off all 20 things on your to-do list. Do you really have to have your house decorated in a Pinterest-worthy manner? Are you scared to have some friends over for a play date because you haven’t thought of the perfect theme or prepared the most creative toddler-friendly snacks? Do you spend more time worrying about how to squeeze in a trip to the gym than you actually spend working out? And what about stuff — are you constantly buying new things, yet have nowhere to put the thousand homeless toys already scattered in your living room (no matter how many times a day you pick them up)?
Sometimes we focus so much on the “to do” of daily life that we forget the big picture. We put so much effort into trying hard that we miss the part when we actually get to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for. Maybe this summer, instead of packing everything into an arbitrary bucket list, we can stop and scale back a little bit. Simplify. You may be surprised at how much you don’t miss — how happy you can be with less.
As Henry Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.”
Here are 10 ways to simplify your life this summer without feeling like you’re missing anything:
1. Cut the clutter
Clutter has an awful way of making you fill unnecessary stress. Cut the stress by cutting the clutter. Toss things you don’t use frequently, or make a family trip to donate items to a local thrift shop. Once you’ve reduced the clutter, keep on top of it by practicing the “one-in, one-out” rule: For every one thing you bring into your home, get rid of something else. As an added bonus, people with less clutter have been shown to eat healthier. It’s a win-win.
2. End the comparison
Break up with Pinterest and over-the-top Instagram accounts if you can’t stop comparing your life to unachievable standards. At the very least, realize that photos on the Internet are often chosen because of what they depict, not because they’re an accurate portrayal of someone’s life. And heck, even in the rare instance they are, it doesn’t take anything away from your life just by being out there. Nobody in real life cares if your windows are sticky with tiny finger prints or your hair’s in the same braid it was in the day before.
3. Stop wasting time
This may sound like a silly one, but how many times a day do you think to yourself, “If only I had more time”? Well, make more time. Stop browsing Facebook three times a day or watching bad reruns on TV just because you don’t feel like getting up and going to bed. Check email twice a day instead of every time your phone beeps or flashes. All those little wasted moments can add up to a really big chunk of time for something more important. Even if that “something more important” is relaxing with a drink in your hand.
4. Stop trying to pack your schedule
It’s summer! Pool days, water parks, camps, science center trips, butterfly gardens, the splash ground — there are endless activities to fill your days with, but who says you have to? Hook up a sprinkler to the hose in your backyard and get out and play with your kids instead. Or build a fort out of picnic blankets, or make a game on the sidewalk with chalk. It doesn’t have to be creative, expensive, or over the top to be fun — especially when it comes to kids.
5. Spend less
Does buying things make you happy? Does an elaborate, expensive date night make you happier than a cheap one? Focus more on the experience of doing things as opposed to buying something or paying a lot of money for something. It’s true what they say: Money doesn’t buy happiness. You know how kids always seem to love the one toy that you didn’t actually intend to be a toy, like Tupperware or toilet paper rolls? It can be like that for pretty much everything in life.
6. Say no
Even if it’s something you’re interested in or feel like you should do, you don’t have to. There’s a season and a time for everything, and that time isn’t always now. Don’t feel guilty or like you’re letting someone down if you can’t say yes. Some social outings are fun, but others feel like obligations. Say yes to the fun ones and politely decline the ones that don’t add value to your day.
7. Be repetitive
Things don’t need to be new or creative to be fun and exciting. Instead of cooking a new recipe seven nights a week, come up with a standard rotation and vary it up one night a week. It takes the pressure off when it comes time to cook dinner, plus you’re less likely to forget something on your shopping list when it’s routine. Play the same games or wear the same outfits over and over again — who cares?!
8. Embrace the naked face
Or at least a lighter face. There’s something refreshing and freeing about not worrying if your makeup is perfect or if you look your absolute best. Cut down on your morning beauty routine by going with a natural look or at a minimum, a pared-down routine. It’s amazing what a little BB cream and mascara can do without the rest of the fuss. Plus, it’s a great way to teach kids that there’s more to beauty than makeup — like confidence.
9. Stop aiming for perfection
This goes for all facets of life. Things don’t have to be absolutely perfect to be “good enough.” My house isn’t always organized, but I’ve put a few (read: lots) of containers and baskets out so at least the mess is contained. It takes the pressure off and still achieves the basic idea of being tidy.
10. Do what you love
Stop worrying about everything else, and just do the things that make you happy. If you don’t get to all the other stuff, what have you lost anyway.
Now, what are you going to do with all that extra mental energy and happiness from your simplified life?
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