Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Simplifying Your Life! Part I

My Frugal Trenches

Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I'm sure many many people who read this blog have a little fantasy or dream about being able to give up the day job, sell up their home in the city or in suburbia, get rid of some of those commitments and live on a plot of land in the country! Many of us might want to grow our own veggies, raise our own hens and live a more simple life. However, I and I am sure others, feel trapped by our commitments, such as work, family, debts etc and feel we simply can't get away from those at this time. For a long time I found this overwhelming, then I realized that I could start simplifying and downshifting by simply making a few small changes into my daily and weekly routines. Here's how I did it!

I started by focusing on the weekends because I came to realize that I was most tired after the weekends, especially Monday mornings (sound familiar?!). So how did I do it?

1. I started by listing what the ideal weekend would look like, my list included things like spending time in the countryside, pottering around the garden, being with loved ones, reading books, listening to the radio etc. While I was at first scared I would be listing things that were not achievable in my current life, in fact none of those were unachievable!

2. I made a list of what interferes with how I'd like to spend my weekends - generally speaking that was going to the shops, paying bills, running errands etc.

3. I started by using my day planner to plan my "relaxing weekends". I know this might sound contradictory, but in the early days I needed to actually schedule time for me, time to relax, time to be home otherwise I simply wasn't prioritizing it. Within a few weeks I was able to stop using my planner, although if I take on too many commitments then I tend to get it back out again. There is nothing more helpful then seeing a box through my Saturday afternoon and evening saying - HOME TIME!

4. I decided to prioritize my home time, giving myself at least 1-2 evenings each weekend and 1 day at the weekend where I was home by 2 or 3 (at the latest) and stayed put! This gave me time to try out new recipes, listen to the radio, read the papers, write letters etc.

5. I decided to switch grocery shopping and cleaning/household chores to Wednesday and Thursday evenings. These were two of the bigger commitments that took a fair chunk out of my Saturdays and even at times Sundays! While I at first thought I'd be too tired to add in another commitment on weekdays, I found I had a new spring in my step knowing that it cleared up my weekends.

6. I made time for nature. I think spending time in nature is one of the best ways to take a mental health break, to get fit, to relax and just be! One of my main goals for the weekends now is to get out into nature both Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes this will simply be a walk along a local canal or river other times I might drive to the seaside, bring a book & picnic either with family or by myself. I might be there an hour or three hours and I always feel refreshed when my walk is over!

7. Exercise - I realized that being in a busy gym, surrounded by noise and people wasn't particularly relaxing me. You might be different which is fine, but for me it wasn't working! So I decided to make time to do what works for me. I mentioned above getting out into nature helps me get some exercise, but I also found swimming one morning each weekend really helped me get into the weekend mode, helped me keep fit and relaxed. It is now one of the things I most look forward to at the weekends - my early morning swim!

8. Friendships - They are soooo important and at times in my life I've felt it was feast or famine, I either had too much on at the weekends with friends or not enough. Now I see it as a balance. I try to make sure I have a social event each weekend, but don't stress if I don't and feel more comfortable in saying no if I have too much on. On a recent weekend I met a friend for hot chocolate Saturday and had a long dinner with friends Sunday night. That was the right balance for me, so when I was invited out Saturday night I politely declined because I knew I was going to be out most of Sunday and needed some time to relax, so Saturday evening became my time for me - I read, telephoned a friend who lives far away and practised my knitting!

9. Hobbies - I felt like I never had time for hobbies before I simplified my life and weekends. Now through some basic changes I've taken up knitting, am a member of a knitting club and am in 2 book groups. Both are quite open groups meaning there is no pressure if you can't make it, which really helps. Similarly before I was always too tired to go to Church, now I go each week and love it. I've made some good friends and get my spiritual needs met!Simple changes really made all the difference.

10. Planning Ahead - I do try to get some things done at the weekend to keep the week more simple. I try to make a meal or two which will have leftovers that can be used weekdays; soup works well! I also try to make little things like breads, muffins or homemade chocolates for when people come over, or I'm invited out. Again this means I'm not rushing to the shops, I can be hospitable and my stress levels are reduced.

These changes may seem overwhelming at first, but in all honesty by adding them in slowly I've really simplified my life. Not everyone can leave their current life to pursue their dream and while I think it is so important to carve out the life we want for ourselves and our families, it is also important to see what we can do now to simplify and reduce our stress levels. If you have any additional ideas I'd love to hear them!