Simplifying My Life

I used to believe that a hectic schedule is synonymous with success – not realizing that I inadvertently equated relaxation with mediocrity, or worse, failure.

Which is not the case at all in real life. I now know this firsthand, having adapted most if not all of the timeless tips from simplicity guru Elaine St. James in her bestseller Simplify Your Life

The most fundamental rule in simplifying your life is to reduce clutter in your house and workplace, which is also (another coincidence) the first rule in feng shui. What I did was to maximize space like putting easily-misplaced everyday stuff (nail-cutters, razor, comb, cotton buds etc.) in a plastic box on the dresser top in front of the mirror.

I also brought a blue plastic laundry basket so whenever I get home from work, my room doesn’t look like typhoon Milenyo returned.

Organizing my dresser drawer became one of my priorities. I would imagine some people might think it trivial, but there’s a psychological benefit that you know – unlike Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne in the original Batman movie – where your socks are.

St. James’ Rule Number 7 is “Run your errands in one place.” This is obviously an obvious gem of wisdom – which I’ve always ignored. I have lost count how many times I had to run back and forth to the neighborhood sari-sari store because I forgot to buy vinegar…and cooking oil…and fabric conditioner…and shampoo…

What I do now is to schedule my shopping and to customize my grocery supplies to follow that schedule. So sometimes, in the case of, say, ketchup, I follow Rule Number 5: “Buy in bulk.” Translated for me, it means buying a bigger bottle.

That rule is super-handy for mothers, and is also the overriding practice of restaurant owners.

I have yet to implement Rule Number 59: “Have a fruit or juice fast one day a week,” but I am already practicing Rule Number 60 – “Make water your drink of choice.” Why? Well, not because I don’t like soft drinks or iced tea (which I really do, promise!) but there are short-term and long-term purposes for that.

In the short-term, I can save money, that much is clear. In the long run, drinking water not only helps purify my body of toxins but also minimizes risks of developing diabetes.

My life really changed upon reading and putting into practice Chapter 6 – “Your Personal Life.”

Top of the list is Rule Number 72: “Clean up your relationships.” This, of course, is not simple. Not simple at all. But it’s not all that complicated either.

What do you do to people whose friendships are no longer worth fighting for? I’m talking about people who have stabbed you in the back. The answer is simple: say goodbye and good riddance.

It is a bit more complex regarding friends who unintentionally bring you down, or at least, prevent you from living you life to the fullest. These are people who expect you to be at their beck and call whenever they need you for whatever reason. St. James says that sometimes it is better to just simply fade away from their lives.

Thanks to Rule Number 76 – “Stop trying to change people” – I now achieved a significant measure of peace of mind. You know what I’m talking about: “Why is so-and-so like that?” or “I wish he would stop being such-and-such.” The trick, apparently, is to just let them be.

You can offer advice, and that’s natural in all kinds of all relationships, but obligating people to adapt to your standards is a sure fire way to shower stress into your life.

“Change your expectations,” goes rule Number 88. This not only applies to people but to most things that come my way; like I told a friend of mine when he was applying for different call centers: Bring out your best, but be prepared for the possibility of rejections – and getting up again because the journey is not yet over.

In his column in the Philippine Star a week after I wrote the first daft of this story, leadership guru and my favorite columnist Francis J. Kong sobered my mind by reminding me not to take snobs and rejections personally. I incorporated that in my life and in my pep talk to my friend when he got his second rejection.

The timing is just a coincidence – or maybe not.

At any rate, my friend fell twice, but got up thrice – and is now officially a customer service representative in a call center in Makati.

Come to think of it, simplifying our life is much, much more than a change of lifestyle; it’s more of a change in mindset – and by extension, a change of attitude.

And when you have changed your attitude, you have changed your life.

It is that simple.

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