What I’ve Learned from 6 Months of Simplifying

At this point, most of us have heard of Marie Kondo and her best-selling manifesto, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She suggests decluttering by asking yourself about every single thing you own: Does this spark joy?

I love this question, but the truth is my decluttering bar is set a little lower: I don’t always need what I have to bring me joy. I just need it to not bring me angst. That’s been my key takeaway so far from my word for the year: Simplify.

For me, simplifying has been about decluttering my belongings and commitments, taking away those little things – the little buzzing gnats – that tended to make me feel bad on a regular basis.

Here’s a peek into how my simplifying is going, in case you’re looking for inspiration to do a bit of spring cleaning of your own.

I did a closet clean out.

I’m a big believer in having a “uniform” to make dressing easier, so my closet is relatively manageable. However, there was one piece of clothing that had become my nemesis. I had a favorite pair of red pants that just didn’t fit me anymore. Every morning when I flicked through my hangers, they would taunt me: “You really should lose a couple of pounds.” When I saw them,

I felt bad. Who needs to start their day that way? So I said goodbye to the red pants. I actually enjoy knowing that someone else is probably wearing them today and feeling fantastic.

I added some breathing room to my schedule.

Some days, my calendar looked like a big solid wall of phone calls and meetings. While I felt productive on those days, I also felt something else: frazzled. I found myself rushing to get to the next call without any down time to catch my breath. It sounds simple, but I realized that I could eliminate a lot of stress by deliberately not scheduling meetings too close together.

I know not everyone has control over their calendar but if you do, try adding in a little buffer time. Another trick is to look at your week (or even month) holistically. If you have travel on the horizon, try to avoid scheduling evening meetings leading up to it so you can spend some time at home. And, consider blocking your own “me” time on your calendar and use it for concentrated work or just to reflect and plan.

Here’s another trick I’ve learned. Before you say yes to something, ask yourself: If this event were taking place tomorrow, would I say yes? We commit to obligations that are three months out thinking maybe we’ll be more interested in doing them when the time rolls around, but the truth is if you don’t want to do it now, you probably won’t want to do it in three months.

I ditched old files that were cluttering up my screen and mind.

Call me a digital hoarder, but I have tons of files on my computer that are just not relevant anymore. So, during one long plane ride I decided to get rid of files I no longer actively use. As I read through some proposals for projects I didn’t get, I asked myself why those were hanging around. I am happy with how my business is going and the challenging work I currently have. Why would I want to be reminded of a the clients and gigs I didn’t win? By deleting or archiving them, I can now scroll through my current clients and feel energized about the work I am doing rather than feeling bad about the ones that got away.

I deleted apps.

Take a quick look at your phone homepage. Is it cluttered with a bunch of random icons? It makes you feel frenzied and anxious looking at them, doesn’t it? That’s why I decided to delete all but a few apps that I use on a regular basis. There was just something overwhelming about seeing so many icons every time I glanced at my phone. And there’s no downside – anything you end up missing you can add back in about 10 seconds.

I highly advise getting rid of that visual clutter. Now, when I look at my phone, there’s not an app for that, and I love it.

Thanks for reading about my simplicity journey so far. Now it’s your turn! Did you choose a word for the year? Have you done any decluttering? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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