Simplifying the Simple Way

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I'm such a sucker for organization. As a kid, I'd line up my stuffed animals on my bed and give them "homes" (where they would sit when I wasn't playing with them). In college I discovered planners, and I started obsessing over mapping out my schedule and to-do lists. Even today, as a grown adult, I buy day planners to keep me on top of my schedule, treat my work calendar as my source of truth in life, and thoroughly enjoy creating to-do lists for errands/chores.

My love for organization may have even sparked my journey into minimalism. You're telling me I can minimize my physical belongings and have less clutter? I can clear my social calendar and only spend time on what's important? I can have one single "home" for literally everything I own? I'm in! As I continued my path in minimalism, I exercised all the fun (and sometimes crazy) techniques and always found myself in a tidier, more organized, more simplified space. Simplifying my space and life became a common theme for me and I started to realize...

Maybe I'm not the organization nerd I thought I was...maybe it's the end-state of simplicity that I'm truly chasing.

Okay, it's definitely a little bit of both! But simplifying became a life motto for me, and that's why you'll see a whole area dedicated to simplifying on my blog! As much as I love minimalism, minimalism is just a tool that gets me to my desired end state of: simple. Planners also help me get there. And to-do lists. And giving my physical things a dedicated place to be when they're not in use. All of these techniques are tools in my toolbox that I can use anytime I feel my life starting to get complicated.

This might sound like a lot of work, and you know we're all about minimal effort here, so here's a few of my best tips that you can use to simplify (your stuff and your life) simply:

1) Find your motivation

I'm inspired to write this article for you because we're approaching back to school season, and while it's been years since I've stepped foot in a classroom, I LOVE this time of year. Back to school is the organization capital of the Simplified States! It's literally the best time to stock up on all your organization tools (planners, notebooks, desk organization, highlighters, pens, self help books on how to get more organized ;) etc. etc.).

Still not feeling inspired? It's also an amazing time to find motivation to get more organized. Nothing like walking through Target and seeing their planner end-cap with all the fun stickers and colorful pens to make you feel like your life is out of order....or is that just me? Seriously, reach out if I have a problem here...

I truly do find back to school motivating though. Something about the fresh start of a school year (or month, or year, or new moon) that makes you want to dive in head first and tackle all that stuff you've been putting to the side. If the peer-pressure of Target's planner aisles aren't enough to get you in the mood, then take a look at some of the sales. This is a prime time for hot deals on organization tools (planners to plastic bins) so stroll through that department store and see what sticks out to you!

BTW - Target has 15% off planners and journals right now and they're giving free shipping on online orders of $35. Click here to shop now!

2) Tackle one thing at a time

Just like when we make to-do lists, your simplification journey should focus on simplifying only one aspect of your life at a time. While it may sound good to empty out your closet, organize your desk, and start practicing mindfulness all this week, you're likely to get overwhelmed and not stick to any of those practices long-term.

Decide what would bring you the most value (or what will be the easiest to tackle) and start there. Do that first and start reaping the benefits before taking on more. Seeing the rewards/value of your simplification will encourage you to keep going. For example let's say you decide to tackle that mental chaos first and you start journaling 3 days a week. After a few weeks of journaling, you might realize that you're in a better mental space and can better assess the other things in your life that need simplifying. You can then start moving on to simplifying other areas of your life while maintaining your new journaling habit.

3) Write it out

I've heard so many times from people that they "don't have time" to get organized. They say that writing in a planner or calendar takes up too much time or that it would keep them from getting things done. While it may be true that getting used to writing in a planner may take time or that adding all your activities to your calendar when you first start takes time, it's absolutely crazy to dismiss the idea as non-value added. This way of thinking is like saying you can't do yoga because your brain moves too fast. Girl, you need yoga because your brain moves that fast. And you need to invest time in organization tools if you're looking to stay organized.

Now this isn't a one-size-fits-all deal so you'll want to find what works best for you (and yes, you might have to try a few of these until you find your sweet spot). But trust me, it'll be so worth it after you find your groove.

Planners are one amazing asset. There are so many planner options out there, it's insane. You have day planners, project planners, academic planners... the list goes on! Forget all the minutiae and focus on what you need:

  • Project Planners are great if dates aren't going to help you. These planners help organize thoughts and ideas without dates. My favorite is linked here, but there's also an amazing simplified version here.

  • Day Planners like this one give you space to map out hour by hour. Use these if you need to focus on breaking your day apart.

  • Weekly Planners like this one are a great place to start no matter what you're working on. You can use the monthly views to see your calendar at a glance or use the daily view to start mapping out specific tasks. This is the most popular type of planner so take a look at more here!

Large calendars are another great tool to help you simplify. I keep this wall calendar in our kitchen where we log our workouts every day. This keeps me on schedule and also motivates me to hit the gym more (nothing like seeing two blank spaces in a row to convince you today is the day to go)! Wall and desk calendars can also help you simplify your life by using them to track who's turn it is to do the chores (your kids can't argue with what's on the schedule!), or by showing you that you already have dinner booked on Saturday. Grab yourself a dry-erase calendar for more options to customize to whatever it is you need to track!

Notebooks & journals are the last stop on our simplification tour, and maybe even the most important. While it's great to simplify our schedule and how we spend our time, it's even more important that we try to simplify our feelings and minds. This means having an outlet for our thoughts, ideas, emotions, rants, etc. I love keeping a notebook around I can use whenever I'm feeling like I need to re-connect with myself or my creativity. Any notebook will do, but I find pretty and fun ones motivate me the most to use them regularly. Target has some adorable finds (they're my go to!) that you can see here!

Simplifying your life doesn't have to be hard! You have enough chaos in your life, just start with the most obvious (clutter, time, emotions) and everything else from there will fall into place. Use this back to school season to get in the game and start simplifying & don't forget to swing by Target to check out their latest gear to help you stay simple.

I want to hear from you! Create an account in the top right of this page to be able to leave a comment and let me know if you liked these tips or share your own tips! I'd especially love to hear from any other organization nerds on how you manage a simple life :)