Physical clutter is only half of the equation in finding simplicity. Mental clutter, distractions and demands which pull us aay from our goals or pursuits we enjoy are even more treacherous than “stuff”. I made a wonderful discovery after I began studying for the Certifie Public Accountant’s exam. The young son of a friend complained that he could never watch television because the set was monopolized by his parents and sisters who had no interest in his type of program. Knowing I would be tempted to watch rather than study I gave him my set, promising myself the reward for passing the exam would be a new set. Due to a very demanding work schedule it took me more than one sitting to pass and by the time I did I realized life without televion was not only possible but preferable. It has been decades since I owned a televion and I have saved countless hours and dollars. When there is something special on I really want to see, like the World Cup, I go to a public venue and get to share the experience with others which is more fun.
Another “infernal device” as I often refer to them is the telephone. I used to think I was just crotchety about the interruption of phone calls until I sat across from a young woman in her early twenties on the subway one day. Her cell phone rang and she answered it. In sum, her conversation was a lecture to the friend on the fact she now had a job and all her college friends still not working were endangering her employment by calling and texting her all day and they didn’t seem to understand she had started to keep her cell off at work to save her job. While cell phones can be truly life saving in an emergency, their ubiquitous nature makes overuse use tempting. One must establish boundaries or be subject to frequent interruption. In spite of laws angainst texting or the use of hand held phones while driving having been on the books for some time, I am still very firmly telling people I will not answer the phone while driving. People have become so accustomed to an instant response they can get quite irritated when you do not comply. Unless it is critical, for example getting test results from a doctor, I turn off my cell when I am with clients. If I am expecting such a call I inform them of that at the start. My clients expect and pay for my full attention. Those who work from home do not have the convenient excuse of company policy to avoid answering the phone. I had a land line phone for the conveience of older relatives, including my father. I now keep this phone unplugged when I am working due to wrong numbers and a friend who always seemed to call during my work periods to have long discussions about a number of topics. The whole creative thread would be gone by the end of it.
With all the tasks I have, the goals to acheive and the desires to fulfill, time management is necessary. I love my garden but there is also a large area of lawn which must be seen to. For this I have hired someone. I moved here from an apartment and did not wish the expense of buying a mower, further, I do not have a basement or garage with my house and certainly did not want to store one in the kitchen or living room. Most importantly, my time is better spent on more productive things, like following my investments or finding new clients. Housework is another chore, and I use that word precisely because to me that’s what it is, that is on the block to be outsourced. A balance must be acheived, however, in outsourcing. I am perfectly capable of changing or adding memory chipsets to my Mac but I am willing to drive it to a shop half an hour away and pay to have it done because I trust the shop, they have a clean, static free environment, and no cats to jump up on the work surface at a critical moment. Plus, I don’t have to hunt up a source for the chips. On the other hand, when my vacuum lost suction it was faster for me to take an hour and a half to pull it apart, find the problem, fix it and finish the carpet. I did not have to hunt up a shop, call around for estimates, drive to and from the shop or pay out. All of us have things we do well, things we hate doing, things we enjoy and things we hope to try some day. Thinking hard about how we prioritize and deal with those things, we can all find ways to eliminate distractions, minimize interruptions and focus on what is most important. Acheiving simplicity is complicated but just envision the rewards.