This week's tip is simple. Not a lot to say and actually, taking action requires . . . not taking action. Sounds like a bit of a paradox, doesn't it?
So, here's the deal. Many of us grew up as the offspring of parents from the Greatest Generation or the Baby Boomer Generation. My mother was, what I termed a “neat freak.” Our home was always “just so.” Nothing was ever left laying around. Everything was always dusted. Everything had a place – PERIOD – and if it wasn't in its place there was an inquisition. I was a typical kid, an active boy, but you'd never know it if you saw my room. It looked like something from “Better Homes & Gardens.”
Yes! I was taught to make my bed everyday, without fail, no excuses, period. I carried that habit throughout my life. Then one day, I read a chapter in a small book I bought about simplifying my life. This was about 16 or 17 years ago. It told me to stop making my bed. It suggested that the days of “Leave It To Beaver,” “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show” were past tense. Yes! I've been thinking about and working at simplifying my life that long.
This little book said, it's probably better to let your bed air out during the day than to cover it up. Hmm, I said to myself, there is some logic in that. It also suggested that few people ever see your bedroom, so what difference does it make? I thought about that, too. Now, being a little OCD, I said to myself, but I'll know. Then I thought a little more and decided – so what?
Now, believe me, this is not a big thing. It doesn't require any rocket science or brain surgery (other than breaking an OCD habit). I decided it made a lot more sense than making the bed everyday did . . . just for the sake of making it. Was it a self-discipline thing? Maybe! But, hey, I was old enough 15 or 16 years ago, and I'm certainly old enough now, to have the self-discipline to do what has to be done to survive in a civilized way or I wouldn't have survived this long. And, remember, I'm single, so if I don't do it, it doesn't get done.
Here's another thought on the subject. Remember, my primary lifestyle is that of a wandering nomad living in my compact micro condo on wheels, My McVansion. My bed in my van is actually a bunk that doubles as a couch during the non-sleeping hours with lots of storage underneath. I have adopted the sleeping bag as my bedding for the sleeping hours (typically, at night like most people). When I started out I would zip the bag up, fold it in half, lengthwise and then roll it as tightly as I could too consume as little space as possible in my compact environment.
Then, I added a drop leaf extension to my workstation to the left at the foot of the bed. This extended my workstation to the full width of the van during daytime hours. It folded down over the foot of the bunk. So, now, I simply fold my sleeping bag in thirds. I don't zip it up, ever. It resides at the foot of the bed and becomes the support for the workstation drop leaf extension. It takes seconds to convert my “bedroom” into my living room and office. Simplicity at its finest.
An Act Of Defiance – Where Does It Lead To?
So, stop making your bed. That's not an order, simply a suggestion to give yourself a little more freedom and, perhaps, a symbolic outward sign of the simplification process. However, maybe it will help you with other areas of life simplification. Perhaps, this one act of “defiance” to do something that was drummed into us as kids may be the catalyst to find and apply other simple ways of doing things, ultimately, leading to a simpler, freer lifestyle.
For example, it might make it easier to drop the subscription to the local newspaper if you still have one, but don't get to read it. But, you've always had the newspaper delivered. It's what you do because you always have. The same with the magazine subscriptions. All this paper kills trees and then gathers in your house, often unread, making you feel guilty because you paid for them, but don't get around to reading them. And then, to add insult to injury, you have to fill your recycle bin with them or take them to a recycling center and sort them into the appropriate bins, requiring more priceless time.
How about dropping a land line telephone. Unless you live in one of the very few places left in the U.S. (and in the world, for that matter) where you don't have a decent wireless phone signal, why pay for two services. The wireless services offer more features at less overall cost than the wired phone. And, if you believe you have to have it because it's bundled with your TV cable service, dump them both. You are not getting your money's worth and you can watch most things on the Internet now. And, the Internet can actually be bundled with your wireless phone service and connected to your computer and TV. But, you've always had a wired phone and been listed in the phone book. Why? Few people even look at phone books any longer.
Do you still take clothes to the dry cleaners? Why? Get rid of clothes that require dry cleaning and stop buying any new such clothes. This is the 21st Century.
These are only a few things, some of which I've mentioned in earlier tips. Realize and accept that many of these things you do because you've always done them this way. We can all make irrational excuses for living in the past.
I always love the older people who tell me (including people my age – I have a sister who uses this excuse), “I can't learn to use a computer, I'm too old.” That's unadulterated bullshit. You're too old because you think you're too old and are probably too damn lazy to learn a few new things. I know people well into their 90's who use computers. Of course, they are not computer nerds, but they can effectively use computers to do all the things they want to use them for. Computers are extremely user friendly.
Yes! Life Is Complicated
Life is complicated. It's more complicated than it's ever been. As the population of our country and the world keeps increasing, governments are taking more and more control of our lives to, supposedly, keep things civil. Not to make this a political statement, but whenever government gets involved in people's lives, things get more and more complicated, cost more and certainly, one has to question civility as aided by government.
You're reading this article and this blog because you find your personal (and probably your occupational) life complicated and you want to be able to sit back and enjoy a more relaxed, simpler, freer and happier life. That won't happen until you take the actions, or even non-actions, to change the things that take away your time and your breath.
I mentioned wireless phone service. Believe it or not, wireless, or cellular phone service has been available to the public since about 1983. That's 33 years ago. It was pretty basic and expensive in the beginning. It was mainly adopted by business people back then. The phones did one thing. They allowed a user to make or receive phone calls. That's pretty much the way it was for the first decade and a half. I jumped on the bandwagon in 1992. But, I already had communication from my car with amateur radio and had been making phone calls from my car since before the cell phone really started making a difference.
Today, the tiny units we carry in our pockets and purses, we now call them “smart phones,” are basically very powerful computers. They are more powerful than the computers used to send men to the moon and back. They are more powerful than most of the early “main frame” computers that filled rooms with equipment.
My smart phone has made my life much simpler. But, you say, “Isn't that high tech stuff the very thing that makes our lives more complicated?” It sure can be, unless you know how to put these powerful devices to work for yourself. My little pocket-sized device has replaced or provided more than 40 devices and services for me. This is one of the ways I've utilized modern technology to simplify my life.
The Bottom Line
This article started out with a simple tip – stop making your bed. I took that simple tip and showed you how it can help you examine other facets of your life and find ways to simplify even more. That's how simplifying works. You take one step. That step leads to another step. Then you take another step. The challenge is overcoming inertia. Everyone is subject to inertia and that inertia is controlled by the six inches of gray matter between our ears.
Take a little time and contemplate how much of your lifestyle is controlled, complicated, costs more money than necessary to expend and takes priceless time from your too brief life. Just as humans do certain things instinctively like eat, drink liquid, sleep and have sex, they also do things habitually. Instincts can't be changed. They are genetically implanted for our survival. Habits, on the other hand, are environmentally conditioned and most certainly can be changed. It just requires a desire to change the habits and the will to follow through.
So, Tip #19 is: Stop Making Your Bed. Figure out why changing this habit will simplify and improve your life. Then do it. Then examine other things that you can simplify like eliminating an alarm clock, removing a wrist watch, refraining from drinking costly, sugary soft drinks (and diet soft drinks are no better for you and often cause you to eat more unhealthy foods) and other outdated and outmoded habits. No! Your life will NOT get worse. It will get better when you free yourself from many habits impressed on us by external conditioning that drain our life, time and spirit. You will be in control of your own – simple – life, maybe for the first time, ever.
Live free and be happy. EH