Ruthless Simplicity: How to ward off doing more and burning out

Once again, I want to welcome the incredible Danielle LaPorte (author of the blog White Hot Truth) to Unclutterer. Read a more complete biography of her at the end of this article.

Last year was a biggie for me. I released a book, did speaking gigs in a dozen different cities, raised a bunch of money for my internet company, left that company for a new solo venture, and still made time to build forts and Popsicle stick boxes with my little boy. I knew that if I didn’t stand guard against the potential time, energy and stuff clutter that was coming my way, I was going to go berserk.

My initial inclination to planning for business growth was to do more. Work more hours. Put my kid into more programs. Just cram more into my life for a period of time. You know, weather the beautiful storm. But this time, I stopped myself. Maybe it’s maturity that brought me to my senses. Or maybe it’s all the sinus infections I’ve had from being over-worked. Or it’s the plethora of plastic toys and unanswered email that’s crept in while I’ve been juggling an ever-increasing more-ness to my life. But I finally had my eureka revelation and (I know, it may sound daft, you may have already mastered this incredibly obvious life lesson), but I finally realized that a girl can only do so much. Uh-huh.

When the going gets busy, the wise ones simplify … with a vengeance.

Managing chaos with beauty, quality, and ruthless simplicity:

  1. Commit to your creativity. This may sound like it should be the last priority on your packed to-do-list. When we’re busy, the creative things are usually the first to go, but creativity is like a super vitamin juice for the soul – a little bit goes a long way. Whether it’s just a love note that you write on a napkin, or some flowers you arrange for the dinner table – find little ways to keep your creative nature alive. Beauty-making helps you keep things in perspective.
  2. Get the best tools. Whether its more computer memory, a comfortable back pack, or a bus pass, invest in the best of what you use the most. Any carpenter will tell you that a house is easier to build with a sharp saw.
  3. Have it delivered. What last minutes trips and essential to-dos are consistently causing you stress? There’s probably a service to solve that dilemma:
    • Arrange for direct deposits and automatic payments. I go into my bank only a few times a year (no more looking for a parking spot or waiting in line!) We auto-pay utility bills with an air mile-earning credit card, and write just one or two checks a month to the credit card.
    • Get a food delivery service. Once a week, the food dude drops off organic veggies, milk and other yummers we’ve ordered. It costs about 5% more than our usual grocery bill, but race-to-the-grocery-store trips before work/daycare/appointments – no more.
    • Send gifts through Amazon. It seemed like every girlfriend I have had a baby last year. I sent them all kids books directly through Amazon (you can fill out a gift card that is included with your order.) I give them the more personal, lovey prezzies when I see them in person (and know better what they really need).
    • Get DVDs by mail. Now THIS changed my life. No more, “We have to watch this movie tonight,” pressure for the sake of the $5 rental fee. And no more late fees!
  4. Just say ‘no.’ Really. It’s a magic word.
  5. Insist on good service. I switched banks because I could never get a human on the phone and it took too long to get my business done. And as much as I liked her, I broke up with my hairdresser. She kept me waiting every single time.
  6. Give yourself a break. I adore books. I’d eat them if I could. But I actually committed to NOT read books for the first half of my very busy year. I also gave myself permission to be late with returning phone calls for six months. Sweet relief.

If you can see busy times coming, plan to do less, not accommodate more. Refuse to expand, insist on boundaries. Take your soul vitamins – be sure to do the little things that nourish your spirit. Reject anything that doesn’t foster your greatness, and put systems into place that support your freedom. Be ruthless. You’re worth it.

Danielle LaPorte founded www.whitehottruth.com because “self realization rocks.” Her blog is lauded as “kick-ass enlightening.” She is the lead author of the bestseller, Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design. A former think tank executive and communications strategist, Danielle helps entrepreneurs blaze their careers with her signature Fire Starter Sessions.

Choose from the heart: Clutter free and feeling fine

Today we welcome Danielle LaPorte, author of the blog White Hot Truth, as a guest on Unclutterer. She is a consultant who helps entrepreneurs rock their careers, is a former think tank exec, and author of the bestselling book, Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design.

Clutter is the result of choices. That may sound obvious, but until you start to actually examine your choices, a clutter-free life will elude you. Peace of mind is often buried in the choices you didn’t make. The “default” choices to let stuff into your life that doesn’t really match your true self.

Your bookshelf, your dinner plates, your nicky nacs. Shoes! (Shoes are a whole psychology unto themselves. I’m sure if Freud lived longer he would have studied the mental underpinnings of footwear choices.) Your sofa. Your in-box. Your pantry contents – all are the result of your choices. You’re the gatekeeper to your home. And nothing gets past you without your conscious or unconscious approval. So what makes it in…and why?

Do a quick visual scan in your head right now – room by room. How did what’s in there get there? Because it was on sale? Because it came with your ex-boyfriend but didn’t leave when he did? Because you positively love the design. Because it makes your heart sing?

I used to keep a ton of books in my living room because I thought it made me look smarter. Big ego choice. Now, I let books pass through my mind and my hands. And the books that I do keep, are well, the keepers – absolutely precious texts that I refer to for regular facts or inspiration.

Ego choices can be deadly. I know someone who chose a Mercedes she couldn’t afford because she wanted to drive up to her high school reunion in it. I had another client with a closet full of vampy, slutty clothes – when what she felt best in was a crisp white shirt and straight jeans. She kept choosing trashy clothes in rebellion against her mother, who for years, told her what was proper to wear.

TOP 4 BY-DEFAULT CLUTTER CHOICES

  1. My [insert name of well-meaning relative] gave it to me and I just can’t throw it out.
    This is tricky. But it gets down to this: life’s short and it’s your place. Objects carry memories and attitudes with them. If you want your home to be your temple or your chill-zone, then making choices based on obligation are only going to weigh you down.
  2. I really hate this [insert home item or piece of clothing] but I’m waiting to have the money to buy a new one.
    Something amazing happens when you get the stuff you don’t like out of your life – stuff that you do like has the room to show up. So chuck the old futon chair from university days, even if it means you sit on the floor for a while. You’ll be raising the vibe, shedding unwanted pounds and sending the universe a clear signal that you’re ready for quality…right now, not later.
  3. I got it for free, so I may as well keep it.
    Gasp. This is the ultimate gotchya-sucker default choice. ‘Cause ain’t nothing for free, baby! (Well, true love is free, but that’s about it.) If it’s taking up physical or mental space – it’s costing you. Everything has an environmental cost to manufacture, ship and dispose of. And when I think of all the “free” crap that I lugged around from apartment to apartment in moving vans – I could have saved enough to buy stuff I really loved.
  4. But what if I need it someday?
    Trust that if you ever need it, you’ll have what you need to get it. If you haven’t worn it for a year and half – give it away. If you’re waiting to lose the ten pounds, forget it. Just love yourself now. A happy life is an as-is life. And junk drawers are called junk drawers for a reason.

Simplicity demands ruthlessness. Consistent, conscious choices create momentum in your life, vitality, sweet satisfaction. You are what you eat. You are the friends you keep. And you are the stuff you choose. So choose from the heart every time – it always knows what’s best for you – and your living room.