About two years ago I read “A Simplified Life” by Emily Ley. Out of all the books that I have ever read, I can say that this one has had the biggest impact on my life. It led me to change the way that I viewed habit building and lifestyle maintenance and spurred me onto reading more books like “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, “Goodbye, things”, and “Grace Not Perfection”- all of which I read within the span of one month lol. By the way, I would highly recommend all of those books!!!
But in reality, this book actually changed the trajectory of my life by helping me make room in my house, mind, and relationships for what really matters. It was by making room in my life for what really matters that I was able to see more clearly where my life should be heading, giving me the confidence to pursue my passions.
So why was A Simplified Life so impactful? Simple. It brought me back to the basics and helped me realize HOW I could simplify every area of my life to set myself up, not just for success, but for happiness. It’s been about a year now since I have diligently implemented the principles that I learned from the above books. Upon reflection, I have consolidated some practical and actionable tips to share with you guys to implement in 5 areas of life. Since I know there is only so much time in a day, not everyone will read the above books, so I’m hoping I can give you guys some easy takeaways that can help you achieve as much happiness as I have.
1. #HOWTO simplify your meal prep
Oh meal prep…I touched on this briefly in my weight loss blog (for those of you who haven’t read it- I of course recommend checking it out 🙂 ).
Once I made the decision to start cooking more (about a year and a half ago), it took me awhile to get into a good routine. It used to take me two hours to meal prep, ages to make the grocery list for the week, and then so much time cooking these complex recipes every night- which sort of monopolized the evenings with the time they took to cook AND clean. Now I finally have a great routine that makes these processes fun and something I actually look forward to.
Here is the routine that I have developed:
1. (Step 1 does take some investment of your time, but once you practice this over the course of a couple months, you will be able to fall into a great routine that takes no time at all.) The first thing you need to do is to establish about 15 recipes that your family loves. I used Pinterest when I was first starting out (you can find my board here if you’re interested). The important thing is that you find meals that share similar ingredients.
2. Create a grocery list, divided into the subsections of: dairy, produce, sauces and condiments, protein, cans, spices, beverages, and other (You can personalize this for your family’s needs. We just don’t purchase much out of the produce section, but if your family eats breads or cereals, you might want to create a category for this). Make this a standard grocery list that includes the shared ingredients from your 15 favorite recipes. Once you do this, you can use this SAME grocery list every single week, with very little variation.
(this is my personal weekly list)
3. Sit down on Sunday (or whichever day is the last day of the week for you) and plan your meals for the week. I plan breakfast lunch and dinner, although I tend to stick to the same breakfasts and lunches. This process should be super simple once you have your favorite meals established. You can always vary them slightly. For example: we love a spaghetti Bolognese over zucchini noodles. Sometimes I buy different veggies to go in there or, if it’s a special week, I’ll buy a fun cheese to go on top.
Once you have planned your meals, add on the few special ingredients to your “base grocery list” that you use every week and get your shopping done. This whole process takes me about 2 hours total, and it sets us up for the entire week and saves us loads of cash.
4. Use your meal prep time as sacred time with your family. For us, cooking together is where we catch up on the day and share our experiences. It’s become almost a ritual for us and it’s definitely something I look forward to. Habit stacking is a really effective way to build a new habit (you’ll see that a lot on my cleaning schedule). Just stack a habit you want to learn on something you already do everyday and it will catch on in no time. So when we started cooking together, we used it as a time to strengthen our relationship through setting that time aside for conversation.
5. Clean while you cook!!!! I have my best friend (Blerina) to thank for this tip!!! Oh my gosh- the time it saves. When you’re cooking, have one person clean and one person cook. Cleaning isn’t even an issue for us anymore. I make sure that the kitchen is clean before we eat, and then the rest of the night ours.
2. #HOWTO simplify your cleaning schedule
For my life (and I feel with many people’s lives) there were two main issues here that had to be addressed: clutter and family education. The Simplified Life and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up really helped with both of these. If your house is de-cluttered and organized, then your cleaning will be the same. Additionally, if your family or roommates aren’t bought into the cause, then keeping the house clean will become increasingly difficult. Once these issue are addressed, then a simple routine is all you need to maintain a tidy house.
Let me just say that LESS IS MORE. De-cluttering my house was one of the most worthwhile ways I spent my time in 2018. It took me a looooong time, yes, but the room it freed up in my house and in my mind made every second worth it. Now I like to think of myself as a “wannabe minimalist”, but I still have a ways to go.
I would recommend investing some time in in the next few months decluttering room by room. Come up with a strategy for educating your family or roommates. For me, it was as simple as labeling the pantry to help maintain organization, and verbally allocating chores to ensure all the bases were covered. Once you have done this, you can create a simple plan to follow.
My simple cleaning schedule looks something like this (note: thanks to technology like AirPods, I can make my chores fun by setting aside the chore time as time to catch up on a book or speak to an old friend)
Sunday: Clean out fridge, grocery shop, start laundry while I spend time with my fiancé
Monday: Vacuum, put away laundry while I catch up with a long distance friend
Tuesday: Deep clean kitchen while Matt cooks
Wednesday: Wash sheets, clean bathrooms while I listen to my audiobook
Thursday: Pick up living room and bedrooms and dust window sills while I listen to my audiobook
Friday: Clean up house, throw away any unused bottles or unnecessary items and listen to a new podcast (I love to go into the weekend with a clean house!)
(Also, it’s important to note that it is worth investing in some helpful cleaning products to make your life easier. For me, my favorite ones are my Roomba and my electric mop)
3. #HOWTO simplify your getting ready routine
Whether you’re the kind of girl that likes to look her very best when she goes out or you are the kind of girl who throws her hair in a ponytail and runs out the door- I’m convinced that there is always a way to simplify the routine. I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I have learned along the way that have helped me simplify my getting ready routine, freeing up more time to sleep, workout, meal prep, etc.
1. Have one or two go to hairstyles that take 10 minutes or less. I actually have 1, which is usually air drying if I’m going into the office.
2. Learn about makeup application (I used YouTube tutorials), find the makeup that works for you, and use the same makeup routine every day. I think it’s important to take some time to educate yourself about what looks best on your skin type and with your features, so you can get the kind of makeup that makes you feel your best. Once you do that, doing your makeup becomes super simple. I would say spend no more than 10 minutes on this (I usually spend 5-7).
This video is a good one for an everyday look, but there are a lot more out there! Click here to watch.
3. Pick your outfit the night before. This also starts with de-cluttering. I threw out about 15 bags of clothes when I went through my closet, and now I only have clothing items that I love, wear frequently, and bring me joy. It takes me 2 minutes or less to pick an outfit and about 30 seconds to put it on the next day.
4. Start your day with just 1 minute of mindfulness instead of looking at your phone or waking up in a hurry. At the risk of sounding cliché, just one minute of mindful meditation sets your day off on the right food, and helps you carry a certain “zen” about you throughout your morning.
4. #HOWTO simplify your morning routine
In order to simplify your morning routine, you need to simplify your getting ready routine ^^. Once you have done that, it becomes much easier to simplify your morning routine. I like to divide my morning into three parts: breakfast, workout, and getting ready. But whatever you do in the morning, even if it’s different than me, these principles can still apply.
The first and most important part about having a successful morning routine is actually having a morning routine. I flourish with a routine so I have always been a morning routine type of person, but there are so many benefits to having one, even if you don’t usually follow a routine. Here are my tips to having a successful morning routine:
1. Start your day with 16 ounces of water!! This is so important!! I’ve spoken about this before, but we wake up on a HUGE fluid deficit. Starting your day with water will lubricate your organs, help prevent that caffeine crash, a set you off on the right foot.
2. If you eat breakfast, have your breakfasts planned out the week before. Make sure that you have either made your breakfast in advance, or that it is a simple breakfast to make in the morning. I usually take about 30 minutes for breakfast and morning vitamins.
3. Get moving!! If you do a workout, plan what you are going to do in advance. If you don’t work out in the morning, set aside 15 minutes to get your blood flowing- it makes such a difference in the day. I prefer working out in the mornings, so I set aside an hour for this.
So my morning routine consists of a 30 minute breakfast, 1 hour workout, and about 20 minutes to get ready (including my shower). Again, we all have different preferences, so it’s more about ensuring that you have compartmentalized the activities for your morning and planned them in advance, and most importantly- you have allocated time for each.
5. #HOWTO simplify your week
I believe that the key to a peaceful life is a well thought out plan. Luckily for me, my very first job out of college helped me develop my planning skills, as we were initially taught how to plan our days, weeks, and months in order to achieve our objectives. This skill continued to develop for me in my personal life and has had a huge effect on my peace and productivity as I have continued to diligently plan ahead.
I know we all plan, and it looks different for everyone, but for me, my planning looks something like this:
1. Divide the five working days into three sections- morning (personal time), day (work time), and evening (personal time).
2. Visually fill your calendar (I use mine on outlook, but if you prefer a paper planner that works too!) with your weekly schedule, at least one week in advance.
3. Start by listing what you need to achieve for the week (ex: Grocery store, meal prep, pay bills, call HOA about fence, purchase new drawer handles, etc.) and then pop that in your personal time on the calendar.
4. Then list the things you need to achieve for work and pop that in your work time
5. Lastly, review the previous week and carry over anything that wasn’t achieved
Once I started picking up this routine for my own life, oh my gosh did my life transform. Suddenly, there was so much more time in the day to conquer “To-dos” and also take time for myself. I felt on top of things, and decision making was easier because I knew what needed to be done and when. This plan gave me the priceless gift of peace.
Everyone’s way of “simplifying” and planning will look a little different, but what’s important is that we all take time to be intentional about our lives, removing what doesn’t deserve our precious time and attention and making room for the people and experiences that do.