Humans used to suffer from scarcity. These days lots of us in America suffer from overabundance. There's just too much in our lives, we feel -- too much stuff, too much information, too many worries.
If you want confirmation of this, look no further than the runaway success of Marie Kondo's de-cluttering manual The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. According to the WSJ, the author's name has even become a verb, a sure sign that she's become a cultural phenomenon.
But you don't need to read a whole book to get started on the project of simplifying and de-stressing your life. Question-and-answer site Quora recently rounded up tons of free advice on the subject when users offered dozens of thoughtful responses to someone asked "How can I make my life simpler?" Here are a few of the great tips that emerged.
1. Learn to say no.
'No' is just a little word, but many of us still struggle to get it out of our mouths often enough. But if you want a simpler life, you're going to need to start saying no more often, several respondents agree. "To find yourself, to find simplicity - you need to say no to everything that doesn't matter," writes founder Oliver Emberton.
"You can't do everything. Find out what's really important to you and prioritize those activities," agrees writer Nelson Wang. Here are some tips to help you get better at setting boundaries and saying no if that's something you struggle with.
2. Stop complaining.
Moaning about what's wrong with your life might feel like a great way to let off steam, but, in fact, science says it's just likely to make you more negative and therefore more prone to further problems and unhappiness. Plus, as IT consultant Shivanee Prusty points out, there are almost certainly plenty of people who "are even less privileged. All that they have to continue their life is the free air."
3. Use the 10-year test.
Simplifying your life is as much about clearing out mental space as it is about tossing out physical clutter. Here's a handy rule Wang suggests to help you chuck unnecessary worries. If you're "feeling stressed about something that just happened. Use the 10 year test," he advises. "Ask yourself, will this matter in one year, five years, or ten years? If it won't, you need to stop stressing out about it. Move forward."
4. Accept others' imperfections.
"Don't expect your friend/significant other/parent/colleague/children to be perfect. You aren't perfect, either," says respondent Srishti Singh, who adds. "We're all here to learn from our mistakes. Don't be so critical of others (or yourself). The more you accept these imperfections, the simpler your life gets."
"Don't expect too much from other people," writes product manager Mira Zaslove, offering similar advice. "Everyone reacts differently to situations, and you never know what the other person is going through. The more you judge, worry about, or compare yourself to others, the more complicated life will be."
5. Reduce your communication channels.
How much time do you spend checking myriad inboxes everywhere each day? A lot, right? Couldn't you simplify matters by funneling all your communication through fewer channels?
"After you've checked SMS, WhatsApp, voicemail, email, your second email account, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, Twitter DMs, Quora messages, snail mail, and Slack for the third time in a given day, you've lost the opportunity to actually, ya know, get anything done. Narrow down the number of communications media you use, and batch process the messages that arrive, to reclaim your day," suggests VC Patrick Mathieson.
6. Have fewer opinions.
This doesn't mean be uninformed or uninvolved. It just means you should limit yourself to only forming opinions on subjects you actually care about. "We would all save a lot of time and aggravation if we confined our opinions to domains over which we actually have control," notes Mathieson. This "isn't to say that there's no value in being an informed citizen, but man we sure do spend a lot more time advocating for our own opinions than working to change the outcomes."
7. Head clutter off at the pass.
It's easier to stop useless stuff from entering your home than it is to get rid of it once it's there, points out mechanical engineer Betsy Megas. "Declutter even before stuff comes in the door," she suggests. "Get yourself off of junk mail lists, and take bills and statements electronically. Sort any mail that still arrives over a recycling bin, before you set it down. Before you buy any item, have a specific use and a specific place in mind for it."
8. Do what works for you.
The best simplifying measures and life hacks in the world won't work for you if they don't fit in with your own preferences and lifestyle, Megas also wisely points out. The foundation for a stress-free life is self-knowledge and acceptance.
"Go with what works for you," she writes, noting that this is "true whether you're trying to build a new habit or break an old one, or just simplify a process or activity you do regularly. Shoes landing by the door instead of in the closet? Put a shelf or basket by the door and say the shoes belong by the door. Your way doesn't have to be the 'right' way."
9. Put your shopping list in the cloud.
If you were hoping for more down-to-earth, practical suggestions to simplify your life, the Quora respondents offered some of those too. Try putting your shopping list in the cloud, suggests programmer Dewi Morgan, for example. Have "a shopping list in Dropbox, viewable on your phone," he advises. "Then you or your partner can update it wherever you are. We have two files: the list of all things to check before making the list, and the list of things we're actually running out of and need to buy."
10. Make your bed.
Here's another one from manager Rajeev Sagi: "Make your bed every single day: Yes, it may sound simple and it may also sound stupid, but this is great advice I received." He's in good company saying this seemingly minor task can set the right tone for the day ahead and have outsized impacts on your state of mind and productivity.
What tips would you add to this list?