Simple Living: Determining Your Priorities

Photo: Richard0

Even with the economy slowly exiting the spectacular nosedive it took last year, many people find themselves with a renewed interest in living simply. However, what that means for each person depends on their own individual priorities. Determining what this means for each of us sounds like it should be easy, but instead is something many of us struggle with more than we are at peace about it.

Simplistic it might seem, but the easiest way to figure out your priorities is to make a list, then whittle it down based on how the different things that are important to you interact. There are some questions you can ask that dig right to the heart of this matter. They aren't always easy, but the answers will be more than satisfying.

What is necessary?

Things that are necessary must be done, plain and simple. It doesn't matter how much we like them — if they're essential, they go on the list.

However, we often tend to think things are essential that aren't. For instance, the amount of money we need can sometimes be drastically reduced if we eliminate things that truly aren't needed. Sure, we need food, water, and shelter, but do we really need catered lunches, Evian, and more bedrooms than there will ever be people in the house?

Include in your thoughts about necessities things like your individual needs for time and space. Maybe your mental health suffers if you don't meditate every day, or you continually dream of 30 minutes uninterrupted time alone. These are necessities, too, even if you usually ignore them.

Add these items to your list.

What do you like?

While we certainly can't eliminate everything unpleasant from our list of priorities, we're going to be more likely to focus on things we enjoy doing. It's worthwhile to make a list of these things, even if we find that some of them can't make our ultimate priority list.

Think about how you dream of spending your time — those things you'd love to do that consistently get ignored in favor of other, more urgent happenings. Think also about how you function best, whether it's being alone, finding yourself surrounded by people, or at a purple desk with glow-in-the-dark stars on the walls.

Think also about your if-onlys — that list of things you would do if only you had more time, money, space, energy, whatever.

Add them all to your list.

Set your list aside

Once you have your list, walk away from it for a while. Leave it someplace where you won't see it, where you might even forget it exists. Put a date on the calendar 2-4 weeks out from where you are now, to remind yourself to go back to it.

During these weeks away, don't intentionally think about your list, but don't stop yourself from thinking about it and the items on it, either. Note what you think about, but hold the thoughts loosely.

Review your list and make changes.

When the day pops up in your calendar, go back to your list. Read the items on it again, without trying to judge them or put them in order. Cross off anything that no longer seems to fit. Don't judge these choices — often, our priorities are buried so deeply inside us that we can't articulate why something does or does not belong.

Repeat this process of setting your list aside and coming back to it until you feel like the list in front of you is what you need to focus on, regardless of whether or not you like each of the items or think it's actually possible.

Take a deep breath when you get this list, then look at it again. Here, sitting right in front of you, is your own personal guide to simple living. Put your best energy toward these things and you will find your life taking on an easier, more manageable tone, not only psychologically but spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially as well.

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Guest's picture

The first thing I thought I should cut out of my life when I read this post was the television. We went without the black box for a couple of years, before my daughter arrived, then it slowly crept back into our lives. How much time do each of spend glued to the screen? The average American spends 127 hours per month watching the beloved TV! Surely we could be doing something better with our time?

Guest's picture

Due to this economic climate, I had been affected by downsizing. As part of my "healing" process, I started to cut-back on spending, and also sell most of my stuff to get rid of clutter and unnecessary attachments.

I am also spending more time with people rather than things. Very liberating indeed.

Guest's picture

Good post, thank you. Our individual 'needs' are so important. For me I really need my personal space and I'll go crazy if I don't get time out from people and chaos.