I'd actually like a little LESS variety in life, thank you very much.
December 2, 2013 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I need some direction toward living a life with more depth and less breadth, less quantity and more quality. Any tips, recommendations or resources you know of would be most appreciated.

Up until recently I've always been the type of person who bit off more than they could chew, had a thousand interests and multiple projects going at one time that never got finished. The problem was that I was also a very easily overwhelmed person (I think this stems from anxiety issues and perfectionist tendencies) and it was all making me very unhappy.

I believe now that the answer to my woes is to try to live a calmer, simpler, more prioritized life. To this end I've been reading a lot about things like voluntary simplicity and minimalism. The book The Joy of Less has been invaluable for me in terms of understanding the benefit of and creating a plan to reduce my physical possessions but I feel like I could still use some more guidance regarding the less tangible aspects of life. I still feel like I have a hard time knowing when to let the to-do list go and relax and enjoy/live life. I also have a hard time sorting out my priorities and often feel bombarded by "shoulds" from all sides.

A lot of the stuff I've read on simple living either takes a new age-y approach to it or focuses on getting back to the land stuff and I'm sorry but taking time to meditate, do yoga and keep a gratitude journal isn't going to simplify life for me right now, nor is raising my own chickens and vegetables. Though I may consider doing one or more of those things in the future, right now I'd rather focus on eliminating. An example of the kind of tips I'm looking for: I recently cut down the number of people I'm actively trying to maintain friendships with to ten.

Two major areas I struggle with are finding a simple way to get the exercise I need and feeding myself healthfully. The variables in those two areas are so overwhelming to me! But I could use help in simplifying nearly all aspects of life: relationships, holidays, self care, housekeeping, hobbies, entertainment, internet usage (ahem), etc. Also, if it matters, I am a married female with no kids but several pets living in smallish apartment in a very large city and both my spouse and I work 40 hr/week more or less.
posted by Jess the Mess to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Gretchen Rubin's books The Happiness Project and Happier At Home. She's also a married, female, big city apartment dweller like you, and she blogs about all of the areas you've listed.
posted by hush at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2013

Depending on your circumstances, bicycling as much as you can may help with this; I find that by combining exercise and transportation I spend a lot less time thinking or worrying about either of them. Getting to that point may take a little while though; for me it required getting to the point where based on the weather I know what clothes I need to wear to make it to my destination comfortably, how to fix flats and drivetrain issues, etc.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm actually going to encourage you to give yoga a shot first.

Here's the thing about diet and exercise - they play a major role for most folks in feeling content, which is more or less what you're going for, right? There's no end to the anxiety-fueled spiral of needing more and more to satiate you - more things to make you busy, more people to see, more stuff to buy, etc. It's a horrible and endless cycle. It's hard to get away from this cycle because the typical American way of life is deeply entrenched in such anxiety, want and despair. I'm not convinced a person can eliminate their way out of that machine without doing something proactive to change their perspective on it. And so I really think that feeling good is the easiest way to begin to break out of that cycle a bit.

I know that practicing good diet and exercise habits is really hard, but the benefits as far as feeling content are tremendous, because when you aren't hungry or carb crashing or feeling like you just ate a brick, and when you are sufficiently worn out and stretched out, you have the ability to feel much, much less agitated, which makes living with less much easier. Diet and exercise is like a short cut to feeling content. When you feel good, it's much easier to be in the present, which is really the only way to be happy with nothing. When you feel good, being in the present isn't bad and irritating. When you feel shitty, it's much easier to just distract yourself with something, which puts you on that road to endless distraction-seeking (through work, netflix, metafilter, shopping, cleaning, whatever).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that instead of cutting things out to reach some state of simple happiness, become happy first and cutting out all the shit will be easy. I really do think it works that way. You say you don't have to time for meditation and yoga, but I think maybe that's the backwards way of looking at it. When you meditate and/or practice yoga, you practice being present and quiet. It's the practice of being happy with absolutely nothing, and I think that is really the key to being able to then cut out the complicating things in life. Yoga will help you take a breath, feel calm, and approach things mindfully and with intent, as opposed to just heaping things on. And then cutting things out isn't a struggle and you aren't trading one anxiety-inducing distraction for another one.

So instead of feeling like you don't have time to go to a yoga class, substitute it. Instead of watching two 45 minute episodes of TV on netflix, go to a 1.5 hour yoga class. You will feel great, you'll be much calmer, and not turning netflix back on or logging back into Metafilter when you get home will be much easier.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:29 PM on December 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

The final quarter or so of The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz talks a lot about strategies for dealing with the cognitive load of too many choices. The whole book is pretty interesting in ways that you might find useful.

Also, seconding biking in general -- I've found the lifestyle changes imposed by being my own source of transit to be wonderful for simplifying my own mental landscape.
posted by gauche at 12:30 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

If this is an issue for you, cut down on the internet. This made an enormous difference in my life. I'm still a heavy internet user compared to some, but literally have hours more a day available to me since I deleted my facebook account. I also switched my main internet time to sites where I read longer pieces (so feedly is my main internet portal) instead of those where I socialize. Metafilter is my main "interactive" or social website, and I changed my metafilter usage (and id) and now rarely participate in discussions in the comment sections of the blue. I replaced facebook with twitter which for me is a harm reduction approach because it is much less of a timesuck for me. I do still go through times when I'm on it more, but I don't hit "refresh" on twitter.

Not only do I save time, but my whole affect and orientation is different. I'm not thinking about being online. I have a longer attention span. I use my evenings for reading books or being with my family or taking a hot bath.

This is the single intervention that made the biggest difference to me.

For exercise I strongly recommend creating an external motivator to create a habit. Commit to show up for someone else, sign up for a personal trainer, whatever will force you to do the same exercise several days a week until the habit becomes automatic for you.
posted by latkes at 12:33 PM on December 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'll focus on just one of these items as it's at the top of my priority list too (notice I didn't say "to do"! That term stresses me out :) Feeding oneself healthily is a LOT easier when you already have stuff prepared and ready to eat. So make large batches of stuff and freeze it for later. It sounds like a big project and can seem daunting, but once you decide what to make you can basically go on auto-pilot from there. (Make a grocery list, shop, go home, prep, divide, freeze. The whole operation is actually very satisfying from an organizational standpoint... or maybe that's just me.)

I asked a question related to this recently; maybe you'll find some good ideas for what to make in there? I didn't focus specifically on "healthy" food because my aim was a little different (I wanted stuff in the freezer that I would feel just as satisfied eating as if I'd "treated" myself by ordering/going out.) but you could healthify any of that stuff easily.

Also, I've started just keeping stuff/ingredients around and in the refrigerator ready to prepare. (Chicken parts, greens, grains, etc.) That's made it much easier for me to just make something rather than go out. I've always been the type of person who goes to the grocery store just to get the stuff I want to make right then, and that is a huge barrier to actually, you know, doing it.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do two things for exercise: I ride my bike almost everywhere I need to go (work, shopping, social occasions unless they're super formal), and a couple of times a week I do bodyweight exercises at home. To be honest I barely even think of it as "exercise" - it certainly doesn't intrude into my life in the same way that dragging myself to the gym used to. But it works - a few weeks ago I got one of those body composition tests and was told that my proportion of lean muscle mass to fat is way above average for my age and gender. I really recommend finding a way to integrate physical activity into your everyday "life stuff" - the stuff you have to do anyway. You'll save time and you'll work out much more consistently than you ever could with self-discipline alone.

For food, is it possible for you to see a dietitian? (Not a nutritionist - dietitians are much more rigorously trained). They're experts at this kind of stuff - not just telling you what to eat, but giving you simple tips to fit good nutrition into your messy, imperfect life. Mine didn't put me on anything resembling a "diet" - she just said things like, "Hey, looks like you need more protein at breakfast - why don't you have two eggs on toast, or add a handful of nuts to your cereal? Also, here are some snacks you can carry with you so don't crave chocolate so much in the afternoons." It's made a big difference to my health, and I never felt preached to or restricted in what I could eat.
posted by embrangled at 12:51 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have a boring diet. It is 100% okay to eat the same sandwich for lunch every day, with a cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit. It's okay to make a big crockpot full of soup and eat the same soup for dinner every night for a week. Simple and repetitive can be healthy, as long as your diet is balanced. Find a routine lunch that works for you. Master a few simple recipes to rotate for dinner. This simplifies grocery shopping and eliminates a lot of agonizing choices.

Also, you have to get used to saying no. Make appointments with yourself to exercise, cook, shop for groceries, do your laundry, clean your house, read a good book, etc., and keep them. If people want you to come out to a dinner or a movie or, egad, join a committee or help them paint their living room, you have to say, "No, I'm sorry, I have plans." You don't have to tell them plans for what. Do schedule social time with friends, but you have to defend your private time.

You mention a spouse: are you dividing up responsibilities like cleaning and cooking equitably? If not, this can lighten your load of busy-ness considerably. (Warning: you may have to let go of certain standards, and just accept that if your spouse does a household chore 80% as well or as often as you do, and that's still okay.)
posted by BrashTech at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

I also have a hard time sorting out my priorities and often feel bombarded by "shoulds" from all sides.

You sound kinda A-type and this me-fi question is a little bit like yet another task to do. There is nothing to do. But some mindsets need to change:

Let go of the idea that perfection is a) real b) attainable c) a worthy to strive for.

Let go of the idea that once everything is aligned then you can be relaxed and happy.

Everything will get done in its time. Not everything needs to be done a) today b) ever.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [16 favorites]

Also, you have to get used to saying no

Yes yes yes. Because someone you know has decided that you should be involved in X activity creates NO obligation for you.
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2013

Cooking for yourself can be very relaxing and meditative. You don't have to make it a hobby or try to learn everything about it. Just learn some basics, keep some staples on hand and make some simple dishes while listening to some music.
posted by The Deej at 1:20 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can help with the food. There are menu subscriptions. E-Meals is one you might like. You key in your zip code and the kind of eating you enjoy doing (regular, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, etc.) Then it generates shopping lists and menus based on your preferences.

No thinking required. Just do what it tells you. You'll get variety, it's cost effective and you'll discover new recipes. They even work with supermarket sale items!

Another option is to have fixed meals on fixed days. You'll always buy the same stuff. And you may be able to prepare some things in bulk.


Spaghetti with meat sauce




Soup and Sandwiches


Baked Potatoes




Pork Chops
Baked Apples


Minute steak sandwiches
oven fries

Know how I typed that all so quickly? It was the meal plan I cooked at the age of 12 for my family when my Mom went to grad school. The spaghetti sauce could be made in batches, or hell, buy one in a jar if you like it.

These are all healthy meals, that are tasty and that people will eat.

You can change it up with Taco Night or buy a pre-cooked chicken at the supermarket on hectic days.

Don't worry so much, just get into the dinner habit, and you may find, as I did, that cooking is a really pleasurable part of the day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:27 PM on December 2, 2013

A tiny thing that has helped me immensely: leave your cell phone on silent (if you have one) and check it only when you have time. Not feeling like you're beholden to anyone who wants to reach you at any time might help you carve out a little brain space to do some of the other stuff on this list.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 1:51 PM on December 2, 2013

Response by poster: I appreciate everyone's answers and will definitely take them into consideration. I guess the question I really want to ask is: what specific limits do you set for yourself to make your life manageable?
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2013

Well the thing you have to remember is you are the only one who can make you happy and living for what everyone else thinks you "should" do just makes you miserable and they aren't happy, either, because there's always something else you "should" do.

Like my friends who got on the Real Adult treadmill were constantly told they should get married, then they should buy a house, then once they bought a house they had to have kids, and then they should buy a minivan, and then they should send the kids to this activity and this other thing and then they should go to this school and it's a constant chasing of everyone else's expectations but they never go "Okay, you've done well" and let up.

It's part of living in a consumerist society where advertising and marketing is constantly creating a lack in your life and selling you a product to fill it, then people seek social validation for their purchases and choices by demanding conformity. Creating that anxiety that if only you'd do this one more thing or buy this one more product everything would be perfect is exactly what marketing wants to do. I know that because I work in marketing.

So you have to decide what is actually important to you. Using myself as an example: I don't care about owning a house. I hate house crap. I hate DIY projects. I have no urge to paint my walls. I've been out of my mom's house for 13 years and we only just got to the point where we had some pictures to hang up. I don't care if my appliances are builder grade or whatever. I don't want to do yardwork or spend my weekends at Home Depot.

What I do value in this example is freedom: Being able to walk away from a lease, being able to move across the country if I want to. When I got a hole in my porch ceiling, I called maintenance and it magically got fixed without me having to manage the process. I spend my Saturdays sleeping in or doing fun stuff or going for brunch rather than handling the latest house disaster. So I don't buy a house.

But it takes a lot of strength to stand firm against the anxiety-production complex. Most of my 20s was this intense pressure to buy a house from everyone around me and only the collapse of the economy in 2008 really stopped it. Definitely be prepared for some backlash if you do start standing up for what you actually want.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:43 PM on December 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

One thing I try to do with my clothes is that whenever I buy something new, I find something in my closet to donate or throw away. This is to prevent clutter.

Something I just thought of... perhaps this approach could be used in a lot of other areas. A rule that, whenever you add something to your plate, you need to find something else to remove.

So, for example, if you hear about a new book/tv show/etc. that you feel like you need or should check out, the rule is that you have to remove something else from your Netflix queue or Goodreads "to read" list. Pick a finite number of items that you allow yourself to have on your mental, digital, or paper to-do lists, and make a rule that whenever you add something, you have to take something else off.
posted by Asparagus at 4:01 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been working on this a bit too, though from a bit of a different angle. I've been realizing lately that having more routines built into my everyday life will reduce my stress and allow me to focus more on things I enjoy. I've started with food, which has been extremely successful.

For a long time I struggled with meal planning because I live alone and don't like eating the same thing for days on end, but trying to eat different things all the time was resulting in a lot of expense, wasted time, and food going bad in my fridge. I started out thinking "ok, I'll try eating the same thing every morning for breakfast for a week and see how that goes." It went well. So then I started on lunch as well. It went even better! So this is now my meal routine:

Sunday: I figure out what I want for breakfast and lunch that week, buy the ingredients, and cook ahead anything that needs to be cooked ahead. As much as I can, I portion out my meals and snacks for the week. I also think about what I might like for dinner that week, focusing on things that can be frozen (meat, frozen veggies) or will keep a long time in the fridge (hardy veggies like broccoli).

Weekday breakfasts: This is usually at home and usually cereal and milk, though sometimes it's oatmeal. I also keep eggs on hand for mornings I feel like having them.

Weekday lunches: I usually make something on Sunday night that will keep well for the week. The absolute key is that it has to be something I really like, or I will get bored. So far, things that have worked well include a chicken-tortilla casserole (basically deconstructed enchiladas), chicken-veggie stir fry with rice, and pasta with tomato sauce and sausage.

Weekday dinners: I "freestyle" this one so I still get to feel like I have some sponteneity and freedom in my meals. I try to rely on pantry and freezer items for my dinners, plus some veggies that last well in the fridge. So it's a lot of protein with a sauteed veggie side, or omelettes.

Anyway, this description was way longer than it needed to be, but basically, the idea is with food, make as much of it routine as you can stand, while still leaving some room for variety. This system works well for me because it's a good balance between routine and variety, and because it's pretty easy. Also, I have saved so much money doing this! It's pretty much chopped my grocery budget in half, which is nice.
posted by lunasol at 4:11 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

A while back, I realized that I didn't enjoy being 'busy' so I started being kess worried about the shoulds. My house isn't as tidy, sometimes I don't respond to home email, and I read fewer news magazines.

I strongly recommend you prioritize the things you really do want, your true goals. Being focused helps you streamline.

Meals - Except for summer, I eat oatmeal. It takes a few minutes to cook, and I add dark brown sugar. I usually have a handful of almonds and dried apricots, too. It gives me lots of fiber and I don't think about eating again for a while. If you need more protein, have a couple of eggs - softcook them in the microwave in a buttered dish. and coffee. 8 - 12 oz. a day.

Lunch is leftovers, toast or soup, maybe a sandwich. With decaffeinated tea, maybe some orange juice.

When planning dinner, I choose a vegetable 1st, then decide what to have with it. Maybe stir-fried veggies on pasta, with a sauce of balsamic vinegar and a little chicken broth. Maybe roasted vegetables. Pasta sauce with Italian sausage. I cook extra for lunches, or dinner the next night. If I'm eating good food, I don't mind eating it several days in a row.

Exercise - take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you're on the 10th floor, get off at 6 and walk up, with a goal of walking all the way. If you climb the stairs twice a day, you'll get in shape.

a thousand interests and multiple projects going at one time that never got finished. The problem was that I was also a very easily overwhelmed This sounds pretty ADHD to me. I think you might like/ benefit form being more 'centered.' Pick a project - will it be fun? Do you want to complete it? Then complete 1 project. Pay attention to only that project, not the others distracting you. Consider meditation, which really helps.
posted by theora55 at 5:08 PM on December 2, 2013

Best answer: Aside from basic chores (today: walk home, stop at grocery store, feed cats, wash up dinner dishes, shower, re-make the bed, fold laundry) I am experimenting with only attempting three things OTHER than lie on the couch and watch TV. So far so good. Today's three things are: register our new printer for cashback refund deal, reply to my dad's email with what I want for christmas from my secret santa, and do a very very easy homework assignment that should take no more than half an hour and is already late. I might not do any of it. I also promised my husband we'd sit down and look at our calendar for the next few weeks, which means without a doubt, ONE of those things I just mentioned will get dropped. Do you see meditating, yoga, jogging, art projects, etc. on the list? No. We're aiming low here =) Low is good. "Low" is realistic and acheivable.

I also have a million things I'd like to do, or have half started, hobbies I'd like to have and get overwhelmed by...I don't think it is necessarily ADD. But I've had some therapy and am thinking very carefully about why I do this to myself. I am learning to slow down and really think about what I want, and what has real value to me, and how I can break things down into acheivable small bits. I recently have been realizing exactly how small those steps need to be for me to follow through. That was a shocker. (The answer is really really tiny!) I am having to re-train myself to work in short bursts and am learning to let some things go entirely.

Wardrobe Capsules.

I am also married, female, no kids, two cats, in a smallish apt in a very large city and we both work 40 hrs a week.

Simple Living & Simple Loving (books by Janet...? On Amazon)
Rowdy Kittens (Blog)
Maven Circle (Blog, sleeping but back in Jan; still good stuff)
Sustainably Creative (slooooow down... he has a chronic illness, but I have a job, so we both have limited time!)
Design For Mankind
posted by jrobin276 at 5:21 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

The biggest thing I've done for myself is give myself permission (within reason) to use money to solve problems.

Hate cleaning the bathroom? Pay someone to do it. Meal planning/prep is too much to deal with and you end up eating like crap when things are busy? Pay the premium to get stuff from the deli counter or have sensible meals delivered to you. (Note I'm thinking meal services like Evolution Meals or maybe one of those assembly-in-store places like Dream Dinners, not necessarily takeout every night or whatever.) You're fine with fruits and veggies, but somehow you don't seem to keep enough of them in the house? Order a farm share. Will the accountability of having a personal trainer actually get you to work out? Maybe it's worth the cost.

I've done all of the above when what I needed was to focus on whatever was important at the time and not be responsible for other crap that granted, still needs to be done. When you stop spending money on physical stuff, there tends to be some room in the budget for such making-life-easier items.

Also, I know we sound like evangelists sometimes, but I solved my exercise issues by taking up Crossfit. Steady progress keeps me going, and at first, the fact that people would notice my absence kept me going. Now it's my workout and social time all rolled up into one, and I have to force myself to take days off to rest.
posted by ktkt at 7:55 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The limits I set for myself to make life manageable: I now check in with myself and ask if I'm doing what I feel (i.e. is authentic to me) or am I doing what I think I should do. I try to do what feels authentic to me as much as possible, and not worry about what other people would think about it. Basically, to have decisions come from the heart, not from anxiety.

Also ask yourself: will this matter in: 1 week? 1 month? 1 year?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:23 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Every second week, I only work 4 days per week. This makes it way easier to follow this rule:

One day a week, I have no commitments. No obligations. No requirements. No responsibilities.

I do not look at work email. I don't respond to social emails. I don't commit to plans with friends. I don't commit to getting the housework done. I don't think about projects I'm working on. I don't think about my finances. I don't make appointments. I don't have to excercise. One day a week, I have permission to be a total lump and just flop around the house, or stay in bed all day, or go for a three hour walk without brushing my hair before I leave the house, or spend the whole day cooking, or read all the books, or spend all afternoon strecltching, or whatever the hell. But I don't have to do any of it. If someone calls I don't usually answer. It can wait. It can all wait while I get my head back on.

Works for me.
posted by windykites at 9:11 PM on December 2, 2013

Do you do the thing where you feel like every part of it has to be perfect or it doesn't count? Or if you don't do everything, why should you bother doing anything?

I work a nonstandard schedule that includes a combination of day shifts, evening shifts, midnight shifts, holiday work, and 12 hour weekend shifts, each and all in a regular, rotating pattern. It's really a lifestyle and can be awesome in some ways and pretty depressing in others (especially if you're new and trying to build a social life). I started seeing a therapist as part of a sort of ongoing life push toward making things better and one of the things I came up with on my own and decided to try, which he really encouraged, was Doing One Thing.

For instance, when I'm working midnights (which I do for a full week about once every month or so), I don't try to do more than one thing, if that, other than work and sleep. It takes me more than 8 hours of fitful day-sleeping to feel 8-hours'-worth of rested to begin with, and if it's the weekend I only have less than 11.5 hours total to recover before I'm going back to work. Sleeping properly under those circumstances kind of *is* an achievement.

If I plan carefully, especially if it isn't the weekend, I can go out and exercise for awhile. Or I can run one errand. If I get dinner invitations and decide to take them, I probably have to cut out my run or any errands. I get One Thing. Something about recognizing my limits--or, even, allowing myself to *have* limits--has actually been oddly freeing, and I think I've been more productive and happier this way than before.

About exercise: I've been getting into running the past few months, and I've gotten to where I really like, even crave, the physical feeling and the introspection time. This is stupidly simple and might not apply to you, but I recently learned that I found running about 100 times more fun and sustainable as an activity when I just started running slower. I think I used to think if you weren't suffering, it didn't count. But it turns out that, if I can go slowly, I can do it for hours. And I feel great afterwards. Of course, it takes hours, and you don't always have time for that. But even a brief run feels good, and even at relatively low paces my stamina and strength are growing, which in turn makes the whole thing more enjoyable, and so on. You don't have to run competitive 5-minute miles to be a runner, or to enjoy running (or whatever sport you want). Things which I find fun and am not very good at, like ice skating, or walking around stores shopping or whatever, actually count as exercise--they're not cheating.

About food: I've been getting some mileage out of a few things. One was to cut the low-hanging fruit. Again, you don't have to Fix Everything! for it to count, every little bit helps. I didn't drink enough water, so I got a water bottle, kept it filled, and carried it everywhere with me. It became my fidgety nervous thing--if I didn't know what to do with my hands or what to say, I took a sip of water. I cut down on the amount of rice and bread I was eating. I eased up on the grocery rules I imposed on myself and made compromises: I knew it was better/cheaper/more foodie-ish to buy fresh veggies and wash and cut them myself, but it turns out I was too lazy to do it consistently. So I bought frozen prewashed prechopped veggies and prewashed greens, because that way I actually ate them.

People often bring in treats to share at my workplace. I found it psychologically helpful not to tell myself "no," that I couldn't have the treat; instead, I just told myself "not yet." I didn't really turn down the treat, I just went to the bathroom...refilled my water bottle...needed to go find someone and ask them an urgent question...maybe even had an apple...and after awhile, either other people would have eaten up all the donuts; or I would honestly decide I didn't really want whatever it was anyway; or I would still want whatever it was, and I would let myself have one, or part of one.

Another thing I did was not really cut things out--like I said, I trimmed down the caloric low-hanging fruit, like rice and bread. But mostly, I upped my vegetable intake. Fruit, too, but mostly veggies. If you're eating that many veggies, you just don't have the room for much other stuff. Again, I found it helpful (to my Fear Of Missing Out brain) not to think of it as "turning down the fun stuff," but just upping other stuff (which I grew to really like more and more) and finding that that naturally decreased my desire for the less-good-for-me stuff without having to do any grand renouncing.

I'm definitely still very much working on the organizing end of things, but I've enjoyed the website Unclutterer. I find the internet in general to be helpful in many, many ways--feeling connected when lonely, finding solutions to problems, etc.--but it can also foster a sense of needing to be perfect at everything ever. Because all the bloggers appear to be. It's easy to forget that they're presenting the sides of themselves which they want you to see, for one thing, and for another, that no one person is every single one of those things at the same time. The fashion bloggers with the beautifully curated wardrobes might not be the same people who make their own cheese who are probably not the same people who bike around Asia feeding orphans. And that's OK--we love people who are good at things. Many things, and One Thing. You don't have to be all things to all people at all times. If you somehow are, you probably won't be as good at any of them, and you've got to find the balance which makes you happy.

Do One Thing. If that's OK, do another. But it's really OK to compromise, and pay extra for the convenience, or just not be the sort of person who does X, or whatever. Allowing yourself to be guided by your own choices and your own internal priorities can be really, really nice.
posted by spelunkingplato at 9:35 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just wanted to pop back in and say thank you to everyone who took the time to answer. You've all given me a lot to work with and think about.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:25 PM on December 3, 2013

I just found this: http://simpleyear.co/

"Welcome to a simple year. Living simply provides so many benefits, but sometimes it can be challenging to maintain a commitment to long-term change. If you look forward to living with less stuff, stress and obligation so you can have more time, money and energy to pursue what means most to you, choose to live a simple year.

A simple year was designed to help simplify your life. You’ll learn something new each month and focus on what matters most with a simplicity author that specializes in topics like travel, food, money, relationships and work.

Each month you’ll receive articles and information about a specific topic (details below) along with a live component like a webinar or tele seminar where you can connect with the author, ask questions and meet other people on a similar path. The live components will be recorded and provided so you can view anytime.

I am not in ANY way affiliated, nor have I taken the course.
$200 represents about one therapy session in full, or 3 session on co-pay for me.
Just sayin'... it struck me as expensive at first, may or may not be worth it.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:38 PM on December 6, 2013

Oh, and this was so popular it became a meme. It's popular for a reason!

Update: I only did that homework the other night. My dad got emailed at lunch a few days later. I still haven't registered our printer. I did fold laundry and see a museum exhibit on dinosaurs and looked for the little red laser light we torture our cats with. You do what you can.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:40 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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