• Jill Bakke

The Art of Simplicity

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.

— Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993

Life seems so hectic in 2020! It seems as if all of us are trying to simplify our lives and give them some structure so that we feel we have something supporting us as the world turns upside down. The other night I tossed all of my clothing from my closet onto my bed. It forced me to sort through and organize work-around-the house clothing from things I would wear to a doctor’s appointment or another more formal event. It also forced me to get the ones I wanted to keep back into the close in neat order if I wanted to go to bed that night. And, yes, I managed to do that. The task was far less of a problem than I had anticipated. I found a couple pieces which needed mending, one that I had to iron again, and a few garments that I didn’t know I owned. I saved some of those favorite things that were one size too small but packed them away in covered cloth boxes that looked attractive, but didn’t clutter up the closet. And best of all, things were easier to find in my closet and I knew what I had.

To simplify a task isn’t always that easy; simplification is an art. I find it an on-going process that doesn’t happen overnight or stay accomplished. And there are areas that are more difficult than others to structure and keep simplified. For me, it is my office. I am interested in so many topics, work on a larger assortment of them then I should at the same time, and chaos results. I can simplify my material, only to have the Jill that I am mess up the neat and orderly situations that I had created. I really am the work in progress in this area. It helps if you are part of the mess you are trying to simplify, that you are aware of that fact.

For me, the following simplifications continue to work for me no matter what happens to my flurry of paper, the messy desk that doesn’t stay simplified, and my non-sequential thought processes.

  1. I have an ongoing spreadsheet I open on January 1st. In it I enter all the information as it occurs that will be necessary to prepare my tax return for the year. No longer do I have to wade through information at tax time to find the figures I need.

  2. I have a file basket. A big, fabric file basket. Into it goes the monthly utility bills, store order receipts, estimates for services I am needing or considering for the house, etc. These are items that do not have to be retained after the year is over or the situation resolved. At the end of the year I sort out the stuff that still is in progress and begin a new file basket with it. If I need an account number, returned an item and need to see if I got a return noted on my credit card, or any similar need, the info is handy and it saves me all that time I’d use in an individual filing process.

  3. I transferred my checking account register to the computer. There are several reasonably priced and simple software programs that speed up reconciliation of the accounts and keep the figures readily available. I am still using an old copy of Quicken that I have had for a decade.

  4. I set up a pending file that I keep in a holder on my desk, a folder that has my postage and return labels in it, my formal appointment book, and a book that holds my secret password information. I find having those four things at my fingertips save me a lot of time.

Use your journal to list the areas that need simplification. Then take ten to twenty minutes and write on the idea of voluntary simplicity and how it would affect your life if you tackled them. Would you work more efficiently? Be more relaxed, loving, less argumentative? Then write a promise to do one of the ideas you have listed. When your promise has been accomplished, go back to your journal and record your reaction.

Pantries, bathroom cabinets, the medicine chest, and your dresser drawers are good areas to start on. They are small areas that offer big results and prepare you to tackle larger areas such as the garage or your tool shed. Or do as I did, simply toss the closet contents onto your bed so you have to get it done or sleep on the sofa. Have boxes for (1) donations and (2) the trash.

And, by-the-way, the trash box is a must. (And I seldom use the word “must.”) When I completed my reorganization, the trash container had an adequate supply of t-shirts that were stained, and when I went through my sock drawer I topped it off with a pile of lonely socks who had lost their mates!

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