Keep it simple

There is a trend that began in America and is taking hold in this country called ‘downshifting’, which may be seen simply as making one’s life less cluttered.

Most of us spend our working hours trying to squeeze more from less, then at home we use up our time doing chores, resenting the feeling that our social lives could be better.

There are many books on how to make life simpler, but here are four points that work for me and will reduce anyone’s stress levels:

• Take one job at a time, however quick or easy it seems. It is tempting to do many jobs at once so they get done in the shortest possible time – cooking while helping children with homework, or writing a report while watching television. Not only does no job get done correctly, but also you will need to do some of them again, so increasing your stress.

• Try to do one small job each day. It can be soul-destroying trying to clear a large job over a weekend that has needed doing for months. Instead, do one task as part of what needs to be done – tidying a wardrobe as part of cleaning a bedroom – and when you’ve done it, stop. Do another small job the next day and gradually the work will get done.

• Keep your social circle at the level that is most comfortable for you and you alone. I am always suspicious of people who claim to have hundreds of dear friends who would do any thing for them. While it is fun to go to large social events especially if someone else is paying – the expensive and elaborate social soirees that take all week to prepare are no more satisfying, and certainly more stressful, than a casual meal with a few good friends. These will want to be with you for your company, not to climb a social greasy pole or gun some social cachet. Friendship lasts – meals are usually forgotten.

• Don’t allow cleaning to dominate your life. I have visited houses where I have deliberately chosen not to sit down, and where my feet kept sticking to the floor. Conversely, I have been in homes where I was obviously the dirtiest object present, and whose owners could not wait for me to leave before re-cleaning an already spotless room. Clean and presentable is one thing, obsessively clean is another. Life is too short to spend attached to a duster.

• Try to simplify chores, and ask yourself why you are doing them in the first place. If they are using up time you would rather be spending on yourself or with friends and family, look at ways of achieving the same result in less time. I have yet to meet anyone who said to me on their deathbed, ‘You know, doc, I wish I’d spent more time cleaning the house.’

Use the ‘Home Four’ tips to simplify and de-stress your life:

• Carry out one job at a time, however small.

• Each day, finish one task – this puts you back in control.

• Keep social commitments at the level you are comfortable with.

• Don’t become obsessed with cleanliness.

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