I thought I had reached wardrobe equilibrium the last time I cleaned out my closet. Apparently not. As I filled the second bag with clothes to give away, I wondered how I still had so much.
How had I accumulated all these shoes? How many shirts do I really need? How many more times will I edit my closet before I actually reach wardrobe equilibrium?
The problem, I realized, was that my wardrobe seemed to be connected in a strange way to my work: The more projects I had on my plate, the more streamlined I was trying to make my life outside of work. This meant being able to go into my closet and pick out anything knowing that it would be appropriate, look good, and reflect my style without wasting any thoughts on it. My closet editing wasn’t just about getting rid of things—it was about my ability to work efficiently, which meant minimizing the attention paid to anything external.
Here are a few ways you can streamline your life outside of work so you can actually have the life you want outside of work.
1) Unsubscribe from all emails.
A few weeks ago I expressed to a friend my shock at how many emails I had received overnight. I was surprised when he replied, “How many of them were newsletters?”
As much as it would be nice to think that for every ten emails I receive only one needs an actual reply, I am subscribed to precisely zero newsletters. When I do receive one that I haven’t actually subscribed to, I unsubscribe immediately before deleting.
If you find yourself deleting newsletters, offers, etc. every morning because you are overwhelmed by their existence, start unsubscribing. Keep a reading list instead. It is possible to keep your inbox manageable if you opt out of all the excess.
2) Eat the same thing.
If you have a good variety of foods in your rotation, you won’t get sick of them, you won’t miss out on things you need, and you won’t spend time wondering what to eat.
You can be flexible even if you prepare your meals in advance like I do. Have everything chopped, sliced, and cooked for the week so that you can mix things as you feel like having them.
Spend some time figuring out what you need in your diet, and what is important to you (Free-range, vegetarian fed chicken? Milk from growth hormone-free cows? Soy-free everything?) and find brands that match your values. You can clean up your schedule and your diet at the same time.
3) Stick to your routine.
If you leave room for decisions during the day, you are likely to waffle. Have a morning and an evening routine.
If you have tea every night before you brush your teeth, wash your face, and lay out your clothes, you will waste less time than if you decide to brush your teeth at some point before you go to bed while walking back and forth to see snippets of the show you don’t really care about on TV.
Just know that for ten minutes every night after tea, you brush your teeth, wash your face, and lay out your clothes, and there will be no thought wasted about how you are too tired to do any of it and just want to watch TV. Procrastination has never been good for the time-conscious.
4) Edit your wardrobe.
You make enough decisions during the day. Do you really want to stare at a bunch of clothes that don’t really look good together, and don’t really look good on you?
You don’t need a lot of clothes, you just need the right clothes. If you have an outfit that you only wear on days you want to look your best, get more clothes like that. You should aim to look your best every day, and looking your best shouldn’t take a lot of brainpower. Find what works and do it more. Get rid of the rest.
It doesn’t mean having a boring closet—it means being excited about what you’re wearing each day. It also doesn’t mean wearing the same thing every day so you don’t have to think about it. If you can pick out anything and know it is a good choice, no thinking is required.
5) Go paperless.
This is good for so many reasons. Aside from the ink cartridges and paper saved, you won’t have stacks of papers waiting to be filed, or unopened mail burdening your soul. While you should keep a copy of certain important documents, you should also keep your paperwork to a minimum.
There are few legitimate reasons to have twelve filing cabinets full of papers you haven’t seen in twenty years—and when you go looking for the one you do need, how much time do you spend trying to find it?
Often we are faced with a task that makes us wish we had an assistant. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could pay our bills, bringing us a stack of checks already filled out that just need to be reviewed and signed?
Even if there is no assistant to delegate to, you can still “delegate” to a third party by setting all your bills to autopay. You should still check them for errors as they come in, but you can save a lot of time by just monitoring.
Same thing for grocery shopping. Sure there are some things that you may want to buy fresh, but for the most part, grocery delivery services are a great way to save yourself time.
You’ll need to do some research up front to find one that fits what you are looking for, but it will pay off. Plus, if you eat the same thing, your orders will start to look the same (with a few tweaks to keep it interesting), and you can reorder without even needing to create a new shopping list.
Some of these things may not seem like they are even worth a second thought. That’s exactly the point—they’re not. Automate as much as possible so that you can focus on things that are worth your attention, and you might even find that you have—gasp—downtime.
– Kaitlin Puccio