For several years, in locations all over the world, I lived out of a backpack for months at a time. I’ve travelled on deep desert expeditions into the Sahara, the Mongolian desert, and other wastelands where my personal baggage was severely restricted because we had to carry so much petrol and water.
One of the lessons I learned during this extreme adventure travel was about just how little you really need in order to live a satisfying life.
But the first time I set out on the road — to Central America — my pack was overloaded with sun cream, duplicate photocopies of passports, traveller’s cheques, wind-up laundry line, rubber sink stopper, water filtration kit (complete with spare filter, of course) and more.
I dragged those practically useless items across 7 different countries. And eventually I threw it all away, one item at a time. The funny thing is, lightening my load — both physically and symbolically — didn’t just make walking to the bus stop easier. It also opened me up to new opportunities.
Travel taught me that it’s difficult to make a change when you’re dragging around a lifetime’s worth of baggage. You can apply that same “road lesson” to your business and your life.
If you want to transform your business or create the life of your dreams, you have to start by clearing the decks to make room for growth.
These 3 tips will help you get the ball rolling.
1. De-Clutter Your Stuff
If you want to de-clutter your life, start by cleaning up your physical environment.
It can be tough to let things go, especially if you’re a bit of a packrat. But those excess belongings weigh you down, both physically and mentally.
Start with the easy stuff, it’ll help you build momentum.
Go through your closet and make a big pile of everything you haven’t worn over the past year. Include clothing that no longer fits. Items you were given as gifts, or that you hid at the back of the closet because they were just too hideous to look at. Sure, they might be back in style in 20 or 30 years. But is keeping them really worth the cost of dragging them around?
Next, tackle your papers. Take the time to sift through the pile, and discard all those old bills, receipts and manuals for products you no longer own. You could digitize those few documents you really need to keep. The online software Evernote is a great solution for this. Uploading them to the cloud gets them out of your immediate personal space. And de-cluttering is now just a click of the delete key away.
So that’s your first task. Throw out the junk that’s crowding your garage, your office or spare room. All those things you haven’t looked at in years. They’re weighing you down.
Give them away or donate them to the Goodwill, where those same items might enrich someone else’s life. You don’t need them anymore.
One final tip. You might consider selling some of these things on Ebay, or having a garage sale or listing them on Craigslist. But before you do, think of the cost in terms of your time and effort. Do you really want to mess around with listings, or run to the post office, or make complicated arrangements for people to view, barter for and pick up these items at your home? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. But sometimes it IS more trouble than it’s worth. You might be better off simply donating or giving them away.
Don’t think about what you paid for those things in the past. You already got your value from them. Just think about what they’re costing you now. And factor in the time it takes to remove them from your life.
Make it as easy and painless as possible, so you can move on to more productive tasks.
2. De-Clutter Your Relationships
Next, it’s time to clean up your personal life.
You can’t forge new relationships or connections if you’re clinging to a past that no longer matches the vision of the person you want to become. Time passes, and life moves on. If you want to shift your life into new spheres, sometimes you have to move on too.
Start by letting go of those relationships that no longer serve you. Those people whose phone calls you dodge because you really don’t enjoy talking to them. Those relationships that are entirely one way — the energy vampires who monopolize your time and drain your energy.
Make a list of all those people you only spend time with out of a sheer sense of obligation or guilt. Don’t judge them. Just let them go.
There’s nothing callous in this. You’ve simply grown in different directions, and you honor that person by allowing them to move on.
Spend time instead with people who excite you and who encourage you to grow in new directions. If your life is too crowded, you’ll never have a chance to let those new people in.
3. De-Clutter Your Schedule
Finally, when you’ve finished cleaning up your personal environment, and when you’ve cleared your life of those people whose values you’re no longer aligned with, it’s time to tackle your priorities.
Start with how you spend your time.
Do you want to reach new heights in your profession? Let go of those tasks you do only because you feel you have to. Delegate them to someone else.
While you’re at it, you can also let go of all the jobs you absolutely hate — you’re probably not very good at them anyway. Release those things so you can focus on the tasks you’re truly great at. THAT is where you’ll bring something unique to the world.
And what about your home life? Do you find yourself doing everything around the house? Assign the kids to empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, take out the trash and cut the lawn. It’ll teach them the importance of responsibility, and of pitching in.
Take a close look at how you spend your personal time too, and cut the stuff that doesn’t add value to your life. Do watch several hours of aimless TV every night? Switch it off — or better yet, kick it in.
Do you want to replace unhealthy habits with practices that promote your life? Don’t just try to slap a bunch of new ideas onto what you’re currently doing. Let those old habits go. Yes, this means taking the time to closely examine your beliefs and decide why you started doing these things in the first place. It isn’t easy, but it works.
Examine each aspect of your life, consciously and deliberately. And begin removing those non-essential elements so you can focus on the things that truly matter to you.
When you do this, new opportunities that you never imagined will rush in to fill the space you’ve created.
Tell us what steps you will take today to de-clutter your life in the comments section.