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How to Have Less Stress by Having Less of Everything Else

  Written by Kerry Watts

We're primed to value "stuff" from the first time we fix eyes on a TV set. And along with all the things we supposedly need, the space we occupy has to grow to contain it all. We work longer hours to pay a bigger mortgage and, potentially, end up less happy in the long run.

But what if we could strip it all back and train ourselves not to keep wanting all of the things? Well, we can! And it could lead to decreased financial strain and lifelong stress reduction. Here are eight simple(ish) steps to clearing away some of the life rubble so you can let your mind breathe a little.

Take the 30 day throw away challenge

 You could lose up to 465 items in a month. Which sounds terrifying but with each of us only really using a fraction of our knick knacks, think of all the space!

It's simple—day one; pick an item you've no use for any more and throw or give it away. On day two, find two redundant belongings and get rid. Day three it's three, and so on. Keep what you love and lose the bits you only ‘like'.

What you're left with is a small collection of essential "life items" which should inform the space you choose to keep them in. Do you really need a five bedroomed house with outbuildings for your family of three?

 Digitally declutter

Phones, email, social media—all itches we'll never fully scratch. So have a clear out. Delete all the junk/spam emails then decide which of the 1,076 unread messages in your inbox are worthy of saving. Use the same principle to declutter your phone or iPad of outdated apps, photos and videos that keep the "storage almost full" message popping up.

Then think about imposing a kind of tech detox on yourself when you're out of office. Instead of mindlessly checking emails whilst watching a film or flicking through social feeds at the dinner table, allocate proper time (and not too much of it) to those device-based tasks. Then consciously avoid them for the rest of the evening or weekend. It'll free up much-needed headspace for far more important and enjoyable things.

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 Do the daily one-minuters

 Make the bed every morning. Wash the dishes after you've used them instead of leaving them till next mealtime. Give the house a once-over before you go to bed and pick up the loose odds and ends that accumulate throughout the day. Better still, pick up as you go—so you can start your tomorrow with a clear head.

Learn to single-task

 We've gotten good at trying to do everything at the same time. But therein lies the problem—we only ever get good at trying to do everything. Very few of us are any good at actually completing three tasks at once, to a decent standard. So focus on one thing at a time and shelve the rest for now. If you're fully immersed you'll finish the first task in plenty of time to be able to tackle the others.

Go 80/20

You've heard the saying; "don't sweat the small stuff"? Well Vilfredo Pareto's 80/20 rule is that saying put into action. It suggests that whenever we undertake a task, around 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. So if we identify the 20% of "things" that will have the most impact on our lives, we can focus our attention there instead of flapping over the other incidental 80%.

Make a list—be it daily, weekly or long-term—and refer to (and adjust) it frequently, so you don't exert your effort where it will have little impact on your overall happiness.

 Start saying ‘No'

 If you're guilty, as many of us are, of saying yes to absolutely every invite that comes your way, you'll either end up a social burnout or a bedroom recluse because you can't face any of the options you signed up for.

Time's short. And spending it with those who really matter is an easy way of unburdening yourself and freeing up some spare minutes for ‘you'.

Give yourself less choice

 We're told that a lot of choice is a good thing but that's just plain wrong. Too much choice is confusing, leads to poor decision making and even complete indecision. It's hard to not be suckered by the limitless possibilities of the internet, the supermarket and the high-street retailer, but try limiting your options and see if it opens up a bit of space in your brain.

Be it blogs you choose to read or what you decide to wear for the week, it'll take a conscious commitment to shut out all the other options on offer but you might just find yourself being more productive as a result. Karl Lagerfeld, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs… all very successful fans of a limited wardrobe!

Finally, question everything

 It's long been the accepted truth that we're supposed to keep climbing. Whether it's the work ladder or the stairs in our new, larger, home. But when these big decisions crop up it's worth spending time thinking about what they'll actually add to your life.

If you can cope just fine on a £20K a year salary in a job that you enjoy, do you really need to pile on extra stress by striving for a promotion? If you don't desperately need the extra bedroom is it worth the financial hardship to stretch to the limits of your budget and beyond?

Living a simpler life, even if it's baby steps to start with, can help us acknowledge the greatness of a few things instead of only half appreciating the many. It can allow us to properly focus on each task we set out to achieve and do it well, instead of leaving a trail of unfinished jobs in our wake. And best of all, it means more money and more time to enjoy meaningful experiences with people we care about.

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