In the years I had to deal with limited mental and physical energy, I made some adjustments to my life that were individually small but added up to make a significant difference in my sense of well-being. Some of them I adapted from the various “lifestyle design” books I’ve read over the years. Basically they involve exerting a little more control over your environment to remove daily irritations that become mental burrs in your brain.
1. Get over the idea that Money Already Spent trumps your Time and Effort. Learn how to translate expenditures into physical and mental terms. If you spent $250 on a Turkish bathrobe, but it’s so heavy it unbalances the washer twice every time you wash it, that physical output requirement plus the mental irritation lower its value.
Assign an hourly value to your time and weigh the cost of errands against it. If you want to return a $35.00 item but it takes 60 minutes to go to the store and back, and your hourly value is $25.00, it might not be worth it to you. (Of course sometimes it’s the principle of not being taken advantage of with a crappy product that matters.)
2. Make daily to-do lists that you can accomplish the majority of, even if it means including items such as “pet the dog” or “walk from bedroom to living room.”
3. Give away or toss possessions you don’t use, including stuff in storage, books you meant to read someday and haven’t, and clothes waiting to be mended. If you’re not using it, someone else probably needs it more. And as Timothy Ferriss says in The 4-Hour Workweek:
“…clutter creates indecision and distractions, consuming attention… It is impossible to realize how distracting all the crap is — whether porcelain dolls, sports cars, or ragged T-shirts — until you get rid of it.”
4. Walk through your home and record every little annoying thought that occurs to you. Take a few weeks. Make a list of everything and either fix the problem or trash it.
- The treadmill that needs a surge protector or God forbid it will be fried in a storm
- The rug that trips 3 out of 5 houseguests
- The photo that reminds you of that bitch who insulted you at that wedding
- The stepcan you have to contort yourself to toss items into
5. Do the same with your furniture. American households are very cookie-cutter: a table with four chairs, a sofa, a coffee table with magazines on it.
- Rearrange your furniture so that you can walk more or less in a smooth line from room to room. Consider the kinetic energy involved in, say, coming to an abrupt stop and making a hard right turn 14 times a day.
- If you never entertain, you can eliminate extra seating and use your dining room for something else — your train set or as a library or a game room.
6. Do the same with your lifestyle. This is a little harder because it requires identifying social conventions or aspects of your personality you might not think about. Embrace your quirks, and remember that convention is often stupid. Think of foot binding, or those big wooden forks everyone had on their kitchen walls in the 60s and 70s.
- My example: I cannot stand seeing the mail when I get home from work. I rent a UPS Store mailbox and only pick up my mail when I feel like it. I auto-pay most bills.
- Give yourself permission to weigh the mental value of making more elaborate and expensive adjustments to your home. It might be even more important to your mental health if you have to stay at home more often because of your physical health.
- If the news depresses you, don’t read/watch/listen to it. Who cares if you don’t know about the latest serial killer or the riots in Palm Springs or the name of your mayor?
7. Never, ever finish a book or movie you don’t like.