As I search for simplicity in my life, I’ve realized that it’s not just about purging Stuff. Stuff is simply the physical representation of an overall pattern of clutter. In order to accomplish what I want to accomplish, I need to sort and purge the mental mess, too.

Over at Unclutterer yesterday, Erin shared her guide to “having it all”. She explains how she’s able to lead a full life without getting bogged down by Stuff — both physical and mental. Her eleven tips are all worth reading, but they basically boil down to:

  • Prioritize. Determine what matters most. Choose the objects and obligations that bring meaning to your life, and make those your focus. Learn to say “no” to the things that don’t matter.
  • Minimize. Eliminate the non-essential. Pursue activities that you enjoy and/or that allow you to be productive. “Have the minimum amount of Stuff for you to be comfortable,” Erin writes. Get rid of everything that is toxic in your life.
  • Organize. As you reduce your obligations and the things you own, put everything in its place. Create a routine and develop the discipline to stick to that routine. If you take care of the essential, you’ll have time and room for fun without feeling stressed.
  • Economize. Following the first three steps ought to reduce your spending. As you continue to simplify, live within your means. Develop a budget. Save for retirement. Buy quality instead of quantity. Be an intelligent consumer.
  • Energize. Finally, be industrious. Don’t procrastinate. Pursue your passions with passion. Eat well and get enough rest so that you can work hard — and play hard, too. “Carpe vitam,” Erin says — seize life.

I often wonder how it’s come to this. How did I — a guy who craves a life with little to do — become bogged down by so many obligations? I think the answer is that I’ve found a fulfilling vocation. I feel like I have a purpose. I’m doing something that matters, and so I’m willing to spend most of my time at it.

But there’s only one J.D., and only so much time in each day. If I want to achieve my personal goals (lose weight! learn French!), I need to follow Erin’s advice. I need to prioritize, minimize, organize, and economize so that I can energize my life.

[Unclutterer: Ask Unclutterer: Having it All]