Posts Tagged life

How to Destress Your Life

How to Destress Your Life

how to destress your lifeI get asked for advice by a lot of readers. One of the most common is how to destress your life and live a simpler, calmer existence.

Now, I’ll admit, paring down and living a life with less stuff has helped address the root cause of my stress quite a bit. The simpler your lifestyle, the less chaos you need to worry about. Minimalism lends itself to a calm, orderly way to focus on what matters.

But, of course, there are plenty of times when I get stressed out about money, too many commitments, or social drama. Even though I’ve managed to cut way back on the typical stressors, there are times when I still have to step back and destress. So, if you’re wondering how to destress your life, here are the practical steps I take to cut out the chaos.

1. Recognize Your Stress

recognizing stress

Many people don’t know how to recognize stress or figure out when they’re feeling it. Yes, there are obvious signs of anxiety or distress, but with “normal” stressors, many people don’t even realize how much they’re feeling.

Sometimes, small stressors will eat at you. You won’t realize it until you’re completely stressed out, seeing effects on your sleep, eating habits, and happiness. This is especially common when people are very busy. You may look back on periods of your life and think, “Woah, my stress was way out of control and I didn’t even know it at the time.”

Personally, when I get stressed, I clean. Suddenly it’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m scrubbing down my kitchen and I’ll stop and realize there’s something weighing on my mind. I don’t normally grab a broom and start cleaning just because. It’s typically a sign I’m really feeling pressure and I need to figure out how to destress my life.

recognize what gives you stress

Maybe cleaning isn’t your coping mechanism. Some people eat sweets, some people run, some people sleep, others stop sleeping, while others lose themselves in a TV show or video game. Whatever your coping method is, it’s important to recognize it.

If you recognize the signs of a stressful time, it will better help you know how to destress your life by taking the right approach to mitigate the problem. From there, strategize ways to address the root cause of your distress.

Some people experience common signs of stress, while others show very minor symptoms that go unnoticed (but still ultimately take their toll. A friend of mine told me she really only notices she’s stressed when every little thing gets under her skin—an offhanded comment, traffic, minor inconveniences. Another friend grinds his teeth in his sleep.

Discover your signs of stress and learn to recognize them right away. This will help you start to plan your approach to address the stressors.

2. Cancel One Appointment

cancel one appointment to reduce your stress level

If you want to know how to destress your life, take a look at your calendar first. How packed is your agenda? How much free time do you have scheduled? Is your calendar full and your to-do list long?

The first action I take when I’m feeling stressed is to look at my schedule for the week and find something I can cancel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fun social outing with a friend, an activity I had planned, or a show I have tickets for. I write it off.

Now, a lot of people push back on this idea. There’s a lot of guilt tied up in our commitments. People are convinced they can’t possibly cancel anything.  It would be laughable how predictable humans are on this point if it weren’t for the fact their health was taking a hit by being so stressed. So, put aside your excuses, your reasons, just choose something, and cancel it.

cancel appointment to make life easier

Even if you live a minimalist lifestyle and simplify your routine as much as possible, chances are, your calendar still gets booked now and then. Be mindful of how you schedule your time.

The counterfoil to stress is time to step back, catch your breath and collect your thoughts. What helps you destress? Is it exercise? Cooking? Reading a book? Whatever your hobbies are, take that chunk of (now free) time and enjoy yourself.

Going forward, learning to say “no” is one of the most empowering actions you can take. Avoid scheduling or committing when you know it will cause you undue stress. Learn to say no to perceived obligations and let go of feeling guilty. Remember, when your schedule is less stressful and packed, your work will improve, you’ll feel happier, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of the activities remaining on your calendar.

3. Fix the Actual Problem to Destress Your Life

fix the problem to fix stress

Many people attempt to fill up a leaky bucket by adding more water instead of stopping the hole. When it comes to stress, people feel like they should pour more time, energy, and effort into the problem, rather than addressing it at the root. This is a vicious cycle, one that will run you into the ground, leaving you sick, tired, and worse off than before.

The next time you’re wondering how to destress your life, step back and ask, “Why am I stressed about this? How did I get in this situation in the first place?”

Money is a good example of this. People often stress about their finances and debt without addressing the root cause. How do you minimize your spending and figure out a way to stop living a lifestyle you can’t afford? I’ll admit, when I decided to shift into tiny space living, it was mainly out of financial necessity. I realized I simply couldn’t afford to live otherwise. Once I made the choice to address the problem, money became much less stressful. I could afford the way I was living and that was freeing.

I still push myself to address the money stress often. I’ve been on a buying freeze for the last year (buying only consumables and necessities), which has gone very well. I’m surprised at how much it’s helped me really focus on my needs and prioritize.

what bothers you, fix that

There’s not enough credence given to creatively fixing problems, either. For example, if your house is always a mess, instead of stressing out over cleaning (or not having enough time to clean), why not look into how much a housekeeper costs? Is it worth it to you to hire a housekeeper and eliminate the root cause of your stress? Another example: I hate doing laundry. I pay $15 per week for someone to do my laundry. Is it an extra expense? Yes, but it’s 100% worth it. One of the most stressful jobs on my plate is gone.

We can often fix problems simply and cheaply for good if we think about new ways to address our stress. Can you afford to outsource the problem? What could you do preemptively to avoid the problem in the future?

If you have financial issues, could you schedule time to review your budget each week or month? If you hate doing dishes, could you commit to rinsing them each night before they pile up too much? Could you schedule laundry time twice a week to avoid falling behind?

4. Set Up Rituals and Routines

setup routines to help with the chaos in life

Ritual and routine are the secret way to destress your life. When we face chaos and uncertainty, it adds to our stress. Even deciding what to wear each day, what to eat, or how to plan your workday all become additional stressors.

Minimizing your lifestyle helps to reduce these extraneous stressors immensely. For example, dressing in a sort of uniform style takes the stress out of deciding what to wear to work each day. You don’t have to eat the same food for lunch every day, but packing your lunch routinely each night will help you prepare without hassle in the morning.

When you wake up every morning, aim for a similar time. Set up a regular morning routine (especially since mornings are notoriously stressful for many people). Wake up, take a shower, make breakfast, sip coffee. Personally, I like to drink my coffee on the front porch while I figure out my plan for the day.

set up routines to help with every day stress

These rituals become anchors for us in times of chaos. The idea is, even if your life is a mess over there, you know what to expect over here because you have a ritual and a routine. It helps to create more balance.

Be sure to build in something you really love in your daily routine. Take a short walk, listen to music, check out a podcast. Whatever it is, that calms you down, build it in. Take time for those little rewards so you feel refreshed and recharged.

On the same note, don’t let your ritual or routine become an obsession. Stress often stems from fighting against the flow and trying to keep up with everything in our lives. If your routine breaks for a day, no big deal. You may forget, may not have time, or may simply want to do something else. That’s totally fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Staying on a routine even offers health benefits like better sleep and less anxiety. So yes, it may seem a bit boring to stick to a routine but in the long run, it will help you figure out how to destress your life and keep up with whatever life throws your way.

5. Schedule Time for Nothing

schedule nothing to make life eaiser and happier

When I had a big corporate job, there were times when I had to create pockets on my schedule to destress (and to keep my boss and coworkers from requesting my attention). I would put a webinar or another “away” note on my calendar, giving me a little uninterrupted time to finish up my projects, think creatively, and problem solve.

If your schedule is back-to-back all day, you may need to sign yourself out of your email, put an away message on your office Slack channel, or simply block out “busy” time on your calendar. These little breaks give you a chance to breathe, collect your thoughts, and will honestly enhance your performance.

schedule nothing to relax and enjoy life

If you can’t afford to take time out of your workday, be sure you’re at least taking full advantage of your breaks and lunchtime. Employers should give you time to get in a walk, eat your food away from your desk, and recharge. There’s a tendency in today’s corporate culture to see if employees can out-do each other by taking on more and more work. This tendency leads to burnout and stress.

When you’re out of the office or outside working hours, take time for yourself at home as well. Allow yourself time to do the activities that refresh you and recharge your batteries. Block out time on your calendar to simply think or if you like, meditate. No matter what you do, don’t feel guilty about it—this free time is helping you perform better at your job and life!

6. Put Away Your Phone

put away your phone and enjoy life

Phones are a real problem for many people. Try as we might, most of us can’t get rid of (or put down) our phones. There’s a constant barrage of messages, notifications, emails, and activities pulling at our attention and eating away at our time.

Unless you’re a doctor, a heart surgeon, nurse, or EMT, most telephone communications aren’t critical. Typically speaking, you can wait 20-30 minutes to return a phone call and even more time to return an email. (After all, if it was really all that urgent, wouldn’t they call?) Put down your phone and give yourself a chance to focus on what’s going on around you. The more you give yourself permission to stop being at the literal beck and call of everyone around you, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Cutting back on your phone (and internet) use is one simple minimalist habit that will make your life better. Remember, you don’t need to be there emotionally or mentally for everyone right away. It will only add to your stress.

Similarly, don’t answer work-related correspondence outside of work hours. Whenever you reply to an email or take a phone call, it sets the expectation with your boss and coworkers (or clients) you’re readily available all the time. Give it a break when you aren’t on the clock. No career, no matter how critical, should expect you to stay on-call 24 hours a day. Even doctors know they can burn out and make mistakes under stress.

put away your phone and talk to people

Recognize how social media may stress you out as well. If you want to know how to destress your life, stop comparing your life to others online. Don’t get involved in the drama we often see in online conversations. If you find yourself stressing about something someone said on social media, it’s probably time to take a break.

Stress is a natural part of life. There are many people who tell us adding more “stuff” to our lives—from lavender scented candles to white noise machines—will help us destress. There are others who encourage building in more time at the gym, more yoga lessons, or classes on stress reduction. While some of those suggestions may help in the long run, most people simply need a fast way to destress now.

Think of ways to remove stressors from your life. Spend less money on stuff you don’t need. Cut back on social obligations you don’t enjoy. Say no to commitments that rob you of your free time. Destressing your life is doable, especially if you cut back and learn to live with less.

Your turn:

  • How do you destress?
  • What do you do to make time for yourself?

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

What is most important in life?  What is the path to happiness?  When you live a simple life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to get to the bare essentials, giving you time to focus on what is most important.

Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

I do have to chuckle that a cynic like me is offering advice on how to be happy, but the truth is happiness hasn’t always came easy for me.  I’ve been in some dark places, felt that depression pushing in on me, but in the end emerged on the other side. This does give me some practical experience in beating back the dark and embracing what truly makes me happy to wake up in the morning.

For me, this really comes down to what makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that.  Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process.  The hardest part for me and many others is figuring out what really makes you happy.

What Things Make You Happy?

To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on.  We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.

happiness worksheets for free

Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life.  Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing.  Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.

What Is True Happiness To You?

happiness

If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task;  you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution.  Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.

In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you.  Do you love spending time with your friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book?  Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?

In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category.  Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion.  In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant.

It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.

How Do You Find True Happiness In Life?

finding true happiness

Happiness isn’t something that finds us, we need to go into the darkest corner of our self and drag it out kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to sit here and spew a bunch of woo woo new age mysticism at you or recite wise phrases from people long ago.  Here’s the rub, being happy isn’t easy.  In this world bad things happen, things aren’t fair and things won’t go our way.  What that leaves us with is a choice!

We must choose how we are going to react and conduct ourselves going forward despite all that.  It is in this choice that we find liberation, contentment, empowerment and of course, happiness.

The state of the world is what it is, we can either bemoan the negatives, or we can CHOOSE to adopt the most positive attitude despite it.  It is in that choice that will determine our happiness in this thing we call life.

Bring Happiness Into Your Life

HappinessHave you ever notice there are some people who are perpetually happy or optimistic?  It’s not because their life is so great, it’s because they have taken a stance to be more positive.

Many people have trained their brains to default to this way of thinking, so to us it seems to come “naturally” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with.   Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible.

However, after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers.  We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.

Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things you write down.  Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.

Finding Your Happy Place

finding your happy place

With these written down, think about what they mean to you.  Think about why they made their way on to the paper.  It can be a good time to just sit back and consider these things.  Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.

The trick to finding you happy place is finding the deeper truths and building a strategy to benefit from that understanding.

Developing A Strategy To Find Happiness

Here is a concrete example from my own life: Continuing the job example, the deeper truth was that to be happy I needed to have positive people in my life.  That’s when I figured out the strategy!

I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy.  Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.

Putting It Into Practice

That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria.  If they did, I’d continue interviewing, and if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.

Happiness Without Sadness?

happiness without sadeness

Here is the tough truth, the answer is no, but it’s not without it’s purpose.  To live in a blissful existence might sound nice, but we would quickly become numb to the joy it brings.  Life requires a counter balance, we could point to yin and yang, good vs. evil, light vs. dark.  Whatever your metaphor is, humans are funny things, if we don’t see the counter point to happiness, we won’t enjoy it.

Can I Be Happy If I’m Depressed?

Totally.  We often think of depression as a total absence of happiness, but the truth is that it isn’t all dark, there are moments of light.  In depression the most effective strategy I’ve found is to not say “I want be happy”, it’s about saying “I’m going to be just a little bit better than yesterday”.  In those dark places we have one choice, to adopt an attitude to work towards small wins every day.

Why Everyone Should Have A Therapist

why you should see a therapist for good mental health

Yes, even you!  Even happy people!   A therapist is an ally to you in this journey we call life.  It can be hard to sit down on that couch and share things, but it’s one good way to make real progress.

Working with a therapist gives you space to talk out loud how you want to address challenges you face in your life and the steps you’re going to take to make every day better than the last.  Taking this time is simply allowing you to carve out a concentrated time to focus on you and a therapist helps you uncover truths, deal with the hard stuff and make a strategy to move forward.

The trick with therapy is that you need to show up ready to dig into things you’ve already done your best to sort out.  Take time before hand to think about the possible things you’d like to discuss and then put them in order of priority.  Take a few minutes to reflect on your top items, this will set the stage for a successful session.

It’s Your Life, Be Happy

be happy

In the end, being happy is something we need to work towards.  In this post I’ve given you some tips about how to dig into into things and find those deeper truths.

The most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it.  It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.

Your Turn!

  • What questions help you find what makes you happy?
  • Was there something that surprised you in doing this?

How To Stock Your Minimalist Kitchen + List: 16 Pantry Staples

How To Stock Your Minimalist Kitchen + List: 16 Pantry Staples

The term “minimalist kitchen” is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? After all, many of us love cooking and the kitchen is one of the most complex areas of our home. Even with a tiny house, my kitchen is my “command center.” I like cooking. I keep my kitchen organized and clean it every day–it’s small and orderly…but does mean it’s a “minimalist kitchen?”

kitchen staples

At the heart of it, minimalism is all about embracing simplicity. When we have a bunch of expired ingredients on hand and storage for a small army we’ll never need to feed, it gets stressful. Rather than working through a cluttered kitchen and sorting through expired jars of who-knows-what, a minimalist kitchen list consists of items you use regularly for meals you enjoy. Stock your minimalist kitchen with the equipment you’ll use and the items needed to prepare your favorite foods. That’s it.

When it comes down to it, all you really need to store in your pantry or kitchen are the ingredients to tide you over until your next trip to the store. Now, that said, there are a few staples that are helpful to keep on hand. This is especially true if the weather gets bad or life gets busy and you need the components of a meal, fast.

So what items should go on your minimalist kitchen list? What are the basic guidelines for stocking a minimalist pantry and what ingredients will maximize your meals in a minimal amount of space, clutter, and stress? This is what I’ve discovered when it comes to keeping a small, but useful kitchen and pantry.

Guidelines for Stocking a Minimalist Pantry

If you’re ready to start cutting out pantry clutter, especially if you have a small storage space, there are a few guidelines you should follow:

1. Buy only what you like

buy food you like

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they stock a small pantry is storing extra food for special meals or occasions—from cake mix to cranberry sauce. Some people get a “food storage list” and assume they should buy every item on it. Only buy foods you like to eat and eat regularly. If you don’t bake, then don’t keep baking supplies on hand. If you aren’t a fan of beans, don’t feel like you should buy beans for your storage. This is especially applicable if your space is at a minimum.

2. Watch for items that go with many different meals

Ingredients like broth or canned tomatoes go with all sorts of dishes. It’s a good idea to keep a few cans on hand. The same goes for items like pasta, oil, spices, and rice. Look for simple ingredients that work into many of your favorite meals.

3. Stick to a meal routine

taco tuesday food planningJust like wearing similar outfits every day, sticking with a regular meal routine cuts out a lot of stress. If you know you’re always going to enjoy Taco Tuesday or fish on Friday, then you don’t need to spend time planning and ensuring you’ve purchased a bunch of different ingredients. Treat yourself by going out when you want to enjoy a meal out of the routine or plan a dinner at home for a special occasion. The rest of the time, stick with foods you enjoy and put them in a regular rotation.

4. Purchase shelf-stable items

Stocking a pantry, whether big or small, calls for shelf-stable items. When you purchase foods requiring cold storage like freezing or refrigeration, it takes up a lot of room. This is a problem if you don’t have a much fridge or freezer space. I have a very small fridge (a 4.4 cu ft bar fridge), which I use to house the basics: milk, meat, cheese and fresh vegetables. Many items (like eggs, butter and produce) are easily and safely stored right on the counter or on shelves rather than in your fridge.

5. Watch expiration dates

If you’re decluttering and organizing your pantry, watch your expiration dates! Anything past the “best by” date, get rid of! If you don’t plan to eat it (but it’s still good) consider donating it to a food bank. Don’t keep items you don’t like or won’t eat before their expiration date. Chalk it up to a good life lesson and toss it out.

when do food expire chart

6. Store only what you’ll need until your next trip to the market

You don’t need to store weeks or months of food in your pantry, especially if you’re applying a minimalist approach. Store only what you’ll use before your next trip to the market. Keep a few basic ingredients on hand to pull together meals you enjoy.

Minimalist Kitchen List: 16 Pantry Basics You Need on Hand

Obeying the guidelines above, these are pantry basics most people like to store. Again—follow your own preferences and habits. If you don’t bake, skip baking supplies. If you’re a vegetarian, then you won’t have much use for canned meat or jerky. Keep one or two weeks’ worth of each item on hand.

1. Beans

beans for pantry

Beans are inexpensive, easy store and a great source of protein. If your storage space is limited, beans give you a great shelf-stable option to dress up or dress down. Dried beans and chickpeas are typically softened by soaking overnight. Lentils and split peas will soften as they cook (no need to soak). Beans provide a nice, simple base for many dishes.

2. Rice

rice as pantry staple

Rice is another great, simple item to keep on-hand, especially if you don’t have much space. Store it easily—any dry spot will do. There are tons of meal options using rice as the base. Mexican food, Middle Eastern dishes and Asian meals all work well with rice. There are many different types of rice: Jasmine, Basmati, sushi…but buy basic white or brown rice (white takes less time to cook) if you only have room to store one type.

3. Baking Supplies

baking items - flour, sugar, salt

If you’re a regular baker, you may want to purchase baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.). Buy only the basics you need in between your trips to the store and watch for items like Bisquick or cake mix which are used to bake several different dishes. When space is limited, baking supplies take up a lot of room, but for those who use them often it’s well worth the sacrifice of space. I personally prefer to buy a few pre-made baked goods, so I don’t need to store ingredients like big bags of flour.

4. Spices

piles of spices in spoons

Spices are an area where many people tend to go overboard. After all, they don’t require much space, they’re inexpensive and add flavor, so why not stock up on every spice, right? Well, spices actually have a very short shelf-life. Many ground spices only stay potent and flavorful for a year or two after opening. Dried herbs tend to last even less time. It’s better to buy small quantities you’ll use up quickly and regularly. Salt and pepper are exceptions of course. I keep my grinders along with Texas Pete (the best hot sauce ever–sorry Tabasco) right on hand at all times.

5. Pasta

keep dry pasta in pantry

Pasta is a fast, easy meal to enjoy all kinds of ways. Add peanut butter and soy sauce for Asian peanut noodles. Use pasta as a base for spaghetti or enjoy plain noodles with a little olive oil, cheese and egg. Dried pasta is easy to store, so it’s smart to keep a box or two ready for meals.

6. Canned Tomatoes

cans of tomatoes

Canned tomatoes can be pureed to make tomato sauce. Use them as a base for soup, stir them into pasta, or use them in chili. Canned tomatoes are another versatile and easy to store ingredient, even in the smallest pantry. They add a lot of flavor and stretch many different meals.

7. Oil

olive oil for cooking

There are many oil options. I tent to prefer olive oil because it’s shelf-stable and easy to use in almost any dish. Coconut oil is another good option because it’s used in both cooking and baking. Whichever type you choose, oil is a must-have for your minimalist kitchen list, especially if you’re looking for ingredients you’ll use all the time. Use oil to brown meat, keep vegetables from sticking or in pasta dishes. You can use olive oil as a swap for butter to dip bread. Add lemon juice or vinegar to oil and make instant salad dressing.

8. Dried Fruit

dried fruits

Dried fruit is one of those like it or hate it foods. Some people think raisins are the worst ever while others love them. As far as pantry foods go, dried fruit is pretty versatile. Use it in trail mix, add it to baked goods for sweetness, keep dried fruits on hand for snacking or adding into salads and sandwiches. If you like oatmeal or hot cereal, dried fruit is a nice addition. Again—choose only the type you like.

9. Cereal & Oats

dried oats and oatmeal

Basic cereals like Chex, corn flakes or Rice Krispies are great to keep on hand because you can use them as a coating for chicken or fish. Use them in rice crispy treats or snack mix. Then, of course, you can also enjoy them as a breakfast or snack with milk. You may also want to keep oats in your pantry too. Oatmeal is a great hot cereal and oats are often used in cookies and other baked treats.

10. Canned Vegetables & Soups

canned soups in pantry

As far as canned vegetables go, some people love them, while others can’t stand them. They’re certainly easy to store, especially if you’re living in a small space. Keeping a few cans of corn or another basic vegetable is smart, in case you need a quick meal or side dish. Similarly, soups are used for all sorts of meals, so storing a few cans of broth or soup makes a lot of sense for most people. To take up even less space, buy concentrated bullion cubes or paste, then just add water.

11. Peanut Butter & Nuts

peanut butter and nuts

Peanut butter is a great high protein snack and it’s also an ingredient in all kinds of meals. Peanut butter is used in Asian or African cooking. Peanut butter’s easy to store and almost everyone loves a PB&J when you need a fast, easy meal. Keeping nuts like cashews or almonds in your pantry is a good idea too. Add them in cereal, use them to top salads, add them to stir-fry and in other dishes.

12. Canned Meat/Fish

chicken for meals

Having a few packets or cans of tuna fish on hand is a basic for most pantries. If you need an easy way to add protein to your meals: just open a can of tuna and stir it into pasta or make a tuna fish sandwich. Canned chicken is also a good option to put together a chicken salad, use in soups, casseroles or pasta dishes.

13. Shelf-Stable Dairy & Sauces

shelf stable sauces

Parmesan cheese is shelf-stable and can be stored unopened in your pantry for a very long time. Soy or powdered milk is also a good idea if you only venture to the store occasionally and run out of regular milk between trips. It’s also used as an ingredient in many dishes. Most salad dressings, mayonnaise and sauces are shelf-stable until they’re opened. If you go through these items fast, it makes sense to add one extra bottle to your minimalist kitchen list.

14. Jerky

beef jerky lasts long in storage

Jerky is easy to store. It doesn’t take up much room and it’s great to keep on hand for a quick snack. Look for individually packaged sticks as well as different flavors and types. There’s turkey jerky, salmon jerky and even jerky with caffeine in it (a.k.a. Perky Jerky). If you need a high protein snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, jerky is a good option.

15. Bread & Crackers

crackers

Keeping bread and crackers on hand is a smart plan. Bread doesn’t last a long time though, so only store what you will eat within a week or two. Crackers are more shelf-stable and will last for months unopened. Tortillas are another option to keep on hand. If your space is small or if you’re looking for less clutter in your pantry, pick one type of bread you will use in several different ways.

16. Snacks

cookies

When it comes to snacks we all have our own preferences. Keep a few snacks on hand, but don’t go overboard. Cookies or chips are easy to store and don’t usually take up much room. Again, the best rule of thumb is to only store what you’ll eat within a week or two (between trips to the store). Most snacks aren’t used as ingredients for another meal, so there’s no reason to keep more than you need (unless you anticipate a snack emergency).

Your food storage is a lifesaver (literally!) if the weather is bad, if you live in a remote area or if you can’t get to the store for whatever reason. Keeping a minimalist kitchen should help make your life and meal planning less stressful. If you store only the basic ingredients you need for your favorite meals, you’ll always be prepared, even if you’re stuck at home or don’t have time to fix something big. Cut out the clutter and unnecessary items in your pantry today!

 Your turn!

  • What are your must-have minimalist pantry items?
  • Do you stick to a meal routine or mix it up?

Evaluating Your Time, The Trick To A Happier Life

They say that when people start to track what they eat they generally start eating less, just because they’re being conscious of what they are eating.  The same rings true when you look at how you’re spending your life, what time you dedicate to different things.  Over the past month or so I’ve been taking a look at how am I spending my life, where is my time going and how do I feel about it all.

I wanted to map what my life is actually like and compare it to what I want it to be.  The difference between what it is and what I want it to be signals where I need to make changes.  To do this, I’ve found a few tools that I’ve really liked and thought I’d share some of them here.

Track your life with Life Cycle

This is a pretty neat app that automates the tracking of your entire day and it does it pretty well.  It uses your GPS to figure out what you do where and then tracks how long you’re doing it.  You tell it where you work, it tracks time spent at work.  You tell it where you work out, grocery shop, get dinner, do errands and it tracks it all.  At the end of the day you get a snapshot of what your day was.

So here you can see I spent 7 hours and 23 minutes sleeping, 6 hours 28 minutes working, and so on.  The app interfaces with the iPhone’s health app, tracking your steps and it also connect to their other app, Sleep Cycle (more on that in a minute).

Track your sleep with Sleep Cycle

This is from the makers of the Life Cycle app and interfaces with it, its basically required to use.  Basically it analyzes how you sleep by detecting movement on your bed and breathing patterns.  It operates on the premise that when you are in deep REM sleep (the kind that really gets you rested up) your body actually prevents itself from moving so we don’t act out our dreams and many other reasons.  This means when we are in deep sleep, we don’t really move.  The app tracks this and measures your sleep patterns.

Understand better how you work with Rescue Time

If you’re like me, when it comes to work, it’s almost all done on a computer.  Rescue time puts a little program on your computer to track exactly what you’re doing and for how long.  It can spit out reports to show you exactly what you’ve been up to, it can categorize those into “productive” or “non productive” activities.

rescue time tracking

This is really good for those who get distracted easily on the web or on their computers.  We know that just because you’re on your computer, doesn’t mean you’re actually working.  Since using this app (over two years for me now) I’ve found that I get on my computer, do only work, then shut down and move on with life.  In short, I don’t waste time, get my work done quickly and get on with more important things.

Dig into emails with Gmail Meter

One of the lessons I learned from using Rescue Time (above) was that I spend a lot of time in email.  Email is often a terrible use of time.  The saying goes: “an email inbox is a convenient way to organize other people’s priorities.”  I use an add-on to Gmail called Gmail Meter which analyzes your email.  I’ve taken some drastic steps to help reduce the number of emails I receive.  For example I used to receive around 400 emails a day, now 170 email per day.  I still have a very long way to go.

It also shows your top people who email you.  This helps me identify people who I need to break it off with if they are endless emailers or validate that the emails I do get and send are productive.

So What Does This All Mean?

After sitting with this data, I break out my life into three main categories:  Recreational, Sleeping and Business Activities. Having objective data is a very important step because we can get down to specifics and reality, not guesses and gut feelings.

I then can ask myself, what do I want my life to be like?  What do I want a day to look like?  Then after that I can delve into things more specifically: what do I want my free time (recreational) to look like?  When I run my business, what should that look and feel like?  How much sleep do I want to make sure I have?

The important part here is defining what will make you happy and then comparing it to reality.  The gap is where I need to focus and make intentional changes.

For me, email is a huge issue.  I also spend more time driving that I like.  My average sleep time is around 8 hours, which is good, but I need to work out more.

You can use fancy tools like I have here or simply jot down in a notebook.  The point is, how often do you take inventory on your goals and your life?  Most people don’t.  Most people do nothing or at best, work of guesses.

Your Turn!

  • How do you track your time spent?
  • How do you keep on track to your goals?