. LIVING SIMPLY, from Page 18
Weight Watchers is a good example. (In the summer, we have “Happiness and Simplicity” groups run through the Phinney Neighborhood Center.)
Another effective method of taking control is what I call the “five-minute rule.” When there’s something you want to start doing regularly — but you keep procrastinating — just tell yourself that you only need to do it for five minutes.
For example, I’ve been playing the flute since grade school, and I still like to play. Sometimes, I don’t feel like practicing, but when I skip a few days, I feel myself slipping back. So I just tell myself to play for five minutes; I know I can handle that. Of course, once I get started, I almost always play more.
This also works for projects like writing or clearing out your closet or cleaning your garage.
You’re also more likely to do something if you remove some of the obstacles. For instance, I always leave my flute out instead of putting it away. When I need to go to the trouble of unpacking it and putting it together I’m much less likely to play.
That’s one reason walking is such a good form of exercise: You don’t really need to do much to get ready. Always wear shoes good shoes, and you’re ready anytime!
I also try to walk around the same time every day. Research shows that if you can make something a habit, you’re more likely to keep it up.
My favorite rule, though, is to keep my standards low. I often use these words: “That’s good enough!” Perfectionists are rarely satisfied.
Basic to happiness and feelings of control is knowing your own values and acting on them. This is at the heart of Simplicity. Simplicity is the “examined life” where you ask yourself what’s important and what matters.
It’s stripping away the inessential so you have time for the essential. This means building into your day some time to stop and think and evaluate your life — either quiet time alone or gathering with friends to talk.
Ultimately, one of the most essential aspects of control and happiness is the feeling that you’re involved in helping shape your society. Of course, that’s what democracy is all about: Feeling a part of your society — feeling a sense of solidarity with others as you act on your values — is the ultimate form of satisfaction. So get involved in your community — you won’t even notice your messy house.
CECILE ANDREWS is the author of “Less is More,” “Slow is Beautiful” and “Circle of Simplicity.” She can be reached at