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Keep track of your goals with a simple goal tracker like Elise Joy’s 2016 tracker. (Image Credit: Elise Blaha Cripe)

10 ways to simplify your life

I spent last year looking for ways to simplify my life - in fact - "simple" was my word of the year. I may not have made everything simpler in my life but I did learn that simplifying my life made me happier and more present. Here are ten tips bringing things down a notch in 2016:

1. Meal Plan: Meal planning is my top tip for simplifying your life. I used to do this even when I didn't have kids because it made the evening so much easier. When I don't plan, I'm usually found staring into the abyss of my fridge, wondering what made me decided to buy so many beets and why there is no actual food in which to make a meal. I am now an extreme meal planner who plans a month at a time and I almost always take an hour or two to prep our food for the week on Sunday afternoon. Knowing what you'll be eating and when means you'll have more time to spend binge-watching "How to Make a Murderer" and may actually help you achieve that New Year's resolution to lose weight. Don't feel like you need to plan out an entire month! Start small by planning 4 dinners for the week. You'll find that you have leftovers or you'll end up eating out a time or two. Once you get in the rhythm of it, take the bull by the horns and plan out more meals, including breakfast and lunch. Having a simple rotation of breakfast and lunch options simplifies things even more as does assigning a theme for each night of the week (i.e. Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, etc). Modern Parents, Messy Kids has a great tutorial to get anyone started with meal planning.

2. Track Your Goals: How are those New Year's resolutions going? If they are anything like mine, some of them haven't even been started while others are well underway. One of my goals this year is to read for 15 minutes everyday. I wanted to track my progress and Elise Joy's 2016 Goal Tracker fit the bill. It's a simple one page downloadable tracker that lets you track your goals by filling in the bubbles. This low-tech goal tracker is just the thing for me. Looking for something a bit more high-tech? Productive is an app that helps you build a routine of life changing habits while tracking your goals. The Strides app is a beautiful way to stay on track with your goals and provides flexible reminders.

3. Write it Down: I wish I could keep everything neatly organized in my head but with two kids, a husband who travels a lot and freelance work for me, it just isn't possible. There are many ways to keep the to-do list and calendar in order, from planners to apps to special groups. I use a Google calendar to track everyone's schedule and I like that I can share it with my husband. For note keeping, Evernote can not be beat. It's a free app that puts all your notes in one place across many platforms from your phone to your computer. I use it for meal planning, to-do lists and random thoughts. Their companion app, Scannable has been a lifesaver. I use it to scan in all the receipts I need to keep for tax purposes but don't want to lose. ToDoist is a great to-do list tool. It allows you to organize everything you need to get done in a clear, simple manner. In fact, it acts much list a pen and paper to-do list with the convenience of being available on your phone or computer.

4. Say NO: This has taken me a long time to learn but saying No is a great way to simplify your life. Put limits on the number of activities or obligations you'll do. Set aside time on your calendar for you and your family. Then protect it. Just say no if something comes up during that time. Saying No is really, really hard though but Living Well, Spending Less has some great advice on how to just say No. This is something I'm going to be working on a lot this coming year.

5. Create a Capsule/Minimalist Wardrobe: Fashionistas shudder at the idea of limiting themselves to just a few crucial wardrobe items but most of us could benefit from the simplicity. Creating a Capsule Wardrobe can be intimidating at first but once you have pared down your wardrobe to your essential items, you'll be amazed at how getting dressed for the day no longer fills you with panic. The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing and accessories that are essential, coordinate to form the basis of your outfits for almost all occasions and which can be mixed and matched to create a wide variety of outfits. Most capsule wardrobe are around 24 items but you are the master of your destiny so feel free to make that number 36 or 31 or whatever number fills you with joy.

6. Be Financially Smart: Start by setting up auto pay for your recurring bills. You'll never forget to pay the internet bill again. If auto pay makes you nervous, write down calendar reminders to pay your bills or create a day of the week that you sit down and make sure your financial obligations are taken care of. Track your spending with Mint or YNAB to help reign in your spending and up your saving. Find out how to check your credit score and do it yearly. Save up $1000 as an emergency fund. Not having to worry about having extra money for a hotel if your power goes out will give you more than piece of mind.

7. Develop Routines: Successful people follow routines and creating a few for yourself will actually make things simpler. Keep your routine simple. Start with a morning routine which can be as easy as getting up, eating breakfast, taking a shower, meditating and then leaving for work before moving on to an evening routine. Make a cleaning schedule (or better yet, hire cleaners) so that your space is cleaned on a regular basis. Schedule repeat appointments ahead of time. I once scheduled all my haircuts out for a year. It guaranteed that I got the appointment times I wanted and my hair was cut on a regular basis. Schedule your car oil changes out or set up repeat deliveries for food, household items, etc. I'm a devoted user of Amazon's Subscribe and Save. I love that I save 15% by having 5 items on subscription service and that I don't have to worry about running out of diapers or vitamins. Routines are not just comforting to children, they are actually comforting to most people. Spontaneity is great but when you are digging through the dirty laundry basket because you don't have a laundry routine, that is just creating unnecessary stress.

8. Declutter your space: Clutter has a way of creeping into our lives. Clutter takes up time and energy. It's hard to clean around clutter and can make your life more complicated than necessary. There are many ways to declutter your space from KonMari's Spark Joy method to the simple three box method: Keep, Sell, Donate. Choose a method and start tossing things that don't enhance your space and overcomplicate things.

9. Craft a Command Center: Everything in it's place and a place for everything. A home command center will make looking for your lost keys a thing of the past! Seattle Refined has talked about how to make the perfect command center before so I won't belabor this simplification point. However, having a drop off location as your enter your home will help things run smoother with little effort on your part.

10. Practice Mindfulness: This year, I'm working to be more present. I try to fit in too much at one time and I don't enjoy things like I could. I've found that if I am present, then I actually enjoy life more, as cliché as it sounds. Take time every day to stop and do nothing for 5 minutes. Take that time to reflect on your day, your goals, your life.

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