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Pruning the Dead Wood From Your Life

Simplifying without oversimplifying your work and personal life.

pxhere, public domain
Source: pxhere, public domain

When pruning a rose bush, you remove weak canes (the branches) so that all the plant’s energy can go into the strong canes, yielding more beautiful flowers.

In improving our lives, we tend to think of adding, but sometimes less can be more: It's usually wise to prune out the weak wood. Or to invoke another metaphor, when a cook sautées mushrooms, the water evaporates, leaving richer flavor.

Pruning opportunities

Work: Can you do your job better and more pleasurably by reducing or eliminating the time you spend on a certain task(s)? Could you delegate it? Trade it with a coworker for a task you like better? Or even just not do it, replacing the time spent on the disliked task with one you like better?

Relationships: Whom should you prune from your life, at work, and in your personal life? True, you may not be able to prune out some relationships completely, but can you cut them back enough to make your life better?

Cooking: Are the benefits you derive from time-consuming meal shopping and preparation worth it? By pruning even just some of those meals, perhaps replacing complicated ones with simple homemade ones or with family-favorite food delivery, you create more time for activities that would be wiser.

Clothing: Would you end up feeling better about how you look if you pruned out much of your clothes? That way, instead of feeling you “should” wear that second-tier outfit, you’re wearing your primo stuff every day. Besides, in donating the second- and third-tier clothes and jewelry to a charity like Goodwill, not only do you get a tax deduction, you can clearly see all the first-tier clothes in your closets and drawers, making it easier to pick what to wear.

Charity: It’s hard to say no to nonprofit pitches. So, many of us donate bits to many charities. Because we’ve made little commitment to any one charity, we may feel we’ve made little difference.

Of course, sometimes you have to say yes: for example, to scouts selling cookies. But in general, if you can concentrate your giving to the one or two causes you believe do the most good, you’ll feel better about your charity efforts and save the other charities the costs of continuing to pitch you. (You might check out one of the charity review websites.)

Clutter: This is what spawned the simplicity movement. Some people accumulate "stuff" because it fulfills an emotional need. But for others, it's just that stuff accretes and before you know it, you’re a borderline hoarder, and the prospect of sorting through it all is daunting.

There’s no better application for the exhortation to take baby steps than in dealing with clutter. Start with just one square yard of one room and ruthlessly dump most of what’s in it, keeping only what you know you want. Beware of thinking, “True, I haven’t used it in a year, but what if at some point I will?” The benefits of decluttering outweigh regretting that you didn’t keep that stuffed giraffe.

Many people get overwhelmed by life’s complexities. Pruning can simplify your life and, perhaps more important, pare away your life’s rind so you can enjoy its creamy center.

I read this aloud on YouTube.