It is said that simplicity is the virtue of removing the extraneous to reveal the essence.

The beginning of August is National Simplify Your Life Week.  It's a good time to streamline your home life. That's because simplicity is a test of whether you're clear about your priorities.

Our immediate environment is a reflection of our mindset - a neat and organized home reflects the discipline with which we approach our relationships. Clutter, on the other hand, betrays our sloppiness.

In a complex world, simplicity wins because it helps you be calmer, nicer, and make better decisions . Here are 3 suggestions on how to simplify:  

1. Review your priorities.

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Start by stopping.  Each new day is a blank canvas which you tend to fill with a checklist of tasks. But every minute need not be structured and scheduled. Unless you stop from time to time, and make conscious contact with your inner self and your environment, it will be hard to know what is really important.  

What's more important, to organize again the covers in your kitchen or 20 minutes of relaxing time with your partner, talking about your day and re-connecting?

What's more important, a door where all your children's t-shirts are perfectly folded or taking the time to just play or read with your child?

What's more important, that every task in your checklist is done or giving into your child's plea to go to the park and make memories playing together?

What's more important, that your child participates in every extra-curricular and summer activity you can squeeze in, or a calmer household where everybody goes to sleep at a reasonable time and homework doesn't become a source of anxiety?

Let go of the need for maximum daily achievement and become comfortable doing "nothing," if only for a short while. "Stop and smell the roses" is still good advice!

2. Clean out the clutter.

Less is more.

Useless items are always being brought inside by various people, guests, and yourself. The constant influx requires you to periodically clean house so the junk doesn't pile up. The best things in life aren’t things. Clutter fills more than our shelves and closets: it permeates our lives. Either trash it; donate it; or sell it. Don't buy anything new without taking out something you are not using anymore. Same principle applies to the children.

Better yet, prevent clutter by recruiting the whole family to take the last 10-20 minutes before bedtime for everybody to help clean out or put away anything that is out of place. Starting the next day with an orderly environment helps jumpstart the day in a positive mood for everyone. 

3. Throw Junk Away and Organize the paperwork.

We are bombarded with useless junk mail and catalogues which we tend to leave lying around and contributing to the clutter. First, sort your mail as soon as you bring it in and throw away every piece of junk. You can also take a bit of time and make sure you get off the lists if junk mail. How? 

Write to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd St., NY, NY. 10017. They will stop your name from being sold to most large mailing list companies. Or put “Return to Sender” and put back in the mailbox. You can also contact the Stop Junk Mail Association at (800) 827-5549. Or order the booklet “Stop Junk Mail Forever” from the Simple Living Network at (800) 318-5725. For catalogues, an online service, Catalog Choice, allows you to compile a list of catalogs you do not wish to receive, and arranges to have your name removed from the corresponding mailing lists. This is a free service.

While you’re at it, reconsider your newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Most newspapers and magazines now have online versions which give up to the minute news and articles without the use of paper or the cost of the subscription.

Paperwork is just one of those things that you can't avoid. Not filing the right documents means you can lose some really important stuff - like IRS returns, pay stubs, official receipts, you name it. But on the bright side, technology allows you to scan documents so you can store them electronically.

Parents like to keep some mementos from their children's activities. You can scan and save electronically. Same for sentimental memories. These will decrease significantly the amount of papers lying around the house. Same for recipes, home decorating ideas, or almost anything else that we used to keep on paper files.

Remember. . .

Adding stuff generally reduces the marginal utility of these extra items - it's better to stick to the essentials. Simplicity requires you to constantly focus on what's important, It's the 20 percent that counts. The other 80 percent usually just ads complexity and prevents you from being happy, effective and efficient.