Ten Ways to Make Your Life Easier
Life is fun. Life is exhilarating. Life is tedious, and subtle, and swift, and long and hard and short and simple and crazy and fearsome and trying and all manner of alternative adjectives. Think up a word and it probably describes life in some form. Life is... life.
So why make it difficult on yourself?
There are so many things to worry about in life. Your health. Your mind. Your finances. Your partner. Your family. Your job. That little dangly thing at the back of your throat that makes you puke if you poke it too hard. Life hands you a buttload of problems each time the sun rises, and you're expected to deal with them. You can either handle 'em the hard way, the easy way, or the efficient way. Or a blend of all three. Or you can run away from your problems altogether!
Yes, that's... that's the smart way to do it.
Everyone's unique. Everyone's going to tackle life in their own way, so to some, the following advice will possibly be useless - or perhaps just common sense. Nevertheless, there are ways to make life so much easier than how you're probably living it right now. Below are ten tips for making your life easier; if nothing else they should at least help you reevaluate how you conduct yourself.
1.) Maintain your body
Take a quick look at yourself in the mirror. Are you blobby? Squishy? Sleek? Ironing board flat? Irregular? Asymetrical? Buff beyond measure? A perfect sphere? Who knows. I certainly don't. Point is, you know how you got that way. Either through exercise or neglect or just plain ol' biology, you know why you look the way you look.
And y'know what? That's cool. Look however you like. If you want to be bald, be bald. If you enjoy rolls of flub, consume mass amounts of bread. Lord knows it's helpful in the winter. Enjoy huge reams of armpit hair cascading down your arms? More power, brothers and sisters. Physical appearance is of secondary importance.
Y'know what will make your life easier, though? Putting in a smidgen of effort. Just a smidge.
You only have one body, assuming you're not a billionaire or a crazed scientist capable of transplanting brains. It has to last your entire life, because, well, once it falls apart yoooooou're kinda done. You can either neglect it entirely... or work on it in crazed spurts... or just try to maintain the thing for the 70ish years you're on this planet.
And why? Because it will save you so much trouble in the long run.
A walk a day will keep your weight down, allowing you to dodge - or at least outpace - a gauntlet of pulmonary illnesses. Eating properly, with a nice balance of fresh veggies and dairy products and the like, can aid in digestion and reduce fatigue. Brushing your teeth two or three times a day (how often do grown adults really get to brush all three times, though?) will stave off cavities and promote oral excellence. Fine tune the machine that is your body now and you'll avoid so many problems down the road, all for the cost of perhaps an hour of egocentric activity a day.
2.) Tidy your house regularly
Maybe you don't have a house. Maybe you're living in an apartment. A condo. A single room attached to a bowling alley. Your cubicle at work. The back seat of your car. You may live in a tent, for all I know, which is totally cool. Camping is awesome. All of the above equate to a single thing: home. You have a home, regardless of what it is.
Were no one to set foot in your home - including yourself - it would not get messy. Yes, there would be dust, and yes, insects and spiders would eventually establish a creepy-crawly kingdom, but that would take a long time. The point is that you, human being reading this article, are responsible for the messiness.
What do you do when you create a mess? You clean it up. So simple!
Yet people often don't. Take, for example, this applesauce cup sitting on the tray in front of me. It is empty, because, like a normal human being, I have consumed the apple sauce. The next natural step would be to toss the cup in the garbage... yet it has been sitting on the tray for the last three hours.
This constitutes a mess. A teensy, tiny mess. One so simple to remedy that I dismiss it, because meh. I'd have to get up. It can wait. (And it will. I'm busy.)
But messes multiply. They breed every time you get up and don't tidy. Soon the apple sauce cup is joined by a rug that's out of place. A used cereal bowl. A pair of casually-discarded slippers. A wooden giraffe I've knocked over. (Yes, I own a wooden giraffe. Five, actually!) A guitar that's off its stand. An unmade bed. A tablecloth that's covered in crumbs. Dirty clothes on the floor. These tiny messes, so inconsequential on their own, quickly transform into an overwhelming heap of trash that takes a lot longer to clean than the individual items would've if you'd just maintained a tidy living space. You look, or at least feel, like you belong on Hoarders. And that's just not cool.
I'm gonna go throw that apple sauce cup out now.
3.) Save your money
"Oh my goooooood, there's a new scarf on sale! Better pick that up."
"Looooordy, hey, that game? That one you've been waiting for? Generic Man 3? It's out! Go grab it before they're out of copies!"
"Man, I could really go for some chili fries. And ice cream. And a six pack of beer. Forget that perfectly good meal I could cook up for free, it'll take too long. I'm hungry now."
"A new boat sounds nice. Yeah."
People earn money. And once they earn money, they want to spend that money. The world revolves around the earning and spending of money. Money is one of mankind's great vices, whether earning or spending, and I won't get into my opinion of it here. (Other than to say that money stinks. Hurry up, Star Trek.)
Spending money on groceries, or useful insurance, or a doctor's appointment, or a bus pass so you can get to work? All these things? Fine. They're generally necessary to continue existing, because they are needs. You need food, you need clothing, you need a roof over your head, you need medical attention, you need. Needs are elemental.
Wants are not. "I would likes" are not.
I want a chocolate parfait. I want a new guitar. A want to go on a vacation to the UK for a month. I want a PlayStation 4. I want to hire somebody to type for me while I talk, because my fingers are sore. I want a personal chef, a mansion, a yacht, an army, a pet polar bear. I want a lot of things, and some of the more practical things are easily within my reach. But do I need 'em? No, I do not.
Needs and wants cost money. Unfortunately, unless you have a lot of money, needs and wants together will eat up your cash reserves in no time flat. You'll be broke. What will you do when you lose your job and your bank account's sitting at zero? How will you pay the rent? And how will you get by if you accidentally eat a spoon and need surgery to get it out? Will you have the cash to pay the hospital?
Splurging is nice every now and then. You shouldn't horde every single dollar. That said, you also shouldn't be splurging every day of your life. Every little purchase you make adds up over time, and you'll inevitably need that money you spent on useless junk for something you actually need. Better you go without the frills and be able to pay up when the time comes - because, trust me, the time will come.
4.) Maintain contact with humanity
A math problem will suffice to make my point here.
Heather has a seventy-pound bag of flour to lift. She needs to take it from her basement apartment to a truck waiting outside. Heather does not work out on a regular basis and has noodly arms, so she cannot lift the bag on her own.
Matt also has a seventy-pound bag of flour to lift. He must take it the same distance, to the same truck. Matt doesn't work out anymore, but he's strong enough to lift the flour on his own.
Heather is a friendly, outgoing person with lots of friends and family who will, at her call, come running to help her with any problems she's facing.
Matt is a grump who sits in his apartment all day, writing silly articles.
Both parties in this equation have the option of calling in friends. Who will get their bag of flour to the truck first?
Matt. Matt will. Because he doesn't have to wait for other people to show up. Transit times, and all that.
But who will have the easier time? Who will avoid straining their back from the weight? Who will enjoy a fun post-flour-lifting board game and recreational dinner? Heather, of course. Because she had friends to call upon for help.
Meanwhile, Matt the Hermit must hunch his way to the medicine cabinet and fetch a big ol' bottle of aspirin. Because Matt is a grump.
5.) Own up to your mistakes
Let's create a scenario. In this scenario, a man named Dexter is working away... at work. (Imagine that.) Dexter is a filing clerk for a big, important company - we'll call it Big, Important Company, Inc. - and he's just been handed a pile of old paperwork to shred. Okay, sure, boss, no problem, Dexter can handle that.
or can he
Dexter plops the paperwork down on his desk, negligently depositing it on a file folder full of important legal mumbo-jumobo that only makes sense to file clerks and their employers. To make the example more epic, we'll call it DOCUMENT X. Dexter then begins to shred the useless paperwork...
... and as the hours pass and his mind grows bored and his attention span lapses...
... DOCUMENT X is invariably pulled from its file folder, regarded as a piece of numberic junk, and reduced to ribbons of useless paper.
Dexter inevitably notices his foul-up. He falls down upon his knees and curses the world, wishing that he'd learned to derive more joy from shredding paper. Alas, though, he has destroyed DOCUMENT X, and now Dexter is in deep doo-doo.
Dexter now has two options:
1.) He can fess up. He can stride into his boss's office, show him the shredded mess that was once DOCUMENT X, and apologize deeply for his failure. The boss may fire him; the boss may reprimand him; the boss may laugh it off; the boss may make the sensible suggestion that Dexter is an idiot, because he can simply print off another copy of DOCUMENT X. Life goes on, thanks to printers. Regardless, the situation is handled with grace, and tact, and, important to an office environment, speed.
2.) He can lie. Dexter will tell his boss that he handed DOCUMENT X off to Janet this morning, but, you know, Janet is the forgetful type. Janet will deny this, claiming that she has no idea what DOCUMENT X even is, simultaneously claiming that Dexter still has her stapler. Dexter, sputtering, will then remember that it was Troy, yes, ah, silly me, Troy who has DOCUMENT X, in fact Dexter's pretty sure that DOCUMENT X was Troy's project all along and Dexter was just covering for Troy, but no, not anymore, Troy has to man up to his mistakes, and when the boss reveals that Dexter was indeed in charge of DOCUMENT X Dexter will be forced to proclaim innocence and slip out the bathroom window and flee the country and and and and
Ten months from now, Dexter is a fugitive from the law. Top Ten Most Wanted list. How? The mind can only speculate.
Tell the truth. Make life easier for everybody. DOCUMENT X probably isn't that important anyway, not on a global scale. (Unless it is, in which case... well, you should still tell the truth, y'know?)
6.) Learn to cook
When I left home, I did not know how to cook.
Allow me to qualify this. I understood the basics of cooking. I got, for example, that water could be heated in a pot by putting it on a stove and twisting a knob. I even learned that food could sometimes be transformed into something more palatable by placing it inside the water. I never thought much about this transformation, and, consequently, did not know how to cook.
When I moved out... my culinary life was rough for a few months, lemme tell ya.
Now I know how to cook. Not exceptionally well, nor do I suspect I'll ever be a five-star chef in a five-star restaurant fawned over by Gordon Ramsey, but I can cook. I know how to make water boil a little more rapidly than before; I know how long to leave broccoli in said water before it'll turn to mush; I know that between 375 degrees and 400 degrees is a pretty safe range for cooking meat if I have no other instructions; I know that you can't jam too many ingredients into a ball of dough if you expect it to rise. (Baking is a form of cooking.) I know stuff.
Cooking is magical. Not necessarily because it's fun, or because it'll earn you the respect of your peers, but because it allows you to transform just about any raw food item into something edible. Once you know how to cook, all those food items shoved into the back of your cupboards that were once ignored in favour of boxes of crackers and cans of Chef Boyardee suddenly become ingredients. You can be incredibly inventive when cooking, and though the results aren't always fantastic, they're usually a step above premade chow. Cooking is creation, and creation is power. It's also so much faster than venturing out of the house and down to McDonalds, depending on what you decide to make.
Perhaps my favourite part about cooking?
It's so much cheaper.
7.) Find, and maintain, a steady job
This is gonna be a contentious point, I can tell right now.
Jobs and / or careers are, for most people, a necessity. The entity known as employment is generally connected to the whole money issue: if you have a job, you go to it each day in order to earn money. Not for your health, not (strictly) for the wellbeing of others, not for fame or infamy or the desire to change the world. No, the average person goes to a job to make money, and all the other stuff comes as a tidy side benefit.
You may not like your job. You may, if you're unlucky, loathe your job. But until you find something better to take its place, you should probably keep your job. Because, you know, money. Stupid, stupid money.
Jobs are stabilizers. They help us establish, and maintain, a certain quality of living. They even help improve said quality of living, if you get a bit lucky, by allowing you to better provide yourself with those stupid 'needs'... aaaaas well as the occasional 'want'. They're not always fun, and they can be unpredictable, but unless you're already rich a job is probably waiting in your future.
Don't ditch that job. Keep it. Revel in it, even if it's boring. Don't get frustrated and quit. Life may seem as though it'll be simpler without a job, but let's compare the two situations:
- With a job you face getting up early, making yourself lunch, going to work, doing some work for eight or so hours, getting flak from your superiors, coming home, and enjoying the rest of the night off.
- Without a job you face loans, debts, the unemployment line, a poorer standard of living, possible eviction, and the veiled derision of your peer group. Assuming they're jerks. Also? Your 'wants' will forever go unfulfilled.
Yes, life with a job sometimes sucks. But it's a lot easier than not having a job. Not having a job really sucks.
Why is this point contentious? Because a 'steady' job is not what everyone wants. Some people are bold, and want to stretch out and take a risk on the possibility that they'll wind up doing something so much more interesting, and so much more fulfilling, than an 8-to-4 or 9-to-5 every-day-a-week slog to the office. Taking a risk is more difficult, and, thus, makes life more difficult in general. More difficult equals less easy, thus going against the point of this article.
But, eh, why not. Go for it. Try new things to better your life. One piece of advice, though: until you strike gold with a new venture, keep your day job.
8.) Leave work at work
Y'know that 8-to-4, 9-to-5 job I just described? Yeah. Here's the issue: employers these days don't like sticking to those times anymore. They want to drain every working hour out of you that they can get. They are labour vampires, and like their blood-sucking cousins, they must be disuaded.
It starts off small. "Hey, Ted, can you stick around an extra half hour and help collate thee reports? We really need it done by tomorrow." or "Could you jump in on a conference call with a client tonight? Won't take more than fifteen minutes." or even "Do you mind cleaning up that mess in the bathroom that someone else caused? I know it's not in your job description, but the janitor stops working at 5."
The janitor is smart. The janitor knows when to clock in - and when to clock out. Heed the janitor's example.
The problem with doing 'extra' work after hours is the eventual strain it puts on your life. Yes, it makes you look good with the bigwigs. Yes, every extra report you file will slightly (minusculy!) improve your chances of getting that big promotion into the office with the fake fern and the window overlooking the recycling bin outside. You become known as the go-to man or woman for all extra tasks that, by all rights, should be done by someone else... and after a while, every waking minute of your life is work, work, work.
That should not be so. That should never be so. Everyone needs time off from stressful activity, even workaholics. Sticking to the hours for which you are paid to work each day will allow you to create that separation between work time and recreation time, as well as eliminate the constant fear that someone, somewhere, needs you to perform just one more freakin' thing before you hang up your work belt for the day.
9.) Don't take anything too seriously
Your car just slid into a ditch. Inexplicably. Rolled right out of your driveway and down the street. (Don't question the logistics, just work with me.)
How will you respond?
d) Good humour
If you answered a), Rage, then you might be doing it wrong.
Life is full of bumps. No matter how smooth someone else's existence may look, it's no doubt covered in little niggling irregularities that should drive a man mad. You hit the bump, you somehow cross over the bump, you move on. You have to move on, because otherwise you get stuck on this metaphor and remain jammed for all eternity.
But how do you react to the bump? Do you glower at the heavens, fist pumped do the sky? Or do you let the bump roll off your back and keep on moving? I very much hope that, in most cases, you tend more to the latter.
Stuff happens. It's going to happen, you know it's going to happen, and you're probably prepared to deal with the bad stuff when it traipses gaily into your life. What's the point of letting it get to you? Why linger over the negatives when you can move past 'em and focus on the positives?
This is not, of course, always possible. Some bad things happen which are difficult to either forgive or forget. If someone stole my potted celery, for example, I would be enraged. But whenever you're faced with unadulterated badness, try to measure its worth. Is it really that bad? Or are you making a mountain out of a mole hill? In the latter case, just punt that dumb 'ol mole out of hiding and keep on walkin'.
Get eight hours of undisturbed rest and you'll understand how this makes life easier without any further explanation.
Speaking of which...
© 2014 Matt Bird