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20 ways to simplify your life


1 Avoid amassing clothes. Give your credit card a break. Women tend to wear only 20 per cent of their wardrobe 80 per cent of the time. If you find an item that really suits you and makes you feel good whenever you wear it, go back to the shop and buy it again in another colour.

2 Only ever bake one cake. If you must bake a cake for your child’s birthday, just use one tried-and-tested recipe. Remember, most children probably prefer a made-to-order novelty cake.

3 Don’t “work through it” when you’re ill. Just because you are still standing doesn’t mean you should force yourself to go into the office. Take a day off and switch off the BlackBerry. You’ll get over it quicker and you won’t infect your colleagues.

4 Stop looking at models. Studies show an immediate depressive response in women who have looked at models in fashion magazines. After just three minutes, all women felt a drop in their self-esteem and felt less attractive, regardless of their own height, age, shape or size.

5 Buy clothes for the size you are. Don’t buy clothes that are slightly too small in the mistaken belief that it will spur you to lose weight. There’s no faster track to a day-long grump than a waistband that digs in, a zip that keeps creeping down and sleeves so tight that you can’t reach for the Tim Tams.

6 Cull after-school activities.There’s lots of evidence to show that over-scheduled children become burnt-out teens who are less able to amuse themselves. My stress levels halved when I dropped any after-school commitments that involved driving.

7 Pep up your child’s lunchbox by dropping into a foodhall. Drop into a David Jones food hall or a supermarket on the way home from work rather than spending hours marinating chicken. Choose a wrap, fruit salad or pasta for your kid’s lunch the next day.

8 Get out of the kitchen. If you catch yourself creating a smiley face on top of a cottage pie with carrots and peas, pour a glass of wine and leave the kitchen immediately.

9 Stop tidying your house. Don’t tidy the house just because the cleaner is coming. Cleaners can pick up empty mugs – and you’re paying them to do this.

10 Cut down your to-do list. Restrict your daily to-do list to three tasks only. Don’t try to tackle your entire mental “master’’ list. Pick three things that are achievable in a day, including one easy one that you can cross off straight away.

11 Get everything you can delivered. Order in everything – food, clothes, toys, dvds, even haircuts (mobile hairdressers will be a lot more tolerant of your children’s nits).

12 Arrange regular breaks from the school run. Escape the pressure of the ticking clock and the fact that you’ve only got mascara on one eye. Organise swaps with neighbours, find a bus route or rope in your husband or mother.

13 Make it a rule not to look in the mirror. Never glance in a mirror when you’re out unless you have a specific reason to suspect you have something on your nose.

14 Stop cleaning your child’s room. Stop cleaning the kids’ rooms as soon as they turn eight. Make them tidy their own rooms from time to time. But make it easy – no bedroom should be without under-bed storage drawers.

15 Don’t ignore tiredness. Take a rest. Tiredness is not something that should be dismissed as part of a busy life. Lack of energy is one of the symptoms of depression. Seek help before you crash.

16 Stop waxing all year round. It takes valuable minutes from your day, costs an (under)arm – and a leg – and it hurts. Save it for holidays and dates.

17 Don’t plod on with a book. Don’t persevere with a book just because it’s on the Booker shortlist or it’s your book club choice. If your mind constantly wanders off the page, give up. Reading should be a pleasurable escape route. It’s okay to pick up Agatha Christie instead. (Apply the same approach to TV and films.)

18 Examine your motivation before you step up your career. Take time to evaluate whether you really want that promotion at work, which will mean longer hours and more stress. Studies routinely find that, once we have our basics – a home, food and a livelihood – our happiness levels are not boosted by a higher income. In most developed countries, happiness levels have remained static over the past 50 years, even though we have more money and a lot more stuff.

19 Don’t worry yourself with the idea that everyone but you is having great sex. Who cares what anyone else is doing? While researching her book Sizzling Sex (JR Books), Dr Pam Spurr found that 90 per cent of us probably won’t try anything new sexually after our first anniversary. And, once past the two-year mark, you can forget it. Bear in mind that even Madonna lived for a time in a sexless marriage (to Guy Ritchie). Apparently they were both too tired – which surely lets the rest of us off the hook.

20 Choose an extra holiday over a new kitchen floor. Children couldn’t care less if the floor is vinyl or limestone, but memories of holidays will stay with you all for a lifetime.

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