If you’re active on Pinterest, then you may have seen this popular quote recently:

“When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting.” ~ Anonymous

When things aren't adding up in life start subtractingOoh, I just love that. There’s such simple brilliance in those words. Why do I think so? Well, so often when things aren’t adding up in my life, my immediate reaction is to think that something is missing. I instantly think, if only I had something more. But as this quote suggests, often a better solution is in the exact opposite direction. When you want to make your life better, instead of adding something, try subtracting something instead.

At its core, simplifying is about subtracting. It’s about editing out the complications, the clutter and the noise. It’s about removing obstacles and barriers, and clearing the path to something better and easier. So next time things don’t feel like they’re adding up in your life, here are five ways you can start subtracting and begin heading in a more positive direction.

1.  Subtract some clutter.

Clutter is one of the simplest things to subtract and it will create an amazing positive impact on your life. (Plus, if you’re like me, you may even find decluttering to be a terrific stress reliever—which means you’ll get double benefits from a single form of subtracting.)

Decluttering helps clear the path to a more enjoyable life, by eliminating stress and visual distraction. And you don’t have to declutter your entire home from top to bottom to begin enjoying the benefits. Instead, start with clutter that’s easy for you: disposable drinking cups from restaurants, old magazines or newspapers, dried-up makeup, worn out or out-grown items, or anything else that you know in an instant you no longer use, need or love. And start decluttering in an area of your home you use often, such as the kitchen, eating area, bathroom or bedroom, to enjoy the positive benefits of decluttering even more.

2.  Subtract a draining obligation.

If your days are out of control as you run from one obligation to the next, finishing your day completely exhausted, it’s time to start subtracting! Take a look at the items on your calendar and to-do list. Which ones energize you or restore you? Which ones drain you and leave you feeling depleted? Pick one draining item, and explore ways to subtract it out. It may take some time to delegate this responsibility to someone else, or transition out of an ongoing role, but when you subtract these types of activities from your schedule, things will start adding up in ways you can’t even imagine right now. You’ll have more energy, plus more breathing room for more relaxing or rejuvenating activities.

3.  Subtract negative self talk.

When I was growing up my mom used to tell us, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” She meant out loud, of course, but I think this is even more powerful advice to give to that little voice inside our heads! It is so much easier to do everything when we feel like there’s someone on our side cheering us along—someone we know will be there to pick us up if we fall. And yet, so often that little voice in our head is more of an enemy than an ally—someone who points out everything we do wrong and makes us afraid to take risks and create positive change. To subtract the negative self talk, first become aware of what you’re saying to yourself. Then, subtract the messages that are negative, judgmental and self-defeating. This is one area where adding in something new—a positive and affirming message to yourself—makes it easier to subtract the negative.

To put this into action, when you find yourself saying unflattering things to yourself, ask “What would I want my best friend to say to me right now?” Listen for the answer and then…say it to yourself. Keep doing this until those nice words become more and more automatic and the negative self talk stops.

4.  Subtract a little bit of something.

As you consider things you can subtract from your life to make it even better, keep in mind that you don’t have to subtract all of something to create positive benefits. Sometimes subtracting just a little bit of something is all you need to get back on track. For example, if you feel like you spend too much time aimlessly surfing the web or you don’t feel good about the amount of time you spend on Facebook, cut back a little on these activities. Take stock of how much time you currently spend on them, and then set a target. Would you feel better if you subtracted 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour a day? Try subtracting small chunks of time on these activities until you get to the place where you feel you’re spending the right amount on these items.

5.  Subtract an unproductive habit.

Sometimes unproductive habits creep into your life and you don’t really even notice it…until you really start to notice the consequences of these habits. For example, maybe you’ve developed the habit of procrastinating on important tasks or projects. At first, it’s not a big deal. But over time, you start to feel more and more nervous and stressed about the project. If you’re noticing consequences that you don’t like, take a step back and look at what’s behind these consequences. Is there an unproductive habit at play? If so, what would it take to remove that habit? Often the easiest way to subtract an unproductive habit is by replacing it with a new, more productive one. So, for example, subtract procrastination by developing the habit of working on important projects for small amounts of time over the course of the project.

What can you subtract today to make your life begin adding up in a new and exciting ways? Whether it’s hitting the snooze button four times, an organization that’s more of an obligation than a passion, or defeating self talk, when you remove the negative, it will add up to more space for the positive and more time to enjoy the other things in your life!

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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