May 18, 2004

Making Life Simpler – Part I: No Forwarding Address

A good friend from Seattle emailed me the other day. I’ve known Sue since 1986 when we met at a party hosted by mutual friends. Sue is married to a wonderful man, I’ll call him A for short, and they have a lovely nine year old boy H. Here is what she wrote (very lightly edited):

We just went to the cabin on the weekend for the first time in months. We are thinking of taking a year off starting a year from June, [take H] out of school–the whole thing. We are working too hard, on our computers too late every night, mired in “stuff” although I have recently made a good breakthrough in that arena, thinking about a remodel (will we care after a year away? ), yearning for more down time. [A] is thinking of cutting back again (he now has 12 weeks off a year). So….we do too much trying to catch up and not enough of just living. That’s the truth. We feel very good about our dear friends, but life seems to fly by and we don’t see them enough.

I’ve heard this lament – “we’re working too hard and we don’t have enough time for ourselves or our friends” – over and over again from friends both in the States and here in England (though I would say it’s quite a bit more pronounced in the States). It was also one of our constant bleats before we started on this journey.

As I read Sue’s email it struck me that we have just about stopped saying this, and I wondered why that was (though I should probably check with Rachel to see if she feels the same way).

I wrote just the other day about friendships, “the little things may be just as important, or maybe even more so.” And I think the same may be true for simplifying one’s life – even the little things can make a big difference.

When I was back in California a couple of weeks ago, I went to my brother’s for dinner. There in his kitchen was what used to be in our kitchen in California – a huge pile of bills and other correspondence (In the interest of full disclosure, my brother is receiving what little mail we still get and sending it on for us – thank you Chris! – so we’re to blame for one of the piles.)

Piles. Big piles. Little piles. Of bills. Of junk mail. Of magazines unread. They were my constant headache. The bane of my existence. I could never seem to get ahead of them.

Until we moved.

In the months leading up to moving, I changed our address on things that mattered, things like credit cards and health insurance, and I turned off everything else. I printed out a stack of letters (see below), and whenever a piece of junk and other non-essential mail arrived I would pull a letter off the stack, stick it in an envelope, add an address and a stamp, and leave it for the postman.

The letter said:


We’re moving to England and have no forwarding address. Please remove us from your mailing list.


Frank and Rachel

Very simple. No forwarding address. No unwanted mail. Very freeing. Very simplifying.

Try it. You might find it makes one part of your life just a little bit simpler as well.

Posted by: Frank @ 1:17 pm — Filed under:

1 Comment »

  1. great idea, i will start immediately…

    Comment by Allison — May 2, 2005 @ 12:01 am

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