For the past few weeks, I’ve become quite lazy and complacent. Lazy summer days have a tendency to do that to people. I’ve found myself putting things off only to realise that a whole week has gone by, and I still haven’t done what I intended. You all know that feeling, right?
So, I just have to share with you, something I saw in the week which made the excuses I had been telling myself downright comedic.
We all do it, we all have dreams, and things on our to do lists which will benefit us in some way, yet which have been staring at us mockingly for weeks, months, or even years.
That book that’s been sat on your shelf with its story untold. That first draft that’s almost been finished for three months.That table leg you were going to fix last summer. That class you keep meaning to sign up for.
Yet when we get round to doing them, suddenly the washing needs doing, the floor looks dirtier than usual, and the car doesn’t look as shiny as it could. You might know it as procrastination. And when it comes to procrastination, some of us are masters, even when we’ve minimised all the meaningless distractions.
Procrastination will always find a way to keep you ‘busy’, and from realising your full potential.
Since I work at a school, I’ve been enjoying the long, lazy weeks of summer. And I’ve come up with all kinds of clever-seeming excuses as to why I haven’t worked on my book in over two months, and why my box of photos is still on the living room floor waiting to be sorted.
I can’t write because I’ve got my son. I can’t sort through my photos because I’ve got writing to do…and I’ve got my son. I can’t possibly spare the time to cook anything that involves more than slamming in the oven because I have a pile of washing up from lunch.
Yet, an hour or so later, I would find myself playing videogames (which I also tend to procrastinate over completing), or lounging in the garden with an oversized mug of tea.
But while out walking my dog, this week, a woman wearing workout clothes and a look of determination jogged past me… while pushing her toddler in a pushchair. And somehow, she still had the energy to smile at me as she jogged by.
At that moment, every well-crafted excuse I had been telling myself as to why I couldn’t do what I wanted were exposed for the big fat lies that they were. In fact, they were so lame they belonged in the ‘the dog ate my homework’ pile of excuses.
It was as if the universe was saying, Look! Look at this lady! And here’s you, off on your summer break, and you don’t have the time? Ha! Nice try!
Our time on this planet is fast and finite, yet we spend half of it putting things off and wondering why we never became a best-selling author, or an actor, or a life-coach, or a teacher, or a business owner, or super fit, or…you get the idea.
The truth is, you can do whatever you want if you’re willing to stop creating excuse stories, and pour that energy into what you’re procrastinating over, instead.
Kick-ass Jogging Lady could have told herself, “Screw going for my morning run. I’ve got a young child and a pile of dishes”. Instead, she thought outside of the box, did it no matter what, and the kid looked super chilled. He was probably having the time of his life.
In our distracted world there’s no end of books, articles and courses aimed at beating procrastination, because even the most successful people have fought it long enough to know this annoying adversary inside-out.
But the single most powerful thing you can do to beat procrastination is to act. It really is that simple. You don’t feel like writing? Pick up a pen and start. You don’t feel like DIY? Go get the screwdriver and hammer. You don’t fee like going to the gym? Put on your workout clothes, or step outside your house. I guarantee you that as soon as procrastination sees that you’re armed, it will cower back down.
And there’s never a better time to act than right now!
When thinking of minimalism, it’s easy to think about everything you own, the things you will keep and space you will create. But there’s something even more suffocating than an excess of physical possessions, which has integrated into every aspect of everyone’s lives: a permanent connection to the online world.
Social media, in particular, is a major leech on people’s time and energy.
I think of social media as being like the world’s biggest mosh pit. Every so often you get hoisted above the crowds and passed along in a viral wave of shares and likes. And when you get dropped, you crave the experience again and again, eager to be seen and heard amidst millions of other voices all vying for validation.
One day last year, I sat at the window of a city cafe which had a wide view of the shop-lined street. And I was both shocked and saddened to see that there wasn’t a single person outside whose head wasn’t bent over their phone screen. Mothers with pushchairs, businessmen, teenagers, older men and women…
It’s one thing to see someone at a bus stop or in a queue scrolling away, but there’s something profoundly disturbing about seeing an entire street like it.
With a dawning sense of horror, I realised that before entering the cafe, I had been a part of that crowd, so disconnected with the people around me that I may as well have lived on a different planet.
From that moment on, I decided to apply minimalism not only to my physical life, but my digital one as well.
I had tried many times in the past to regulate my usage of Facebook, including deleting the app from my phone. I thought that if I took extended breaks I could get myself under control. I was wrong. No sooner than I gave it another chance, it ensnared me like a Venus Flytrap, stewing me in likes, love hearts, and bastings of dopamine.
But it wasn’t just Facebook I was addicted to. Email notifications and free-to-play games conditioned me to pick up my phone to compulsively tap and scroll my life away. Every time I pulled my phone from my pocket I would check social media, then email, then news, then I’d ask Google some obscure question that popped into my mind.
I vividly remember the time my toddler son was sitting on my lap talking to me, and because he was watching Peppa Pig for the millionth time, I was absorbed in my phone. “Mummy, you’re not listening to me!”, he whined.
I was about to snap back at him, annoyed, but then I saw his eyes swimming and his lips quivering. “What are you doing on your phone, mummy?”, he asked. To which I had no acceptable answer and replied “Nothing, sweetheart. Mummy should put her phone down. I’m sorry”.
My son’s voice was being lost amidst an ever-rising crescendo of digital noise.
It doesn’t sound that much to start with, but weeks turn into months which turn into years. Over time, those hours spent tapping, typing and swiping add up to staggering amounts.
When you consider that so many of us complain of having so little time, imagine what could be achieved if we clawed back the months spent on social media, apps, email, and other attention-sapping services.
You could write a book, visit a new town or city, see friends and family, discover a new hobby, learn a new skill, learn something about yourself, set your life in a new direction, rekindle a relationship – the possibilities are endless.
There were a few instances I actually forgot to take my phone out with me, and I can say without a doubt that they were some of the most peaceful, and most productive times.
To my surprise, during those outings, I forgot about my phone. I had no desire to check notifications, know what the news headlines had changed to, or to share what I was seeing with digital strangers.
When I first took a hiatus from social media, I went one step futher and downgraded to a dumb phone for a few months. Like is the case with many addictions, I couldn’t trust myself to not fall back into the clutches of digital dependency.
The people close to me were shocked and clearly uncomfortable. I got asked “How will I send you photos when I need to?”, “How will we keep in contact as much now that you don’t use Whatsapp?”, “How will I know what you’re up to?”. The funniest thing I got asked was “How will you know where you’re going without GPS?”. Yet I don’t even drive.
I documented my whole experience of going dumb (which I will share with you some other time), but I can tell you right now that my relationships improved, my stress levels dropped, and my writing sky-rocketed.
There was more to talk about with my friends because I hadn’t already shared everything. And I started to notice what was right in front of me. Not just people, but natural beauty and interesting occurrences.
I discovered a version of myself I hadn’t realised was possible until I looked up from my screen.
Once you leave the cultural norm, people will be shuffle their feet and often try to justify their own habits, or try to tempt you back. A few people told me that although they wanted to, they couldn’t leave social media due to having family many miles away. Yet most of the time, there’s nothing to stop people from writing letters, sending emails, or, even better, making a phone call.
An over-reliance on social media is rewiring us to fear the intimacy of live, face-to-face conversations, as well as setting us up for a life of comparing ourselves to others, and missing huge chunks of our lives.
I mean, think about it: we’ve been walking the Earth for thousands of years, communicating with each other via grunts and cave drawings, then by spoken language, and later, via books and TV. But all of a sudden, we don’t have to talk face-to face anymore. An app can do that for us.
We don’t have to be vulnerable in front of others, or share our true feelings, or even our real appearance. Instead, we craft masks online and forget who we really are.
And like any skill that goes unused for long enough, social skills start to fossilise. Then anxiety sets in. But we are still social creatures, so we desperately try to keep the illusion of connection going, all the while getting lonelier and lonelier.
Of course, social media isn’t all bad.
It can be great for meeting new people, and communicating with people on the other side of the world. It can be invaluable for disabled people who might find it more difficult to meet up with people, and it’s perfect for finding others who share your interests. It can also be a great business platform.
The problems arise when being used as a main source of contact. It’s extremely poor at forming truly deep and satisfying bonds with people.
Trying to plug social voids with excessive social media usage is like trying to fill a sieve with sand. The sense of connection and satisfaction quickly drains away, so you check and click like again and again and again.
Services such as Facebook and Instagram, and any other time-wasting app you can think of have been designed to be as addictive as slot machines. Companies are profiting from our attention, our memories, and the loss of our souls to our screens.
Currently, I’m back on social media, and back to using a smart device, but with a reversed relationship. I’m the master of my device and the services I use, not the other way around.
To stay in control, I began by minimising the apps on my phone.
I deleted everything I rarely used, started to embrace digital minimalism, and cleared everything off my screen that would serve as a temptation to open. I unsubscribed from news apps, turned off all notifications except for texts and phone calls, and started leaving my phone out of my bedroom at night.
I also started to leave my phone in my bag when talking to people, instead of in easy reach where it could dampen my conversations and remind them to reach for theirs.
You don’t have to go as extreme as I did and downgrade to a dumb phone, nor do you have to delete your social media accounts. All you have to do is become more mindful of the time you spend on your phone, or on other devices and services.
There has been an explosion in apps dedicated to helping you keep track of the time you spend on certain device activities, or to aid you in blocking yourself from distractions.
Brace yourself for this post because I am about to talk about something which sounds scary, but which could dramatically improve and simplify your life.
Waking up at 5AM (or earlier depending on your job/career status).
If you’re anything like me, and just the thought of removing your blankets makes you want to run a mile, I implore you to stay with me here, because what I’m about to tell you could further enhance your minimalist lifestyle and transform your mindset.
I was fascinated, although slightly sceptical of what waking up at 5AM could possibly do for someone with chronic illness, but I gave it a go. The trouble was, despite the massive improvements to my life, I only managed to keep it up for a couple of months before the winter months dampened my resolve.
But the benefits of rising with the sun were so great, that I’m going to reintroduce 5AM back into my life. And I’m going to share with you, exactly why early mornings can be your greatest ally to a better you.
The reason I tried it in the first place was because I was fed up with the stress of rushing around in the mornings trying to get myself ready for work and my son ready for school.
I loved to write but by the time the evening rolled around, I was too burnt out to hammer a single sentence out on the keyboard and would inevitably get drawn into mindless activities instead.
Perhaps you can relate?
Things like scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed (which you know turns into an endless time sap), playing videogames, or watching Youtube took over my free time in the evenings. Anything but doing what I really wanted to be doing.
I’d feel guilty, then the cycle repeated itself. And after rolling out of bed on the weekends, I would go on entertainment binges which was detrimental to my productivity as a writer.
It was time to make a change.
Now, waking up at 5AM, (or earlier) isn’t easy if you’re used to hibernating, and you’ll probably have to ease yourself into it by gradually reducing the time you spend in bed.
I was mad enough to roll out of bed the instant my alarm went off so that I didn’t have time to register how bleary-eyed and zombified I was. I even did what Hal suggested in The Miracle Morning, and found myself an accountability partner.
As soon as I woke up, I would message my accountability partner, and sometimes she would message back with a picture of a beautiful sunrise from her abode. Living in the UK, I saw more overcast skies than pastel sunrises, but just the feeling of that part of the morning being mine for the taking was enough to motivate me.
Here’s the benefits I experienced from becoming an early riser:
My mornings were quiet and peaceful. I found that I was able to think calmly, and had a burst of ideas for my writing.
I could do what I wanted; read a book, write, meditate, or a combination of all. The extra time was all mine.
Because my mind was starting off uncluttered and without the noise of a busy work day, I had far more ideas for my writing than in the evening. This meant I got far more writing done. In fact, I churned out most of the first draft for the book I’m working on.
I had the time to journal or write a stream of conscious(getting all of my thoughts down on paper) which made me understand myself on a much deeper level. It also ensured I was starting the day with a positive mindset.
Before it was fully winter, I got to see a couple of glorious sunrises (as many as I was going to see living in the UK).
It changed my mindset on what was possible because I achieved so much while everyone else was still in dreamland.
I was more organised because I had so much more time on my hands.
By the time my husband went to work and took my son with him to school, I was often already dressed, so I formed a new habit of leaving home early and going to my local cafe to write once a week. Not only did that cement a writing habit, but I got to see my town in a tranquil state of awakening, which was surreal.
I was happier throughout the day knowing that I had already got my most important things done. Therefore, my days ran smoother and were much simpler.
By this point, you’re probably thinking ‘but what about the downsides?’ And I’m not going to lie to you, here. There were downsides to rising so early.
I couldn’t stay up as late which meant that when my toddler son was in bed, I had little downtime before I felt ready to crawl into bed myself. You can’t be a morning person on too little sleep; at least not without risking physical and mental health
That’s it. That was the only downside I discovered.
Admittedly, living in the UK makes 5AM wake-ups much more challenging in the winter months because mornings are cold and dark, the days are short and the days are often overcast.
That’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate in the beckoning warmth and comfort of bed, and unsurprisingly, people’s vitamin D levels drop to an all time low.
But as soon as I let the winter beat me and stopped doing the Miracle Mornings, I noticed that I was back to old habits of procrastination, achieved far less (my book is still in first draft) and am less fulfilled.
To give you the best chance of success at becoming an early riser, here are a few tips:
I know this is unlike my usual posts, but since I love to help you guys to become the best version of yourselves on your minimalism journeys, I simply must point you in the direction of my favourite author on Medium, Anthony Moore.
With thirty-five thousand followers, Anthony Moore writes about how you can live an extraordinary life on your own terms. In fact, he is the author responsible for giving me the confidence to start this blog. Now, in his mission to help you soar to the life of your dreams, he’s released a book called ‘What Extraordinary People Know’.
And it’s as inspiring as ever.
Having overcome serious life challenges, meeting failure time and again, and coming out the other side a successful man, Anthony knows what it takes to escape mediocrity and live a fulfilling life.
Anthony’s book is easy to read and addresses many of the beliefs that keep us living below our potential. If you want to take your life to the next level, or are looking for a hearty dose of motivation, you owe yourself to read Anthony’s book.
Make the choice to escape mediocrity, today!
Those of you who live in the UK can pre-order Anthony’s book here
And those of you that live in the US can order it right here
New minimalists often make the mistake of thinking that minimalism is all about sparsity and getting rid of stuff. But once all of the excess is out of the way, it’s less about stuff and more about intentional living.
By that, I mean that you have more time on your hands and you decide what to do with that time.
One of the life-changing things I practised was incorporating a healthy dose of relaxation into my schedule.
In today’s fast-paced society, many of us have lost the ability to relax. And I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV binging on Netflix or surfing the internet; I mean true, hardcore relaxation. No technology, no stress, just gentle, relaxing activities.
At first, it was hard because I was so used to always being on the go cleaning, tidying, cooking, washing up, going to work and parenting. I was always in a state of ‘what next?’.
Even when I thought I was relaxing by playing my Playstation or watching TV, I wondered why I still felt wired.
You see, by relying on technology, all I was doing was keeping my mind in a heightened state of arousal and chasing an endless stream of dopamine hits – the complete opposite of relaxing!
But once you understand how, true relaxation is easier than you think.
Below, are some of my most used relaxation techniques, which will lift the weight from your soul and leave you feeling like a gently flowing stream instead of a crashing tidal wave.
Lighting a scented candle To create a calming atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like lighting a scented candle. It doesn’t have to be scented, though, and you can even buy natural beeswax candles if you’re sensitive to the usual ones you can buy.
I like to dim all the lights, close the blinds, and indulge in the soft light cast by the flame. Never leave a candle unattended, though, or near a flammable source!
Play soft music I find chillhop and low-fi music can be especially calming and puts me into a zen-like state very fast. That’s because listening to music, especially of a relaxing variety, can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Combined with the scented candle, it’s a sure fire way to let your stress go.
Soft lighting I briefly mentioned lighting when talking about the candle, but to put your mind into a state of relaxation, it’s best to use soft, low lighting.
This is because leaving your lights on full will have a blue-light effect similar to the screens on our devices. It can suppress your melatonin levels (the hormone responsible for helping us to sleep) and leave you restless.
Soft, comfortable clothes This one speaks for itself because feeling light and comfortable will help you to get comfier much faster.
A hot bath with oils or bubble bath If you have a bath, I recommend some nice stress-relieving muscle soak or oils. And instead of treating it like a mission to get clean, just lay back and indulge in the warmth and tranquility.
Just be careful not to get so relaxed you fall asleep!
A beverage of your choice My own beverage of choice is usually a herbal tea such as chamomile, which is known for its calming properties. Occasionally I’ll have a glass of wine.
However, while it can be tempting to top up with some sort of alcoholic beverage at the end of a long day, beware that it doesn’t become a habit. Relying on alcohol can turn into dependance so that you can’t feel relaxed without it, and will introduce all sorts of health risks.
If you do have an alcoholic drink, stick to one and don’t make it a regular occurence.
Writing Writing is well known for having a therapeutic effect and is something I do regularly.
You can write about anything you like: a story, a diary entry, something that’s on your mind, a topic that you’re passionate about, or a letter to someone even if you don’t intend to send it.
You don’t even have to keep what you wrote if you don’t want to.
A few words of advice,though. Don’t write a to do list or anything else which is likely to stress you out and remind you of life’s chores.
It’s also better to write on paper than on a device, not only to minimise your exposure to blue light, but because studies have shown that you retain knowledge better when you write or read physically, and you’re likely to be more creative. See https://uniball.co.uk/handwriting-better-typing/
Reading If you’re a bookworm like me, finding the time to put your feet up with a good book is precious.
Once again, it’s better to read a paperback rather than a digital device to minimise blue light exposure (although Kindles or e-readers that use e-ink to mimic paper are a good alternative).
Books are also great at whisking you off to another place and reality – perfect for when the real world gets too chaotic.
Meditation I can’t praise enough, the wonders of meditation to help you de-stress. Meditation can be done any way you like, in any position you prefer.
It’s a deep state of calm that is achieved by letting all of your thoughts go and being as present as possible. Meditation isn’t a natural state so does take practise! When you master it, though, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.
Personally, I use a form of visualisation. I picture a beautiful place from my memories, and then I modify it by adding a gate which my worries and stress can’t get through.
I picture the worries and stress as little cartoonish characters beating (and failing) to get through, with me as the gatekeeper. After a while, all that I’m left with is my chosen internal setting.
Your way may be totally different. You have to find what works for you.
Deep breathing Deep breathing combined with meditation can be incredibly powerful. Even on its own, it can be a powerful tool to relax you.
Once again, if I’m completely stressed, I use visualisation. I imagine I breathe out all the bad feelings (red), and breathe in all the positivity ( green), until all the negative is gone and replaced by the positive.
Colouring It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty. Colouring is a relaxing activity and has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in adults. There are all kinds of beautiful adult colouring books out there, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.
I love the ones by Millie Marotta and Johanna Basford, which are delightful to look at and a joy to colour on.
Doing NOTHING That’s right. Nothing. Just sitting back and being in the moment. How many times do you do that? I bet the answer is never.
Let’s face it, these days people are always doing something, even when ‘relaxing’ whether that’s watching Netflix or idly browsing the net.
Because of today’s constant connection to technology and the non-stop bustle of our online lives, it seems that doing nothing has become a completely foreign concept.
In fact, it seems to have become an enviable skill. Yet it’s a must in order to have optimal mental health and truly be able to relax.
Constantly being on the go, and busying yourself with online entertainment rewires your brain to rely on endless dopamine hits. That’s great for the companies that are making a profit off your attention, but not for you and your mental health.
You need to retrain your brain to see quiet, peaceful moments as they are, rather than as moments of boredom and non-productivity.
The next time you’re sitting idle, or waiting at a bus stop, stop and take in the sights, smells and sounds around you.
Notice your child showing you the pictures they drew, smile at the human sitting across from you, listen to the birds in your garden. It’s amazing what you will notice once you master the skill of doing nothing.
Close doors to outside distractions When you’re relaxing at home,it’s best to close doors to outside noises and distractions if you can (provided you don’t have to worry about a baby or anything else important).
It helps you to create a sort of ‘bubble’ of tranquility.
No phones, tablets or other technology I can’t stress this enough. If you want to relax you need to switch off, or at least silence your devices. As I said in my above point about doing nothing, our addiction to technology and the internet simply wires you up for chasing mindless highs.
Social media also has a way of stressing you out and making you feel inferior to others. How can you feel relaxed when you’re constantly comparing your life to others and checking your worth via one-second-clicks and likes?
Please note: It’s perfectly acceptable to use a device simply to stream music – unless that music is coming off your phone which is within arms reach of your twitchy browsing hand.
As you can see, relaxation is easy if you’re willing to switch off and let go.
You may notice that a good few of the techniques do require some practise, but that’s because today’s tech-addicted society has conditioned most of us to forgo relaxation in favour of chasing the buzz of constant entertainment.
Reclaim your attention. Reclaim your right to relax. Reclaim your life.
When we think about decluttering stuff, the last thing that comes to our minds are photos. Yet photos build up to the thousands, especially since the introduction of smartphones.
We click, snap and tap every moment and expression, now we not only have to keep up with physical prints but a forever growing digital hoard.
Let’s be honest, phone cameras are now so good and we take so many photos that we have too many to enjoy.
We see a beautiful sunset and the first thing that comes to our minds is not to enjoy it in the moment, but to snap the perfect image that we can enjoy years down the line, or can get the most likes on social media.
We receive a glorious plateful of food, and our first instinct is not to eat it, but to snap a photo for Instagram.
When we act like this, the moment we remember is not one of basking in the sunset, or of enjoying a meal, but of capturing the perfect photo, and obsessively checking our social media accounts for approval and validation.
And when every moment is experienced behind a screen or a lens, it becomes almost impossible to discern which photos are the most important.
It’s like losing a precious stone on a beach: it was special to you but you’ll never be able to pick it out again among the rest and won’t even be motivated to try.
I had the exact same issue, which is why I’m currently in the midst of sorting out years of digital and physical photos. And with there being decades of memories and sights, it’s no easy task.
What spurred me on to tackle this monstrous task was the sheer joy I experienced of choosing photos to go in my wedding album. The photographer took over nine hundred shots, but every single one was a joy to reminisce over.
I realised I was experiencing none of that joy with my home collection of photos; many of them were random and meaningless. The precious ones were lost in a sea of memories transformed into gigabytes.
Since that realisation, I’ve spent hours deleting meaningless photos taken on the spur of the moment: landscapes I no longer recognise, ten of the same photos from slightly different angles, photos that were downloaded from the internet, photos sent to me through Whatsapp, random images of animals and plants, blurry smiles, self-indulgent selfies, and meals I was in awe of.
Despite all the hours spent deleting countless moments of the past, I’ve barely made a dent in my collection. But believe me when I say it’s a great motivator that a good few months worth of shots are now worthy of photo frame treatment.
More and more bytes are being freed, more memory to dedicate to the best and most meaningful moments. Byte by bte, stories are emerging.
Deleting and disposing of so many photos has also been frighteningly sobering as to how many moments I’ve wasted snapping instead of experiencing.
Since the start of the project, I’ve spent less time pulling out my camera and far more observing with my eyes. If something is truly awe-inspiring, I write descriptions instead, and sometimes use it for inspiration.
If you’re considering minimising your photo collection, go ahead. It’s freeing. It’s cathartic. It’s revealing. Just remember to minimise your snapping, and maximise your moments, instead.
When you minimise your own possessions and you’re the only minimalist in a household, you will inevitably start to notice other people’s stuff. You will have all sorts of ideas in your head about what should go and what should stay.
Why does your husband insist on keeping that set of weights when he hasn’t worked out in years?
Why does your daughter have so many shoes?
Why can’t your room mate just throw away their bulging collection of ragged t-shirts?
Surely they can see the mess they’re living in. Why won’t they understand the benefits of being a minimalist? If only they would stop and listen to you!
Unfortunately, nagging, preaching or removing their stuff without permission will not only cause them to hold onto more stuff in an act of defiance and security, but can end up driving a wedge between you and the people you love.
Everyone has possessions which are important to them for a variety of different reasons. Maybe it’s for security, perhaps they grew up with nothing, maybe they grew up drowning in stuff like I did. Whatever the reason, you should never badger and pester someone to get rid of something they’re not comfy doing so.
My husband, son and I share a house with my parents. The only minimalist in the house is me, so for the longest time I felt frustrated by what I considered to be clutter from other people.
It seemed that no matter how much of my own stuff I got rid of, they accumulated even more. I became hyper aware of everything that was coming into the home, especially since we all share a kitchen and bathroom.
Where was I going wrong?
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had turned into a preacher of minimalism. I was so encouraged by my new outlook on life that I wanted everyone else to experience the joy, and I wanted to minimise even more. Suddenly, every marketing tactic was clear to me, every needless item on a store shelf, every meaningless trinket left on my shelves.
It’s so easy to fall into this ‘I know best’ mindset when you’re feeling so renewed and energised from such a lifestyle change. But that attitude didn’t do me any favours, and it won’t do you any.
It’ll strain your relationships and do the opposite of simplifying your life.
I had many disagreements with my husband and parents. Nothing I said seemed to work and I was getting fed up. But in the end, it wasn’t worth the heated arguments.
Then I remembered that I was doing this for myself, and that pushing for results from others was stressful and counter-productive. Everyone around me had their own stories, and it wasn’t fair that I was interfering. So I stopped. And I realised how overbearing I had been and that the message of minimalism was being lost.
To my surprise, after a few months, not only did my husband start actively supporting my new lifestyle, he identified some clothes he no longer wanted. Even my mum had a random clearout and filled several charity shop bags.
Think about the last time you were shouted at or lectured. Were you angry? Did you feel inspired to do what the other person wanted?
I thought not.
But don’t worry. As human beings we’ve all been there.We want something from somebody who refuses to play ball and become desperate, convinced that we know best. Of course, all that serves to do is drive people away or cause them to rebel.
The best way to persuade someone is to always be friendly and sympathetic, and to lead by example. Minimalism is one of those concepts that’s better observed over time.
Once people see how much happier, lighter, and more relaxed you are, and how much more time and space you have, you’re much more likely to see a gradual change. The keyword here is gradual.
If you’ve come so far in your minimalist journey, you’ll know that change doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a few months.
It’s a learning process where decision-making skills are sharpened and mindset is improved or altered.
You’re even more likely to persuade the ones you care about by spending that extra time doing something you love, or spending time with them.
Everybody wants more time in their day, and everybody wants to feel important.
Whatever you do don’t pester someone or suggest to them what should be kept and what shouldn’t be. How can one sharpen their own decision-making skills and feel empowered if the decisions are being made for them?
When I was a child, there were times my mum despaired at my toy and magazine accumulation, but when she screamed and shouted at me about it, I held on even tighter because I felt like my stuff was important to me. As a spoilt only child, I was defined by my stuff.
In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re twelve, twenty-eight, or sixty; if you get spoken to badly, nagged and preached at, there will be rebellion instead of results.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand them, but most of all, live happily with your own values. If people like what they see, they’ll soon follow.
Just remember, that not everybody wants to be a minimalist, and your goal shouldn’t be to convert them, but to demonstrate a simpler way of life and bring out the best in yourself and everyone you meet.
Don’t remove other people’s stuff
Don’t forget what minimalism is all about
Do be understanding
Do be friendly
Do be patient
Do be sympathetic
Do lead by example
Do focus on you
Do remember the true meaning of minimalism
The meaning of minimalism? To remove excess stuff in your life so that you can enjoy an abundance of whatever is important to you.
Even the most seasoned minimalists will end up overwhelmed with more clutter if they don’t regularly keep on top of what comes in and what goes out of the home. Left unchecked, it’s easy to become complacent and end up back where you started.
Below, I’ve listed some of the clutter culprits which you should be especially vigilant of.
These get everywhere because they often get bought in packs. Unless you work at a school or in an office, don’t buy pens in packs because you’ll never get around to using the rest before they dry up and they will make your drawers messy.
Pens are also numerous in gift shops and are the next most common keepsake along with keyrings. Don’t be afraid to discard old pens, and if there’s one you love, see if you can buy refills instead of retiring it to a drawer.
People are suckers for brand new, fresh notebooks or journals – myself included. I have so many journals from the past that are half-filled because I got fed up and wanted a new one. The same thing happens with notebooks, but people keep the old ones ‘just in case’, and before long there is a pile of half-full notebooks.
If you use physical notebooks, avoid buying them in packs unless you work at a company or school.
You can also consider using apps and take notes electronically, but this option isn’t for everyone. I’m a pen and paper person myself as the notes stick in my mind easier and I get more creative.
Recently, I recycled piles of these after discovering boxes full in the attic, some with names of people I no longer knew.
Cards multiply very fast because we appreciate the words that people write inside them, or people pass away and we can’t bear to throw away their handwriting.
When it comes to cards, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a select few (I keep some beautiful and thoughtful ones in a photo album), but be sure to recycle the ones that just say ‘to’ and ‘from’, or from people you no longer recognise. You can also take photos of old cards and do away with the physical copy.
I once kept a hoard of old invitations in my bedroom drawer. They were so pretty and I was so honoured to have been invited to events that I kept them as a reminder. Ultimately, however, all I was keeping was junk and they got in the way.
A great event will stick in your memory so there’s no reason to keep an invite. But if there’s one you simply can’t get rid of, you could always place it into a photo album or a memory box.
There’s no reason at all to keep newspapers unless there’s something valuable to you inside it. Even then, you should cut such a thing out rather than keep the whole thing. Nowadays, the same information is available online so it’s highly unlikely you’ll miss out by recycling.
Magazines cost more money than a newspaper, are eye-catching, and over-spilling with information. It’s no wonder that we find it so hard to throw away old magazines in case there is something great inside that we’ll never be able to read again.
But do you really ever go back and read that old information? I doubt it.
That being said, you can cut out the stuff that really interests you and recycle the rest. If it’s a collectable series, however, you can buy magazine binders which will make them beautifully presentable and read like a giant book. I took the latter option for my ‘Writers’ Forum’ collection.
Unless you’re genuinely interested in an advert or service, trash it as soon as it enters your home. Be fast and ruthless.
These end up yellowing in drawers and wallets until they become invisible. Bin old receipts, and better yet, if a shop offers you a digital receipt, opt for that, instead.
Out of a sense of security we keep old paperwork and old bills, but more often than not, we don’t need them and they pile up into a miniature towers. It’s so simple today to scan and digitise anything you’re unsure of, or even to go paperless with companies.So ditch any old paperwork unless it’s very important.
These get bought as gifts and holiday souvenirs more than anything else. But they’re so common as gifts we can end up with a whole haul.
Just a few weeks ago, I was travelling with a mass of about six keyrings on my house key, yet didn’t even notice until my husband stopped me before leaving for work and asked “Emma, why on Earth are you carrying such a heavy mass of keyrings for one bloody key?”. I didn’t know, either. Somehow, they had become invisible to me.
Once I realised the absurdity of it, I chose two favourites and used one to identify my house key, and another to give my bag some character. I donated the rest.
Eventually, cables end up making a mini jungle. In today’s tech heavy world we own so many devices and all the cables and spares that come with them. Sometimes, we think we lose cables so end up buying even more, only to find the old one but keeping them ‘just in case’.
Years of this will not only make specific cables or parts hard to find, but you will end up with ancient, mysterious ones which are no longer relevant to anything you own.
As a gamer and a previous gadget addict, I have been to cable hell and back, once discarding of about three large carrier bags of unknown cables and ten USB leads. I’d say it’s fine to keep one spare, but any more than that and you’ll be lost in the cable jungle before you know it.
Batteries end up all over the house or breeding in the ‘junk drawer’, especially if you have kids. Old batteries can explode or leak battery acid if they aren’t stored correctly, and can eventually drain of their power. Not to mention, they are extremely hazardous for small children.
Only keep the batteries you need and don’t bother holding on to any mystery batteries that don’t seem to fit into any device you own.
Old half-full bottles of shampoo, freebies, Lynx gift sets and other toiletries will take over your bathroom if you don’t throw the old stuff away. If you have unused gifts, consider either using them before you buy more of a similar product, regifting or donating them.
Seasons come and go, and with them, coughs, colds and other ailments. One thing I’ve noticed with medicine cabinets is that nobody tends to throw old medicine away, keeping them ‘just in case’. Yet more medicine gets stockpiled every month or so until we are prepared for an apocalypse.
So, whenever you acquire new medication, discard of any old ones – it’s not healthy to have old medicine anyway, and they can also lose effectiveness over time.
Like with medicine, new makeup gets added but the old tends to stay in the back of the drawer. Always throw away old makeup because it’s the perfect hangout for bacteria.
People buy new mugs yet still hold on to scratched or chipped mugs ‘just in case’. People also like to prepare for huge tea parties that never happen, so every cup is a keeper.
Cups and mugs enter the home as gifts at various times of the year, as holiday souvenirs and as classy new kitchenware, and over time they fill every cupboard and end up stacked haphazardly.
Only keep the mugs you use and never keep scratched or chipped mugs because bacteria will thrive in them.
These are another thing which enter the home as gifts, souvenirs and new kitchenware. I’ve seen families of three and four with enough glasses to host a party of a hundred, yet only a handful of them are ever used. Consider donating or recycling unused glassware.
I’m sure I will have missed a category or two out, but as long as you keep an eye on most of the stuff mentioned above, you will have a fighting chance to keep your home calm and clutter-free.
Next week, watch out for ‘living with another person’s clutter’.
Once you make significant headway as a minimalist, you start to value having meaningful experiences over more stuff. As your mindset changes, creating memories will take far higher value than fixating on the latest styles or gadgets.
Think about it: do you remember everything you unwrapped several celebrations ago? Or do you remember who you spent it with? Do you remember what you purchased on that big shopping spree? Or do you remember the shared laughter of the people you were with at the time?
Yesterday, I went on a school trip with my four-year-old son to a theme park for young children and families. He was so excited to be on a bus and see all the landmarks on the way. He was delighted to see his friends who had also come along on the trip, and he couldn’t wait to try out all the rides. But something stood out to me on this trip that will always stick in my mind.
My son loves his toys and is frequently spoilt by the people close to him. Thinking he might want to check out the gift shop before we left, I told him about it. His reply was “But I don’t want to go to the gift shop, mummy, I want to go back on the rides!”.
He was having such a good time, just me and him, spending time together and going on the rides, that buying a new, shiny souvenir didn’t matter at all to him. He just wanted to make the most of the time we had. And for that I was proud of him and wasted not another moment.
My son smiled for far longer on that trip than any new plastic sword would have made him. What was even more memorable was when he gave me a big hug and said “I love you, mummy”. I didn’t need to buy him another toy to make him happy, and he was still talking about his day right up until he went to bed.
On a similar note, I don’t remember all the stuff my parents bought me over the years, and I was a spoilt child who always wanted more. What I do remember are family walks down by the canal, picking blackberries with my dad, having my crazy nan and uncle over on Christmas, playing board games with my parents, and playing video games with my mum.
All of those memories involve interactions and experiences with others because spending time with the people you care about is far more valuable than what’s on a store shelf or in your bank. Sometimes, we don’t even realise how significant a moment or day was until months or even years later.
Experiences will benefit anything and anybody in your life. Yourself, your family, your friends, your pets. The best thing is, you don’t even have to spend money if you don’t want.
A beautiful walk seeing new sights can be just a memorable as a day out to a place you have to pay to visit. A game in the garden with your child will stick in their minds far more than a new gadget. A visit to a family member you don’t see very often would cause a bigger smile than an object sent through the post.
The next time you’re considering a gift for somebody or treating yourself, consider the gift of your time, for there is nothing more precious.
Time over money. Experience over expenditure. Memories over stuff.
‘Gratitude’ is one of those words we see everywhere nowadays in self-help books and even in planners which have sections for listing the things you’re grateful for. Yet people don’t realise how incredibly important the concept is. It’s become like white noise in the background, yet it has the potential to turn someone’s day around, and to completely change the way you see your own life.
Recently, I personally delivered a load of thankyou cards to the people and services who had contributed to my wedding in some way: the man who made our beautiful cake, the lovely ladies who styled my hair, the hotel staff who hosted us,the lady who did all the makeup, even the lady in the perfume department who helped me to choose the perfect scent.
And let me tell you, the radiant smiles on those people’s faces was worth a thousand times more than the glow from treating myself or buying something new.
People often say to me “But you paid for that, so it’s to be expected. You don’t have to go out of your way to thank them”, which I think is really sad.
After all, we all have a finite amount of time on Earth. Whenever somebody does something for you, they are giving up a fraction of their time on this planet.
Taking the time to personally thank someone who has done something for you, even if it’s mundane, like serving you on a checkout, is one of the kindest and most thoughtful practices you can adopt in your everyday life.
Expressing gratitude doesn’t even have to cost a lot of time and energy. A small, cheerful conversation, or a big smile and a thankyou, can go a long way to help someone who has had a rough day.
When we see someone in customer service frowning and sighing, it’s so easy to think, “Huh, what a miserable attitude, they shouldn’t even be serving!”. But we’re all human and sometimes all a person needs is some compassion and gratitude.
I’ve noticed that smiling at someone who looks fed up, complimenting them, or making a point of thanking them, can light up their eyes and turn the frown upside down! Positivity and kindness is light and uplifting, negativity is heavy and depressing.
But what about when the light has dimmed in our own lives and we’re the ones wearing the frown?
That’s when it can be a huge help to write a list of all the things you’re grateful for in your life.
For me, a list didn’t quite cut it, so I chose to write about each thing I had listed, and in no time at all I was feeling as light as air and supremely grateful for everything in my life. I listed having great friends, my family, my house, my job, and everything else I felt I was fortunate to have.
One thing I noticed by writing such a list, was that almost none of it was about the stuff I owned. Everything I needed for happiness was already there. You can do this exercise for loved ones who have upset you as well (depending on the situation, of course). List the things that you like about the person rather than the things that annoy you, and you’ll soon feel much lighter.
I understand that many of us struggle to think of things to be grateful for, especially if life is on a bit of a downer, so here are some things you might be grateful for that you might not even consider, and that others might not have. Please note, I realise that not everything on this list will apply to everybody, but I’m hoping that there will be something on there for everyone.
Clean, plentiful food
A paying job
A flushing toilet
There’s one more thing I would like to share with you that’s too obscure to list with the above, but I feel is well worth mentioning.
Years ago, I was in a bad place with my education, my career and my health. My college placement as an ICT technician was going so terribly that my tutor paid a visit to the place and I almost got finished. Thankfully, my mother in law who worked there took me under her wing as a teaching assistant. And as a teaching assistant I thrived.
I loved the kids, I loved the teachers, and I loved that I was (and still am) helping to make kids lives in the classroom more bearable.
I’d never considered being a teaching assistant before, and had spent the past few years working in retail and studying the wrong thing, which for me was ICT. To discover something I loved, I had to follow what seemed like the wrong path. For that , I am now grateful. I was even able to use the skills I had learned by supporting in ICT classes.
So, even when everything seems to be going wrong, look for the hidden meaning. And when it’s all over, you might even find something to be grateful for.
Gratitude will lighten your heart. Gratitude will brighten the world.