How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

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If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

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At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

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Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

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A quick note to my readers – a short hiatus

Hi there to all my awesome readers! This week’s post is late as I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to sickness (you know how it is once the winter/autumn bugs start their rounds and the kids bring them home from school).

Anyway, I appreciate all of you and want you to know I will be posting again shortly as soon as I’ve had some much needed hardcore rest.

In the meantime, keep being brilliant and look after yourselves.

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The Key to Staying Motivated and Finding Success

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“Get a move on!” my husband raged at the car in front. “You’re already halfway out so you may as well go the whole way!” He was complaining about a car to his left which had half pulled out into the road we were on, but then decided not to go any further.

And this is exactly what happens to so many of us chasing success. We want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We want to go where the grass is greener. To join that exclusive party of awesomeness where people are living their dreams while living it up.

But as soon as things get challenging, we come to a stop or retreat altogether.

I know how great and how easy it is to start something feeling so energised and motivated that the people around you wonder why the hell you’re smiling so much. Whatever project you take on, whether it’s a business idea, a book, or a habit you want to change, starts off easy. It’s new and exciting.

The real challenge is staying committed and keeping that level of motivation, even when the drive has deserted you. Because there will be so many days you want to do anything but what you know you should be doing.

You’ll have a bad day at work, cure it with a Netflix or gaming binge, and miss out on writing the five hundred words you intended for your book.

There will be days where life’s responsibilities have buried you, and all you can think of is that enticing bottle of wine you were trying to quit. 

Or perhaps your kids have worn down the last thread of your patience and that course you started has suddenly fallen to the bottom of your priority list.

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You think: I’ll write the chapter tomorrow. I’ll just study an extra two hours next week. I’ll go to the gym again when things have calmed down. I know I was trying to quit, but I’ve worked so hard and surely one drink/donut won’t hurt.

But tomorrow never comes.  Tomorrow becomes the dreaded ‘I’ll get to it one day’. Things never quite calm down enough. Before you know it, you’re back to before you even started. What an exhausting cycle!

To achieve anything in life, you can’t just go at it with a hammer one day and a plastic sword the next. You need to stay consistent. It helps if you have a strong ‘why’. Why is it you want to become a world-class football player, a prolific author, or a famous chef? Why is it you want to declutter your home? Why are you trying to quit drinking? Why are you trying to lose weight?

Once you know your reasons, you’ll want to identify the true culprit behind the never-ending cycle of starting, stopping, and retreating. Quite often, if you look deep enough, you’ll find that it wasn’t your boss, your kids or your house chores that was the problem, but fear.

And fear is a master of disguise, often masquerading as busyness or distraction.

Becoming successful with anything takes dedication, consistent hard work, and winning habits, and even then, you might fail and look stupid.  It’s so much safer and easier to hit snooze one more time on the alarm clock when you could be learning a new skill, or to binge Netflix with pizza when you could be breaking a sweat and losing the pounds you wanted. 

For years, my whole life was governed by fear and inaction – and those two things got together, had a party, got wild, and smashed my vision. I stayed stagnant for a whole decade, dreaming without doing.

It took years to pick the pieces back up and arrange them into something new. Years to change my mindset and transform a lifetime of negative beliefs and self-defeating attitudes.

But fear hates it when you take action, and the more you act, the easier it will become. Fear’s influence weakens and it will sit in the corner of that party, as soon as you unleash your power and take control of the music.

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You can’t half-ass any of this. Like the car at the start of this post, you’re either in or you’re out.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said, in his book ‘Total Recall’, “I was only wild when I was wild. When it was time to train, I never missed a session.”  In other words, his free time was scheduled and not an endless, all-consuming loop. He took himself seriously and went for his dreams at a blistering speed, never dropping his vision.  To him, time was treated as the precious and limited thing that it is.

I’m going to tell you one more crucial thing about keeping your motivation. The despair of staying where you are has to be torturous compared to the initial pain of committing yourself.

Staying in your 9-5 job must be infinitely more painful than the discomfort you would feel from getting up at 5am every morning to study for a new career. 

Putting on five more pounds from eating pizza and donuts must be a hundred times more agonising compared to the initial pain of changing your diet.

You need to decide that enough is enough. You can’t and won’t tolerate more of the same.

Before I became a minimalist, I was fed up of my drawers collapsing with the weight of the junk I kept. I couldn’t stand the organised chaos I had created for myself over the years.

And after a decade of flat-lining in my current career and lifestyle (despite many opportunities for growth) I decided to stop dreaming and take a big leap. I became a student again in order to change my direction and my life, this time, studying something I am passionate about instead of what I thought would be easy.

I take online courses and study almost every day. I read every day. I write every day. Because I am dedicated, because it’s exciting, because I’m obsessed, and because just one more year of waking up to the same old me is, quite frankly, unthinkable.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that dreams and goals can change and that’s completely normal. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it just means you’re a living, breathing, human.

Some people (like me) have always known what they wanted to do, but also stumble upon something else along the way which ignites their soul. That’s also completely normal.

Everyone has their own definition of success so just go for whatever your heart tells you to do, and if you haven’t found your calling yet, don’t worry. Just take the time to be still, carry on living, try new things, and one day you will find it.

Once you find it, don’t let go. Don’t half-ass it. You have endless potential! The question is, are you in or out?

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Off the Beaten Path

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This week, I’m talking about daring to be different and letting go of the fear that stops so many of us from reaching our potential. I will refer to video games again because they’ve taught me some valuable lessons, so if you’re not a gamer, bear with me – what I’ve learned could help you, too. 

I’ve been playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a massive game about exploration. It’s been in my backlog for years, mainly because I couldn’t stand that you can go wherever you want in any order, and there’s no real structure on how you do things. Just as there are so many ways to progress, there’s so many ways to fail. 

I feared playing it. What if I go wrong? What if I fail? What if I get stuck? How will I know what to do next? Will I have wasted my time? 

It’s a hugely limiting mindset that’s not just stopped me from experiencing  award-winning video games, but living life to the fullest.

Anyway, I decided to give the game another try, and overcome this way of thinking. 

Surprisingly, I’ve found myself addicted (not unhealthily) and actively exploring the environment, even when the main quest is blinking on the humongous map. There’s always something to see, and always a reward or two for exploring an area.

There were times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I kept playing anyway, determined to see all it has to offer. And I made tonnes of progress. That gave me the confidence to try another exploration type game called Hollow Knight. It’s popular with gamers, but I’ve shied away from it in the past because of the game not holding your hand and telling you where to go next. 

“Let go of that mindset and just explore,” my husband said when I started. And I did. I went against everything inside me that was screaming with the anxiety of not being guided down a specific path, and before I knew it, I was immersed and finding something new with every direction I went. 

Yes, I got my ass handed to me several times, but it was such an enjoyable experience that I found myself trying again and again until I beat certain enemies. 

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I stopped worrying about whether I was going in the right direction and started wondering what I would find in the next area. I was enjoying myself without being directed. 

What’s your enemy in life? Fear? Procrastination? Being a master of weaving excuse stories rather than the story you want to tell? Go ahead and beat it! There’s joy and excitement on the other side. 

In real life, I’ve always struggled and become very anxious when there’s no clear path or no guidance saying “do this/go here next.” Playing video games that took me out of that comfort zone has been a big stepping stone for me. 

Overcoming that anxiety and learning to guide myself is vital because I’m on the path to becoming a counsellor and want to own my own practice in the future. I want to feel more relaxed and confident in situations where nothing is certain. 

Because life isn’t certain. 

I’m not saying that you should play video games if you want to change your mindset, I’m saying that taking action and facing your fears has more power than you could imagine. 

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Since playing those games and fighting through that mindset,  I’ve also had a revelation about my writing. A lot of the writers block I get is down to feeling creatively blocked because with writing there are no rules per se. 

Just like with Hollow Knight, and Breath of the Wild, it’s about exploring and finding what works. It’s about letting go of fear of the unknown and turning it into excitement and curiosity. It’s about exploring off the beaten path. Trying something different. 

As Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

It’s like boarding a plane to America, even though you’re trying to get to Japan.

Straying from the beaten path is crucial if you want to escape mediocrity and discover your true potential, yet so many of us stay stuck in jobs we hate, in toxic relationships, and with habits that no longer serve us. 

Most of society would have you believe that life is all about survival. Keeping your head down and not taking any risks. After all, staying on the well-worn path is ‘safe’. It’s far less scary than going off to explore that sparkling river of opportunity in the distance. 

It’s also the path to forgotten and lost dreams. Staying on that path can lead to you forgetting who you are, what you have to offer to the world, and what you truly find fulfillment in. By staying on the linear, worn path, you don’t get to see the sparkling river, the lush forest, or find the hidden treasure. 

So, don’t hesitate. Let go of your fear. Be adventurous. Leave the beaten path and follow the river instead. Who knows where it could take you? 

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The Minimalist War – What Minimalism Is and Isn’t

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Last week, I talked about how success isn’t about wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. This week, I will be applying that same concept to minimalism. It isn’t all about sparse furniture, zero belongings, and white rooms. 

I’ve lost count of the times people have said things to me like, “But you own all these books, that isn’t minimalistic!”, or “How come you’ve bought another game? I thought you were a minimalist!”

But here’s the thing: minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself of having the things that make you happy or bring value to your life. It’s not about white furniture and empty shelves. And it’s absolutely not a competition.

Minimalism is about living a simple and clutter-free lifestyle. It’s about finding what’s important to you and minimising the less important things so that you can maximise your time on the most meaningful.

For me, that’s family, friends, writing, reading, relaxing, watching anime, and gaming. For you, that might mean baking, working out, creating, hosting parties, or spending less time online.

Everybody is different. That’s what makes the world so interesting. 

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Telling someone they can’t be minimalist if they own a certain thing is as crazy as saying to someone, “You play sports? No you don’t because you’re a tennis player, not a footballer. Football is the only real sport!” 

See how silly that sounds? 

I’ve also seen, in several minimalist groups, people posting a photo and asking “Should I get rid of this?”, or posting a photo of a room in their house and asking, “Is this minimalist enough?”

But there’s no such thing as ‘minimalist enough’. Nobody else can tell you to get rid of or keep that penguin figurine collection because nobody else knows the significance of them in your life. 

Only you can answer those questions because only you know the story behind your stuff. Only you know what holds meaning in your life and why. Only your heart can tell you when you’ve reached that level of satisfaction. 

If you rely on others to tell you what to keep and what to throw, or what looks ‘minimalist enough’, you can’t grow as a person because you won’t be developing those crucial decision making skills that come with minimising and decluttering. 

And if the decisions don’t come from you, you will end up living someone else’s version of minimalism. Someone else’s life. 

I once shared an image of my minimalist living room. Some loved it, some thought I had too many books, some thought I had too many photos, some people found it inspirational, and some went as far as to say they what pieces of furniture they would change.  

None of the people who commented were either right or wrong. What I got what a diverse snapshot of other people’s visions for their own lives. 

What you need to ask yourself when minimising or simplifying is, “Is this perfect to me?”  Not, “Will my uncle Pete like it?” And certainly not, “Does my house look better than Amy’s on Instagram?”

Minimalism isn’t a war. It is a means to live a simple, more peaceful, and more intentional life. 

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Comparing your minimalism, or your home to others will not do you any favours unless you’re using it purely for inspiration. In fact, it will drain you and make you miserable and resentful.

Once minimalism becomes a competition it loses its meaning. You become no better than you were when you were subconsciously, or consciously, comparing possessions or status, which is as far from minimalist as you can get. 

So, minimise in a way that feels right for you. Inspire others by becoming genuinely happy and satisfied with your own life. Be simply you. 

How I Learned To Slow Down And Wake Up to The Present

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I was reading Bing to my son the other night, when I asked him, “How come you still love the books but don’t watch it anymore?” 

He replied, “I’m too old for Bing now, mummy, I like to play my games more now.” 

I was shocked, but it wasn’t the first time he’d told me he’d outgrown something. Apparently, he’s also too old now for his Paw Patrol wallpaper and wants Spider-Man, instead. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because time is precious, and it passes by faster than a falling raindrop. 

Despite that fact, many of us fritter that time away behind phone screens, behind ‘busyness’ and working to accumulate bigger, better stuff. All the while, our children grow up under our noses, our friends and family age or move away, people pass away. But it happens so subtly that we don’t see these things until they’re suddenly upon us. 

I was chatting to a colleague the other day, and they said “At the end of the day, once you’ve retired, you’re just another person.” That stood out to me because so many people base their lives on having a particular status, or working all hours to afford stuff that bring them more status. 

Some people work so many hours, or place so much emphasis on acquiring more stuff and staying busy, that they’re shell-shocked when they finally stop and see the changes in their reality. Some even forget to look after their health in the process. 

Like with my son growing up in a few blinks, it’s the same with other milestones in life. They’re here before you know it. And if you’re not mindful of how you spend your time, you’ll look back wondering just where the hell it all went, like you’ve passed by on an out-of-control rocket. 

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One of the most prominent incidents in my life that have shown me the importance of time was when I visited my uncle in the hospital. 

He was a popular and well-loved man, always laughing and making others laugh until their faces and sides hurt. We were close, but then the day came when he was an old man and ended up ill in the hospital. Even then, he was laughing and joking around. The nurses loved him. 

While I was visiting, I did talk to him and laugh at his jokes – but it felt forced because I wasn’t fully present. At the time, I was going through a terrible drama in my young adult life, my mind kept drifting, and I was texting on my phone every few seconds, trying to sort it all out. 

I didn’t see his time on Earth flickering like a dying candle. I didn’t see that our time together was shortening to a stub. 

Some naive, childish part of me thought he would be around forever because, to me, he was invincible. Nothing seemed to get him down. 

The next time me and my family visited him he was in an old people’s home. He was upset from losing his independence and it was the first time I’d ever saw him cry. 

My uncle with the spirit of an excitable child, who was the embodiment of joy itself, was having to come to terms with how frail he now was, while I stood there surveying the surroundings, feeling dumbstruck and helpless. 

I never got a word in during that visit. And that was the last time I saw him before he passed away.

That’s when I got my first taste of how precious time really is, and of how important it is to give people your all when you visit them. Show them how important they are and make memories because you never know how much time is left. 

Although I grieved for a long time, what tore me apart the most wasn’t his death itself, but the immense guilt from not being fully present with him in the hospital room that day; the last time we would laugh together.

When I got the news of his passing, suddenly, the life issues I’d had while I was visiting him seemed as important as whether or not I was out of teabags.  I would have thrown my phone into a pit of fire and never owned one again if it meant I could relive that day how I should have done. 

The thing is, you can’t change how you’ve spent your time and you can’t get a refund on it like with an impulse purchase. So don’t waste time worrying about how you’ve used it in the past. Instead, be mindful of how you spend it from this moment forth. 

The sad thing is, that all too often it takes a sad or shocking event, or a big slap in the face from the universe to wake us up to what’s in front of us. 

So, if you’re one of those people on that rocket,  just remember you can get off and walk at any time. You can stop and see the sights. 

My husband enjoying a beautiful sunset

Do it now. Enjoy the time you have. Do something you love. Share it with the people you care about before it’s too late. 

Time can’t ever be beaten, but it can be savoured and enjoyed.


I Changed My Mindset and Started Living – So Can You!

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This week, I finally completed a videogame I’ve had for years called Alien Isolation. For years I would make a certain amount of progress, only to get stuck, scared out of my wits, and quit.

It’s only in the past few months I plucked up the courage to restart it after a friend said, “don’t let your fears rule you”. I realise how cheesy that sounds, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I was acting the same way I used to in real life.

In the end, I pushed through that fear, and my failures when the alien killed me again and again. And in doing so, I finally reached the end credits. I was successful.

But most people don’t keep on pushing through when they fail. Like I once did with Alien Isolation, they give up at the first few hurdles. So many people stay stagnant.

They won’t go for that career opportunity, or start a new business, or ask that guy/girl out, or attempt to learn a new skill, or travel somewhere new, or stand up for their beliefs.

Life is tedious but safe. Unfulfilling yet secure.

At work I stayed in the same old position for ten years, despite many opportunities for growth. Why? Because I was too terrified of failure to try anything else. My life was on autopilot. Go to work, get paid, buy new shiny stuff to feel more alive, dream of winning the lottery, dream of writing, rinse and repeat.

Because of turbulence in my life as a young adult, I felt that I should be grateful for even having a job. My mother often drilled the last part into me.

The message was clear: Stay where you are. Don’t try anything else. Don’t push your luck. Don’t even think about it.

And I didn’t. I fought the symptoms of undiagnosed chronic illness, and when I finally got diagnosed, I thought, This is it. My cards have been dealt. Now I need to fight to keep going, to keep my job. It was the first job which I genuinely loved (and still do).

Supporting students was highly rewarding, and I grew over the years. I became a better TA, better able to build relationships, gained more empathy than ever before, and a wider view of the world.

But there came a point where I started longing for more. Dreaming about creating content that would help and inspire adults. Fantasising about becoming an author. About helping people with their life problems. And I stayed like that for many more years.

Just dreaming and wishing.

Whenever I saw somebody else become successful, it was like looking through a telescope from across a vast, raging ocean. Success was something that only happened to gifted people. Whenever students left the school with their grades and a blank slate, I longed to go back to the past.

If only I had chosen the right courses (journalism or creative writing). If only I hadn’t been so scared to pursue what I really wanted. If only I didn’t have a chronic illness.

All of that was faulty thinking based on limiting beliefs I had at the time: That I was now too old to chase my dream. That I was a crap writer and had nothing worthwhile to say. That I was dumb and didn’t deserve better.

The truth is, if I had made different choices, and if I was free of illness, I wouldn’t have learned the things I have. I wouldn’t have met my husband, and most likely, would be a completely different person. I wouldn’t be writing my first book which is all about coping with chronic illness, and I probably wouldn’t have discovered minimalism and grown as a person, so I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in life, or how old you are, you choose how you play the cards you have been dealt in life. You choose if to keep playing or surrender your hand.

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It’s only over the past year I’ve wrestled back control of the steering wheel and have a clear aim. Minimalism helped clear my vision. And once I had a clear view of what I wanted and how I was going to get there, I just went for it.

I made this blog and carried on writing even when the writing gremlin told me I was crap. I applied for a BACP counselling course, even though the sneering voice of self-doubt piped up, Pfft. You? You’ve spent years on the wrong path. What makes you think you can help others to find theirs?

I could have listened to that voice and not applied for the course. But I remembered that it was because I had gone down the ‘wrong’ path that I came to the revelation I did.

It’s the people I met along the way. The lessons I’ve learned by teaching others, and by overcoming challenges in my relationships. Relentless studying and reading every book on success and communication I could get my hands on.

Slowly but surely, as I kept reading, applying what I learned, and clearing more clutter from my home, my old limiting beliefs fell away.

I had proved that I could become minimalist, even though I was a hoarder for most of my life. Why couldn’t I work for myself when there are people who have overcome massive adversity and still achieved their dream?

Reading about some of these people, I realised there was always a common thread. They all had a clear vision of what they wanted. And they all worked their asses off to get there. They all kept pulling themselves out of the quicksand. They stopped drowning and kept kicking their legs until they started swimming.

It turns out that some of the world’s most successful people had also been told they would get nowhere in life. Often by teachers, other authority figures, and by the attitudes of the people they were surrounded by at the time.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s parents noticed his affinity to physical labour and suggested that he could become a furniture maker, or a mechanic. But what he wanted was to become a famous body-builder. His friends at school thought he was weird for his strong desire to go to America, because he talked about it all the time.

Do you think any of that stopped him?

Can you imagine if Arnold had played it safe, instead? If he had only done what others expected him to do?

One of my favourite authors, Bryan Hutchinson, struggled throughout his education, and was told he would never be a writer. He was even humiliated in front of a whole class once by a tutor who didn’t believe in his abilities. Eventually, he pushed through his limiting self-beliefs and the remarks from his past. Now he owns a successful blog and has published several books.

Once you start believing, and you put in the hard work, the life you envisioned materialises bit by bit, like the sun after a heavy storm.

Photo by Katrina on Unsplash

I decided I was never again going to let myself be told that my dreams were ‘unrealistic’, or that I was being ‘ungrateful’. Of course, I’m grateful. Gratitude is important. The problem was, I took being grateful as meaning to always stick with what you have.

I never took risks because ‘realistically’ I could fail and look like a fool. I could see people saying “told you so,” with a satisfied smirk. I could see readers making fun of my writing. But being realistic and safe was making me miserable and unfulfilled.

Not too long ago, I put all talented people, or people in a higher position than me, on a pedestal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was so fascinated by these people that I saw them like a celebrity. In my eyes, I saw a mystical human before me and felt privileged just to be around them.

You can imagine how I saw myself.

I didn’t see the seeds they had planted in the past. All the years of grafting and climbing the ladder, while feeling just as insecure as most other people.

After chatting with these people for a while, I started to notice how different their attitude was. They didn’t complain or hang around in cliques. But they avoided negative people and meaningless tasks as sure as a cat avoids showers.

I was one of those negative people, and I didn’t even realise it. So it was no wonder these more successful people didn’t talk to me for too long.

You attract who you are.

You’ll notice that gossipers tend to hang around and attract other gossips, that toxic people are never far apart. But the successful ones are well out of the way, hanging with positive people and doing whatever it takes to live the life they want.

These people still treat everyone with respect, even if they’d rather be elsewhere in that moment. They understand the importance of positive relationships, and that what they say reflects who they are or who they are becoming.

I’m not talking about people who are in a successful position, but who then abuse that power to make others feel small. You could argue that they’re not successful because their power plays come from a place of deep insecurity and fear. They haven’t mastered their fears and perceived shortcomings, so project them onto others.

Truly successful people are living the life that they want to live, never stop growing, are humble, and treat everyone with respect. They aren’t perfect, because nobody is perfect. But they know that the best way to live a sub-par life is to bring others down, brag about their life, and stop learning once they’ve reached a certain point.

Notice how I never said that successful people are all walking around with high-paying jobs and a briefcase? That’s because it’s nothing but a stereotype. An idea sold to you via the media, through marketing, and by the rest of society.

Success isn’t about having a certain job and wearing a custom-fit suit. It isn’t the amount of stuff you own, or the amount of money you have in the bank. It isn’t the amount of friends you have or the sexual conquests you’ve had.

In fact, there are some obscenely rich and popular people out there who are drowning in misery and can’t quite figure out why.

Success is living the lifestyle you want to live, with the job you want, with quality friends, and continuing to grow as a person.

If happiness, to you, is working a 9-5 while voluntarily working at homeless shelters, and that’s what you do with your life, you’ve been successful.

If it’s about having a happy marriage, and you have many joyful married years behind you, you’ve been successful.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent who values raising children, and you have happy kids, you’ve been successful.

Photo by Samuel Clara on Unsplash


Be careful not to mix happiness up with mediocrity- that is staying safe and settling for less than your potential.

It’s important to know that there are many areas of success which add up to a whole: job, marital, friendship, financial, parental, spiritual…

And you can be successful in as many areas as you want. Not perfect. Successful.

Owning a big house just because you can is meaningless. Owning the latest gadgets wears off fast. Wearing a suit to work every day and earning hundreds of thousands a year is meaningless if you’ve got no plan but to chase more.

People who tie happiness to possessions, or success to a suit and briefcase are destined to become mere shells of themselves.

Some people get caught in the trap of waiting to become a certain way before they go after what they want. But they forget one important thing: It’s our experiences that help shape who we are and how we think.

Without failing, you can’t grow. You can’t know what you need to do to improve, to move further along.

Yes, hone a positive growth mindset. But don’t wait for perfect. Because perfect never comes, and success never comes to those who sit and wait.

Always remember your values. Don’t stray from them. And value yourself highly.

You are worth it!

Photo by Svyatoslav Romanov on Unsplash

The Treasure Map of Minimalism

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Decluttering is good for the soul. Not only does it create more space and lessen stress, sometimes you can find unexpected treasure. 

One of my closest friends was telling me how they were having a decluttering session, and that it made them feel so good that they were going to carry on the next day. But what they didn’t expect was to find was a soft toy that used to be cuddled by a much-loved relative who had passed.

Coincidentally, during one of these sessions, my friend happened to be having a terrible day. Finding this toy brought them a lot of comfort and found a new special place in their heart. 

If it wasn’t for decluttering, that treasure might have remained hidden for many more years, unable to offer the comfort that was so desperately needed. 

How many times have you tidied or had a spring clear out, only for your jaw to drop and you to shout , “So that’s where that went!”

How many times have you discovered something which warmed your heart, but was found among meaningless objects?

When was the last time you felt guilt for finding something special tucked away in a cold, dark place or buried under piles of clutter?

That’s because through minimalism, you can discover what’s important to you, which can, in turn, help you realise that maybe those other things aren’t as important as you first believed.  Sometimes, the recovered space might be your treasure.

On the flip side of the coin, you might also find objects which trigger pain or sadness: a letter or gift from an ex, for example. If you find anything which makes you feel bad, consider letting go to carve a path to the future rather than treading back over the past.

Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash

If thoughts about finding and dealing with such objects make your stomach churn, then this post on decluttering sentimental objects is for you.

In the meantime, here’s a simple list of things you can start decluttering today. Perhaps you will find a hidden treasure…

Living room/Office/Junk drawer

  • Old paperwork
  • Junkmail
  • Old magazines (unless you happen to be collecting a certain one)
  • An excess of books – keep only the ones you love or are definitely going to read. Beware of ‘someday’. If ‘someday’ creeps into your mind, donate. 
  • Pens – they multiply like rabbits, disappearing and reappearing in random places seemingly at will. 
  • An excess of notepads 
  • Old receipts

Bathroom/Bedroom

  • Out of date medicines
  • Out of date makeup
  • An excess of cleaning supplies or half-used ancient products.
  • Half-empty but unused toiletries
  • Freebies that never got used
  • Out of date toiletries

Bedroom/Clothes storage

  • Jewellery you’ve fallen out of love with
  • Clothes you’ve fallen out of love with or that no longer fit
  • Handbags – do you really need one for every outfit? 
  • Shoes – too many lead to decision fatigue and lack of space. My shoes are nice enough to be useful both for evenings out, and for a casual summer day in town. I also have a pair of Vans I use purely for casual wear. 
  • Coats and other outerwear (if you’re one of those people who has a coat for every outfit in their wardrobe and at slightly different thicknesses for every type of weather)

Electronics/Technology

  • CD’s you no longer listen to or that you own digitally
  • DVD’s you no longer watch or prefer to just watch digitally
  • Videogames you no longer play, or that you own digitally (unless you’re a collector)
  • Cables – do you really need 20 USB cables?
  • Broken or extremely outdated technology that’s useless

Kitchen/Dining area

  • Plates and dishes
  • Cutlery and other utensils – watch for duplicates 
  • Cups and glasses. These tend to build up over the years until you could run your own cafe/bar
  • Out of date food and condiments, or food that people don’t seem to eat. Certain types of food can be donated to foodbanks as long as it’s all in date and unopened. 

Airing cupboard/Under bed

  • Old towels – animal centres often need these 
  • Old bed sheets, or an excess of bed sheets- once again, an animal centre or homeless shelter could make use of them. 

Miscellaneous

  • Old school work 
  • Old toys your children outgrew
  • Gifts that you’ve never used or secretly didn’t want or need
  • Photos – ones that trigger bad memories, are bad quality, or have a hundred duplicates
  • Anything broken that you said you would fix ‘someday’ 
  • An excess of tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, spare screws etc. Watch for duplicates. 
  • Souvenirs from holidays that mean little to you (often, it’s the actual memories that bring you joy, not the mug with the landmark or country on)
  • Keyrings (I used to have about 6 on my house key, plus a few more to choose from). Now I have one for my key, and another on my favourite bag. That’s it. 
  • An excess of ornaments and trinkets. These can be a source of hidden stress without you even realising. They take up loads of space and make cleaning tasks take double or triple the time than if that surface was clear.

I talk about some of these things in more detail here

But what if I actually want to refill my space, or bring life to that empty corner?, I hear you panic. In that case, let me tell you; It’s far more uplifting to get plants, instead. House plants give you a sense of being in nature and will help to filter and oxygenate the air. Just don’t be like me and forget to water them.

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Have you found any hidden treasure from decluttering? Let me know in the comments. 

 



How To Level Up Your Life By Taking Time Out

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

It was a sunny Sunday at the tail end of summer. I was at home on my computer, when my husband suggested we walk our dog, Yuki, together. We’d already been to town earlier, but something made me say yes. And I’m glad I did. 

As we walked in the sun we talked about our desires for the future, our goals in life, and things we wouldn’t have spoken about at home where responsibilities often get in the way and then, exhausted, we go off to do our own thing. 

Anyway, we walked to the field that is usually overgrown with grass and wheat. I call it The Blackberry Field. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s where dad used to take me blackberry picking as a child and is also where we used to walk the family dog I grew up with. 

This time, the grass and wheat had been cut down, leaving a wide, open expanse of rolling hill on which the blackberries were still growing down one side. The view from the top was breathtaking; all greens, yellows and browns topped with the crystal-blue sky.

You see, we live in a town that is undergoing heavy development. Everywhere you go there are new buildings springing up and huge cranes looming over the streets. Hammering, clanging, and sweating.  But here, in The Blackberry Field, there was none of that.

The sky was clear, save for a few interestingly shaped clouds that seemed to stretch to infinity. From the top of the hill, we could see rows of trees, a village in the distance, and other fields that were miles away. I watched as the shadow of a cloud passed over one of those fields like a curtain. I’d seen nothing like it before. I’d never taken the time. 

Photo by Sam Knight on Unsplash

It was such a relaxing, and awe-inspiring sight that we sat down at the top of the hill and took in the feeling of complete freedom. It was as if time didn’t exist. 

And here’s the important part. We hadn’t taken our phones or even a watch.

Everything was just as it was in the moment. 

Just us and nature. 

We let Yuki off the lead and she ran around the field like a wind-up toy while the grass blew gently around us in the breeze. It felt like we had entered a dimension cut off from the hustle and bustle of the world. All we could hear were the birds tweeting from the surrounding bushes, and Yuki as she panted her way back up the hill towards us.  

We were present. We were at peace. And we were connecting with each other. 

Seeing the fields stretching before us and houses the size of thumbnails made me feel like I was part of something much bigger. A tiny person in this massive world of infinite possibility.

My mood sky-rocketed. I felt happy and at peace, even when I had to go home and prepare dinner (I hate cooking). When you consider the tonne of scientific research which shows how beneficial and therapeutic nature is to humans, it’s no surprise that I returned home feeling renewed. Being in nature also has positive effects on depression and stress, as well as being a great way to practise mindfulness.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Too many of us fly through life not stopping to feel the ground beneath our feet or experience the surrounding calmness. We’re used to infinite busyness, the endless buzzing of notifications, and hurried conversations. Rinse and repeat.

Before we know it, we’ve gained a few more grey hairs and have accomplished nothing. Relationships are strained and people are more stressed than ever before .

There’s pressure to always be available online, to perform at work, to check our notifications, to look a certain way, to be a perfect parent, to be more successful, to make more money, to own the latest stuff, to keep up with the hottest trends and all the latest news. Feel exhausted yet?

There’s only so much of us to go around, and we can only focus on the most important things in our lives.

But if we learn to stop. If we take the time out to enjoy the present, even if it’s only on a weekly basis, it will boost mood, alter perceptions, and give way to clarity for the direction we are heading in life.

You will find yourself thinking about things you probably didn’t think about in the chaos of everyday modern life. See things in a way you had, perhaps, never considered before.

I’m sometimes guilty myself of being so focused on cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and being eager to escape at the end of the day, that I barely look at my husband when he gets in the house from work.

I cook dinner straight away, wash the pots, get my son ready for bed, then we’re exhausted and anticipating more of the same the next day. On days where both of us are working, we can both end up too eager to escape to distractions instead of each other. 

It’s too easy to pass each other by like cars on a motorway.

In the field where time stood still, I remembered why we put rings on each other’s fingers.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

But I also remember back when we were renting a house together for the first time. We were a very close couple for years, but somehow got into a routine of getting home from work and completely ignoring each other. I thought living together would strengthen what we already had. I was wrong.

I got immersed in writing or playing a game while he was busy playing an online game with friends. Then I would get up to cook dinner, and somewhere along the line we stopped eating at the table together, eager to get back to whatever distraction we were at before. We started arguing about silly little things and before we knew it; we were talking about calling it a day. 

Our once perfect relationship was almost destroyed, all because we didn’t take the time to connect with each other. Away from technology and away from ‘busyness’. Away from our own self-absorption. 

Know what fixed it?

Spending time at the dinner table again. Putting down the distractions to talk face to face.

The more we talked, the more we realised that conversation was moving away from hints about splitting up, and more about what we loved about each other, and where we wanted to be in life. 

We realised what had happened and decided from that moment on to always eat at the table together, and to go on occasional dates, whether that be a walk into town, an evening at the pub, or a night spent watching our favourite anime together – no phones or tablets within arms reach

I’d be so confident as to say our relationship became even stronger than before. 

The other day, I was chilling on my computer and my son said, “Mummy, come off that for a minute,” and took my hand. I followed him and he took me to the window and showed me the most beautiful sunset, then he smiled and gave me a kiss. That moment will stick in my memory for a long time, but it’s one I would have missed out on had I stayed glued to my computer.

A sunset outside of one of our windows

It’s not just our relationships with others that are in danger of being extinguished if we don’t take the time to nurture them. We are in danger of losing ourselves. And it can be hard to find again. In fact, it can be so hard to get back, that many people give up and wonder why they’re as unfulfilled or as miserable as they were ten or twenty years prior. 

In trying to impress others or keep up with the constant rush of life, we forget who we are.  We forget our values, what we like, what we dislike, who we love, who we admire, what our dreams are, why we want what or who we do.

We become part of the fast-flowing river, doomed to enter the sea of mediocrity before repeating the same tired old cycle again and again. 

So, instead of worrying that the battery is running out on your phone, worry about your time on Earth running out faster than the sand in an egg timer. Instead of slaving over notifications on your screen, take notice of the real life things right in front of you. Instead of ticking off one task after another, take the time to rediscover yourself and rekindle, build, or make new relationships. 

Make time for today.

For all you dog lovers out there, here’s a picture of my dog.

Starting from Scratch: How Minimalism Empowers You to Change Your Future and Be True To Yourself

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

One of the greatest things about being a minimalist, is that it forces you to think about the things in your life which are most meaningful to you. That’s no easy feat because at first glance it might seem like everything you own deserves a spot in your heart and your home. 

In the not-so-distant past, I thought the same way. Every keyring, every old party invitation, and every trinket felt significant.

But once I figured out what was causing me to hold on to these relics, I felt lighter than I’d ever felt in my life.  And after moving house a few years later and having to unpack all my stuff from a larger house into a smaller space, I discovered minimalism. 

I thought that I had decluttered all I possibly could, that I had minimised to the max. So imagine my surprise when I was struck with a question which highlighted even more excess in my home. 

My husband and I were sorting out home insurance, but we didn’t want to overpay to cover the cost of our stuff.  We got asked, “If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, how much do you think it would cost you to replace?” 

Now, while most people would frantically start estimating the worth of the entirety of their possessions at this point, I altered that question in my mind so it was now asking, ‘If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, what would be most important for you to replace?’. Minimalism has trained my mind to ask those questions of myself, but I had only ever asked on a room by room, and drawer by drawer basis.

What would be so important to me that I would have to replace it if it were destroyed? My adult colouring book that I rarely touch? My ornaments which are just there as shelf filler? And if they aren’t that important, should I use up valuable shelf space for these items which I have to clean and worry about being broken? 

If I were to have a fresh start, should I replace every book, every mug, every piece of furniture, every cable, every gift, every utensil?

Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

Just the other day, a heart with a rhyme on it that was bought for my wedding to remember my nan, went flying to the floor and smashed. I was upset for about ten minutes, then the feeling passed and I realised that it was simply something bought from a store which didn’t represent her, but my feelings about her. And when it broke, my feelings didn’t vanish along with the rubbish bag the heart ended up in.  After all, she resides in my real heart – not some pretty piece of acrylic. 

The item itself was meaningless, but I hadn’t considered that until it smashed. 

Imagining starting from absolute zero is an entirely new and sobering thought process.

It’s an overwhelming question for most, and one which would have shocked and terrified my past self to think about.  When I imagined starting from scratch, I looked around my living room and started noticing things that I wouldn’t waste the time, energy and money replacing. 

Then I noticed the things that were special to me (not including necessities such as our dining table), and they included things like my trusty laptop, and some favourite hardbacks which I regularly revisit. Above all of that was my husband and son. 

When you challenge yourself with the concept of starting from scratch, it’s terrifying, I know. It’s even scarier to consider it as a consequence of some sort of disaster. But it forces us to think about what we really need and what truly makes us happy. That, in turn, makes us think about who we are beneath our stuff.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Are you a party animal like your wardrobe suggests, or more of a Netflix binger? Are you an avid reader like your shelf suggests, or do you find yourself exploring the world instead? Are you really a fitness freak, or someone who classes a trip into town as exercise? 

Once you become clear about who you are and what you stand for, it enables you create space for your true self to shine, and it allows you to easily discern the most important things in your life. This can save you money when it comes to things like choosing house insurance, or when you shop more mindfully. It can even lead to you making big life changes such as career, or relationship. 

Minimalism gave me the space and clarity to think about why I was still in the same job position as ten years ago, despite many opportunities to climb the ladder. I was too comfy, too secure, and too preoccupied with acquiring shinier stuff, instead of listening to what my heart was saying (which was that I’m only fulfilled when I’m writing, growing, helping people with their issues, and inspiring adults to live up to their true potential). 

So, if you could start all over again from now, with nothing but yourself, what would you need? What things would you buy all over again? What would you do with your life? What would you be? Who would you spend your time with?

If you struggle with those kinds of questions, turn them around. What wouldn’t you need? What wouldn’t you buy again? What wouldn’t you do with your life? Who wouldn’t you spend time around?

Feel free to let me know in the comments.