Last weekend, my husband and I went on a major clothes purge. It wasn’t that we hadn’t done so before. We found ourselves revisiting the task after several arguments about me not having washed any of his clothes. The reason? I perceived that he had plenty left because the drawers were always full to bursting with his t-shirts, boxers and socks.
“But I don’t wear any of those!”, he would argue, when I told him he had more than enough.
So, after deciding enough was enough, we joined forces and I emptied all the drawers and the wardrobe so it was all laid out on the bed. Seeing the hoard in it’s entirety was even more of an eye-opener than just picking it randomly out of storage.
Even though I mimimised my clothes collection significantly in the past year, I still found myself getting rid of a dress that didn’t feel like me, and a top that I used to wear on drunken nights out (that I have very few of these days).
The rest was all my husband’s. There were shirts and sweaters he had long since fell out of love with, clothes that he never liked the style of, clothes that were too big or too tight, and those that were seriously worn out.
In the end it filled three bin bags! One of those bags was destined for the trash, and the rest got put in the donation pile.
You can imagine the difference it made to our storage.
Clothes in the wardrobe hung freely and were able to breathe again, and the drawers could close without me having to kick them shut or squeeze everything down. And I’ve not been in doubt about when I need to do some washing because everything in our bedroom now only consists of the things we wear often or are fond of.
If you don’t keep a regular check of your wardrobe, it can and will overflow until you find yourself faced with yet another mammoth decluttering session. These sessions take up a huge chunk of time and patience, so it’s always best if you keep on top of it by being mindful of the clothes you purchase, and to immediately donate or trash ones that are worn out or that you fall out of love with.
That being said, you’re far less likely to fall out of love with your clothes if you don’t fall victim to keeping up with fashion, which changes faster than the seasons themselves. Instead, buy clothes that make you feel fantastic when you wear them, and that resonate with who you are.
And remember, the person you are now might well be completely different to who you were a year before.
If you’re ready to get hardcore with minimising your clothing, you can also try out Project 333 which aims to save you masses of time and space, while still making you look fabulous every day. Check it out, it’s not half as scary as it sounds!
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.