I’ve wanted a great looking website for a while now; one that really conveys my theme and message. So that I can have the site I envision, I am working out how to transfer and eventually change over to Squarespace (which I tried out and loved because it’s so simple and intuitive).
Plus, I’ve changed and grown so exponentially that I feel like releflecting that with a new website and a fresh new design. Due to being so busy with my very demanding and very attached 5 month old, it could take a while, but I will get there as with everything else.
It’s the second year of writing on this blog, and over that time, I’ve grown while my pile of belongings have shrunk.
I’ve written a lot about minimalism and the process of decluttering, but since then, my mindset has changed, what I want has changed, and what I thought I needed to be happy has been challenged time and again.
I am now what I consider to be an extreme minimalist.
Minimalism is all about only keeping the things that you love, that you find useful and that bring value into your life. Once the physical aspect has reached a certain point, it extends into other areas of your life such as relationships, career, and personal values.
Extreme minimalism is minimalism taken even further and isn’t something there is such a lot of out there on the internet. Many extreme minimalists have gone furniture-free to encourage more movement in their daily lives as well as introduce even more space to move around freely. They keep only what is essential for them and live as free as possible.
What is essential will differ depending on the individual, and that will always be the case no matter what kind of minimalist you are.
Some extreme minimalists I follow are Youheum on Heal Your Living, and Anja’s Artworld. While my lifestyle is different because I have a family and different hobbies, the extreme minimalist lifestyle very much appeals to me.
As I decluttered more and started asking myself big questions, I realised that I too, wanted more, by having even less.
Of course, because I have a family, there’s only so far I can go. I can’t go furniture free, for example, as I would have done, because my family loves having a sofa, table and chairs. And that’s fine by me. Extreme minimalism isn’t for everyone, and I’m focusing on what I can do personally to minimise my own stuff so I can maximise my life.
So far, I’ve got rid of about 80% of my stuff.
It’s strange to think I used to be an organised hoarder. The stuff I held onto caused drawers to break and arguments between me and fiance (now my husband). I didn’t know what I wanted out of life other than to collect and play as many videogames as possible and write fanfiction which I never published.
I was simply surviving day to day, and was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Growing up, I had been taught that life is a constant struggle, that money is only for rich and/or crooked people, and that my dreams were unrealistic. For the longest time, I viewed successful people with suspicion and saw almost every opportunity as a con.
It has taken many years of working on my past, working on my mindset, changing the stories I told myself on a regular basis and becoming minimalist, to unlearn all of that.
My minimalist journey started a couple of years ago sometime after being confronted with my huge attic hoard by my mum.
Later, we moved into a house we would be sharing with my parents and for a time we had to live in the bedroom while a side extension was built onto the house so we would have our own living room and enough bedrooms for all of us.
Once complete, the living room was going to be very narrow and long, so I knew I had to be selective about my stuff. I wanted a fresh start, anyway. New furniture, new ornaments, new everything.
Over time, I got rid of bags upon bags of clutter. I must have been walking to the charity shops every other other day because everyone in my family started commenting on it and making jokes out of it. “You’ll have nothing left”, “Their shop will be just full of your stuff”.
Ironically, I did feel as if I had a shop full of stuff, yet none of it had brought me lasting joy.
The more I got rid of the more free I felt, and the more my decluttering muscles built. But I also started to feel guilt for the amount of stuff I had mindlessly accumulated. Some of the stuff wasn’t even all that old and was something I had convinced myself I needed but then realised I didn’t or got bored of quickly.
Some of it was gifts I had kept out of guilt and obligation.
More recently, we’ve had our second child who is now almost 5 months old, and the gaming room we’ve had will soon need to become her bedroom. As a result, we’ve been slowly getting rid of our large collection of games and merchandise (definitely some of the hardest stuff for me to part with).
Most of it, I realised, was just to show my identity as a gamer and as an interesting person. I used to want to be like my favourite Youtube game collectors and imagined one day showing it all off on camera.
I wanted my friends to come over and be wowed as they looked over my awe-inspiring collection.
Now I don’t want any of that.
Not only have I parted with a lot of my stuff, I’ve shed a lot of my ego and realised the things which are really important to me; writing, taking photos in nature, going on long walks.
I’m not saying I no longer enjoy playing videogames; that’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was 4, and can’t imagine a life without. What I’m saying is, I want more out of life, and extreme minimalism seems to be the way for me to make room for that.
I was tired of a layer of dust accumulating over everything. Fed up of dusting huge units of furniture. Exhausted with the decision fatigue when I didn’t know what game to pick. Bored of worrying about what might happen to my collection in any number of situations.
I consider myself an extreme minimalist because I am almost entirely free of decor and things that might otherwise overload my senses visually, and I’m considering sitting on the floor more and on fold-away furniture to encourage a more active lifestyle. So far, my long walks have been doing wonders for my stamina.
I’m already experiencing many of the benefits of extreme minimalism:
Less things to clean and maintain, more time to relax, be with my family, or learn something new.
Less visual clutter overloading my senses.
The more money saved by not buying random tchotkes, the more I have to support me in what matters.
Celebrations being focused on family and fun instead of stuff and storage (this is a work in progress as it involves others being on board).
More space to think and for my kids to play freely.
Space for my husband to set up his PC station for gaming and work, and still have plenty of entertainment area left.
Less worry about safety and getting angry at superfluous things getting broken by my kids.
Room for growth and potential.
Space for the big questions in life and for self discovery.
Space for silence and a cup of tea just thinking about…nothing.
I’m quite excited to continue my journey and wonder where I’ll be six months and even a year from now. Likely, I will be returning to posts like these as a fun way to check how far I’ve come.
When you live a counter cultural lifestyle people will have something to say, usually by those closest to you.
As I’ve become more and more minimalist, one of the silliest comments said to me is ‘’you won’t be happy until you’re living in a cave and shitting in a hole in the ground’.
Pretty extreme, right?
But, so what if that WAS the way I’d be happy? (I wouldn’t be, but still…what if?)
I also recently left Whatsapp and Facebook and some of the comments were ones of downright panic and exasperation.
“But how will you keep in contact with people? It’s kind of stupid in this climate!”
But I knew that the damage it was doing to my long-term mental health and the time it was sapping were far worse a cost, so I have stuck to my decision with no feelings of guilt.
As a result, I’ve felt 80% more present and see that I have more time than I ever realised, even if most of it is taken up by a screaming, teething 4-month-old at present.
The people who I’m close to can still message or call me or vice versa so it isn’t a problem.
You have to ignore the comments (which usually come from others’ own fears) and as my favourite writer , Anthony Moore, has quoted ‘Stay in your own lane’, for if you’re busy looking at others, you will crash.
In her latest book Cait also says ‘ People can only see as far for you as they can see for themselves’, which, in my own experiences, I’ve found to be true.
It’s like having a pair of glasses and then giving those glasses to a friend. Their vision is likely to be extremely blurry or the glasses won’t suit them at all.
I was told I was crazy for making a sudden decision to take a counselling course out of nowhere (I had a dream about it)- which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I was told I’d never make it out there in the world by one of the closest people to me – yet here I am.
I was told that many things in my life were ‘just a phase’ but because I simply stayed true to myself and my beliefs, I am much happier for it and those ‘phases’ were actually important life changes that are improving my life to this day.
You have to do what feels right for YOU. I understand if, like me, you have a family, there may be compromises you have to make along the way, but, ultimately, your life is yours to live, the decisions yours to make.
If you don’t live how you like now, the regrets later on will also be yours, and yours alone.
Some time has passed since my last post, but truthfully, I’ve been going through a few things, and I’ve also discovered something big about myself in the healing process.
I’ll start by briefly mentioning that I’m in the process of healing for postnatal OCD, obsessively checking on my baby daughter, having terrible intrusive thoughts, and horrendous night terrors that have woken me almost as much as the baby. To say I’ve been exhausted is an understatement.
My mind and body have been completely totalled. I was still going out for long daily walks but that itself wasn’t fixing anything. I couldn’t understand why I felt so completely overwhelmed even when things were calm.
When I say I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, the only way I can describe it is like a constant deafening ‘noise’ in my head. Not literal noise. Just a feeling of so much going on that whenever there was a moment of silence and my baby napped, my head felt as if I had just been to a nightclub, then got home and sat in the silence with my head promising a hangover.
This feeling isn’t new to me. I’ve often struggled with it and sometimes it’s even lead to the odd meltdown. Now, I do have an autism diagnosis, but to me that’s never felt like the whole picture.
At night, I couldn’t wait to reach for the wine or the beer to ‘tone down’ the constant sensory overload I was feeling. Obviously, not a good thing.
Well, a few weeks ago, I made a radical decision. I was going to dramatically tone down as much sensory stimulation coming at me as possible. This has meant leaving Facebook, leaving Whatsapp, not checking the news, not filling in silences, not playing intense videogames for a long period of time or before bed, and not checking my phone in the morning.
The news has been constant source of worry and stress over things I can’t control, as well as yet another thing to keep me clicking and bombarding me with information. Why was I doing it to myself?
I was fed up with the urge to check all the time, losing hours to apps and then feeling as if I’d had no time to myself, fed up with feeling as if i had to respond on Whatsapp all the time (the app shows when a message has been read) and I simply don’t want that pressure to respond instantly.
Nobody should have to feel that kind of pressure unless it is an emergency.
For those reasons, I likely won’t be returning to Facebook at all or checking the news unless I absolutely have to.
I’ve taken breaks in the past thinking I would reset my habit and all would be fine. But because social media services are designed to exploit our minds and our need to be accepted, I know that isn’t going to happen which is why I’ve found myself time and again down the endless, noisy rabbit hole.
I understand that in the current climate, the expectations to communicate digitally are heightened, but for me, it’s not been doing my mental health any good.
With a 4 month old and a 6 year old autistic son, total peace is just not going to happen, so I’ve taken control of what I can so I can show up for my family as a better, calmer person, and hopefully continue to heal.
I’ve been making a habit of colouring again as part of the healing process. Honestly, I had forgotten the joy and the peace of simply worrying about what colour to use next. I’ve also been just sitting in silence for long periods of time with my favourite beverage of choice (a calming herbal tea or some hot milk).
I’ve slowed down my walking speed instead of walking like I’m on some imaginary timer, and that had paid off because I captured some great photos I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It seems that rushing around doing anything automatically makes my brain think I’m in a survival situation, so I’ve been intentionally slower with household chores as well, and in moving around the house.
I make sure to feel the floor beneath my feet, whether that’s the warm cosy carpet of the bedroom between my toes, or the cool hard flooring of the living room.
Mornings are now much slower. No longer do I rush to get myself and my son out the door to school. The stress was doing neither of us any good so I’ve started making time for cuddles and showing him the amazing sunrises from his bedroom window instead (to which he runs off to get his camera).
I also make a point to braindump in my notebook every morning which is akin to emptying the household trash and is seriously refreshing.
I’ve got rid of even more stuff. In fact, I now consider myself an extreme minimalist (which i want to talk about in another post).
I’ve cut out chemicals and sprays which I was incredibly sensitive to and switched to all natural products instead. Even that has gone some way to reduce the overload on my senses.
As I’ve slowed down and started noticing the signals my body is giving me, I’ve realised that caffeine is yet another thing I am sensitive to, which has been putting me into fight or flight mode without even realising. Without slowing down, I never would have noticed that as I chugged every cup of tea like I was on a timer.
In just over a week, my husband tells me I’ve not been waking up screaming as much, sometimes not at all, and I feel generally calmer in myself. More grounded.
Now for the revelation I discovered about myself. And it was the brain-dumping and reducing the huge amounts of sensory input which lead to the realisation.
Why is that such a revelation, you ask? Because for pretty much my whole life I’ve ignored that and lived a loud, obnoxious lifestyle.
Growing up I always had trouble making friends and being bullied, and a few other traumatic things happened in my life, so I acted out constantly. Later on, when I finally did make life-long friends, I acted silly and loud and hyper all the time (which quickly became a part of my identity with friends). I acted that way for so many years I forgot it had once been a mask. In fact, it was still a mask.
I wore this mask because deep down I feared being lonely and friendless and a little voice in my head told me I couldn’t be calm because I’d be seen as boring, that I’d lose the people close to me if I calmed down because there was nothing else about me. I continued to tell myself that story for the longest time.
Sometimes people would comment and go ‘that’s very Emma’, or ‘that’s not very Emma-like’ which further cemented these fears I had to live up to this identity I had forged.
Even after receiving a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (which has calmed down somewhat after cutting out gluten and using more natural products) I carried on like I was, continually burning myself out. I wasn’t even aware I had been wearing a mask because it had become such an ingrained part of myself.
The relief upon realising this was as if I had just dropped a heavy sack of potatoes I’d been carrying for years. I just stared and stared at the page where this had all come out of me, hardly able to believe it.
That’s not the only thing that helped me come to the realisation I’m an (extroverted) HSP. I’ve been minimalist a few years now and have become more and more on the extreme side, wanting less and less visual distraction, craving peace and nature more than ever before.
I found myself watching Youheum’s Heal your Living on Youtube (an extreme minimalist) just so I could feel the calm and because I love her incredibly serene, slow voice. But, strikingly, what made me watch these videos over and over, was that she talks about being a HSP, which is something I hadn’t heard of before.
When Youheum spoke about being a HSP and how extreme minimalism was helping that, something clicked for me. I felt like she was talking about my deepest self, but I wasn’t yet ready to accept it, so I watched it a good few times.
Upon reading about HSP’s, and finding it is a very real thing, I was struck by how much like me it all was, the only difference being I’m in the 20-30% of extroverted HSP’s – most are introverts.
So now, I’m kind of dealing with the mask having fallen away, and am having to nurture and nourish the ruined, daylight-deprived skin beneath. And I’m doing this mainly by myself because everyone else has always known me as ‘that crazy loud girl’. It’s embarrassing, to be honest, and despite being public, this blog felt like the safest place to explain it. the safest place to be myself.
I have to wonder if it wasn’t for the postpartum illness, and if it wasn’t for minimising even further, how much longer would that mask have stayed welded to me? Until I had another meltdown? Until I got yet another chronic illness?
This is the first time I’ve spoken about this.
In a way, it’s helping me to process the fact I’ve been pretending for so long and subjecting myself to unnecessary levels of stimulation and noise. All under the belief I was boring and undesirable. All because I was petrified of being lonely.
I’ve since come to realise after all these years what quality friends and family I have, and that anyone worth having in my life, will continue to love me for who I really am.
And I’m also thankful to discovering minimalism because without that, I’d never be where I am now and this blog wouldn’t even exist.
If you’re also a HSP or have recently discovered you are, feel free to comment and I will get back to you within 48 hours.