Minimalist thinking, Maximum Living. Finding simplicity & serenity in a cluttered, frantic world
Author: Emma Clover
I am a minimalist, counsellor in training, writer, and gamer with an amazing husband and son. When I'm not writing or button-mashing, I work as a teaching assistant.
Minimalism has changed my life, and I'm obsessed with helping others become the best versions of themselves.
On this blog I write about simplicity, minimalism, self-care, and productivity.
If you want to get in contact with me, or have an opinion on a post, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment or drop me an email, and I will get back to you within 24 hours.
I realise it’s been too long since I’ve posted here, so here I am, sitting writing this at 12:50am UK time – a time I’m usually wandering around dreamland.
It’s my second night of being wide awake because it’s becoming almost impossible to get comfy now that I feel like a beached whale at almost 34 weeks pregnant. People tell me it’s a small bump for a second child, but try telling me that as I gasp from the exertion of using the stairs, and of trying to roll over in bed like a flipped over turtle.
Anyway, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re wondering where my usual minimalism posts all are, or if this blog itself had become some long forgotten internet clutter, dusty and abandoned.
It hasn’t, and I’ve made more huge strides in minimising and simplifying my life – even more so now that I am mere weeks away from having my second child.
The truth is, I had forgotten just how exhausting pregnancy is, and along the way my mind has filled with emotional and mental clutter which has made it almost impossible to write.
First of all, I got worn down by the Coronavirus lockdown and adjusting to all of the uncertainty and the new strange ways of life. I’m quite the extrovert so it took more of a toll on me than I thought.
Secondly, I finished my level 2 Counselling course, but while I was ecstatic about being one step closer to becoming a counsellor, I was also incredibly sad that it was all over. Due to the nature of the course, me and my course buddies got to know each other on a far deeper and personal level, and it made the ending particularly poignant.
Suddenly, I found myself feeling lost on the days I’d usually be doing my course, and despite having a plan for the future, I lost more motivation to write and do the things I love.
Enter the final stretch of my pregnancy, and I find myself obsessing (more than usual) about everything being perfect. Logically, I know that there is no such thing as perfect, but that hasn’t stopped me from driving my husband crazy with my ‘everything has to be done and be perfect right NOW’ attitude.
Unfortunately, this attitude has also spilled over into other areas of my life and I have to admit I slipped into spending a lot of money and used a lot of energy on having to have the perfect writing device, the perfect footrest, and the perfect sized workstation for me in the living room (since the gaming room is very slowly transforming into a future nursery).
I thought, how can I possibly teach and share about minimalism at the moment when my mind is like a hurricane has ripped through it? I felt like a fraud.
I even feared for a while that I had fallen out of love with writing, but I realised how ridiculous that was because not writing was making me grouchy, and I’ve not stopped journalling. In fact, the sudden random urge to blog is another thing which was preventing me from sleeping tonight.
One more thing – to be completely honest, I’m also terrified because everything went wrong after my first pregnancy and I almost died from blood loss due to Plancenta Accreta where the placenta basically sticks to the lining of the womb and won’t come out. It’s not so easy to declutter those kind of worries.
For now, my plan is to take life as easy as possible and perhaps share more of my everyday life and musings on here.
Huge changes will be happening so I’ll be kinder to myself as I mentally take myself back to basics and rediscover my joys -something that we all need to do every now and then.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay simple.
I realise it’s been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I can’t deny I feel guilty about that because I was going to post an article on being extraordinary. While I do have the article, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because in the current climate, it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been sorting out elements of my own life, and thinking about my future, as well as battling pregnancy fatigue.
I’m now 28 weeks pregnant, and what I have been focused on is minimising and simplifying my life more than ever before.
This post is a little catch up for this blog about my minimalist journey since the lockdown started, and to share my thoughts about where I am now.
One way I’ve been thinking about my stuff is the sheer weight of it in my life, both physically and metaphorically.
I often read about people on decluttering journeys who load their cars with bags upon bags of clutter they’re casting off from their lives, and how many trips it takes to the charity shop.
Since I can’t drive, whenever I donate anything and as I decide to let go of even more stuff, I walk to town with the weight of those bags. As I walk and the bags weigh me down and cut into my hands, I can’t help but think about the sheer weight of my life.
All that heaviness. The stagnant energy that clings to it. The burden of guilt and old memories.
I welcome the relief once the weight is gone, and it often feels as if my arms are floating. Better than that, is the feeling of lightness in my home. There’s more space for energy to flow, space for potential in the future. Not potential new stuff, but opportunities and beliefs that serve me.
The more I cast off, the less weighed down by the past I feel, and the more hope for the future. It’s true that less really is more.
Speaking of the future, since I get so much joy from decluttering and love to help others with it, I had a sudden profound idea to look into becoming a professional declutterer – something which wouldn’t have occurred to me had I still been weighed down by stuff.
Clutter really is something that always lurks at the back of your mind, taking up space and valuable energy. Like a computer with an error message warning you its storage is getting too full, the brain is pretty much the same, and lightening your physical load will massively lighten your mental load.
Being 28 weeks pregnant has made the effects of minimising even more apparent. At a time when I find myself needing more rest than ever, I’ve been able to do just that because there’s no mess, surfaces are clear, and it’s quick and easy to vacuum and dust (our new dishwasher has simplified things even more – especially because my parents live with us).
I’m not having to worry about having enough space for the upcoming new addition to our family, because there’s now more than enough space to accommodate.
In fact, having a new baby on the way is making me think of the stuff in my life even more. For example, my husband and I have been massively attached to our gaming room. It’s the place we go to chill out and play videogames, display our games, and even use as a workspace.
But ultimately, we decided we could give up that luxury so that our second child has a room of their own (more essential because it is a girl and she’s going to be 6 years younger than my son who’s growing up way too fast).
With that in mind I started minimising the gaming room quite early on, and while it started off hard, it’s now got to the point where I no longer feel attached and could happily pass it on , safe in the knowledge that most of it hasn’t been played in years, is realistically never going to get played again, and that most games are now available digitally.
I also realise that I don’t need to have a Youtube worthy gaming display to prove that I love gaming. The way I do that is by actually playing them and letting them bring me hours of joy and excitement.
Sitting on a shelf, they do nothing but take up space, look pretty, and add decision fatigue. The digital streaming services available now on all platforms have helped teach me that. And if I don’t play them while they’re available, I was never going to get around to doing so in the first place.
Another hard thing I’ve done in the past few days is put my wedding dress and accessories up for sale. Initially, I felt sad, but when I brought the huge storage case down from the humid attic, I saw the space that had been created, and reminded myself that it would be far better bringing that same joy to somebody else than it sitting in less-than-ideal storage conditions, taking up valuable space.
Some people are curious why the whole journey has been a process which has taken a couple of years.
Before I was a minimalist, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. At first glance, I lived in a tidy environment, but it was bursting at the seams and I was forever organising and wishing for a bigger house so I could store more. Window ledges, cubby holes, shelves, cupboards, drawers and storage spaces were rammed with relics of my past, and things I thought I needed, and it was causing heated arguments between me and my husband (who was my fiance at the time).
I also reacted to every whim for something new, be it a new phone, a new bag, a new journal, or another games console. These whims came all the time because deep down, I wasn’t happy and the satisfaction never lasted longer than a few days at most.
That hoarding and the constant buying was a result of years of deeply ingrained beliefs and trauma, and it’s taken a few years to get to where I am now with the mindset and beliefs I now have. Another factor is the seasons of life we all go through.
What’s useful in one season of life may no longer serve in the future, so the minimalist journey never really ends. There will always be times where life needs a mindful reevaluation of where you’re going and what may no longer be serving you, although once you’ve done the main bulk of decluttering, it should never be as stressful or as time-consuming again, provided you stay mindful and vigilant of what comes into your life and why.
Next time I post, I’d like to share with you all, our experience of having a brand new minimalist kitchen, and how it has changed our lives for the better. I feel it is a perfect example of the negative effects clutter can have on an entire family, and the unbelievable change in energy when clutter is dealt with.
At the start of the coronavirus lockdown, people who weren’t key workers suddenly found themselves with a hell of a lot more spare time on their hands.
One thing I noticed was the sheer amount of people who were vowing to do amazing things with their time. Cook healthier meals. Declutter their homes. Start a daily exercise regime. Learn something new. Please note, I’m not talking about the people who are dealing with the terrible aftermath of losing their jobs and businesses, or are dealing with other horrible events in their lives here.
And for a while, people were doing just that, posting about the positive changes in their lives they previously hadn’t had the time for.
Yet, after the first few weeks, fatigue set in and people were soon posting and joking about their newly discovered alcohol dependence, poor diets, homes that were somehow messier than before, and sure they’d almost exhausted the extensive catalog of TV shows and movies.
That’s because no matter how much time you have in your hands, it takes grit and determination to make real, lasting life changes.
You could have all the time in the world and never have to work again, but in the end, it’s your mindset and how you consistently spend your time that makes the difference. It’s your why that must be powerful enough to drive you.
If you were unhappy and unfulfilled before, particularly if you’ve been in that state for a long time, it’s going to take a long time and consistent hard to work to change things. And if you weren’t committed enough to make those changes before, no world-changing event or amount of hours in your day will change that.
Only you can.
That means not giving up as soon as things get tough. And it means recognising that regardless of what’s going on in the outside world.
If you’re truly interested in levelling up your life, if you’re tired of feeling defeated, stay tuned for my upcoming article on why you stay stuck, even with hours at your disposal, and how you could start crafting an extraordinary life from today.
Being locked down during the Coronavirus has allowed me the time and extra energy to do some deep cleaning. Last week, I decided to go crazy on my living room.
I mopped the floor, took everything off the shelves and dusted them, vacuumed the blinds, vacuumed the whole room, dusted the insides of the cupboards, and cleaned the mirror. Oh, and there were too many cobwebs where spiders had set up home and weren’t paying rent.
The whole process took much longer than expected, and the next day I had a pain flare up from hell that lasted days. One of the many reasons I simplified my life in the first place was to manage my fibromyalgia and ME, just like Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, who simplified her life to manage her MS. But this pain was a wake-up call that I could do more.
Once again, I find myself thinking about the role of minimalism in my life.
I’ve also got another child on the way, and it’s made me think about how to best simplify my life for the sleepless nights and mad days ahead. Do I really want to be wasting so much time cleaning under and around things when I will need that time with my baby, and for my sanity?
Many people would advise leaving the mess be, and that it’s perfectly understandable as a new parent, but I simply can’t stand chaos or disorder. Especially if I know there’s something I can do about it.
When you’ve been minimalist for long enough, it becomes as natural as breathing. You don’t really think about it because you’ve trained your mind so well and the habits you adopted don’t require a second thought.
The problem with that is that you can fall back into a rut without realising. It seems like I’ve been ready to move onto the next stage of minimalism for a while, but not realised as the days have rocketed by or merged into each other.
Since my minimalism journey started, I’ve got rid of so much stuff, that my room cleaning time was dramatically cut. I unearthed parts of myself I never knew existed and started on the path to a new career.
At the time, I was satisfied with the progress I made, but the pain of that flare up taught me differently.
I thought my living room was minimal enough yet was surprised to find that a vast majority of the deep clean was spent moving my collection of books and the decorative objects and photos from the room divider, all of which are mine. Then, of course, having to dust every object and put it back, even though it would all be dusty again within days.
I no longer have the huge collection of books that I had. What once took up four shelves, now takes up one. There’s a few books on my ‘to read’ list that I intend to donate once I’ve finished with them, but the rest are mainly non-fiction hardbacks that I turn to again and again.
When I thought about what I was getting out of the rest of that unit and its decorations, the answer hit me: nothing. It’s just there to stop our long, narrow living room resembling a bowling alley, and to look pretty doing it.
Is it attractive? Yes. Is it worth the extra cleaning and maintenance time? No.
And who doesn’t want more time and relaxation in their day?
After cleaning the living room, I went upstairs to do a quick dust of the gaming room. I say a quick dust because the gaming room is the hardest to downsize for me, and would take forever to clean efficiently.
There’s stuff in there which is close to my heart as a gamer, plus a collection of manga and geeky books which I don’t keep with my main collection.
Not so long ago, I was convinced that having shelves crammed with games, consoles, and figures like my favourite youtubers would satisfy me . I’d always dreamed of having a gaming room packed to the gills, and of having my own arcade full of my favourite cabinets.
But for me, the reality of such a dream has surprised me. Games and hardware require proper storage and cleaning, and it’s all such hard work to maintain. Not to mention the space it takes up.
There’s also the possibility that we will need to give the room up for an extra bedroom a few years down the line if our baby is a girl.
The thought of leaving it be, then having to deal with all that stuff at once fills me with horror.
Despite downsizing my collection last year, I rarely clean the room because it’s so exhausting and time-consuming. Two hulking shelving units with games, figurines, and books, and another medium shelving unit holding more games and my videogame soundtrack collection.
Then there’s the fact that my husband, my son, and I, each have a PC. Phew!
I’ve been considering going digital with as many games as possible and possibly using a powerful laptop over a desktop. But it’s a costly endeavour to digitise all the games I own, so I have to really think, which games do I love and really can’t live without? Why do these deserve to take up shelf space and cleaning time? How often do I play them?
When you look at your stuff in terms of the time it takes up, and not just the space it requires, the answer will become clear, even if it’s uncomfortable.
It makes me squirm to think about not having my physical games on show. Why? It doesn’t make me less of a gamer. But it does show the money I’ve spent just on showing this hobby off instead of purely experiencing the joy it brings me.
To be honest, I don’t even get around to playing or finishing half the games I buy, even when they’re digital. The same goes for any hobby that requires a lot of equipment or collecting. There’s only so much you can enjoy.
It shows that, for me, playing games isn’t enough. I have this need to show everyone in the house, and anyone who visits, my love of games and the characters in them, as if my identity is at stake if I don’t.
But, of course, that’s ridiculous.
I frequently find myself dreaming about the kind of life the more extreme minimalists live. Fumio Sasaki, author of, ‘goodbye things’ is a well-known extreme minimalist living in Japan, and is one whose book I’ve returned to several times, because of the feeling of peace it gives me, and the wisdom in its pages.
What I find particularly inspiring is that he’s just a regular guy who decided that enough was enough and to do something about the miserable life of excess he was living. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers to achieve happiness and success, but he discovered that minimalism was a good start.
It’s not just me who dreams of simpler living; my husband has spoken to me a few times about how he’d love to be so free of stuff and obligations that he could live and work wherever he desired and not remain tied to one place. At first, that thought terrified me, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded.
Realistically, I know I can’t live like the more extreme minimalists I admire so much, because not only do I have a growing family, we share a home with my parents. Therefore, there’s only so much I can do, especially regarding shared rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom, and storage spaces such as the shed.
We’re also not the home-schooling type, so a life of travelling and completely letting go is something that would be far off in the future.
But I can take control of my own stuff, and I’d rather do that than have it control me and sap hours from days, and days from months.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation with coronavirus, charity shops are closed, and selling things on Gumtree or Facebook is a no-no.
Instead, I’ll use the time to list what’s currently bringing me joy and what isn’t.
Life changes all the time, and with it, the stuff that we need to enrich our lives or bring us joy.
It’s like something from an apocalyptic movie; a pandemic has been announced, countries are in lockdown, people are isolating themselves for months, and businesses are struggling.
In times like these, it’s easy to panic, and it’s easy to lose sight of the good things around you. And if you’re self-isolating for a long period, loneliness and boredom can set in quickly.
Humans are social creatures and it’s vital that we find ways to connect with others and maintain our mental health, not just during times of challenge, but as a part of everyday life.
Here are some things you can do to beat boredom and look after your mental health when you’re stuck inside.
Deep clean your kitchen cupboards
You’ve probably been meaning to do this for months, but work and other responsibilities meant you could never get round to it. Now is the perfect time to empty those cupboards and give them a thorough cleaning. For more cathartic impact, imagine that all the grime you’re removing are also layers of negative thoughts being scrubbed from your mind.
Deep clean/declutter cutlery drawers
Remove all your cutlery, declutter what you don’t need, and give the drawers a good clean. It’s so satisfying to get your utensils out of a clean and organised drawer, and makes meal times much easier.
Deep clean/declutter the bathroom
Bathrooms accumulate mould and bacteria quickly. It’s also amazing how many supplies end up multiplying in bathroom storage. Get rid of out-of-date toiletries, makeup, and medications, then remove everything else and make the surfaces shine. You’ll be glad you did.
Declutter Rooms In Your House
Start a mission to declutter your home, starting off with one room and gradually making your way round to the others. When you remove what you don’t need and keep only the things you love, you create space and clarity in your home and your life. It also becomes much easier and faster to clean, which frees up time for other activities or rest.
Decluttering is so incredibly freeing on the heart and mind it can become addictive.
Wash/clean your curtains or blinds
I don’t know about you, but I rarely think about the blinds in my house when I’m doing a clean and recently I couldn’t work out why my rooms still had a dusty smell to them. The other day, I thought to check the blinds, and they were covered in a thick layer of dust. Giving your curtains a wash or your blinds a good wipe-down will help to freshen the air in a room.
Wash your bedding
Bedding needs changing once a fortnight, or even more frequently if you’re a heavy sweater. Dust mites also build up inside mattresses, so it’s a good idea to give the mattress a hoover while you’re at it with a dust mite vacuum.
Declutter/tidy the shed or garage
Sheds and garages are clutter hotspots. They accumulate multiples of tools or things get stowed away in them which we believe we might need ‘one day’. If you have a nice sunny day, why not set aside some time to clear these spaces out?
Fix the thing you never got round to
You know that broken toy you promised your kid you’d fix two months ago? The shelf that’s been wonky for the past year? Now’s a great time to finally get round to fixing it. Once it’s done, it’s off your to-do list and your family or partner can stop nagging you to do it.
Self Improvement & Mental Health
Take a course/learn a new skill
Always wanted to become an awesome cook, but never had the time to learn? Thought about learning how to write a book or start a blog? There’s no time better than the present.
There’s no shortage of both free and paid courses online to learn anything your heart desires. Some sites I recommend are Udemy, Skillshare, Open university, and Youtube. And there’s an ocean of excellent, insightful books out there for your chosen topic.
So, what’re you waiting for?
Go for a walk or run around your neighbourhood
Walking or running is a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing and should be a part of your everyday routine if you can. It’s also a great way to get your dose of vitamin D on a sunny day. Currently, the lack of cars and human activity in many areas has made for cleaner, fresher air, so there’s no better time to get some fresh air.
This might feel almost impossible when the world around you seems to be going to Hell, but I assure you, if you set aside the time and put some thought into it, you’ll come up with at least a handful of things in your life to be grateful for. Practising gratitude is great for boosting mental wellbeing and for adopting a positive mindset.
If you really struggle, there are some lovely gratitude journals out there which give you some gentle prompts and beautiful pages to look back on.
Before you cast this aside as childish, hear me out. Research has shown that adult colouring can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a peaceful, mindful activity and there are hundreds of beautiful or humorous adult colouring books to choose from. It doesn’t matter how good you are because there’s nobody judging you. It’s all about you and your relaxation.
Music can change or enhance our moods, so if you’re on a bit of a downer, try putting on some happy, upbeat music (or whatever chills you out). Music has also been proven to reduce pain in some chronically ill patients. I have been enjoying sitting in my sunny garden with the living room door open, listening to the radio, and have found it massively relaxing.
Play board/card games
A few weeks ago I bought two classic board games from my childhood: Ludo and Snakes & Ladders. Despite all the screens and other distractions, they’ve been a surprising hit and are something the whole family can enjoy. When the board games are out, boredom flies out the window, people’s cheeky and competitive sides come out, and screens are forgotten.
Recently, I’ve discovered Solitaire Klondike and have become somewhat addicted (no, I really hadn’t played this before).
Don’t underestimate board games or card games for some classic family fun.
I’ve always been a gamer, but even if you don’t consider yourself one, or have never picked up a controller in your life, there are thousands of games out there now to appeal to all ages and preferences.
The Nintendo Switch is a https://www.nintendo.com/games/switch/good choice for access to a massive library of games, as is the Nintendo 3DS. You can’t go wrong with either and there’s bound to be something you like whether that’s puzzles, point & click, party games, platformers, or action-shooters.
Multiplayer videogames are also a great way to stay in touch with others, make new friends online, or have fun with the family.
Help someone in need
For the ultimate pick-me-up, if you’re not sick you can always help somebody in need. With panic buyers emptying store shelves, and the elderly and vulnerable unable to get supplies, there are multiple ways you can help.
You can deliver shopping to their doorstep, leave a kind note, or drop off some flowers. Even making a few phone calls to some lonely people would be a huge help with the current situation.
Here are some links to just a few of the acts of kindness that have come out of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As important as it is to stay updated, there are some things you shouldn’t be doing, that have the potential to increase your anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.
Don’t keep checking the news
The news updates to the minute and it’s tempting to keep refreshing it or checking back to see new updates of what’s happening. But as useful as the news can be, it can also be a huge trigger for anxiety and worry.
Every time there’s a new death, there’s a new headline. Do you need to know about every single death and crime? Keep in mind, many articles are written in a way to grab your attention and make you react with a panicked curiosity. These kinds of articles are often referred to as clickbait.
Set times for when you will check the news. After all, why worry about the things you can’t control?
Don’t check the news/social media first thing in the morning or last thing at night
How you start your day affects how the rest of your day will feel or go. If you start the morning reading depressing, worrying news, those will play on your mind for the rest of the day and keep you checking on events.
Similarly, if you start by scrolling through social media, that can have the same anxiety-inducing effect as constantly checking the news, especially as people are currently voicing their constant anger and worry.
Checking either late at night could keep you scrolling well into the time when you should be relaxing or catching a good night’s sleep.
Not only can the blue light from devices keep you awake, the anxiety from the news or from other people’s feeds can make you too anxious to sleep, and cause nightmares. And if you aren’t getting decent sleep, you’re going to feel consistently crappy.
Don’t believe everything you see on your newsfeed
Along with the coronavirus came the viral wave of fake news sweeping the internet. Companies are trying to slow the tide of fake articles, but there’s only so much they can do. The best thing you can do is to do your research.
Don’t immediately believe what you read online unless it’s from a well-trusted news source or website (in the UK mine ours is BBC News,Sky News, and the NHS website). There’s also the World Health Organisation who keep their website updated with the latest Coronavirus information.
But how can you know if what you’re reading is fake? First, check the source. Is it a familiar website? Has it got a weird-looking address?
A lot of shared fake news starts off with someone who knows someone else, who’s related to someone important, who said or saw something that nobody else knows. A quick Google search should show you if it’s fake or not.
It’s better to ignore ‘news’ like this, as it’s the equivalent of a game of Chinese Whispers – one which starts off with a lie to begin with.
Remember, if it’s not on any of your main trusted news websites, it’s likely not true.
Don’t worry about what you can’t control e.g other people’s behaviour.
In the end, no matter what’s going on outside, you can’t control it all. So focus, instead, on what you CAN control: your thoughts, your reactions, your words and actions.
Try not to succumb to vices such as excess drinking which can make anxiety or feelings of depression worse.
I hope you’re all safe and well during these crazy times. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve not been sucked into some sort of dystopian novel or movie.
That being said, with everything seemingly at a standstill, I want to help in some way, even if it’s from behind my screen. So within the next day or so I will be posting a list of things you can do to beat boredom, avoid cabin fever, and care for your mental well-being.
Almost everybody has an inner critic, that snide, sniggering, scoffing voice at the back of your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough.
And let’s face it -with all the ways we have to compare ourselves to everyone around us nowadays, as well as intense marketing designed to reinforce beliefs that you’re lacking in some way unless you buy their product, is it any wonder that those internal insults become ever louder?
“I’ll never be able to live like him/her”
“My writing’s crap compared to this”
“I’m not smart enough to go for the job I want”
“I’ll never be disciplined enough to achieve that because I’m a loser”
“I’ll never be…”
“I’m (insert insult here)”
Even the most successful and confident people out there struggle with that quiet, doubtful voice most of the time. The difference is, they’ve learned how to control it, and even use it as motivation.
You’ve probably read and heard that a thousand times, and thought, ‘Well good for them for being born with that ability’.
But it’s not an inborn ability that people either have or they don’t. It’s all about training and rewiring your brain to think and react differently. That takes time and inner work. A lot of it.
Granted, some people might find it a little easier than others, depending on their past, their circumstances, the people they hang around with, and their mental health.
My inner critic, which I refer to as my inner gremlin, used to be like a raging tsumani. All- consuming, all-powerful, endlessly destructive. And hungry for more.
It never used to be like that. When I was a small child, I had boundless confidence and curiosity. I’d sit and write on my typewriter on the living room floor, or write a story in my notebook and race to show anyone who would read it.
Like most young children, I truly believed I could be anything I wanted; an archaeologist, a TV presenter, a weather reporter, a famous author.
Circumstances growing up, plus being bullied throughout my whole school life, fed the inner gremlin that had started to emerge once all the other children started forming cliques and showing off their own unique personalities.
I wasn’t like everyone else. I was inappropriate, loud, wore baggy, unfashionable clothes because everything else irritated me, and didn’t understand social jokes or cues. I wasn’t interested in the things others were interested in, or in talking about relationships.
It wasn’t until early adulthood I got diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum.
Anyway, the older I got and the more insults were thrown at me, the more I believed them. The more I saw the other people around me, the more inadequate I felt. I didn’t need to be told I was ugly and worthless by other kids because my own inner bully had grown vicious and gigantic by that point.
I’d tell myself I was vile and worthless. All the while, my inner gremlin fed and grew.
Eventually, I stopped showing off my writing outside of school. I went through periods of self-harming, and my self-esteem was as low as it could get.
As a young adult, I still had my dreams from childhood – my main one to be an author – but I had serious issues with my identity and with extremely defensive and angry behaviour in my relationships.
Where did all this come from? My inner gremlin which had been gorging itself quite happily over the years on all of my negative thoughts and beliefs.
I was a hoarder, you see. But at the time I didn’t realise because I kept everything crammed out of sight or neatly lined up.
Confronted with years of my own mess, I realised I had a serious issue with letting go of the past. In many ways, I was still living in it.
I may have been an adult with a child and renting a home, but inside I was still that angry child pining for acceptance.
That day, I let go of so much stuff, and when I did, I physically felt like this huge spiritual weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Years of attachments, sad memories, and old work finally where it belonged – in the trash.
Something got sparked in me that day that triggered years of self growth, and opened the gate to minimalism.
Because I was forced to question why I had been holding onto all that stuff, I started to ask myself deeper things, like where my beliefs came from, and why I felt the way I did.
I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on that appealed to the specific issues I had identified. Books about overcoming trauma, writing, confidence, self-improvement, and later on, minimalism.
I didn’t just read these books once. I read them over and over, completing all the exercises inside them until I knew them off by heart and looking inside myself until it started to feel natural.
It’s safe to say that those books, alongside the action I took, went a significant way in helping me to change who I had become, and started me on a path of acceptance and becoming my true self.
For those of you who are interested, I will list some of those books at the end of this post, but keep in mind, your needs and what works for you might well be different, and that’s OK.
Fast forward to the present and I’ve made this blog, started training to become a counsellor, taken some Udemy courses, written part of a book, and made a new friend (who is also a writer). I’ve also become brave enough to enter a couple of writing competitions.
How did I silence my inner gremlin? I didn’t. Instead, I got strong enough to fight back and to co-exist with it in a healthy way. It’s nowhere near as big or as consuming as it was, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from writing or going for my dreams.
It’s highly unlikely you will completely silence your inner critic because for the most part, its job is to try to protect us from pain and humiliation. That’s why so many of us remain stuck in jobs we hate, lives that are going nowhere, and relationships that don’t serve us.
At its least destructive, it tells you to stay where you are, in comfortable waters, with everyone else. It halts and destroys dreams.
At its most destructive, it becomes like mine did. A seething mass of hate, doubt, and negativity.
The trick is to not feed it, and to gain power over it by fighting the inner demons that allow those beliefs to cement in your heart and mind.
Let me give an example of the occasional things my gremlin will rasp, and the things I now say back. Perhaps some of it will resonate with you.
You’re dreaming if you think you’ve got a chance.
Just look at this article – no readers. You’re rubbish, may as well give up now.
You lead a rubbish uneventful life, people don’t care what you have to say.
What qualifies you, of all people, to think you can help others?
Oh shut up, everyone started from zero.
But I’m doing something I love. Which is more than what you can do.
You’re just my inner critic, what do you know about writing and having fun? Nothing!
Inner Gremlin, you’d never get anywhere with an attitude like that. You suck. You’re mediocrity itself.
I can do what I want with my life, unlike you who can only criticise.
I am qualified to help people because I desire to, have been through things which could be valuable to others, and am training. You don’t know a thing about helping – just critisising.
I dare get my words out there regardless, and that’s awesome and more than most people will continue to do.
And you know what? Time after time of practising inner dialogue like that has turned the balance of power.
I’ve taken its energy source, cut off its supply, and shrank it down by doing the thing it hates the most – taking action.
Try it today. Argue back with your inner gremlin. Do it time and time again until it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Wage a war and confront your inner demons. Cut off its food supply.
Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future.
Oh, and here are the books I said I would link, but before I do that I would also like to give a mention to Anthony Moore on Medium whose stories and articles help keep me going even through the tough times.
Greetings all! I’ve just realised it’s been 11 days since my last post, which is annoying because I always intend to post once a week. Illness over the past couple of months has made it hard to be able to post as often as I’d like, but I am working on my latest : Wage War Against Your Inner Critic and Win.
We all have an inner critic; that niggling voice at the back of your mind that keeps you grounded in mediocrity, fear, or self-loathing.
My inner critic used to be unrelenting, powerful, and all-consuming, but I learned how to fight back, and gradually, I started to overpower it.
With the right tools and knowledge at your fingertips, you, too, can take back the power that’s rightfully yours.
The power to control your own thoughts.
The power to carve your own path.
Until then, stay tuned, and remember, you’re awesome!
If your home has sneakily re-accumulated clutter, visually it can take up all of your energy and attention.
For example, I’ve seen posts in groups where people have decluttered a shelving unit, only to still feel like something is still off. Sometimes, the issue is lots of photos.
They will have decluttered all the random trinkets but kept all the photos displayed for personal reasons, so all of them are vying for their visual and mental attention instead of just one or two special ones.
If you’re struggling to get back on track, here’s some things you can do to bring calm back into your home.
Put washing up anyway either after the meal or before you go to bed.
It’s more stressful than you realise to have to search for a plate or utensil, only to realise it’s among the craziness of the drainer which still has the dishes from two nights before.
A common problem which can prevent you from adopting this good habit, is kitchen cupboards and drawers bursting with clutter.
How rage-inducing is it when you want to put your plates and pots away, but fitting them back in their spots is like a real life game of Tetris?
Similarly, when you want to bring them out, it’s pot luck if everything else doesn’t cascade out. Yes, I know, terrible pun.
Rather than using the draining rack as another storage solution, the trick is, to declutter your kitchen storage and keep only what you need and use often.
Once you make the space, you’ll find it hundreds of times easier, and much more satisfying to both access things and put them back where they belong.
Keep surfaces clear at all times.
I know this is easier said than done if you live with others who are naturally messy, but if you adopt the habit and the rules that the dining table is purely for eating (and maybe for the kids to do their homework etc) others are likely to follow suit eventually.
You also want to keep hallway console tables free of clutter because it’s one of the first things that greet you when you leave the house and when you return home.
The last thing you want is to be reminded of all the stuff that needs sorting when you’ve just got in from work, or before you even start the day.
Kitchen surfaces should definitely be kept clear because it’s often the most functional room where people like to chat, and to cook meals.
If you’ve got all kinds of stuff over the counters, you’re not going to feel much like cooking or being creative, and it’s not even going to be a pleasant place to hang out.
Put laundry away immediately
I used to be horrendous at putting away laundry. I’d let weeks of clothes just pile up in the clean linen basket, and rifle through every morning for what I wanted to wear.
Not only did my clothes come out crumpled, I couldn’t even find things half the time because they’d be bunched up in the sleeve of a jumper or hidden in the leg of a pair of jeans.
It also took up loads of time when I finally did decide it was time to put them away.
When you put clothes away as soon as they’re dry, not only is it off your mind until next time, it saves you time in the mornings, your clothes are neat, and it’s easy to find what you need.
Deal with paperwork the same day
When you have paperwork come in through your door, sort through it right there and then.
Junk mail should go in the recycling instantly, and bills should be filed into action piles for you to deal when you have time.
That takes all of five minutes, sometimes not even that.
Of course, it helps to get rid of any old documents you no longer need.
Nothing is more stressful than trying to find some important information, only to have to search through hundreds of older papers that are no longer relevant.
If you struggle with containing paperwork, you could also go digital where possible. Many companies now offer the option to receive emails instead of paperwork, and some shops will send receipts via email rather than physically, to save paper.
Never leave things over floors and seating
It’s easy for floors and chairs to become a landmine of tripping hazards and shoes, especially if you’ve got kids.
The trick is to never let things stay on the floor, and to train others (especially children if they’re old enough) to pick up after themselves.
Chairs can also become a dumping ground if you aren’t vigilant and can collect random toys and clothes.
Make sure that chairs are always free of clutter because they’re a place to relax and unwind, not to mess and stress.
Make your bed every morning
This one is simple, but it’s far too easy to stumble out of your room and leave the bed a rumpled mess for when you next go to it.
Why is that a problem? Because it makes a calm room look chaotic, and it can also make you feel lazy and unproductive.
It’s also probably the last thing you want to be doing before you go to bed at night.
Stay mindful whenever you go shopping
We’re surrounded by so many advertisements, and shops lay out their aisles in a way to capture your attention.
It’s why you can go into a store looking for some cereal and toilet roll, only to come out with two new tops and a fancy new glass.
When you go shopping, it’s always helpful to take a list with you, and anything you’re tempted to buy that’s not on the list, ask yourself why you’re buying it.
Do you really need it?
Do you have something similar at home?
Is it because you’re bored?
Because it’s on sale?
Also, it’s never a good idea to go on random shopping trips for fun because there’s nothing you can buy that will make you happier.
As Fumio Sasaki talks about in his book ‘goobye things’, your happiness levels will always return to whatever its normal baseline is for you.
Let go of the old
There’s a reason so many minimalists follow the one-in-one-out rule. It keeps clutter from growing, and your spaces serene.
For the longest time, whenever I bought something new like a new bag or stationary, I would always hang on to the old.
This meant that not only did I run out of space, but my stuff was owning me. I certainly wasn’t any happier from holding on to the old, and the ‘one day’ I kept telling myself I might need them never came.
So if you get a new jumper, get rid of an old one you no longer enjoy wearing.
If you get a new toolset, get rid of the old ones that no longer serve you.
If you get a new bag, get rid of the ones that no longer bring you joy or suit your lifestyle.
Sometimes, we hold onto things because we haven’t realised how much our lives have changed since we originally got the item.
You might hold onto that hiking backpack, even though you no longer hike.
You might hold onto your old work clothes, even though you now work from home.
Take the time to evaluate your life as it is currently, and make your home reflect the present, not what was or what might be.
Take time to meditate or be silent
You don’t need to sit there cross legged, in a state of bliss if that’s not your thing, but simply taking the time to be silent and present is something that is long lost in today’s world.
Phones constantly buzz and ding, emails fill inboxes every second, and the world loves to make you feel that busy is best.
After all, everyone’s doing it. It seems people barely have time to chat in the street anymore, so rushed their lives are.
Busyness might make you feel productive and on top of things, but let me ask you, how is your life beneath those superficial tasks? How are your relationships?
People who pride themselves on always being busy, may seem to be super-productive, but their lives underneath are most likely unhappy and unfulfilled.
When you prioritise being busy and ticking checkboxes, the tasks never stop coming. You will attract more and more.
Meanwhile, you’ve inadvertently drifted from your partner, and your child’s suddenly a foot taller without you realising.
Maybe you’re not happy with your life the way it is anymore, but without slowing down to realise it, you don’t see it until you’re at death’s door.
Some people use endless tasks or hours at work as a way to escape the realities of their lives, or to run away from negative thoughts.
Others throw hours and hours of their lives into their careers to climb the corporate ladder and afford more stuff, only to realise that their happiness never comes. Joshua from The Minimalists was a perfect example, and spoke about it in their books.
When you slow down and live peacefully, it’s amazing what you discover.
Only by slowing down and prioritising the important things can we realise what we already have to be grateful for, and the things that will make us content.
Only by slowing down and being present with our loved ones, can our relationships blossom and be the best they can be.
When you’re glued to a screen, people and moments pass you by until the day comes they’re not there anymore.
You’d give anything to go back to the time they were there, but realise you spent most of that time sitting with them, but clicking ‘like’ on a stranger’s post. I’ve also been there myself, and believe me, it’s the most awful thing to realise when it’s too late.
Taking the time to be silent and present, allows you to declutter your mind and see yourself for who you really are, what people mean to you, and what your life truly is.
Take the time to re-simplify your life today. Get back on track and make serenity a part of your everyday life.