It’s World Book Day so grab a cuppa, curl up in your favourite chair and lose yourself in a great book.
Even if it’s ‘just for five minutes’, I implore you, sit down with a good book and realise that a whole hour has flown by.
I’ve always loved my books. I was that kid at school who loved being ‘punished’ by being forced to pull out my reading book in silence, and was annoyed when I had to put it away. Oh, and don’t even think about interrupting me in the middle of a sentence…
As a child I absolutely loved horror books, especially the Goosebumps series. Now I’m 34, and I’ve lost count of the number of self-help books, minimalism books, and other topics I’ve devoured over the years. I’ve also read a few gripping fiction books by some less-known indie authors on Kindle.
So, without further ado, here are some of my absolute favourites. Books which have changed my life, and which have stuck in my mind for some reason or other.
For me, this is the ultimate book on minimalism by an ordinary guy who decided he’d had enough of the chaotic, messy, and unhappy life he was living and changed his life through minimalism. He is what I consider to be an extreme minimalist.
In this book, Cait Flanders slowly changes her life from blackout binge drinker riddled with debt, to one of intention and freedom. This book will remind you that no matter where you are in life, you’re capable of achieving where you want to be. Inspiring stuff!
This book couldn’t have come at a better time in my life, right when I was thinking about where I was going and why. Cait compares her outdoor adventures to real life conundrums we all have, and shares her nuggets of wisdom gained along the way. A truly wholesome book to read if you’re lost in life or wondering if you’re going the right way.
A recent read which shocked me to the core, and further propelled me into eco-friendly and zero-waste living. We all need to do our bit to save the planet, and this book is a great place to start and look at your own consumption habits. Also has a really helpful chapter on caring for certain materials.
This is one of the earlier self-help books I read and has stuck with me eversince. If you want to escape a life of mediocroty, or level up your mornings, read this. Then read the follow up; The Miracle Equation.
I’m a big fan of Jen Sincero’s writing, and this book truly made me feel powerful and opened my eyes. This is a book that talks a lot about The Law of Attraction (which I’m a big believer in), but even if you’re not, don’t dismiss this.
A beautiful and simple book about Zen and simple living. The bite-sized concepts spoken about in this book are simply lovely and doable by anyone. It is a great reminder to slow down and appreciate life. I leave this one on my bedside table so I am reminded every morning.
I love Anthony Moore’s articles on Medium.com. He writes openly and honestly about his own struggles and successes in escaping a mediocre life. When I found out he was writing a book I was really excited. Apparently, this book didn’t do too well but it is a gem with simple easy advice and lovely photos throughout. If you know you’re capable of more but stay stuck every day, don’t hesitate to pick this up.
A very recent read which I raced through to the end on an emotional rollercoaster of sadness, hope, and inspiration. Rachel’s story is one of challenging severe mental health issues through her discovered outlet of running. This book had me almost in tears one minute, and feeling elated along with her the next. She just released a follow up called A Midlife Cyclist.
If you’ve ever questioned your relationship with alcohol or tried and failed to quit time and again, I urge you to read this. Packed full of scientific information, and explores the internal reasons why you just can’t seem to stop. It’s also non-judgemental and shame-free reading. Tonnes of ‘aha!’ moments and dawning realisations.
This book is a classic but despite how old the text itself is, the advice is still incredibly valuable for today. Perfect for learning how to relate to others, build relationships, and negotiate in a positive manner with just about anybody.
And there you have it! My list of absolute favourites to adorn my shelf and subconscious.
Of course, there are way more, but to list them all would take significant time, and there’s even more I’m currently reading.
If you haven’t picked up a book in weeks, months, or even years, it’s never too late to fit in a good book that might just light a fire in you.
Who knows? You might discover something new about yourself.
Give it a chance and spare five minutes of your time for a book today.
In the last quarter of 2020 I decided to have another go at clearing the attic. This time, I vowed to put my heart and soul into it, especially because it was so dangerously cluttered.
There were many times up there I had tripped over boxes or had to do some bizarre manoeuvre to get around them like some sort of contortionist. One of these days somebody was going to fall through the attic floor or have the mass amount of boxes collapse on them.
Unlike with my previous attempt, this time I was armed with a clear vision of the space above me being spacious and containing only seasonal decorations, luggage, and a box of my videogame cases (because I’ve been keeping the games themselves in special wallets to save space).
It was a good job I had the resolve I did because when I went up the ladder there was no way I could even haul myself up through the trapdoor. Every bit of space I could have stood was taken up by piles of full plastic storage boxes, carrier bags, and things which couldn’t fit in any of the boxes. Things which had simply been left to the freezing cold of the winter or the sauna-like heat of the summer.
Faced with the huge mission ahead of me, I envisioned how heavy all of it was above my head. The sheer weight of it in my life. If you’re a believer in Feng Shui, perhaps this was the reason I always felt like everything got so much ‘on top of me’ and I still had parts of me that could not move on from the past.
I had made a decluttering attempt of the attic once before and did actually clear some space, but it soon became even worse than before, because I didn’t have a vision and was still clinging on to a lot of my past. It was as if the mess was mirroring part of my inner self, and after making such enormous changes in my life already, I didn’t want that for myself anymore.
I started off bringing boxes down and clearing as much of the contents as possible. A lot of it was trash. Old posters, old instruction manuals, packaging to things I no longer owned.
Other things I donated to charity shops and offered on Facebook Marketplace.
The more boxes I opened, I was faced with a lot of mindless purchasing decisions and things I’d thought I might go back to one day. But by far, the hardest things I’ve encountered are sentimental items.
The first one of these things I let go of was a Dick Turpin mug that my Uncle Gordy had owned. I had been very close to him all my life and we used to have a laugh about how terrified I was as a child of this mug he kept in his display cabinet. What was it doing here in the attic, not even serving a purpose? Gord had displayed it proudly but I was hoarding it in a box.
I held the mug for quite some time and then I realised the reason I had kept it boxed up was because I was terrified I would lose those precious memories of our laughter together. Yet even without the object on my shelf, I still recalled those memories from time to time.
There’s a small cup he used to own that we had another memory over that I never claimed when he passed away. I still have the memories of that cup and how he used to say ‘just a spot’ and laugh at me when he was pouring milk into it when I was an infant.
It dawned on me that I didn’t need to keep this Dick Turpin. Instead, I wrapped it up and sent it to a cousin of mine. Unfortunately, it broke in transit.
For a moment I was horrified, but I realised that even then, I still had the memory. And I’d taken a photo of it on my phone so I could recall it at any time. It also reminded me that physical objects can be destroyed in an instant, either by accident or natural disaster.
Despite having the photos, it’s amazing how often I don’t look at them. I don’t need to because the memories of Gordy are in my heart, not in the objects I clung to.
Releasing this made it so much easier to let go. And once I let go of that, I found myself moving onto other sentimental things – some of the hardest of all to let go of. Those were my old video game consoles I had as a child and spent many hours on , forming many fond memories.
As a child, I had everything I could physically ever want, but most of my childhood was full of bullying at school, family trauma, and other things I would give a limb to protect my own children from.
Videogames were a wonderful escape and there were happy times I played them with my parents, on rainy afternoons, or when I got home from school. Gaming turned into a real passion which I still have now at 34 years old.
Anyway, one of these sentimental consoles was my Super Nintendo. Here it was, sitting unplugged in the attic and suffering the extremes of temperatures.
Attics are no place to store anything of value – photos and electronics being the main things. Proving this point, many of my Playstation games I kept had started to get disc rot, which was further accelerated by cold and the heat.
The Nintendo was even harder to let go of because until recently, I had been a collector of videogames and merchandise. We even had a gaming room. Then our second child came along and we needed that room to become her bedroom.
I had to put things into perspective and let go of some of the reasons I had held onto them in the first place (which is another post in itself).
The stuff wasn’t getting used. Its job was to sit prettily on a shelf or to sit in the attic for the rest of time as a memory. That wasn’t treating that stuff with love and respect when somebody else could be playing it or displaying it proudly in their home. Besides, most of the games were now available in HD on recent gadgets such as the SNES Mini.
So I sold it along with all the games.
I did feel a few pangs of sadness as I boxed it up for the post office and saw it for one final time. Then I looked at the space that had been created and felt that familiar sense of freedom. I still had the memories and could re-experience them any time by playing the updated versions that now exist. Once again the memories were in me, not in the object itself.
Once I got rid of the SNES, other nostalgic consoles I was keeping got easier to let go of. I had been through the process already and trusted myself to make the right decision.
I trust my heart to be the storage space for these joyful memories, not a dusty old storage box.
When it comes to decluttering sentimental items, whatever you decide to do with them, trust your heart, for yours is the safest place for precious memories to be stowed. Remember, physical possessions can be destroyed.
It’s taken me a good few months, but there is now a lot of space in the attic and slowly but surely, my vision is starting to materialise.
There are a few things left to take care of, such as a huge box of old journals, another huge box of photo albums, and a few boxes of mystery cables and parts. I also have some organisation to do. But I’m getting there.
Over Christmas I bought some mould resistant bags for my decorations and decluttered the ones that wouldn’t fit. I am now limited to those two bags and once they’re full I can’t buy any more without first getting rid of something older.
Before, I had an entire box containing several carrier bags of decorations, many of which were getting crushed or broken. Not long ago I had to deal with a snow globe which had smashed and leaked its sticky, glittery contents all inside the box and over the carrier bags.
Did I need all those decorations to have a good Christmas? No. In fact, it was a huge pain bringing them out, putting them all away and ate up huge chunks of time and energy.
2021 is almost upon us, and one of my goals (which I’m actually starting from now) is to get a real handle on my finances and let minimalism work its magic on my bank account.
I’m not going to lie; I have a real weakness for books, video games, cafe trips, alcohol, takeaways, and replacing my backpacks for newer ones that catch my eye. My worst financial sins by far are falling back on Paypal Credit or my Argos store card.
The allure of these credit services has allowed me, throughout 2020, to make some really silly financial decisions and questionable purchases that were far from mindful.
Admittedly, finances are something I’ve always struggled with despite becoming minimalist. It’s not that I’m incapable of making sound decisions with my money, but that I’ve been living reactively rather than intentionally.
I have no problem getting rid of my old stuff once I buy something new. The problem is that I buy new when I don’t need to.
A couple of months ago I went back to decluttering the attic. Only this time I tackled some of the stuff that was harder for me to let go of: my old game consoles.
I will talk about that process in another article, but what’s important to mention now is that I sold them and made quite a substantial amount of cash. It’s been my second time doing so. The first time I blew the money I made, but this time something was different.
The SNES and a bunch of other things I sold meant a lot to me. They were a huge part of my childhood and my identity as a gamer. This time, I wanted the money I made from them to mean something. After all, I’ve minimised so much that there’s not much left to sell so I saw it as my last chance to use it for good.
For the first time in my life I used that money with real intention and didn’t buy anything frivolous. In fact, I was loath to spend it at all. That’s when I decided I wanted a big change and have made quite an extreme plan in the form of a 365 day shopping ban.
Cait Flanders did it in ‘A Year of Less’ and the methods she took to turn her life around have always stuck in the back of mind, especially after reading her second book ‘Adventures in Opting Out’. Cait couldn’t be living the lifestyle she is living now, travelling the world and growing as a person if she hadn’t first taken serious stock of her negative habits, negative self beliefs, and chaotic spending.
I hit 34 at the start of this month and it’s terrifying to realise I’m middle-aged (or almost middle-aged depending on how you look at it) and am only just waking up to the fact that I need to be in control of my finances if I ever want the future I’m working towards to materialise.
So, I’ve sat down and drafted my shopping ban. It’s not as extreme as Cait’s was because we have different interests, but it’s a start. I also found myself including a ban on ways to spend my time. Here’s my draft with a few notes:
SHOPPING BAN 2021
Gluten-free food (I’m gluten intolerant)
Herbal and decaf tea
Alcohol (from budget) would ideally like to quit -set low budget
Cafe trip (from budget)
Books (but only if my backlog is empty)
Easter eggs for Eiden (my son)
Birthday gifts and cards
Xbox Ultimate (I adore video games too much to deprive myself)
Driving lessons (very important to be able to get to future counselling courses)
Counselling course level 3 (very important for my future career)
It’s almost Christmas, and although it’s different to previous years, what isn’t so different is the mad panic to buy, buy, buy, either to show love to friends and family, or out of sheer obligation.
But as I’ve turned minimalist over the past couple of years, dramatically reducing my possessions and experiencing endless self-growth, I’ve come to realise that stuff isn’t the key to love or happiness. In fact, an excess causes untold stress, financial hardship, damage to relationships, and to the Earth.
As a child, I’d physically always had everything I wanted, never going without the latest console, latest games, or best toys. The walls of my bedroom were lined with toy boxes, but even back then, I was never satisfied. There was always a new toy I wanted, a new book, or a new video game.
From my teens to my early 30s, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. I had so much stuff that it was breaking my bedroom drawers, had filled up several storage boxes under my bed and on top of my wardrobe, stuffed every cupboard and lined every shelf. But no matter how much I had, I wanted more, more, more.
No matter how many games, consoles, books and trinkets I had, it wasn’t enough. I often dreamed of owning a bigger house, certain that if I only had more space to keep everything and entertain my friends, I’d finally be happy.
It didn’t matter whether I’d just acquired an entire wishlist of stuff for Christmas, either, come January I’d hit the sales to fill the hole inside me. You see, I didn’t realise at the time that one of the sources of my unhappiness was the sheer amount of stuff in my life. Greed and excess.
Another reason was low self-esteem which was further exacerbated from going down the path people expected of me rather than what I really wanted. Stuff was acting as a bandage for the trauma in my past, and as a smokescreen for decisions I had made that I wasn’t truly happy with.
I hated myself with a passion, but as long as I didn’t face it and kept the smokescreen going, I convinced myself I’d be fine.
Except I wasn’t. I was as far from fine as one could get. All of this hoarding and consuming caused countless arguments between me and my fiance, Leighton (now my husband), and I was forever in overdraft with my bank due to spending splurges. I was also a hot mess inside.
Then, one day, my mum had a declutter of the attic at her house. A huge amount of the stuff, she said, was mine, and she was bringing it to me to sort through.
When she arrived, I was stunned. It took her several trips back and forth between my house and the car to bring the bags and boxes. Years of my childhood and school life bulged at the seams and was dumped on the living room floor for me to sort.
At first, I wanted to put it all in our attic, but Leighton stopped me. “No way!”, he said, “That attic is rammed as it is with your crap and we aren’t having any more. Either you sort this or it goes in the trash!” So, with that, I was forced to confront some of my hoard, and the past I had been clinging onto.
And 75% of it was trash.
This experience didn’t instantly turn me into a minimalist, but unbeknownst to me, it was the first step.
Fast forward to the present day and I can tell you with a hundred percent certainty that freeing yourself from the burden of your excess physical possessions is one of the most freeing things you can do.
The second most freeing thing you can do is to free yourself from the desire to own more, and the pressure to buy more for others ‘just because it’s the norm’.
Free yourself from the expectations of marketers and focus on being grateful for everything you already have, especially the people and experiences in your life. Advertisers would have you believe that to ‘give her the best Christmas ever’ you should buy their latest scent or designer handbag. That to be a true friend you should buy any number of random seasonal gifts.
Instead of buying your friend yet another pair of socks and a novelty gadget from the gift aisle, why not connect with them and get them something that aligns with who they are and what they want for the future? Maybe they want nothing at all, in which case you should believe them. After all, most people are already drowning in a sea of clutter and years of unwanted gifts.
Why not spend time with them or donate to a charity of their liking instead?
Not only will this be lighter on your wallet and your stress levels, but will help people (or animals) in need, and give you both a far longer lasting glow than any physical possession can.
According to Nationaldebtadvice.org.uk, over 16.9 million people borrow money to pay for Christmas gifts, and one in twenty will skip paying a bill over Christmas because they can’t pay it.
We’re falling prey to marketing and trying to buy love and connection – things which cannot ever be bought. And when you think about it, would your loved ones want you to go into debt for them? Would you want your loved ones to go into debt for you?
I shocked myself last Christmas when I found there was nothing I wanted my family to buy me. I had minimised so much and had been practising gratitude whenever I could, so I felt grateful for what I already had. I also didn’t want to add potential clutter back into my home, undoing years of decluttering and emotional work. Instead, my husband gifted me money to put towards the counselling course I had applied for.
Rather than short-lived pleasures from receiving physical gifts, I invested in myself. As it turns out, taking that course was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Since then I’ve also bought a photography course because I love taking nature photos and want them to be the best they can be. Without minimalism, I’d never have discovered any of these passions or invested in them because I’d be too busy organising my stuff and looking for more. I’d be too broke.
It wasn’t easy to reach this mindset, especially as I was used to always receiving piles of presents and spending beyond my means for everyone else. Most likely, it won’t be easy for you either, but I can assure you it will all be worth it.
If you’re new to this I suggest starting off with small steps and changes, which will gradually snowball into huge life transformations if you let them.
With that, I wish all of you, my amazing readers, a Merry and stress-free Christmas. You deserve it.
It’s been a few months since my last post, and in that time I’ve become a mum again to a gorgeous little girl.
I’ve also got back to minimising and simplifying, which is now more important than ever with a family of four, even more so because my six-year-old son has just received an autism diagnosis. I know that simplifying his life and routines can help make a difference in his stress levels and sensory overload, but the same can be said for any child, and of us adults.
Since having a new baby to take care of and settling into the new rhythm of sleepless nights, exhausting daytime hours when she refuses to sleep, and making my son still feel loved and valued, it’s forced me yet again to look at how I spend my time.
Because all my time in the week is now spent on changing nappies, doing endless feeds, keeping up with the laundry, and other household chores, the time I get has to be used intentionally whether that’s an intentional hour of rest, half hour of gaming, reading a book, or decluttering.
The past week I’ve spent a good chunk of my time decluttering the attic, not just because I love the sense of freedom and satisfaction I get, but because I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of my kids. And that involves me facing a prospect many of us don’t like to acknowledge – death.
One of the many reasons I live a minimalist lifestyle is because when I’m gone, whether that be when I’m a hundred years old, or even next month, the last thing I want is to burden my loved ones with sorting through my stuff, deciding what to keep, what goes in the skip, what gets donated, feeling guilty if they don’t keep something, trying to figure out what best represented me, and frankly, wasting hours of their remaining time on this Earth.
When I pass, the last thing I want is for people to look for me in my stuff. I want to be remembered for the life I lived, for my personality, for the things I said and how I made people feel; not the figurines I owned, the shoes I wore, the limited editions I collected, or the phone I had.
You may be thinking this all sounds a bit too much on the morbid side, but hear me out.
When I gave birth to my son six years ago, I lost 4 litres of blood when my placenta got stuck to the walls of my uterus. I almost died and one of the nurses told me how lucky I had been to have pulled through. Before that, I’d never really considered the life I was living or the impact my stuff was having. Soon after, it struck me that I wasn’t following my dreams, either. Rather, I was just floating along in life with no clear direction, buying more and more stuff to fill the sense of emptiness.
Back then I was still living as an organised hoarder, and to think back on it now, it’s sad how much stuff my family would have had to go through. Trinkets, old toys, old letters, old party invitations, tonnes of gaming paraphernalia, old stationary, overflowing boxes, relics of my past, painful memories, stuff I clung to because I thought ‘I wasn’t me without my stuff’.
As it turned out, the ‘me’ I was clinging to was the biggest piece of clutter of all, and the real me was waiting to be discovered in empty spaces, free of the hoard that weighed me down, free of the physical weight of my past, and with more free time that wasn’t wasted on organising and acquiring more.
We all have limited time on this planet, and that also goes for our children (if we have any).
Why keep a bunch of stuff for them, for our partners, for our parents or siblings, to have to spend hours, days or weeks going through our stuff when we pass on? As uncomfortable as it is to realise, it’s not like we can take our stuff with us when it’s our time. Instead, the weight of our life cascades onto family and friends. Sadly, that stuff sometimes even harbours the power to cause heated arguments and family rifts. Families get divided for decades over an antique vase, a china collection, or money, which, ironically, would probably be spent on acquiring more stuff. Stuff that won’t even matter when we’re gone.
Remember, we can’t take our stuff and whoever deals with it all can’t get back their time. Time which is so important and passes in the blink of an eye.
But enough about death, let’s go right back to the very beginning.
We’re born owning nothing. Blank slates of endless potential. All we want is the love and attention of our caregivers, and whatever we need to survive. Then suddenly, at some point along the line, we accumulate stuff. Stuff to speed up our development, stuff to teach us about the world, stuff to entertain us, stuff to distract us, stuff to show us how much we’re loved.
We grow up and we want more. More toys, more gadgets, more games, more clothes, more, more, more. Where once we were happy with love and experiences of the world, we’re taught by the people close to us, and through endless advertising, that we can’t be happy without the latest toy, the fullest wardrobe, the biggest game collection, or the trendiest coat.
We’re taught that we’re not enough, that if we don’t receive more, we aren’t loved or not worthy. Our ‘self’ gets hidden by the sheer amount of stuff, and that pattern continues through life until we break it or we die.
Let me give you an example of how too much stuff affects us as children.
Recently, I was forced to declutter my son’s room. He struggles to let go of things regardless of how many years it has been since he last played with that teddy bear or can no longer fit in that favourite t-shirt. Finally, the drawer under his bed broke under the weight of years of artwork and plastic toys that he never played with. Yet despite it all, he complained he was ‘bored’ or would roll around on the floor in a state of overwhelm. Whenever he wanted a particular toy, he always came crying to me or his dad that he couldn’t find it. I’d go to his room and it would look like a hurricane had passed through it on his hunt.
At bedtime, he couldn’t even decide what book he wanted me to read to him; he either made me choose or constantly chose ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. Even though it’s one of his favourite books, I realized he wasn’t even listening to it anymore, and had become bored with it. He was simply choosing it every night because there were far too many books on his shelf for him to process.
So, I got to work removing most of the plastic McDonald’s toys, Kinder Egg junk, and things he never touched. I also removed a pile of books he’d either outgrown, or seemed to hold no interest for him. Then, I went through all his artwork, discarding the damaged pieces, paper with hardly anything on it, or pieces I knew he didn’t care for as it was something he had done when he was two. I’m ashamed to say that most of the artwork clogging his drawer wasn’t even his doing; it was pieces I hadn’t been able to let go of because I was still clinging to his toddler stage. Most of those went in the bin once I had taken a few photos.
Bear in mind, instead of instantly donating the toys and risking upsetting him, I put the bags of his stuff into the attic to be sorted at a later date. That way, if he wanted his jingly bells back, or the teddy he had picked up that time he went to hospital when he was 2, he could have them.
Now, here’s the surprising thing.
He’s never once asked for any of it back, nor seems to have noticed that 70% of it is missing. And he’s started choosing books other than ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ all by himself. There’s also been fewer instances of him crying because he can’t find his Nerf gun bullets or other favourite things.
Quite often, we think we need more, and we assume the same for our children. Whenever we’re bored or unfulfilled, we might order something new on Amazon or go shelf-browsing until we spot something we like.
And when they’re bored, we rush to buy them another toy or download yet another app.
Instead, we need to rediscover simplicity, then do the same for our children.
We need to reconnect with loved ones, and claim back the time that is so precious, and we need to remind ourselves that we’re worth it, despite what marketing would us believe.
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.
We all buy things we don’t need from time to time. Unless we’re incredibly disciplined we get tempted by the seasonal sales, or the second we desire something new, it’s just a few clicks away.
But what happens when buying gets out of control? When everything you ever desired surrounds you but you still want more?
It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, but for some, the cycle of purchasing can turn into a shameful nightmare.
You may not realise you have a problem until people in your household start commenting on the number of deliveries. You may deny you have a problem at all, especially to escape feelings of shame.
Or you might realise you have a problem, but find yourself unable to stop.
Signs that purchasing has got out of control in your life might include comments from family members about the number of deliveries, consistently low finances, feelings of shame and guilt, or a feeling of spiralling out of control.
You know you should stop spending but you can’t.
The clutter in your home is growing but you can’t control it.
You’re not any happier than before, but you’re convinced that the next purchase will help.
Well-meaning people in your life may try all sorts of things to get you to stop, but it’s not going to happen unless you understand what’s triggering you to buy or order things in the first place.
I wish I could tell you that it’s going to be easy, but it’s not. Not once you look past the surface level of the factors that make you fork over your cash.
Let’s take a look at these levels.
Surface level (Grass)
Influencing from marketers, sale items, emails, peer pressure, images and messages of success and happiness.
The surface level includes the factors above which may seem obvious to yourself or others.
We’re all subject to advertisements on our screens and in the streets, we all love a good bargain, and it’s likely that at some point your friends convinced you to buy those new jeans, that new makeup set, or that awesome new videogame.
We’re also surrounded by false messages and images all the time that money + stuff = happiness + success.
Of course, happiness can never be achieved through endless material gains, but our world is set up to make you believe that.
Deeper level (Mud)
Comparison with others, the feeling of not having enough, shopping addiction, wanting to project a certain image, chasing everlasting happiness
These are the feelings that make us even more susceptible to the surface level factors above.
With constant access to the internet, it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to the people around us. Before the internet, we had to walk down the street or look out at our neighbours shiny new car to start feeling jealous or inadequate.
Now, all we need to do is look on Instagram, Facebook or Youtube to see who’s sexier, richer, more popular, and living more exciting lives than us.
Some people want to project a certain image so that they will appeal to a certain group of people, or to look as if their life is more extravagant than it is.
All of it is to chase this need for everlasting happiness that all of us strive for.
Separate to all of those is shopping addiction, where people have found themselves caught up in a hellish cycle of buying that they can’t get out of, usually due to underlying emotional problems.
Deepest level (Fossil)
Boredom, depression, needing a buzz, unresolved issues in life, insecurity, identity issues, trying to fill a void or solve an issue with material stuff, need to feel in control if other things are in complete chaos, struggling in the past.
Underneath all desires for material possessions (which don’t include needs for survival) are the deep-seated reasons and feelings that drive us.
Deep down, you might buy things because you’re bored and can’t discover your passion.
People insecure with who they are might buy lots of things to try to figure it out or to fill the void. For example, someone who isn’t an artist might buy a load of painting tools because they want to create something great but haven’t yet figured out their passion.
Someone else might buy loads of makeup and dresses when they don’t even like makeup and dresses, just because they feel ugly, or aren’t sure of their image.
Some people suffer with depression or feel empty inside, then attempt to fill the void with material possessions.
For others, buying and ordering goods is the only thing they feel in control of.
Even a person’s past can play a part. If all someone has known is poverty and struggling, and suddenly they have the power to surround themselves with the things they never had, buying and surrounding themselves with stuff might be a comfort or reassurance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone who has always been surrounded by things might be unable to find satisfaction without buying something new every week (this one is definitely a part of me that I regularly battle).
Now we’ve looked at the different levels of feelings which can trigger us to buy things we don’t need, let’s look at the feelings you might experience before, during, and after an impulse purchase.
This is the feel good chemical that our brain releases whenever we do something pleasurable such as make a purchase, drink alcohol, receive a like on Facebook, or complete a level in a game. It can become very addictive and many companies exploit the dopamine hit that people chase to keep your attention.
And here are the feelings that might be familiar to you at the three different stages of making a purchase.
Feelings after impulse purchases
Elation, excitement, impatience, a rush, anticipation.
You can’t wait to get the item home and see what it will look like on your shelf or your body. It also felt great to buy something new. You feel the excitement and anticipation of the delivery coming to your door, or from the shop to your home.
Feelings after receiving the item
Emptiness, sudden drop in satisfaction level, shame, embarrassment, guilt, exhaustion from wasted energy and possibly making a return, panic at finances.
The initial rush from making a purchase wears off as fast as the dopamine hit. And that’s fast. Eventually, buying things we know we don’t need can lead to the negative feelings above.
I know because I’ve been there myself plenty of times.
The item never gave me the happiness I was sure it would give me at the time, and then comes the shame and embarrassment, and the realisation that the money could have been better spent investing in a skill or saving.
The shame can be tripled when returns have to be made and family members see it happening again and again.
Not to mention, the financial burden caused by impulse purchases can lead to even more stress and shame, and cause arguments with family members.
Ways we might try to deal with the after feelings
Buying more stuff, hiding the stuff, reselling or returning the item, adding it to the hoard and convincing ourselves we must keep it as we spent money and time on it, drinking or other coping device, shoving it in a cupboard and forgetting about it, denial (making up stories as to why we had to have it, or that there is isn’t a problem).
Believe it or not, people who have a problem with impulse buying or who have a shopping addiction often try to get rid of the negative feelings by buying yet more stuff. Others might hide the stuff and how much they spent from the people around them.
This can become a vicious and never ending cycle.
Alcohol and other coping mechanisms may also pose a problem for those trying to escape the shame and other bad feelings inside.
As you can see, there’ are a lot of factors to consider that might cause you to get trapped in a cycle of buying.
The only way to escape is to look at the deepest part of yourself which your purchases might be covering or compensating for, then take steps to deal with the issues themselves.
While some issues, such as boredom, can be more easily solved, painful issues relating to your past or mental health might require some sort of therapy or seeing your doctor.
Without pulling out or killing the roots, weeds will keep coming back, sometimes bigger and more numerous than before.
It’s the same with our inner selves.
If we don’t recognise and treat the underlying cause, we’re doomed to forever fall victim to the resulting behaviour or activity.
Are you struggling in a never-ending cycle of buying things you don’t need? Do you feel lost if you’ve not got a parcel on the way? If so, stay tuned for this week’s upcoming post which is all about what keeps us stuck in the cycle, and why you might feel the need for more, even when you know you have enough.
With this post, I won’t just be talking about the usual ‘marketers want to keep us buying’ but am going to focus on the emotional and deep-seated reasons that can cause us to compulsively click ‘buy’.
Yet there’s this expectation in society that if you don’t have a high-profile job and don’t own the latest and greatest stuff, you’re no good.
Marketers constantly try to convince you you’re lacking in life if you don’t own the latest phone, celebrity endorsed cologne, or the sexiest sofa.
You’re not a good parent
You’re not a good runner
You’re not beautiful enough
Not smart enough
Not cool enough
Not happy with your life
But that’s OK because if you buy today, you can rest assured that you’ll be the envy of your friends, and you’ll be so much more interesting.
We rarely realise it, but after a while, those messages add up into an essay about how much we lack, and life starts to feel intensely unsatisfying. Depressing, even.
While embracing minimalism definitely made me see that happiness doesn’t come from a delivery van, it certainly hasn’t made me immune to slipping up and making bad decisions.
On this blog, I talk about achieving goals a lot and simplifying your life so that you can discover what’s really important to you. I even share my successes so that you can hopefully start to realise the potential in you.
But what I don’t talk about often enough are my failures along the way. The times where I take five steps up the ladder but fall down ten.
Let’s face it, even though we need failure to grow, it’s embarrassing to talk about and even scarier to experience.
First off, here’s a little bit about me so that you get a little bit of context: I’m generally happy and cheerful (sometimes to an annoying degree according to my husband), I have several obsessions including writing, reading, gaming, minimalism, and self-growth.
Come into my living room, and you will see that everything is a calming white and pastel green with loads of empty space. I’ve got my future planned out, an incredible family, and quality friends.
But it wasn’t always like that, and sometimes I fall into the same quicksand I had escaped before, slowly sinking back into old habits and ways of thinking.
I used to be a hoarder. Not the kind of hoarder you see on those TV shows, but an organised hoarder. I was in serious denial about how much I owned. It caused arguments with my fiance, and allowed me to carry on hiding behind my stuff.
You can read the story here, but basically, I was keeping it all because I was deeply unhappy, didn’t believe in myself, and identified strongly with my past.
It took my mum bringing it all down to my house and my husband threatening to bin the lot, for me to finally confront the lonely memories and dusty old beliefs that kept me clinging on.
You see, minimalism will make your life a hell of a lot calmer and easier, and it will help you to discover yourself, but it won’t solve every problem for you. Especially those that are nestled deep inside.
It also won’t cure bad habits because they won’t go straight in the trash with your physical clutter. Rather, they get recycled into new, useful habits.
Sometimes, when things get me down like an argument, symptoms of chronic illness, or even writer’s block, I will find myself clicking over to Amazon and Ebay. Other times, I just feel stale in myself, like a mouldy piece of bread.
Suddenly, the bag I bought just months before has a fault and I need a new one. I need a new game despite having a mile long list of unplayed titles. I could really do with that lovely looking lunch box as it will ensure my food doesn’t leak in my backpack (despite never having that issue).
Of course, those are all elaborate stories I weave in my mind which will lead to me buying the product of interest.
As I click ‘buy’ I feel the anticipation of the item’s arrival and start getting rid of things that are relatively new. The dopamine rushes through me, even though I know deep down that two clicks and a parcel won’t bring me satisfaction.
But my brain doesn’t care about that fact because of the temporary feelings of elation.
Days later, the package comes, and as the packaging goes in the bin, so does my excitement. I realise I didn’t really need it, that I could have saved the money, invested in more skills, or gone on a day trip.
‘Call yourself a minimalist? Ha! You’re a phoney, you’re weak’, my brain chatters.
Just to be clear, I don’t have a shopping addiction, because these slips ups don’t happen very often. But the shame is no less intense, and the bad decisions can lead to me making other bad choices such as eating a luxurious helping of Nutella on toast when I know I’m gluten intolerant, or having a second glass of wine even though I know I’ve had enough.
However, unlike in the past, I find that I can get back up from the fall much faster than before. The injury doesn’t go as deep.
I know that I’m not a phony because I strongly believe in what I practise and what I say. As sickening as it sometimes feels, I acknowledge my mistakes, and that makes me self-aware.
Experiencing failure makes you feel like masking the feelings that come with it, and all the mean things the gremlin in your brain might be hissing at you.
But here’s the thing: the more failures you have, the more wise and resilient you become. You grow. You learn. You start to become aware of why you made those bad choices.
I’ve discovered that, generally, when I’m craving something new and making up stories of validation, it’s not the stuff I’m craving but experiences.
It’s not a new outfit I’m after, but love and acceptance.
I don’t want to own new stuff, I want to see new places, learn new skills, walk a new path, blossom into who I know I can be.
However, even though I’ve taken action and forged a new path for myself, the path is long, sometimes a forest gets in the way, and you know how excruciating it can be when what you want is just a little bit further, and a little bit further.
But what we often forget is to enjoy that journey. We can get so focused on hacking through that forest that we don’t see the beauty, or notice the undergrowth teeming with life.
The trick is, to not lurk in that beautiful forest for too long, and if you fall, get right back up.
Remember who you are and what you stand for, and walk hand-in-hand with failure no matter how scary, because it is your best teacher, and your greatest friend.
While walking the dog, I saw a single white flower, almost like a large daisy, beneath a tree where everything else around it was defeated by ground frost. This flower stood defiant against the elements for many more weeks before finally going crispy and brown. Even then, it stood proud, refusing to fall.
It’s all too easy to end up wilted and lifeless, lacking motivation and longing to hibernate like a bear, especially during these cold, dark, busy winter months.
We get sick, depressed, and lethargic. And if you have a chronic illness, symptoms may become even worse during the colder season.
Add the stress of the holidays, increasingly bleak news headlines, tough finances, family arguments, and you have the perfect recipe for depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and hiding under the duvet for months on end.
There may be times when you feel completely drained and hopeless, but rest assured, there are things you can do to bring that spark back into your soul.
You see, in today’s modern world of consumerism, always-online technology, scary news, uncertainty, and filling tick boxes, we forget to take care of number one. In fact, society tells us it’s selfish to do so; and that couldn’t be any more damaging or further from the truth.
But how do you know when you’re at your limit?
The trick is to understand the signs of when you’re nearing overload. These can include but are not limited to:
Easily losing your temper, even with small things
Feeling like hiding for long periods of time
Thoughts of running away
Feeling stressed without knowing why
Having flare ups of existing illnesses
Unable to cope at work
Fatigue and lethargy
Withdrawing from social situations
Persistent negative thoughts
Please bear in mind that the things I’ve mentioned can also be symptoms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorder, or other conditions. If you’ve suffered with symptoms for more than a few months, be sure to talk to a doctor, trusted friend, colleague, or a family member.
Don’t suffer in silence.
Society tells us that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves before we take care of others, but the opposite is true.
Think of yourself as being like a storage box- one with rammed with so much clutter that you can’t possibly fit anymore in.
If you try, the stuff just spills out and the box might even break. Stuff deep inside of it gets damaged because it’s buried under the weight of so much other stuff.
And here’s the thing: it’s impossible to be there for others when your internal storage box is overflowing with to do lists, negative emotions, and other people’s baggage.
Christmas is a particularly stressful time of year but there’s so much you can do to dial it down whilst raising your overall happiness levels.
It’s vital to rewrite the message that society gives out and take care of yourself.
Set healthy boundaries with others. What I mean by that, is if someone is piling their problems onto you, but you feel like you’re creaking under the weight of your own problems, you don’t have to keep cramming your internal storage box beyond capacity.
What you can do, is to tell them that you’ll happily listen to them, but you need a day or so to take some downtime. That way you’re not letting them down, all you’re doing is taking care of yourself so that you’re able to help them.
Realise you don’t have to participate in every event and splurge hundreds of pounds on gifts. You could just as easily donate to a charity and avoid the stress of cards and gifts, all while feeling great because you helped someone in need.
We buy so much stuff to show our love, stuff which will be unloved and unused because it’s the person that’s loved, not the thing. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets who can’t afford a hot meal.
I’m not trying to make you feel guilty here, but for me, the reality that’s on the streets of my own town has helped me to put things into perspective.
Do the things you love. Whether that’s snuggling up to watch movies, chilling out to music, writing, playing video games, sewing, drawing or volunteering for charity. Make time for you.
Learn to relax. There’s no need to cram your schedule so full of shopping and events that you lose sight of what’s really important.
Declutter your home to make way for the positive energy of the New Year. Make way for the things that are important to you because you’ll have a far clearer view of what you truly want when it’s not buried by a mountain of stuff you don’t need.
Take Vitamins. A lack of Vitamin D, especially when days are short and dark can contribute to feelings of depression and other health issues. Remember to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
However, if you really want to help out someone else who’s suffering, here are some tips you can use to support them, many of which I’ve learned from completing my counselling course and further studying.
Listen. Truly listen. And empathise. To do this, you must be completely non-judgemental and turn off your inner chatter. Focus only on them and try to feel things from their view of reality. All too often we think we are listening, but can’t wait to bombard them with advice that might not even be suitable.
Depending on the age of the person you’re supporting, you should be very careful if giving advice because it can make them feel powerless, and also cause them to become dependent on you to solve their problems.
Everyone has endless potential to grow and to take charge of their lives, if given the right kind of support, in supportive, kind and caring conditions.
Signpost them to a helpful organisation, charity or service. This would be useful if what they are going through is far more than what you could realistically help with. E.g sexual abuse disclosures or severe mental health issues you are not trained to support.
Don’t assume anything Making assumptions can be more harmful than you think. For example, it would be easy to assume that if you have been through something similar, they must feel the same way about their situation as you did.
That’s not always the case because people are so unique and the meanings they drew from that event in their lives may well be different from your own. Making assumptions is the easiest way to show someone that you don’t understand their viewpoint, and that you’re not truly listening.
Visit them/meet up for fun or just a nice, cosy chat. Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for people or bring forth sad memories and feelings.