The Lies You Must See Through to Reach True Happiness

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I used to think I wanted to be rich.

I pictured myself winning the lottery and living in a huge house, hanging out and partying with friends and family. 

There would be so much space that people would be conversing in every room, and there would be so much to do. Video games, sports, a massive selection of alcohol.

I imagined all the stuff I would have in my home: an arcade, a library, a bar, a cinema, a massive kitchen complete with a family chef. 

I’d finally have enough room for all the stuff I wanted and never have storage problems again. 

Nobody would be bored or want for anything, especially not me. And best of all,  I’d be able to enjoy it because I’d never have to work another day in my life. I’d be happy! 

Then I discovered minimalism. 

And I slowly came to realise that what I thought I wanted was a big fat lie. 

Lies that had been sold to me through the media and through every dopamine rush I experienced whenever I acquired something new. 

Despite having so many luxuries and so much stuff, I wasn’t happy.  

Back when I was a child I was spoiled. On Christmas and birthdays, presents would be piled to the rafters, and my parents bought me whatever I desired throughout the rest of the year. 

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The trouble was, I always wanted more, and that pattern continued into my adult life. I also had a real problem with letting go of things from my past. 

When I started minimising, I felt an amazing sense of freedom, but something else started to happen as well – I no longer desired the latest smartphone, or a hundred books, or a game room filled to the brim like the collectors I admired on Youtube. 

It’s also become virtually impossible to tell family and friends what I want for Christmas or my birthday because, truthfully, there’s very little I desire.

If you’d asked me that question two years before, I wanted so much that it was hard for me to choose what to ask for. The things I didn’t get, I could find in the January sales. 

But now I realise that I never needed a bigger house, or any of the other luxuries I craved. 

The more I’ve downsized my collections, the more I’ve realised I didn’t need a bigger house or more storage. A bigger house would just mean more maintenance and time wasted. And I’ve never been a party animal.

The reason I was so unhappy was because I wasn’t challenging myself. 

I was living in mediocrity, staying at the same level I always had, doing the same job I’d always done, and was content letting my husband take care of the important stuff. After all, I was looked after and fine, so why change anything?

I soon learned just how dangerous that mindset was. 

One day, he was driving us to work as usual, and we had a near miss with another car who pulled out on us from the left. As he swerved to avoid it, another car was coming at full speed from up ahead. I started screaming and my life flashed through my brain at a thousand miles an hour. 

Mainly all the stuff I hadn’t done. 

If my husband hadn’t had super-sonic reflexes that morning, we wouldn’t be here today and this blog never would’ve started. 

For the rest of the day, I felt shaky and couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if I died without accomplishing what I wanted in life. I also came to the sickening conclusion that I’ve always been looked after, and if anything happened to him, I would be as helpless as a child. 

Life can be taken away in an instant. Dreams extinguished along with it. 

Minimalism has revealed that I don’t need stuff to make me happy. I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. 

I need to be fulfilled. I need to help others. I need to become a full-fledged author and a successful counsellor.  I need to make an impression on the world – not my stuff.

That’s why when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, I was delighted when he suggested that he pay some money towards my training rather than something else that will end up forgotten on a shelf.

I was also more than happy when, for my birthday, my mother paid for my hair to be done. She said she would rather get me something useful than something I would shove in a drawer. 

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

After a year of feeling misunderstood as a minimalist, I can’t even begin to express how much that meant to me.

Now, I also want to say that it’s totally OK to enjoy giving gifts at Christmas, or to ask for a physical possession, as long as it’s something that’s well thought out, and will be loved for a long time, rather than something that will give a quick dopamine hit and end up in a charity shop by summer. 

What I want is to invest in my future so that I can be fulfilled and support myself and my family. I want to be of value to others and to enjoy myself in the process. 

Does that mean giving up every physical thing I enjoy? No. Of course not. And I’m not ungrateful when people do buy me things because that would make me into an asshat. Being ungrateful for how others choose to show their love is also a surefire way to end up miserable and frustrated.

What it does mean is being grateful for what I do have, and understanding that what I need for true happiness has always been right in front of me. It’s always been waiting for me to wake up and take action to get it. 

A torrent of constant advertising, comparing myself to others, and wanting what I saw on Youtube was blinding me to that truth.

With that in mind, I ask, are you living a life of blind consumerism? Are you surrounding yourself with stuff, thinking you’ll finally be happy if you unwrap that one thing you always wanted?

What’s your true happiness?

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How Rampant Consumerism is Destroying Us

Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash

I’ve been watching a riveting anime called Dr Stone. In it, a mysterious wave of light suddenly washes over Earth and turns everybody into stone. 3,700 years later, the world has reverted back to how it was before humans became advanced, and the humans that break out have to survive and rebuild civilisation. 

So many things in this anime have stood out to me, but one which has stuck in my mind is how quickly everything can be taken away in a flash, whether that’s by natural disaster, or from unfortunate circumstances. 

The humans who found themselves 3,700 years in the future had to start from scratch; foraging for food, hunting, building basic shelter, surviving wild animal attacks, and encountering other humans who’d made their own rules. 

There were no smartphones, no TV, no convenience shopping, no electricity, no doctors, and no medicine. 

Dr Stone shows just how much we take for granted in today’s modern world. 

All humans want happiness, and too often we try to achieve that by buying the things which we believe will make us happy and which marketers have convinced us we need: a new phone, the latest fashions, the latest car, the best smelling cologne, the shiniest, most expensive jewellery, the latest tablet/laptop, the biggest TV, I could go on forever here. 

Another thing which struck me in Dr Stone, was how much vegetation had taken over where entire towns and cities once stood. It made me think about how much damage us humans have actually done to our planet. 

Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

How many trees get chopped down to make new products – many of which we don’t actually need but believe will make us happy? 

How much oil gets consumed just to make the fast fashion that so many of us end up binning?

What really makes humans happy is a sense of community and belonging. Of having some place and meaning in the world. 

In his book’ The Compassionate Mind’, Paul Gilbert talks about how by 2020, depression will be the second most prevalent malady for humans. And guess what? Depression and anxiety has, indeed, skyrocketed.

Gilbert goes on to say that back in the 60’s people had a sense of community, helped each other out, and believed that technology would give us more time to be with the people we love, and to take care of ourselves. 

Instead, technology has been used to increase productivity and place huge demands on people, more so than ever before. We now live in a society where everyone is rushed off their feet and busyness is looked upon more admirably than producing quality or meaningful work. 

We live in a hive rather than a community. Tick boxes in place of what’s really important. Productivity in place of quality. As busyness has become a hidden expectation, it’s become the norm, and so has stress and mental health disorders. 

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

Rush, rush, rush. Tick, tick, tick. Click, click, click. And what for? To make more money to own a bigger house, to afford everything influencers and the media tells us we need, and to fund the vices that helps us to cope in the resulting frantic, consumerist world.

Now, I’m not saying that buying things you need or will actually bring you joy is bad. Of course it isn’t. I’m talking about mindless, frantic consumerism here.  Zombie-like consumption and trying to keep up with the joneses is no good for people, or the planet. 

At the end of the day, everything is just stuff. Some of it makes our lives more convenient, some of it brings us joy, some of it is just there to make us look or feel good in front of others, and some of it we don’t even realise we have. 

That being said, if you’re a fan of anime, go watch Dr Stone – it’s amazing!

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

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to let me know in the comments.



How to Regain Control of Your Wardrobe, Save Our Planet (and look fabulous doing it)

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Last weekend, my husband and I went on a major clothes purge. It wasn’t that we hadn’t done so before. We found ourselves revisiting the task after several arguments about me not having washed any of his clothes. The reason? I perceived that he had plenty left because the drawers were always full to bursting with his t-shirts, boxers and socks.

“But I don’t wear any of those!”, he would argue, when I told him he had more than enough.

So, after deciding enough was enough, we joined forces and I emptied all the drawers and the wardrobe so it was all laid out on the bed. Seeing the hoard in it’s entirety was even more of an eye-opener than just picking it randomly out of storage.

Even though I mimimised my clothes collection significantly in the past year, I still found myself getting rid of a dress that didn’t feel like me, and a top that I used to wear on drunken nights out (that I have very few of these days). 

The rest was all my husband’s. There were shirts and sweaters he had long since fell out of love with, clothes that he never liked the style of, clothes that were too big or too tight, and those that were seriously worn out. 

In the end it filled three bin bags! One of those bags was destined for the trash, and the rest got put in the donation pile. 

The mass of clothes that piled up in our hallway as we tossed them

You can imagine the difference it made to our storage. 

Clothes in the wardrobe hung freely and were able to breathe again, and the drawers could close without me having to kick them shut or squeeze everything down. And I’ve not been in doubt about when I need to do some washing because everything in our bedroom now only consists of the things we wear often or are fond of. 

Our wardrobe after the session. I wish I had taken a photo of it before it was decluttered.

If you don’t keep a regular check of your wardrobe, it can and will overflow until you find yourself faced with yet another mammoth decluttering session. These sessions take up a huge chunk of time and patience, so it’s always best if you keep on top of it by being mindful of the clothes you purchase, and to immediately donate or trash ones that are worn out or that you fall out of love with. 

That being said, you’re far less likely to fall out of love with your clothes if you don’t fall victim to keeping up with fashion, which changes faster than the seasons themselves. Instead, buy clothes that make you feel fantastic when you wear them, and that resonate with who you are. 

And remember, the person you are now might well be completely different to who you were a year before. 

Buying quality clothes instead of fast, cheap fashion is also guaranteed to last and not lose shape or feel uncomfortable after a few washes. Did you know that an estimated £140 million of clothing goes into landfills every year?

And donating them to charity shops doesn’t necessarily save them from that fate because quite often, charity shops don’t know what to do with your used clothes, or flat-out fail to sell them. 

Buying fast fashion contributes to the issue massively because countless heaps of clothing get worn once, then end up clogging landfill. Not to mention that the people who make them are often severely underpaid and work in dangerous conditions.

If you’re ready to get hardcore with minimising your clothing, you can also try out Project 333 which aims to save you masses of time and space, while still making you look fabulous every day.  Check it out, it’s not half as scary as it sounds!

Decluttering your wardobe will save you precious time and space, and by taking control of your collection, you can also take back control of those stressful mornings.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Meanwhile, if you’re at a loss with your stuff, and have lost sight of what’s important to you, stay tuned for next week’s post about the importance of stuff.

There’s Always More

Sometimes when we think about improving our lives, it’s ridiculously easy to fall into a trap of consumerism. This is because no matter what walk of life you come from, or what profession you’re in, there’s always a product out there to ‘perfect’ your life and make you into the person you’ve always dreamed of. There’s always one more thing you’re sure will make you happy this time around.

Today, there’s a never-ending choice of products to make you more sexy, more elegant, more productive. A better parent, a better partner, a better gym goer. Famous, successful, irresistible.

If you’re a new parent, you might convince yourself you need the perfect diaper bag, perfect bottle set or perfect nappy dispenser.

If you struggle to get your life in order, there’s a huge variety of attractive planners which claim they’ll make you into a master of productivity and success.

If you’re a writer, then maybe that perfect pen, notebook, laptop, or software will help you write that book that’s been on the backburner.

If you’re single and looking, there’s a perfume or cologne out there which will draw every male or female within a ten-mile radius.

Once you’re ensnared in this trap, it’s hard to get out of because there’s always just one more thing you can add that will surely make your life complete. But you and I both know, that ‘satisfied’ feeling is as fleeting as the time it took you to take the item to the checkout or click it into your basket.

It’s not long before you’re looking for the perfect desk for that perfect notebook , or the next perfect laptop, because the other one you bought didn’t help you to start that book, afterall.

The cycle continues.

And it will continue until you realise that you already have everything you need – and it isn’t fancy software and material products.

You don’t become a better writer by buying a better laptop. No fancy software, hardware, notebook or pen will get your words down for you, or make your ideas better. Only the act of writing will do that.

You don’t become a better parent by buying every toy in the bestsellers list, the best diaper bag or the trendiest pushchair. You do that by offering unconditional love, security, and a healthy environment for them to learn and grow.

You don’t become a better teacher by buying a bigger desk, you do that by consistently teaching quality content and connecting with individual students.

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for great writing software, beautiful planners, and fun toys for my son. But none of those things get me further ahead in life, and none of it adds to the relationship between me and my son. Only spending time can do that.

It’s my consistent actions that make me into a better person than yesterday, not stuff, and it’ll be your consistent actions that transform you into the person you want to become.

Once you understand and apply this concept to your own situations, your life satisfaction will skyrocket. And if you constantly act towards the life that you envision, you’ll see progress every single day, no matter how small.

Less stuff, more action!