The Weight of Stuff

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

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.

Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

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.

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

Stuck Inside – Ways To Beat Boredom and Maintain Your Mental Health

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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. 

Feel-Good Productivity 

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. 

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

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 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

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.  

Beautify your garden (if you have one)

Gardening can also have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.  Not only is it a mindful activity, it can keep you fit. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of some beautiful green space to clear your mind after a stressful day.

Journal 

Journaling is a fantastic way of getting your thoughts down on paper (physical or digital). It can relieve your mind of worries that have been building up on you, lead you to solutions to your problems, or even help you build a writing habit.

You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be able to write well; you don’t have to please anyone. You can be as messy, as creative, or as neat as you like. There are no rules. 

When you go out for or order a shop, buy some flowers or plants to cheer the place up 

It might sound small, but buying some flowers or some nice house plants can really help to freshen up a room and make it feel more cheerful. Believe it or not, houseplants are known for being beneficial to your health and productivity. 

Photo by Julie Marsh on Unsplash

Practise gratitude 

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. 

Colouring

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.  

I personally love Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Play some uplifting/upbeat music 

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.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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.

Play videogames 

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.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/europe/kindness-coronavirus-strangers-helping-gbr-scli/index.html

https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/coronavirus-how-to-be-kind-random-acts-of-kindness-ideas-helping-others/368441

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-positive-kindness-italy-singing-corner-shop-elderly-postcard-a9404781.html

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

What NOT to Do

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. 

In many supermarkets, shelves are being stripped not just of food and other essentials, but of beer and wine. While there’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, drinking to excess will eventually cause a slew of both physical and mental health problems including anxiety, depression, weight gain and liver damage.

I hope these ideas have been useful to you, and remember: stay calm, stay healthy, be mindful of others, and follow the safety rules in your area.

Photo by Erriko Boccia on Unsplash

Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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 can’t”

“I’m not”

“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. 

What happened?

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. 

Strangely enough, my first step into altering those terrible beliefs started when my mum came to my house one day with bags and bags of my old junk and clutter from childhood, which she had cleared from the attic. 

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. 

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

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. 

Gremlin:

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?

Me

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.



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

From Chaos to Calm: How To Reconnect With Serenity When Life Becomes Chaotic

Image by TRƯƠNG QUÂN from Pixabay

Sometimes, no matter how much you minimise, or how much space you’ve cleared in your home, clutter creeps back. 

The drawers you so carefully curated are back to looking as if an animal has ransacked them. 

The dining table has become a dumping ground once again. 

And you don’t know where all those scattered clothes have come from. 

It’s enough to drive you to despair and wonder why you bothered decluttering in the first place. 

If you’re silently nodding your head in agreement while reading this, fear not, I’ve been there myself and you can get back to that place of serenity. Permanently. 

Often, the reason our homes become clutter magnets again is because we’ve stopped being mindful about what we buy and what comes through our front door. 

In the bustle of everyday life, good habits might also fall by the wayside. Perhaps you’ve had a busy period and find it difficult to keep up with the influx of paperwork and laundry.

When you’re tired and stressed, all that mindfulness and the good habits you picked up can seemingly poof out of existence. 

The trouble is with letting go of good habits, is that instead of dealing with paperwork immediately, you let it pile up on your dining table until that becomes its function. 

Instead of putting away your clean laundry, you allow it to chill out in the basket forever, foraging for your clean clothes out of that every morning (I’ve been there, too). 

The washing up might stay on your draining board for several days (yup, I’ve done that many times, and believe me, it makes meal times more stressful than they need to be). 

You see, in the end, putting those little tasks off doesn’t make your life any easier. All it does is serve to be a constant reminder in the back of your mind about the things that need doing. 

Clutter and mess is also known to be stressful, sometimes without people even realising. 

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. 

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

The Helping Hand of Failure – Why I Recover Faster

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I’m not perfect. 

Nobody’s perfect. 

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. 

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Now, I am living and loving a minimalist lifestyle but although I’m reaping all the benefits, I’m not totally free of my old coping mechanisms. 

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. 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

8 Tips to Beat the Post-Christmas Blues and Feel Better Than Ever Before

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Post-Christmas Blues; usually characterised by feelings of emptiness, sadness and loneliness, typically sets in days after the festive celebrations have died down. 

The run up to the big day is full of excitement, anticipation and time spent with family. For others, it is a big build up of anxiety. 

Before you can blink, the presents have been unwrapped, the food is almost gone, and so have the excess of visitors. Your wallet is empty, everything is quiet and you’re exhausted and left with your own thoughts and feelings. 

Exactly what shade of blue you feel will depend on if you’ve had a chaotic few days of family bust-ups, spent it alone, are financially broke, or overdid it on the food and wine.

Either way, there are ways you can get back to feeling yourself, perhaps even better than before, with these 8 simple yet effective tips.

1. Gratitude

As humans we are programmed to see the negative much more prominently than the positive. Seeing the negatives is an ingrained survival response so that we don’t repeat situations that might endanger us. As a result, all the good things that happened get buried under a quagmire of sickly emotions and thoughts about things that have happened. 

Write down all the things you are grateful for over the year. They don’t have to be big things, and if you feel that your year has been a total bust, or you suffer from depression, they can be as simple as ‘I am grateful that I had a tasty hot dinner today’,I am grateful for my two best friends’ or whatever it is that suits you. 

Sometimes, when I struggle to think about what’s been good in a day I am grateful for the simple things such as being able to express myself through writing, and having great friends.

You can also write down small good things that have happened even if it was something as small as “I managed to have a shower and get dressed”, or “I managed to go into town”.

Your wins can depend largely on your mental and physical health, so don’t dismiss something just because others might perceive it as insignificant.

2. Positive Connections

Spending time with someone positive who makes you feel good can make a world of difference and change your outlook for the rest of the day or week. If that isn’t possible then a phone call should suffice.

If you often find yourself in contact with ‘toxic people’, limit your time with them if possible, or read how to handle such people and situations in this post.

Don’t just rely on social media, which is a quick fix at best and has you relying on the ‘likes’ and instant responses to feel good.

3. Balance your time spent on social media

Ask anybody what they would do if they had a whole day to do whatever they wanted, and I guarantee you that ‘scrolling through social media feeds’, and clicking ‘like’ won’t even get a mention. 

Further elaborating on the point I made above, social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand it can make you feel temporarily connected with others, but on the other it can make you focus on the lives of other people and on the likes you get on your posts, which will ultimately make you feel much worse. 

Remember, what you see of people online is a mere snapshot, and some of it may be a carefully curated mask that people like to show online, but in no way represents their true life. 

Limit the time you spend online and do something else that makes you glow inside. As if by magic, you will find you have much more time to do such things.

Photo by Timi David on Unsplash

4. Healthy Eating

It goes without saying, but over the festive season, it is astounding just how much food you end up consuming in one day: leftover turkey sandwiches, boxes of sweets, chocolate and biscuits, mounds of cheese on crackers, mince pies, fruit cake and alcohol – and all of it after a big hearty dinner. 

Not only can it leave you feeling lethargic and bloated, it can make you feel guilty. If that’s the case, try swapping the sweet treats for some refreshing fruit instead, and limit the amount of carbs (found in bread, pastry and pasta) which will make you feel tired and sluggish.

 Finally, if you’re known to enjoy a good few drinks as soon as the holidays start, cut it out until at least New Years Eve. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice festive drink; have the occasional hot chocolate or steaming cup of herbal tea – whatever takes your fancy.

5. Minimise/declutter your environment

Your environment has a massive impact on how you feel, but it’s one of those hidden things which so many of us don’t consider.

We tend to think about people and situations rather than our stuff, yet your physical surroundings can make you stressed without you even realising it – too much stuff, things that are broken, things that have bad memories attached, gifts and heirlooms with an aura of guilt surrounding them, dust bunnies hiding behind the sofa. 

Try having a deep-clean of the rooms you use the most and getting rid of anything that you don’t use or doesn’t bring you any happiness.

Among all the mounds of novelty Christmas gifts, or knick-knacks bought in winter sales, it can be hard to see the things which you truly love; the things which scream “This is what I enjoy and this is what’s important to me”. 

A clean environment feels fresh, and regained space allows for a calmer mind and new possibilities to take on the things you enjoy instead of spending time thinking about and cleaning around your stuff. 

6. Write some goals for 2019

Everyone seems to be making goals for the New Year: to lose weight, to quit smoking, to go to the gym regularly, to spend more time with family, to get a more fulfilling job.

Your resolutions will be unique to you, but it can feel fruitless if you compare yourself to others or believe that you can’t.

But before you say ‘What’s the point? I can never keep my resolutions’, break your goals down into chunks and start believing that you can. And truly believe it. 

Above all, be specific. Don’t just say “I want to lose weight”, say “I will lose 5lb in X number of weeks by X date”. Don’t just say “I want to spend more time with my family”, say “I will go with my significant other to the seaside this summer, go to the cinema with them next month, and only check my phone after dinner”. 

It’s critically important that you change ‘I want’ to ‘I will’, because ‘I want’ is nothing but dreaming about change whereas, ‘I will’ puts you in the mindset that action must and will be taken. 

And if you stumble along the way, don’t treat it as a failure. Don’t say “I failed to stop smoking today because I snuck one in – I may as well give up”, say “I smoked less than yesterday and will try again tomorrow”. See failures for what they truly are – stepping stones to success. 

Whenever you see a successful person, I guarantee you that they will have failed dozens or hundreds of times before they got where they are now. So see failure as your greatest ally, not something to fear. 

If you happen to believe in the Law of Attraction, you can also think and act as if you’ve already achieved what you want, which will attract success your way. To use this method, your thoughts must be in perfect, positive alignment with what you’re seeking, and you must never back down. 

Keep it manageable, keep it achievable, keep the momentum.  Just don’t underestimate what you’re capable of. 

But why wait until the final bongs of the year? Make a start now and start carving the path to a new, happier you.

Photo by Dale de Vera on Unsplash

7. Greenery

Once you’ve taken the tree, the lights and the other festive decor down, your room can feel incredibly barren. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. You can choose to appreciate the exposed space and bask in serenity, or you can replace the tree with a lovely house plant instead. 

Why not bring some of the benefits of the outdoors, indoors? You’ll be amazed at what some fresh greenery here and there can do to lift your spirits, as well as help purify the air you are breathing.

8. Be kind to yourself

Possibly the most important thing on this list, being kind to yourself is easier said than done. We are our own worst critics. But with daily practice and some self-awareness, you can tame your inner voice to speak to you with respect and positivity. 

Instead of saying “I was useless with my friends today, I didn’t have much to say and I looked a mess”, say “I have good friends who wouldn’t hang out with me if they didn’t enjoy being around me.” 

Start to recognise how amazing you are as an individual and tell yourself on a daily basis over and over until you’re sick of it.  Write it out every day if you have to, stick it on your bedroom ceiling – whatever it is that will remind you of how amazing you truly are.

How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

The Minimalist War – What Minimalism Is and Isn’t

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Last week, I talked about how success isn’t about wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. This week, I will be applying that same concept to minimalism. It isn’t all about sparse furniture, zero belongings, and white rooms. 

I’ve lost count of the times people have said things to me like, “But you own all these books, that isn’t minimalistic!”, or “How come you’ve bought another game? I thought you were a minimalist!”

But here’s the thing: minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself of having the things that make you happy or bring value to your life. It’s not about white furniture and empty shelves. And it’s absolutely not a competition.

Minimalism is about living a simple and clutter-free lifestyle. It’s about finding what’s important to you and minimising the less important things so that you can maximise your time on the most meaningful.

For me, that’s family, friends, writing, reading, relaxing, watching anime, and gaming. For you, that might mean baking, working out, creating, hosting parties, or spending less time online.

Everybody is different. That’s what makes the world so interesting. 

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Telling someone they can’t be minimalist if they own a certain thing is as crazy as saying to someone, “You play sports? No you don’t because you’re a tennis player, not a footballer. Football is the only real sport!” 

See how silly that sounds? 

I’ve also seen, in several minimalist groups, people posting a photo and asking “Should I get rid of this?”, or posting a photo of a room in their house and asking, “Is this minimalist enough?”

But there’s no such thing as ‘minimalist enough’. Nobody else can tell you to get rid of or keep that penguin figurine collection because nobody else knows the significance of them in your life. 

Only you can answer those questions because only you know the story behind your stuff. Only you know what holds meaning in your life and why. Only your heart can tell you when you’ve reached that level of satisfaction. 

If you rely on others to tell you what to keep and what to throw, or what looks ‘minimalist enough’, you can’t grow as a person because you won’t be developing those crucial decision making skills that come with minimising and decluttering. 

And if the decisions don’t come from you, you will end up living someone else’s version of minimalism. Someone else’s life. 

I once shared an image of my minimalist living room. Some loved it, some thought I had too many books, some thought I had too many photos, some people found it inspirational, and some went as far as to say they what pieces of furniture they would change.  

None of the people who commented were either right or wrong. What I got what a diverse snapshot of other people’s visions for their own lives. 

What you need to ask yourself when minimising or simplifying is, “Is this perfect to me?”  Not, “Will my uncle Pete like it?” And certainly not, “Does my house look better than Amy’s on Instagram?”

Minimalism isn’t a war. It is a means to live a simple, more peaceful, and more intentional life. 

Photo by Alex Ortlieb on Unsplash

Comparing your minimalism, or your home to others will not do you any favours unless you’re using it purely for inspiration. In fact, it will drain you and make you miserable and resentful.

Once minimalism becomes a competition it loses its meaning. You become no better than you were when you were subconsciously, or consciously, comparing possessions or status, which is as far from minimalist as you can get. 

So, minimise in a way that feels right for you. Inspire others by becoming genuinely happy and satisfied with your own life. Be simply you. 

The Treasure Map of Minimalism

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Decluttering is good for the soul. Not only does it create more space and lessen stress, sometimes you can find unexpected treasure. 

One of my closest friends was telling me how they were having a decluttering session, and that it made them feel so good that they were going to carry on the next day. But what they didn’t expect was to find was a soft toy that used to be cuddled by a much-loved relative who had passed.

Coincidentally, during one of these sessions, my friend happened to be having a terrible day. Finding this toy brought them a lot of comfort and found a new special place in their heart. 

If it wasn’t for decluttering, that treasure might have remained hidden for many more years, unable to offer the comfort that was so desperately needed. 

How many times have you tidied or had a spring clear out, only for your jaw to drop and you to shout , “So that’s where that went!”

How many times have you discovered something which warmed your heart, but was found among meaningless objects?

When was the last time you felt guilt for finding something special tucked away in a cold, dark place or buried under piles of clutter?

That’s because through minimalism, you can discover what’s important to you, which can, in turn, help you realise that maybe those other things aren’t as important as you first believed.  Sometimes, the recovered space might be your treasure.

On the flip side of the coin, you might also find objects which trigger pain or sadness: a letter or gift from an ex, for example. If you find anything which makes you feel bad, consider letting go to carve a path to the future rather than treading back over the past.

Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash

If thoughts about finding and dealing with such objects make your stomach churn, then this post on decluttering sentimental objects is for you.

In the meantime, here’s a simple list of things you can start decluttering today. Perhaps you will find a hidden treasure…

Living room/Office/Junk drawer

  • Old paperwork
  • Junkmail
  • Old magazines (unless you happen to be collecting a certain one)
  • An excess of books – keep only the ones you love or are definitely going to read. Beware of ‘someday’. If ‘someday’ creeps into your mind, donate. 
  • Pens – they multiply like rabbits, disappearing and reappearing in random places seemingly at will. 
  • An excess of notepads 
  • Old receipts

Bathroom/Bedroom

  • Out of date medicines
  • Out of date makeup
  • An excess of cleaning supplies or half-used ancient products.
  • Half-empty but unused toiletries
  • Freebies that never got used
  • Out of date toiletries

Bedroom/Clothes storage

  • Jewellery you’ve fallen out of love with
  • Clothes you’ve fallen out of love with or that no longer fit
  • Handbags – do you really need one for every outfit? 
  • Shoes – too many lead to decision fatigue and lack of space. My shoes are nice enough to be useful both for evenings out, and for a casual summer day in town. I also have a pair of Vans I use purely for casual wear. 
  • Coats and other outerwear (if you’re one of those people who has a coat for every outfit in their wardrobe and at slightly different thicknesses for every type of weather)

Electronics/Technology

  • CD’s you no longer listen to or that you own digitally
  • DVD’s you no longer watch or prefer to just watch digitally
  • Videogames you no longer play, or that you own digitally (unless you’re a collector)
  • Cables – do you really need 20 USB cables?
  • Broken or extremely outdated technology that’s useless

Kitchen/Dining area

  • Plates and dishes
  • Cutlery and other utensils – watch for duplicates 
  • Cups and glasses. These tend to build up over the years until you could run your own cafe/bar
  • Out of date food and condiments, or food that people don’t seem to eat. Certain types of food can be donated to foodbanks as long as it’s all in date and unopened. 

Airing cupboard/Under bed

  • Old towels – animal centres often need these 
  • Old bed sheets, or an excess of bed sheets- once again, an animal centre or homeless shelter could make use of them. 

Miscellaneous

  • Old school work 
  • Old toys your children outgrew
  • Gifts that you’ve never used or secretly didn’t want or need
  • Photos – ones that trigger bad memories, are bad quality, or have a hundred duplicates
  • Anything broken that you said you would fix ‘someday’ 
  • An excess of tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, spare screws etc. Watch for duplicates. 
  • Souvenirs from holidays that mean little to you (often, it’s the actual memories that bring you joy, not the mug with the landmark or country on)
  • Keyrings (I used to have about 6 on my house key, plus a few more to choose from). Now I have one for my key, and another on my favourite bag. That’s it. 
  • An excess of ornaments and trinkets. These can be a source of hidden stress without you even realising. They take up loads of space and make cleaning tasks take double or triple the time than if that surface was clear.

I talk about some of these things in more detail here

But what if I actually want to refill my space, or bring life to that empty corner?, I hear you panic. In that case, let me tell you; It’s far more uplifting to get plants, instead. House plants give you a sense of being in nature and will help to filter and oxygenate the air. Just don’t be like me and forget to water them.

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Have you found any hidden treasure from decluttering? Let me know in the comments.