I’m getting married at the weekend, dear readers, so this post is a little earlier than normal. I’ll also keep it short and simple.
This week, I am here to tell you some of the many ways that minimalism can benefit you.
Before I discovered minimalism, it wasn’t just my home that was cluttered, but my entire life. My mind, my emotions, my relationships. I only worked part time, yet somehow I was still always ‘busy’. I barely had time with my family and would come in through the door, immediately start the dinner, tidy up, wash clothes, and passively scroll through Facebook.
Then I’d start again the next day. And the next.
The next thing I knew, my son was four. Where had the time gone?
In our always-connected world, we speed through our days faster than we can take a breath. We rush past the beautiful summer flora, heads buried in our screens, brain miles ahead of our bodies as we plan to tick off the next box. We get in from work, dump our keys on the table and barely look at our partners or kids. There’s just so much to do and so little time!
There’s dinners to cook, a house to clean, clothes to wash and emails to answer, food shopping to do, homework with the kids, that birthday to remember, that favour to return…
As technology has raced ahead, so have our lives, and most of us seem to have forgotten how to do the above three things. By racing to keep up we are forgetting to live.
But there is a simple and elegant solution.
By embracing minimalism you can learn to stop and smell the flowers. You can regain lost time and reconnect with not just your family, but yourself.
As my donate pile grew and my space expanded,I started to see and experience so many benefits that I can’t even imagine going back to how life was before.
Below, is a list of the ways that minimalism has enriched my life and will endlessly benefit yours.
Regained floor space, shelf space and mind space. My space feels light, airy and full of potential.
An always tidy house. No more panicking about guests and wasting time tidying. This also helped me to pace myself and cope with chronic illness.
Less time spent cleaning because it is quicker and easier. Less cleaning means more time doing fun or meaningful activities. I now have far more writing time and time to just sit and chat when I get home from work.
Cheaper shopping days because I no longer feel the urge to buy shiny new things.
Being far more aware of the environment. Before minimalism, I had too much stuff to notice what else was around me and what was happening behind the scenes.
Being much more aware of the people around me. Once you’ve cleared the excess stuff, suddenly, people take the spotlight instead of the trinkets lining your bookcase.
Improved relationships . Having more time for others and being more mindful has lead to closer relationships in my life. There’s more time to talk and the important people in my life take priority.
Feeling more creative and inspired . Once I cut out digital distractions and regained so much space in my home, I could think much clearer. No longer did I take walks with my face glued to my screen, or sit on a bench updating my status. As a result, my notebooks are brimming with observations, ideas and insights. Some of the sights, interactions or snippets of conversation were fleeting. I would have missed them had I had my head down or been speeding along like a wind up toy.
A clear purpose in life . Clearing the clutter and adopting a minimalist mindset lead to me completely reevaluating my life and what was most important. Most importantly, there is now the space to achieve whatever I want.
Space to grow. Minimalism has made me grow as a person and realise that I won’t ever stop growing. I can see clearly what needs improving, what I need to contribute to, and what I need to let go of.
As you can see, the benefits of minimalism are powerful and extensive, and I know that the list will only grow longer, because minimalism helps your values to grow in the same way the sun helps a flower to bloom.
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.
I’m getting married in a couple of weeks. I’d just had a long day of shopping with my mum, looking for my son’s page boy shoes and preparing for perfection on the big day. I felt pretty good. I had the perfect table decor, the perfect hanging heart, and ordered the perfect shoes for my son. But, even after all that, I felt very upset after my chosen wedding hair got bad reception from family.
With just two weeks to go and feeling hopeless and ugly, I felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction, and suddenly found myself questioning all of my choices. Perhaps the cute jars I had ordered for my flowers were too small. If only I’d ordered bigger. I should have paid for welcome drinks, even though it was going to cost hundreds of pounds extra.
My wedding wasn’t going to be perfect and neither was I.
That evening, as I sat downstairs with my husband-to-be, thinking about what else I could buy, and what else I could do to perfect myself on my wedding, a TED talk came up on Youtube and started playing in the background. For those of you who aren’t sure what a TED talk is, it is a inspirational talk usually done by successful people, or people who have an important story to tell others.
This TED talk re-opened my eyes to my perceived ‘problems’. It was as if it was put there for me to see, as if some other force was trying to give me a good shake and wake me up.
In it, a guy was telling his story about his battle with throat cancer, and his ailing relationship with his wife and daughter. All this guy could only think about was how awful his situation was and how his success had been jeopardised. He was angry and bitter.
One day, he met a homeless guy, who he originally hated looking at because he thought ‘how dare he, he should get a job’.This homeless guy turned out to be his mentor, or perhaps, his guardian angel in disguise, because he ended up teaching him a valuable lesson about what life is really about and how he was treating others. At the same time in his life, a little girl who was being treated with chemo in the same hospital as him, taught him about his flawed outlook on life.
After those very sad, touching and inspiring life lessons from the most unexpected sources, he was a changed man. The whole way through this TED talk, I felt a lump in my throat, and realised I had been straying far off the path that minimalism was teaching me about.
Life’s not about money, fame, or perfection, but about being there for others, giving people the time of day, and not judging people on first sight.
Here I was getting upset about my wedding hair, and acting as if it was the most terrible thing in the world- and it really isn’t. It doesn’t even register on the scale of ‘problem’. It is something I will be throwing more money at to fix, for a single day, to look perfect in front of dozens of others and my husband-to-be. Yet just doors down from where I am getting wed, and going to be eating like royalty, sleeping in crisp sheets and bathing in a hot tub, there are homeless people in filthy clothes who nobody stops to help.
The real deal in life is to help others, to have great relationships and to get over our egos. Not to be concerned with status or pursue endless material gains.
I realised, when I was listening to that man, that even though I am minimalist and talk about helping others, I had the same mindset as he did, “I will earn more than them one day and then I will give them the excess’. But what they also need is human connection and to be shown humanity. They need time from others.
We run away and aim to be as far away from that situation as possible, even though the pursuit of fame, money, and stuff is empty. At the end of the day, stuff is meaningless, and beauty comes from within, not from the most perfect hairdo or most porcelain skin.
It’s frighteningly easy to sleepwalk through life with this blindfold on, listening to the expectations and the imaginary chatter of others, getting pulled downstream with the rest of the fish and forgetting what’s important.
Weddings can quickly become about beauty and perfection instead of the main reason for getting married in the first place, just like life can become about obtaining shinier and shinier stuff instead focusing on the people around us.
I was forgetting that the most important thing would be waiting for me at the end of the aisle, and not on a store shelf or in bridal hair magazines. The most important thing for my wedding day will be the person I am marrying, and the journey we will share together.
If you have a chronic illness I can’t stress how beneficial a simpler, minimalist lifestyle can be for you.
I was diagnosed with both Fibromyalgia and M.E in my early twenties- conditions that cause chronic pain, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms. Before I became minimalist, cleaning and tidying was a nightmare. So was making decisions. I was frequently exhausted, burnt out, and upset. I couldn’t keep on top of the housework, devote as much time to my son as I wanted, or even see friends. All of my energy was going on maintaining my stuff.
You want your higher energy days to be focused on the things which are important to you such as career, hobby, family, and self-care.
When you have an energy-sapping condition you want to make the most of the days where you have more energy, and not waste it on all-day cleaning and tidying marathons. Neither do you want to be burnt out with your schedule or with endless decisions.
Since adopting a minimalist lifestyle, it has changed my life for the better and helped me to manage my condition much more easily. While minimalism isn’t a cure, I now live a slower, more peaceful life and have less bad days than before.
Below are some of the minimalist ways which helped me to conserve energy and live life at a much slower pace:
Remove your excess of trinkets, books and other miscellaneous objects. By having hardly any trinkets to dust under and cutting my books down by 85%, dusting is now a cinch and takes five minutes as opposed to half an hour cleaning under and around everything. Downsizing the amount I own has also made some furniture redundant which has given me lots of floor space and made vacuuming much simpler.
Owning less also means that rooms rarely become messy, and when they do, it’s quick and easy to go around and put things back where they belong. You’ll never need to worry about your home looking a mess for visitors, or turning people away because you’re too embarrassed.
Decorating in soft, simple colours reduced the assault on my senses, which frequently get overwhelmed. Whites, greys and soft pastel shades are far easier on the senses than bright, bold colours. When you choose more neutral colours, it’s also easy to match objects and stick to a colour scheme.
Downsizing and curating your wardrobe will decrease the amount of laundry as well as make it easy to put clothes away and see what you own. It also means less decision fatigue and spending minutes in front of the mirror unsure if to wear the blue bag or the grey, jeans or cargos, and whether red suits you afterall.
You’ll only be left with those clothes that you love, for who you are now in the present.
Consider a simpler hairstyle which will be easier to maintain. When you have a chronic illness getting washed or maintaining your hair can be difficult. You can also buy 3 in 1 shampoo and body wash to save you time, space and the number of times you reach across for different products. You’d only need to use it once, rinse and be done.
When you go out, take a very light bag with only the things you need such as keys, wallet and phone. My personal haul I need when I go out is my wallet, phone, keys and laptop (my laptop is very light and portable). As a parent, I remove my laptop when I’m with my son and put in spare clothes and wet wipes instead.
Consider the type of bag you take out. I’ve found that I’m more suited to backpacks as they distribute weight evenly and reduce the chances of a pain flare up. By getting a backpack, you don’t have to sacrifice style or look overly casual; there are loads of backpacks out there from leather, to chic, to simple and elegant. You can even buy 2-in-1’s that change from backpack to handbag on more formal occasions.
Minimise your wallet and spend less time fumbling around at checkouts, and looking for receipts. We live in an age where an app exists for almost everything, so if possible use an app instead of a physical store or loyalty card, and throw away unneeded receipts. In fact, with the invention of services like Apple and Google Pay, you don’t always have to take your wallet and can rely on your phone, instead.
Order shopping online instead of going to the shops. This might mean you miss out on cheap and reduced foods that have minor defects or are close to the sell by date, but it will save you energy and time.
If you go shopping, make a list and stick to it. This will prevent you from wandering up and down random aisles, draining your energy and buying more than you need.
Declutter your schedule. If you’re one of those people who says ‘yes’ to everything or can’t say ‘no’ to friends, it’s time to learn how to decline. People are more understanding than we imagine, and if they aren’t, you should think about what value these people are truly bringing to your life. I’m not saying to never do anything for anybody (that would just make you selfish), but looking after yourself is paramount.
Remember, the things you do for others don’t have to be physical. Being a good listener or taking the time to call someone can make a big difference in someone’s life.
Declutter toxic people from your life. By that I mean, people who only take from you without giving back (not talking about physical objects here), people who’re never interested in your feelings or what you have to say, and people who consistently bring you down or make you feel guilty.
If you know anybody like this, I recommend evaluating your relationship with them and either reducing the time you spend with them, or phasing them out completely. This is by no means, easy. You attract the kind of people you want in your life, only when you love and respect yourself and your time.
Consider altering your job or career. I could no longer cope full time, so I made the painstaking decision to only work part time. If you’re chronically sick you may have to reduce your hours or talk to your boss to reduce the number of or sort of responsibilities you have.
The financial implications of this kind of decision are huge, even if you have a supportive partner. However, when you’re living with less and become more mindful about your buying habits, you only need worry about the true necessities such as food, rent, and other essentials.
And when you realise you don’t need stuff to make you happy, it will be much easier on your mind and soul.
Cut out social media and delete all distracting apps from your phone. I fully deleted my Facebook account and put far more value on speaking to my friends face-to-face instead of my screen. As a result, I found I no longer needed an expensive phone contract where I was paying £38 a month. Instead, I now pay less than £5 a month- the price of a tea and a cake.
It helps when you realise you don’t need the latest model of phone to live a happy life, because we aren’t what we own. We are what we do and how we act.
Take time to sit in pure silence and read a book or just enjoy doing nothing. With the ‘always connected, always busy’ culture, too many people have lost this vital skill to take advantage of being idle and in the moment. It’s amazing how much digital noise, constant exposure to screens and constant busyness can drain your energy and wreak havoc with mental health.
Once you adopt this practice you will realise how rejuvenating it can be, but it takes practice. This is because constant exposure to stimuli such as screens and digital devices will rewire your brain for the need to be doing something at all times.
Take time to show gratitude. It’s so easy when you have a chronic illness to see all that is wrong in your life, but if you take the time to appreciate the things that you do have, you will find you feel much happier and need far less to be happy than you originally thought.
Take charge of your relationships with your stuff. When your stuff no longer owns you, you can put more energy into relationships with people. With improved relationships, the people in your life might also learn to understand you more – this is even more important when you have a life-altering illness.
Realising you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy and that you don’t need to earn thousands to live a comfortable life can reduce your stress levels and in turn, reduce the number of flare ups.
Simplify meal times by buying versatile ingredients that will go with most foods, and preparing meals the evening before. Investing in a slow cooker can save you effort, as can swapping cooking days with other members of your family. Choose simple meals over complex, gourmet events and prepare meals the day before.
Be careful that you don’t get caught up in ordering takeaway meals every couple of days. Not only is it incredibly unhealthy, but a major drain on your finances.
Now, be aware that the list above is not exhaustive and not everything in it will necessarily apply to your situation. Everyone is unique with individual circumstances, but I assure you that by adopting at least some of the aforementioned minimalist ways, you will start to notice a difference.
If you need to talk to me about chronic illness or have some nuggets of wisdom, please leave a comment and I will reply within 24 hours.
It’s time to take a trip down memory lane; this time to confront the emotional and sentimental objects in your life.
Sentimental objects are things which typically have memories attached or represent a happy or sad time in your past. For example, you might be keeping your old prom dress, a trophy you won back in school, or jewellery from an ex. The hardest ones to deal with, however, are those you obtained from departed loved ones.
Before we go ahead, I would like to point out that there’s nothing wrong with keeping one or two objects of sentimental value to you, but once you own more than you can count on one hand, that’s when it starts to become emotional clutter which can keep you from moving forwards.
Most sentimental objects end up in attics, crammed to the back of drawers or line our shelves with an aura of wistfulness and guilt. Mine were mostly in the attic, hidden away in boxes which were buried under other boxes.
Last month, I started thinking about my old typewriters I kept as a kid because they reminded me of the time I first started writing. At the time they were painful to get rid of because of the words I had punched onto paper, but I’ve since realised that getting rid of my typewriters never made me any less of a writer, nor did I need an object to remind me of who and what I am.
However, I kept other piles of sentimentality stashed away.
I kept old school work because I liked to look back on positive teacher feedback to be reminded that I was a capable human. I also couldn’t bear to throw away years of work.
I kept boxes of old Christmas and birthday cards, some of which I didn’t even remember the names written in them. I even kept cards from where I was first called ‘Sister in Law’, and ‘Daughter in Law’, because it felt amazing to be accepted into my fiance’s life.
I kept objects from past relationships, even old jewellery which had long since tarnished.
I kept a Dick Turpin mug which once belonged to my uncle and which I was terrified of as a child. We made it into a constant joke as I grew up which is why I kept it – to remember the smiles and laughter we always shared.
I kept my old Woolworths uniform because I had been so sad when it shut down.
I kept my old school shirt from when I left school. It had yellowed with age and gone damp from being kept in the attic. School was not a place of happy memories for me, yet I clung to the memories with this top.
When I became minimalist and finally confronted my sentimental items, I felt so light inside that I could have floated away. For the most precious objects I ordered a beautiful ,small memory box to keep them in.
With a small memory box, I would be far less inclined to fill it with every passing moment instead of the warmest, most treasured memories.
Here’s how you too, can release the anchors of the past, and let go of the guilt:
Cards and letters
We tend to keep cards and letters because they remind us of the people we care about or once knew in our lives. Some even remind us of significant milestones in life such as moving house, having a baby, or passing exams. Others might be written by people who have passed away.
We imagine we will revisit and read them in years to come, but of course, we never do. Over the years these written treasures stack up and take up lots of space in your home and your heart.
With cards and letters the best thing you can do is to go through each one slowly. If you no longer remember the person whose name is in the card, or they’re no longer relevant in your life, recycle them.
It’s amazing how fast time passes and how our lives change so dramatically in that time, not just with circumstances but with people and feelings.
You don’t need to keep cards from milestones in your life such as passing an exam or moving house. They would’ve made you feel great at the time, but if you got rid of them, does that mean you’ll no longer have your qualifications or the roof over your head? Of course not!
If, however, a specific card or letter warms your heart, you can do what I’ve done, and keep them in a photo album alongside photos of the person or happy times. Not only will they be protected, they will present beautifully for your pleasure in the future.
You can also keep them in a memory box for those days you’re feeling especially nostalgic.
Objects from loved ones
Objects from loved ones can be some of the hardest things to deal with, so if you struggle, take your time to evaluate each once. Don’t rush and don’t feel as if it all has to be dealt with in one day (unless that’s how you operate and you know that leaving it would lead to procrastination).
Accepting that part of your life or that a person is no longer in it is difficult, but when you let go of the objects that are tethering you to those times, you will instantly feel as light as a passing cloud.
For the longest time I kept an old teddy bear keyring that my childhood best friend had bought me from holiday. We grew apart once we went to secondary school (which upset me a lot at the time) and I held onto that bear until I was in my late twenties.
As soon as that bear was donated to the charity shop, I found I didn’t even think about it or feel the guilt I imagined I would.
Stuff from people who have passed away will require deeper contemplation. In my previous post, I talked briefly about furniture belonging to passed away loved ones.
If it’s kept in an attic, it will eventually get warped by heat or damp and mildew, so if you don’t plan to use it, it’s better to pass it on rather than waiting for that inevitable moment you find it damaged.
Like with cards and letters, we cling onto such objects because of the memories and the people we associate with them. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few objects like grandma’s sentimental necklace or aunty’s favourite teacup, but if you aren’t mindful you can end up with a shrines worth of stuff accumulating in your attic and other parts of your house.
When this happens, your home can end up becoming a portal to the past rather than a place to be present and aim for the future.
Rest assured, by letting go of the objects you’re clinging to out of guilt or fear of losing those memories; you won’t lose the memories and you aren’t dishonouring the person by passing their things on to people who could give them a second chance.
What would be sad would be to hide it away, unused, unloved and with an aura of stress and guilt attached. Objects that mean a lot to you should be being used or displayed in some way, or stowed in a small memory box, and if they aren’t they’re serving as nothing but an anchor which others will have to deal with when you’re gone.
You can preserve memories of sentimental objects by taking photos and either putting them in an album or storing it digitally. That way you can look back on the sentimental stuff and instead of taking floor or cupboard space it takes up data.
Remember: people aren’t their stuff just like you’re not your t-shirt or your CD collection. Strip your favourite things away, and you’re still the same person you always were, with the same traits, same people you love and same values.
You wouldn’t suddenly forget your uncle because they gave away their thirty-year-old vinyl collection, so why assume you will lose memories of them if you do so? The true memories are in your heart.
Family heirlooms are similar to dealing with objects from people who have passed away. That antique mirror may have been in your family for generations, but if you don’t like it or will never use it, try asking others in your family if they would like to take ownership. If not, that’s a sure sign that it can be donated or sold on.
Don’t keep the object out of guilt, just waiting for it to be passed on to the next generation who may feel obliged to keep it and continue the cycle of guilt.
Old hobby equipment
As the years pass our hobbies and interests can change. I used to be obsessed with fossils as a child and kept a tin of them along with some pretty stones I had collected on the beach with my parents.
I no longer collect fossils, and know that if I wanted to see some, there are plenty of museums near me to satisfy that itch.
With the pretty stones, I repurposed them into an eye-catching display on the window ledge in my hobby room. It just so happened that their pastel shades matched my colour scheme perfectly, as well having joyful memories attached.
Letting go of collections for old hobbies is freeing because it allows you to let go of your old self to fully embrace the present you.
For example; I used to like working out and applied for a gym membership, but my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome meant I had to treat my body much more gently. So I eventually let go of my workout clothes and now take weekly walks, instead.
You might simply lose interest in a hobby and that’s perfectly normal. If you’ve owned the related stuff for over a year and can’t see yourself going back to it, pass it on so it can be useful to someone else with that hobby.
When I was doing a clear-out of my attic last year, I discovered bags upon bags of maternity wear and baby clothes. In a strange effort to hold onto the memories of carrying my little boy inside me, I had kept those clothes, and then kept the clothes he wore up to his first year.
The sad thing was, some of them were too damp and smelly to pass on, even when put through a wash. And it wasn’t as if I’d ever gone up to look back on them, or that either of us would be wearing those clothes again.
You might keep sentimental clothes for similar reasons, or you might keep clothes as a reminder of when you were a certain weight, or attended a memorable event.
Clothes take up a lot of space and if they aren’t stored correctly, end up getting damaged or unwearable. Not to mention, they can cause endless frustration when stowed away and mixed up with all your current wear.
The bottom line is, if you don’t wear it, donate it. Make space for the new and the current.
And if there’s a special t-shirt you simply must keep but no longer wear, why not iron it and put it in a frame? It would make a deeply personal and unique decoration in any room you desired.
On a similar note, if you’re especially creative with crafting, you could cut up and repurpose old clothes into new objects.
The purpose of this article isn’t to get you to give up everything you love, but to help make the space in your heart and your home for the things that you do.
If I’ve missed anything or there’s something you would like advice on, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. It may even end up in the next post. Next week, I will talk about sheds and garages.
On a beautiful spring day last week, whilst waiting for my friend in my town’s Memorial Garden, I got thinking about how people are remembered.
So many of us surround ourselves with stuff and get buried in our digital devices, our worth falsely represented by what we own instead of what we do. Did these war heroes fight so that we could buy the latest iPhone and one-up our neighbours? So that we could passively fritter our lives away behind screens? Or did they lay down their lives so that we could have a future and fulfil our true potentials.
People’s eulogies are never about the things they owned or the size of their abode, but how they lived, what they accomplished, how they treated others, and who was important to them. Think about all the famous and revered people who have passed away and who you learnt about at school. Whether they were rolling in money or begging for scraps, these people are remembered in history because of what they accomplished, for better or worse.
Whythen, do we continue to accumulate so much stuff, stifling our true selves and squandering our precious hours in the pursuit of acquiring more and maintaining it all? In our consumerist society of advertisements and social media, it’s no wonder we’re feeling more and more pressured to keep up with our neighbours, friends, family, and even strangers on the other side of the globe. When does it stop?
Unless you actively decide to do something about it, it won’t. And by that I mean become mindful about your consumer habits and marketing tricks that have a subtle yet powerful effect on us all. It’s not just the tailored ads on social media that mirror your buying habits, but most websites you visit.
Thankfully, most websites now offer their users a chance to uncheck targeted ads and limit what data they can use. But in a rush to view the website, most people skip this step.
Another way marketers get into your brain is via emails, so unsubscribe from marketing emails, particularly when there’s likely to be sales and promotions around holidays. I’m not perfect – I’ve been guilty many times of succumbing to a tempting sale or promotional vouchers presented to me via emails. I’m no more immune to marketing strategies than the next person, but the difference is I’m much more mindful of what I allow into my inbox and what ads websites are allowed to display. Because of minimalism, I’m also aware of what I already possess.
The most important thing of all is to be mindful whenever you go to the shops. Do you really need that ice-cream maker, or are you just buying it to satisfy a deep-seated emptiness that a friendship or hobby could fulfil instead? Think about the maintenance and space which each item will occupy and if you do make a purchase, consider removing something else less useful to you.
It’s better to avoid shopping trips as a pastime, if you can. Such trips are usually born out of boredom and a desire to socialise with friends, but there are far more intriguing places to spend your time which doesn’t necessarily involve spending money. Plus, do you really want relationships to be built on a foundation of consumerism and subconsciously comparing stuff? I didn’t think so.
When we’re feeling bored or unsatisfied with our lives, it’s easier than ever before to fill that void and get a quick buzz from a purchase at any time of the day or night. Online shopping is available 24/7, always there as a temporary salve for negative emotions and a buzz of excitement for something new. That’s why I deleted all shopping apps from my phone, and if I’m on my PC, ensure that I log out of sessions so it’s not so convenient to check it out on a whim.
I try to avoid going into shops just for a browse (unless it’s a bookshop) because if I’m going for a browse it means I’m looking for ways to procrastinate from the things which will truly move my life forwards; things like working on my book and preparing my next blog post. You see, these things require hard work and focus, but the result is a far more satisfying and long-lasting buzz than anything from a store can provide.
Reading and writing nourishes me in a way that nothing else does: I need it like I need food, and without either, I become grumpy, listless, and prone to seeking meaningless dopamine hits from other sources. What’s your passion? If you’re unsure, don’t worry; once you take control of your possessions you can start steering your own destiny.
Be mindful, stay vigilant and realise your true potential. Above all, remember: you are always more valuable than any object.
For a finite length of time, the road to simplicity can feel exhausting because it involves so much soul searching and decision making. Not only that, but like with doing anything that’s outside the ‘norm’, you will probably encounter ridicule from others before they understand the benefits of what you’re doing. The best way to make somebody else understand minimalism and simplicity is by living the lifestyle and sticking to your values. Don’t be afraid to stand out and keep growing! When people see how much happier and more relaxed you are, they might even become a little curious themselves – just remember you can’t force them.
In the meantime, I’ve endured jokes that I’ll have sold off my whole house if I carry on, and even confusion from worried family members who can’t understand why I’m taking bags of my things to the charity shop every week. The truth is, going from hoarder to minimalist is a long, drawn out process which takes a lot of energy and mental strength, but the outcome is incredible and well worth it.
There are many times I thought I was done, but in fact, ended up finding more stuff I could live without. That’s a common side-effect of minimising: once you start removing things from your home, you find more and more as you slowly discover what it is that’s important to you. I like to think of it as uncovering a fossil: the more you chip away, the more reveals itself until you have a clear observation.
Last year, I had a wake up call when my four year old son smashed an expensive vase I had bought to beautify my living room. Of course, I was upset and screamed at him, and he became extremely upset. But when I took the time to look up from the shattered pieces, at his face, wet with tears, I realised something important: I could replace my vase but not my beautiful son who was growing up so fast. In that moment, I had placed far too much value on a store-bought object and caused needless anxiety in both of us. You could say the event shattered my perception on the stuff I was placing so much value on. That point was made even clearer recently, when just before Mother’s Day, he brought home this lovely plant pot he had decorated for me at school, complete with vibrant pink pansies. He was so proud and it was so much more special to me than any object from a store, no matter how expensive. The flowerpot was made and presented to me with such pure feelings that even if it got broken, I know that love is still there, and in the end, that’s more important than anything I own.
While decluttering and pursuing minimalism, you may notice that you think about your stuff more than you ever did before. Not only do you find yourself evaluating every object in your home, but when you go shopping, you’re hyper aware of everything in your basket and turn the willpower up to max. But it’s only temporary -you’re aiming for your future self to live a much simpler and more serene life by doing the hardest work in the present. The mindful shopping will become far more natural over time and the decision making will become faster and faster until it’s almost instant. Depending on your mindset and circumstances, it can take a few months to a couple of years to reach a state you’re happy with. Once you’ve reached that state, all you need to do is remain mindful of future purchases and stay vigilant with the things which enter your home, be it junk mail, takeaway menus, paperwork or a new set of knives. Today, for example, I bought a new bag, but I did this with the bag in mind that I was going to get rid of. In fact, when I brought it home, I ended up purging two bags in its place. I always aim to do this for every new thing that I purchase; books, clothes, shoes, and recently, my video games.
As time goes on, I find myself purging more and more stuff that no longer complements my lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult and take a significant amount of time to let certain things go. Quite often, these are objects with an aura of sentimentality or gift status attached. Such decisions often require a plentiful reserve of emotional energy and inner calm, but it is amazing how once the decision has been made, said object will usually lose the hold of guilt or nostalgia it had over me.
With perseverance and a calm mind, you too, can reclaim that power and one be step closer to a freer, happier, more mindful you.