Breaking Free Of The Smart Trap

When thinking of minimalism, it’s easy to think about everything you own, the things you will keep and space you will create. But there’s something even more suffocating than an excess of physical possessions, which has integrated into every aspect of everyone’s lives: a permanent connection to the online world. 

Social media, in particular, is a major leech on people’s time and energy. 

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

I think of social media as being like the world’s biggest mosh pit. Every so often you get hoisted above the crowds and passed along in a viral wave of shares and likes. And when you get dropped, you crave the experience again and again, eager to be seen and heard amidst millions of other voices all vying for validation. 

One day last year, I sat at the window of a city cafe which had a wide view of the shop-lined street. And I was both shocked and saddened to see that there wasn’t a single person outside whose head wasn’t bent over their phone screen. Mothers with pushchairs, businessmen, teenagers, older men and women…

It’s one thing to see someone at a bus stop or in a queue scrolling away, but there’s something profoundly disturbing about seeing an entire street like it.

With a dawning sense of horror, I realised that before entering the cafe, I had been a part of that crowd, so disconnected with the people around me that I may as well have lived on a different planet. 

From that moment on, I decided to apply minimalism not only to my physical life, but my digital one as well.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

I had tried many times in the past to regulate my usage of Facebook, including deleting the app from my phone. I thought that if I took extended breaks I could get myself under control. I was wrong. No sooner than I gave it another chance, it ensnared me like a Venus Flytrap, stewing me in likes, love hearts, and bastings of dopamine

But it wasn’t just Facebook I was addicted to. Email notifications and free-to-play games conditioned me to pick up my phone to compulsively tap and scroll my life away. Every time I pulled my phone from my pocket I would check social media, then email, then news, then I’d ask Google some obscure question that popped into my mind.

I vividly remember the time my toddler son was sitting on my lap talking to me, and because he was watching Peppa Pig for the millionth time, I was absorbed in my phone. “Mummy, you’re not listening to me!”, he whined.

I was about to snap back at him, annoyed, but then I saw his eyes swimming and his lips quivering. “What are you doing on your phone, mummy?”,  he asked. To which I had no acceptable answer and replied “Nothing, sweetheart. Mummy should put her phone down. I’m sorry”. 

My son’s voice was being lost amidst an ever-rising crescendo of digital noise. 

In 2018, The Telegraph reported that people are on average online for 24 hours a week, and one in five of all adults spend as much as 40 hours a week on the web.

It doesn’t sound that much to start with, but weeks turn into months which turn into years. Over time, those hours spent tapping, typing and swiping add up to staggering amounts. 

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

When you consider that so many of us complain of having so little time, imagine what could be achieved if we clawed back the months spent on social media, apps, email, and other attention-sapping services. 

You could write a book, visit a new town or city, see friends and family, discover a new hobby, learn a new skill, learn something about yourself, set your life in a new direction, rekindle a relationship – the possibilities are endless. 

There were a few instances I actually forgot to take my phone out with me, and I can say without a doubt that they were some of the most peaceful, and most productive times.

To my surprise, during those outings, I forgot about my phone. I had no desire to check notifications, know what the news headlines had changed to, or to share what I was seeing with digital strangers.

When I first took a hiatus from social media, I went one step futher and downgraded to a dumb phone for a few months. Like is the case with many addictions, I couldn’t trust myself to not fall back into the clutches of digital dependency. 

The people close to me were shocked and clearly uncomfortable. I got asked “How will I send you photos when I need to?”, “How will we keep in contact as much now that you don’t use Whatsapp?”, “How will I know what you’re up to?”. The funniest thing I got asked was “How will you know where you’re going without GPS?”. Yet I don’t even drive.  

I even got told that I was being ‘unminimalistic’ by having to use a separate camera instead of my phone, missing the point that minimalism isn’t about who owns the least, but is about reclaiming your time and what brings value to your life.

I documented my whole experience of going dumb (which I will share with you some other time), but I can tell you right now that my relationships improved, my stress levels dropped, and my writing sky-rocketed.

There was more to talk about with my friends because I hadn’t already shared everything. And I started to notice what was right in front of me. Not just people, but natural beauty and interesting occurrences.

I discovered a version of myself I hadn’t realised was possible until I looked up from my screen. 

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

Once you leave the cultural norm, people will be shuffle their feet and often try to justify their own habits, or try to tempt you back. A few people told me that although they wanted to, they couldn’t leave social media due to having family many miles away. Yet most of the time, there’s nothing to stop people from writing letters, sending emails, or, even better, making a phone call.  

An over-reliance on social media is rewiring us to fear the intimacy of live, face-to-face conversations, as well as setting us up for a life of comparing ourselves to others, and missing huge chunks of our lives.

I mean, think about it: we’ve been walking the Earth for thousands of years, communicating with each other via grunts and cave drawings, then by spoken language, and later, via books and TV. But all of a sudden, we don’t have to talk face-to face anymore. An app can do that for us. 

We don’t have to be vulnerable in front of others, or share our true feelings, or even our real appearance. Instead, we craft masks online and forget who we really are.

And like any skill that goes unused for long enough, social skills start to fossilise. Then anxiety sets in. But we are still social creatures, so we desperately try to keep the illusion of connection going, all the while getting lonelier and lonelier.

Of course, social media isn’t all bad. 

It can be great for meeting new people, and communicating with people on the other side of the world. It can be invaluable for disabled people who might find it more difficult to meet up with people, and it’s perfect for finding others who share your interests. It can also be a great business platform.


Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

The problems arise when being used as a main source of contact. It’s extremely poor at forming truly deep and satisfying bonds with people. 

Trying to plug social voids with excessive social media usage is like trying to fill a sieve with sand. The sense of connection and satisfaction quickly drains away, so you check and click like again and again and again. 

Services such as Facebook and Instagram, and any other time-wasting app you can think of have been designed to be as addictive as slot machines.  Companies are profiting from our attention, our memories, and the loss of our souls to our screens. 

Currently, I’m back on social media, and back to using a smart device, but with a reversed relationship. I’m the master of my device and the services I use, not the other way around. 

To stay in control, I began by minimising the apps on my phone. 

I deleted everything I rarely used, started to embrace digital minimalism, and cleared everything off my screen that would serve as a temptation to open. I unsubscribed from news apps, turned off all notifications except for texts and phone calls, and started leaving my phone out of my bedroom at night. 

I also started to leave my phone in my bag when talking to people,  instead of in easy reach where it could dampen my conversations and remind them to reach for theirs. 

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

You don’t have to go as extreme as I did and downgrade to a dumb phone, nor do you have to delete your social media accounts. All you have to do is become more mindful of the time you spend on your phone, or on other devices and services. 

There has been an explosion in apps dedicated to helping you keep track of the time you spend on certain device activities, or to aid you in blocking yourself from distractions. 

Freedom is a popular choice by many, but there are others to choose from.

As you can see, minimalism is no longer just applies to our physical lives, and by integrating it into our digital lives, we can find peace and deep connections in a rushed and distracted world.

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

How To Simplify And Boost Your Day Before 6AM

Brace yourself for this post because I am about to talk about something which sounds scary, but which could dramatically improve and simplify your life.

Waking up at 5AM (or earlier depending on your job/career status).

If you’re anything like me, and just the thought of removing your blankets makes you want to run a mile, I implore you to stay with me here, because what I’m about to tell you could further enhance your minimalist lifestyle and transform your mindset.

This time last year, I started waking up at 5AM after reading Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning.  

I was fascinated, although slightly sceptical of what waking up at 5AM could possibly do for someone with chronic illness, but I gave it a go. The trouble was, despite the massive improvements to my life, I only managed to keep it up for a couple of months before the winter months dampened my resolve. 

But the benefits of rising with the sun were so great, that I’m going to reintroduce 5AM back into my life. And I’m going to share with you, exactly why early mornings can be your greatest ally to a better you. 

The reason I tried it in the first place was because I was fed up with the stress of rushing around in the mornings trying to get myself ready for work and my son ready for school.

I loved to write but by the time the evening rolled around, I was too burnt out to hammer a single sentence out on the keyboard and would inevitably get drawn into mindless activities instead. 

Perhaps you can relate?

Things like scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed (which you know turns into an endless time sap), playing videogames, or watching Youtube took over my free time in the evenings. Anything but doing what I really wanted to be doing. 

I’d feel guilty, then the cycle repeated itself. And after rolling out of bed on the weekends, I would go on entertainment binges which was detrimental to my productivity as a writer. 

It was time to make a change.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Now, waking up at 5AM, (or earlier) isn’t easy if you’re used to hibernating, and you’ll probably have to ease yourself into it by gradually reducing the time you spend in bed. 

I was mad enough to roll out of bed the instant my alarm went off so that I didn’t have time to register how bleary-eyed and zombified I was. I even did what Hal suggested in The Miracle Morning, and found myself an accountability partner. 

As soon as I woke up, I would message my accountability partner, and sometimes she would message back with a picture of a beautiful sunrise from her abode. Living in the UK, I saw more overcast skies than pastel sunrises, but just the feeling of that part of the morning being mine for the taking was enough to motivate me. 

Here’s the benefits I experienced from becoming an early riser:

  • My mornings were quiet and peaceful. I found that I was able to think calmly, and had a burst of ideas for my writing.
  • I could do what I wanted; read a book, write, meditate, or a combination of all. The extra time was all mine. 
  • Because my mind was starting off uncluttered and without the noise of a busy work day, I had far more ideas for my writing than in the evening. This meant I got far more writing done. In fact, I churned out most of the first draft for the book I’m working on.
  • I had the time to journal or write a stream of conscious(getting all of my thoughts down on paper) which made me understand myself on a much deeper level. It also ensured I was starting the day with a positive mindset. 
  • Before it was fully winter, I got to see a couple of glorious sunrises (as many as I was going to see living in the UK).
  • It changed my mindset on what was possible because I achieved so much while everyone else was still in dreamland.
  • I was more organised because I had so much more time on my hands.
  • By the time my husband went to work and took my son with him to school, I was often already dressed, so I formed a new habit of leaving home early and going to my local cafe to write once a week. Not only did that cement a writing habit, but I got to see my town in a tranquil state of awakening, which was surreal. 
  • I was happier throughout the day knowing that I had already got my most important things done.  Therefore, my days ran smoother and were much simpler. 
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

By this point, you’re probably thinking ‘but what about the downsides?’  And I’m not going to lie to you, here. There were downsides to rising so early.

I couldn’t stay up as late which meant that when my toddler son was in bed, I had little downtime before I felt ready to crawl into bed myself. You can’t be a morning person on too little sleep; at least not without risking physical and mental health

That’s it. That was the only downside I discovered.

Admittedly, living in the UK makes 5AM wake-ups much more challenging in the winter months because mornings are cold and dark, the days are short and the days are often overcast. 

That’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate in the beckoning warmth and comfort of bed, and unsurprisingly, people’s vitamin D levels drop to an all time low. 

But as soon as I let the winter beat me and stopped doing the Miracle Mornings,  I noticed that I was back to old habits of procrastination, achieved far less (my book is still in first draft) and am less fulfilled. 

To give you the best chance of success at becoming an early riser, here are a few tips:

Get plenty of sleep. At least 8 hours. It’s more important than you think.

Use a clock which has a gradually increasing light

Use an app like Alarmy which doesn’t let you turn off the alarm until you solve a problem

Have a shower

Have a soothing ritual you look forward to. Mine was a hot cup of tea and free writing.

Life’s too short to be unfulfilled and stressed. 5AM rises will make you feel like you have far more hours in your day, either to de-stress or to start working towards the life you envision. 

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Why not give your days a boost and start tomorrow? Let me know how it goes in the comments, and watch out for next week’s post on detoxing from social media.



How to Master Relaxation in a Chaotic World

Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

New minimalists often make the mistake of thinking that minimalism is all about sparsity and getting rid of stuff. But once all of the excess is out of the way, it’s less about stuff and more about intentional living. 

By that, I mean that you have more time on your hands and you decide what to do with that time. 

One of the life-changing things I practised was incorporating a healthy dose of relaxation into my schedule. 

In today’s fast-paced society, many of us have lost the ability to relax. And I don’t mean sitting in front of the TV binging on Netflix or surfing the internet; I mean true, hardcore relaxation. No technology, no stress, just gentle, relaxing activities. 

At first, it was hard because I was so used to always being on the go cleaning, tidying, cooking, washing up, going to work and parenting. I was always in a state of ‘what next?’.

Even when I thought I was relaxing by playing my Playstation or watching TV, I wondered why I still felt wired.

You see, by relying on technology,  all I was doing was keeping my mind in a heightened state of arousal and chasing an endless stream of dopamine hits –  the complete opposite of relaxing!

But once you understand how, true relaxation is easier than you think. 

Below, are some of my most used relaxation techniques, which will lift the weight from your soul and leave you feeling like a gently flowing stream instead of a crashing tidal wave. 

Lighting a scented candle To create a calming atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like lighting a scented candle. It doesn’t have to be scented, though, and you can even buy natural beeswax candles if you’re sensitive to the usual ones you can buy. 

I like to dim all the lights, close the blinds, and indulge in the soft light cast by the flame. Never leave a candle unattended, though, or near a flammable source!

Play soft music I find chillhop and low-fi music can be especially calming and puts me into a zen-like state very fast. That’s because listening to music, especially of a relaxing variety, can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

Combined with the scented candle, it’s a sure fire way to let your stress go.

Soft lighting I briefly mentioned lighting when talking about the candle, but to put your mind into a state of relaxation, it’s best to use soft, low lighting.

This is because leaving your lights on full will have a blue-light effect similar to the screens on our devices. It can suppress your melatonin levels (the hormone responsible for helping us to sleep) and leave you restless. 

Soft, comfortable clothes This one speaks for itself because feeling light and comfortable will help you to get comfier much faster. 

A hot bath with oils or bubble bath If you have a bath, I recommend some nice stress-relieving muscle soak or oils. And instead of treating it like a mission to get clean, just lay back and indulge in the warmth and tranquility.

Just be careful not to get so relaxed you fall asleep!


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

A beverage of your choice My own beverage of choice is usually a herbal tea such as chamomile, which is known for its calming properties. Occasionally I’ll have a glass of wine.

However, while it can be tempting to top up with some sort of alcoholic beverage at the end of a long day, beware that it doesn’t become a habit. Relying on alcohol can turn into dependance so that you can’t feel relaxed without it, and will introduce all sorts of health risks. 

If you do have an alcoholic drink, stick to one and don’t make it a regular occurence.

Writing Writing is well known for having a therapeutic effect and is something I do regularly.

You can write about anything you like: a story, a diary entry, something that’s on your mind, a topic that you’re passionate about, or a letter to someone even if you don’t intend to send it.

You don’t even have to keep what you wrote if you don’t want to. 

A few words of advice,though. Don’t write a to do list or anything else which is likely to stress you out and remind you of life’s chores.

It’s also better to write on paper than on a device, not only to minimise your exposure to blue light, but because studies have shown that you retain knowledge better when you write or read physically, and you’re likely to be more creative. See https://uniball.co.uk/handwriting-better-typing/

Reading If you’re a bookworm like me, finding the time to put your feet up with a good book is precious.

Once again, it’s better to read a paperback rather than a digital device to minimise blue light exposure (although Kindles or e-readers that use e-ink to mimic paper are a good alternative).

Books are also great at whisking you off to another place and reality – perfect for when the real world gets too chaotic.

Meditation I can’t praise enough, the wonders of meditation to help you de-stress. Meditation can be done any way you like, in any position you prefer.

It’s a deep state of calm that is achieved by letting all of your thoughts go and being as present as possible. Meditation isn’t a natural state so does take practise! When you master it, though, you’ll wonder how you survived without it. 

Personally, I use a form of visualisation. I picture a beautiful place from my memories, and then I modify it by adding a gate which my worries and stress can’t get through.

I picture the worries and stress as little cartoonish characters beating (and failing) to get through, with me as the gatekeeper. After a while, all that I’m left with is my chosen internal setting.

Your way may be totally different. You have to find what works for you. 

Deep breathing Deep breathing combined with meditation can be incredibly powerful. Even on its own, it can be a powerful tool to relax you.

Once again, if I’m completely stressed, I use visualisation. I imagine I breathe out all the bad feelings (red), and breathe in all the positivity ( green), until all the negative is gone and replaced by the positive.


Photo by Indian Yogi (Yogi Madhav) on Unsplash

Colouring It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty. Colouring is a relaxing activity and has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in adults. There are all kinds of beautiful adult colouring books out there, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.

I love the ones by Millie Marotta and Johanna Basford, which are delightful to look at and a joy to colour on. 

Mandalas are also great for a session of mindful colouring. https://bebrainfit.com/coloring-stress/

Doing NOTHING That’s right. Nothing. Just sitting back and being in the moment. How many times do you do that? I bet the answer is never.

Let’s face it, these days people are always doing something, even when ‘relaxing’ whether that’s watching Netflix or idly browsing the net.

Because of today’s constant connection to technology and the non-stop bustle of our online lives, it seems that doing nothing has become a completely foreign concept. 

In fact, it seems to have become an enviable skill. Yet it’s a must in order to have optimal mental health and truly be able to relax.

Constantly being on the go, and busying yourself with online entertainment rewires your brain to rely on endless dopamine hits. That’s great for the companies that are making a profit off your attention, but not for you and your mental health.

You need to retrain your brain to see quiet, peaceful moments as they are, rather than as moments of boredom and non-productivity. 

The next time you’re sitting idle, or waiting at a bus stop, stop and take in the sights, smells and sounds around you.

Notice your child showing you the pictures they drew, smile at the human sitting across from you, listen to the birds in your garden. It’s amazing what you will notice once you master the skill of doing nothing.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Close doors to outside distractions When you’re relaxing at home,it’s best to close doors to outside noises and distractions if you can (provided you don’t have to worry about a baby or anything else important). 

It helps you to create a sort of ‘bubble’ of tranquility. 

No phones, tablets or other technology  I can’t stress this enough. If you want to relax you need to switch off, or at least silence your devices. As I said in my above point about doing nothing, our addiction to technology and the internet simply wires you up for chasing mindless highs.

Social media also has a way of stressing you out and making you feel inferior to others. How can you feel relaxed when you’re constantly comparing your life to others and checking your worth via one-second-clicks and likes? 

Please note: It’s perfectly acceptable to use a device simply to stream music – unless that music is coming off your phone which is within arms reach of your twitchy browsing hand.

As you can see, relaxation is easy if you’re willing to switch off and let go.

You may notice that a good few of the techniques do require some practise, but that’s because today’s tech-addicted society has conditioned most of us to forgo relaxation in favour of chasing the buzz of constant entertainment.

Reclaim your attention. Reclaim your right to relax. Reclaim your life.

Photo by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash

Why You Should Minimise Your Photo Collection

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

When we think about decluttering stuff, the last thing that comes to our minds are photos. Yet photos build up to the thousands, especially since the introduction of smartphones.

We click, snap and tap every moment and expression, now we not only have to keep up with physical prints but a forever growing digital hoard. 

Let’s be honest, phone cameras are now so good and we take so many photos that we have too many to enjoy. 

We see a beautiful sunset and the first thing that comes to our minds is not to enjoy it in the moment, but to snap the perfect image that we can enjoy years down the line, or can get the most likes on social media.

We receive a glorious plateful of food, and our first instinct is not to eat it, but to snap a photo for Instagram.

When we act like this, the moment we remember is not one of basking in the sunset, or of enjoying a meal, but of capturing the perfect photo, and obsessively checking our social media accounts for approval and validation. 

And when every moment is experienced behind a screen or a lens, it becomes almost impossible to discern which photos are the most important.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It’s like losing a precious stone on a beach: it was special to you but you’ll never be able to pick it out again among the rest and won’t even be motivated to try. 

I had the exact same issue, which is why I’m currently in the midst of sorting out years of digital and physical photos. And with there being decades of memories and sights, it’s no easy task. 

What spurred me on to tackle this monstrous task was the sheer joy I experienced of choosing photos to go in my wedding album. The photographer took over nine hundred shots, but every single one was a joy to reminisce over.

I realised I was experiencing none of that joy with my home collection of photos; many of them were random and meaningless. The precious ones were lost in a sea of memories transformed into gigabytes. 

Since that realisation, I’ve spent hours deleting meaningless photos taken on the spur of the moment: landscapes I no longer recognise, ten of the same photos from slightly different angles, photos that were downloaded from the internet, photos sent to me through Whatsapp, random images of animals and plants, blurry smiles, self-indulgent selfies, and meals I was in awe of. 

Sound familiar?

Despite all the hours spent deleting countless moments of the past, I’ve barely made a dent in my collection. But believe me when I say it’s a great motivator that a good few months worth of shots are now worthy of photo frame treatment.

More and more bytes are being freed, more memory to dedicate to the best and most meaningful moments. Byte by bte, stories are emerging. 

Deleting and disposing of so many photos has also been frighteningly sobering as to how many moments I’ve wasted snapping instead of experiencing. 

Since the start of the project, I’ve spent less time pulling out my camera and far more observing with my eyes. If something is truly awe-inspiring, I write descriptions instead, and sometimes use it for inspiration. 

If you’re considering minimising your photo collection, go ahead. It’s freeing. It’s cathartic. It’s revealing. Just remember to minimise your snapping, and maximise your moments, instead. 

Photo by Athena Kavis on Unsplash



How To Live With Someone Else’s Clutter

Living with a non-minimalist 

Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

When you minimise your own possessions and you’re the only minimalist in a household, you will inevitably start to notice other people’s stuff. You will have all sorts of ideas in your head about what should go and what should stay. 

Why does your husband insist on keeping that set of weights when he hasn’t worked out in years?  

Why does your daughter have so many shoes?

Why can’t your room mate just throw away their bulging collection of ragged t-shirts? 

Surely they can see the mess they’re living in. Why won’t they understand the benefits of being a minimalist? If only they would stop and listen to you! 

Unfortunately, nagging, preaching or removing their stuff without permission will not only cause them to hold onto more stuff in an act of defiance and security, but can end up driving a wedge between you and the people you love. 

Everyone has possessions which are important to them for a variety of different reasons. Maybe it’s for security, perhaps they grew up with nothing, maybe they grew up drowning in stuff like I did. Whatever the reason, you should never badger and pester someone to get rid of something they’re not comfy doing so. 

My husband, son and I share a house with my parents. The only minimalist in the house is me, so for the longest time I felt frustrated by what I considered to be clutter from other people. 

It seemed that no matter how much of my own stuff I got rid of, they accumulated even more. I became hyper aware of everything that was coming into the home, especially since we all share a kitchen and bathroom. 

Where was I going wrong?

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had turned into a preacher of minimalism. I was so encouraged by my new outlook on life that I wanted everyone else to experience the joy, and I wanted to minimise even more.  Suddenly, every marketing tactic was clear to me, every needless item on a store shelf, every meaningless trinket left on my shelves. 

It’s so easy to fall into this ‘I know best’ mindset when you’re feeling so renewed and energised from such a lifestyle change. But that attitude didn’t do me any favours, and it won’t do you any. 

It’ll strain your relationships and do the opposite of simplifying your life. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I had many disagreements with my husband and parents. Nothing I said seemed to work and I was getting fed up. But in the end, it wasn’t worth the heated arguments. 

Then I remembered that I was doing this for myself, and that pushing for results from others was stressful and counter-productive. Everyone around me had their own stories, and it wasn’t fair that I was interfering. So I stopped. And I realised how overbearing I had been and that the message of minimalism was being lost. 

To my surprise, after a few months, not only did my husband start actively supporting my new lifestyle, he identified some clothes he no longer wanted. Even my mum had a random clearout and filled several charity shop bags. 

Think about the last time you were shouted at or lectured. Were you angry? Did you feel inspired to do what the other person wanted? 

I thought not. 

But don’t worry. As human beings we’ve all been there.We want something from somebody who refuses to play ball and become desperate, convinced that we know best. Of course, all that serves to do is drive people away or cause them to rebel. 

The best way to persuade someone is to always be friendly and sympathetic, and to lead by example. Minimalism is one of those concepts that’s better observed over time. 

Once people see how much happier, lighter, and more relaxed you are, and how much more time and space you have, you’re much more likely to see a gradual change. The keyword here is gradual

If you’ve come so far in your minimalist journey, you’ll know that change doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a few months. 

It’s a learning process where decision-making skills are sharpened and mindset is improved or altered. 

You’re even more likely to persuade the ones you care about by spending that extra time doing something you love, or spending time with them.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

Everybody wants more time in their day, and everybody wants to feel important. 

Whatever you do don’t pester someone or suggest to them what should be kept and what shouldn’t be. How can one sharpen their own decision-making skills and feel empowered if the decisions are being made for them? 

When I was a child, there were times my mum despaired at my toy and magazine accumulation, but when she screamed and shouted at me about it, I held on even tighter because I felt like my stuff was important to me. As a spoilt only child, I was defined by my stuff. 

In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re twelve, twenty-eight, or sixty; if you get spoken to badly, nagged and preached at, there will be rebellion instead of results. 

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand them, but most of all, live happily with your own values. If people like what they see, they’ll soon follow. 

Just remember, that not everybody wants to be a minimalist, and your goal shouldn’t be to convert them, but to demonstrate a simpler way of life and bring out the best in yourself and everyone you meet. 

To Summarise:

Don’t nag

Don’t shout

Don’t remove other people’s stuff

Don’t preach 

Don’t forget what minimalism is all about

Do be understanding

Do be friendly

Do be patient

Do be sympathetic

Do lead by example

Do focus on you

Do remember the true meaning of minimalism 

The meaning of minimalism? To remove excess stuff in your life so that you can enjoy an abundance of whatever is important to you

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash



The Glow of Gratitude

‘Gratitude’ is one of those words we see everywhere nowadays in self-help books and even in planners which have sections for listing the things you’re grateful for. Yet people don’t realise how incredibly important the concept is. It’s become like white noise in the background, yet it has the potential to turn someone’s day around, and to completely change the way you see your own life. 

Recently, I personally delivered a load of thankyou cards to the people and services who had contributed to my wedding in some way: the man who made our beautiful cake, the lovely ladies who styled my hair, the hotel staff who hosted us,the lady who did all the makeup, even the lady in the perfume department who helped me to choose the perfect scent.

And let me tell you, the radiant smiles on those people’s faces was worth a thousand times more than the glow from treating myself or buying something new. 

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

People often say to me “But you paid for that, so it’s to be expected. You don’t have to go out of your way to thank them”, which I think is really sad.  

After all, we all have a finite amount of time on Earth. Whenever somebody does something for you, they are giving up a fraction of their time on this planet. 

Taking the time to personally thank someone who has done something for you, even if it’s mundane, like serving you on a checkout, is one of the kindest and most thoughtful practices you can adopt in your everyday life. 

Expressing gratitude doesn’t even have to cost a lot of time and energy. A small, cheerful conversation, or a big smile and a thankyou, can go a long way to help someone who has had a rough day. 

When we see someone in customer service frowning and sighing, it’s so easy to think, “Huh, what a miserable attitude, they shouldn’t even be serving!”. But we’re all human and sometimes all a person needs is some compassion and gratitude. 

I’ve noticed that smiling at someone who looks fed up, complimenting them, or making a point of thanking them, can light up their eyes and turn the frown upside down! Positivity and kindness is light and uplifting, negativity is heavy and depressing.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

But what about when the light has dimmed in our own lives and we’re the ones wearing the frown? 

That’s when it can be a huge help to write a list of all the things you’re grateful for in your life. 

For me, a list didn’t quite cut it, so I chose to write about each thing I had listed, and in no time at all I was feeling as light as air and supremely grateful for everything in my life. I listed having great friends, my family, my house, my job, and everything else I felt I was fortunate to have. 

One thing I noticed by writing such a list, was that almost none of it was about the stuff I owned. Everything I needed for happiness was already there.  You can do this exercise for loved ones who have upset you as well (depending on the situation, of course). List the things that you like about the person rather than the things that annoy you, and you’ll soon feel much lighter.

I understand that many of us struggle to think of things to be grateful for, especially if life is on a bit of a downer, so here are some things you might be grateful for that you might not even consider, and that others might not have. Please note, I realise that not everything on this list will apply to everybody, but I’m hoping that there will be something on there for everyone. 

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Shelter/home
  • Clean, plentiful food
  • Clean water 
  • Clothing
  • Healthcare
  • Good health 
  • A paying job
  • A flushing toilet 
  • An education

There’s one more thing I would like to share with you that’s too obscure to list with the above, but I feel is well worth mentioning.

Years ago, I was in a bad place with my education, my career and my health. My college placement as an ICT technician was going so terribly that my tutor paid a visit to the place and I almost got finished. Thankfully, my mother in law who worked there took me under her wing as a teaching assistant. And as a teaching assistant I thrived. 

I loved the kids, I loved the teachers, and I loved that I was (and still am) helping to make kids lives in the classroom more bearable. 

I’d never considered being a teaching assistant before, and had spent the past few years working in retail and studying the wrong thing, which for me was ICT. To discover something I loved, I had to follow what seemed like the wrong path. For that , I am now grateful. I was even able to use the skills I had learned by supporting in ICT classes. 

So, even when everything seems to be going wrong, look for the hidden meaning. And when it’s all over, you might even find something to be grateful for. 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

Gratitude will lighten your heart. Gratitude will brighten the world. 

Practice gratitude today. 




Packing Like a Minimalist – How to Travel Free and Light

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t stop at having a minimalist home. Bags and wallets also weigh us down as we go about our daily commutes or travel to destinations.

Until recently, I would wander around town like a donkey, my bag hanging off my back like a sack of cement. And whenever I went on holiday, or even to my in law’s house, I’d pack for every conceivable scenario and emotion. Even at work, my bag was fit to burst with entertainment for break times.

Boredom was covered by my 3DS, my Gameboy Advance, my laptop, my notebook, and the latest book I was reading. I also packed snacks ‘just incase’, as if I might starve if I went half an hour without eating. Sometimes, I even packed a spare pair of shoes in case the weather changed or I changed my mind (even if we weren’t planning on going out and about) .

My wallet was the same; filled with cards I hadn’t used in years, and rammed with old receipts.

All this excess packing lead to the stress of getting home and having to unpack it all when all I wanted was to flop down with a cup of tea. It also made it difficult to find what I wanted, without rooting through my bag like a dog digging a hole in the mud.

Since those heavy days, I’ve learnt to only pack the things that I know I will need, and no more. Although, when I got married last weekend, I over-packed for my stay at the hotel and by the end of the day, the room looked as if a cyclone had spun through it and threw my clothes into every conceivable corner (less than half of it needed).

The problem was, I was packing out of fear. Fear of being bored, fear of being hungry, and fear of being unprepared. For feather-light travel, you must let go of those fears and realise that most scenarios in your mind are highly unlikely.

It’s not just your mind and your time an overloaded bag can weigh heavy on- it’s not good for our shoulders or backs, and I frequently found myself with a sore back and shoulders after a trip.

Packing lightly not only makes it effortless for you to find the things that you need, but is kinder to your body and posture, and you will experience much calmer travel.


Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

Here’s how you can transform from feeling like a pack mule, to as light as a butterfly:

Only pack what you need on any given day. For example, on days where I go out to write,  I pack my laptop, notebook and my wallet. And on days where I’m just walking around town, or going out for a drink, I take a smaller bag with just my wallet and keys. Ultimately, what you need depends on who you are and what you do.

If you’re going somewhere for a week or so, pack all-purpose clothing, and try to wear some clothes more than once. It’s surprising how full a suitcase can become when you pack for sun, rain, snow and blizzards, all for a summer holiday. Or when you pack a cocktail dress and several pairs of boots when you’re mainly going to be on the beach. Instead, pack a few tops which can be paired with a single coat, hoodie or cardigan for cooler days, and shoes which look great in both the daytime and evening.

If you’re staying at a hotel, find out what they already have in the room. Most will contain a hairdryer, and small bottles of shower gel and shampoo. If you must pack your own shampoo and conditioner, buy an all-in-1. There are even all-purpose soap bars which function as both body wash and shampoo, and take up very little space.  

Don’t wear a larger bag for casual trips. For example,if you go into the city for a browse with a bigger bag than you need, it can tempt you to splurge on stuff you don’t really need. If you don’t have the space to carry it, you’re more likely to think twice.

For wallets and purses, only carry the cards you need on the day. These days, you can even use a smartphone to pay by linking your bank card with related apps and services. Trash old receipts and scan the ones you think you’ll need. You can also reduce receipt clutter by allowing shops to email them to you, instead.

Instead of carrying boredom beaters, opt for interesting experiences. The lighter you travel, the easier it will be to move around and do what you want. Experiences are always better and more fulfilling than material stuff.

Allow yourself to sit and be ‘bored’. Too often, we carry things around to entertain us, but miss out on opportunities that are right in front of us, or pass us fleetingly. Smartphones and tablets have trained our minds to be permanently switched on, seeking dopamine hits and being constantly entertained. Slow down.

If you’re an avid reader, consider an e-reader.  With an e-reader, you can have hundreds of books to hand without the extra bulk and weight of a single paperback.

The next time you pack your bag, remember: Travel light, be free.

The Many Benefits of Minimalism

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…

Stop.

Breathe.

Feel.

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.

Stop. Breathe. Feel. Live.

There’s Always More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cycle continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less stuff, more action!

The Trap of Perfection

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.


Photo is my own

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.

Photo by Franz Harvin Aceituna on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

For those of you who are interested, here’s the link to the TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g72SmMdFBpk