Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

Being locked down during the Coronavirus has allowed me the time and extra energy to do some deep cleaning. Last week, I decided to go crazy on my living room.

I mopped the floor, took everything off the shelves and dusted them, vacuumed the blinds, vacuumed the whole room, dusted the insides of the cupboards, and cleaned the mirror. Oh, and there were too many cobwebs where spiders had set up home and weren’t paying rent.

The whole process took much longer than expected, and the next day I had a pain flare up from hell that lasted days. One of the many reasons I simplified my life in the first place was to manage my fibromyalgia and ME, just like Courtney Carver, author of Soulful Simplicity, who simplified her life to manage her MS. But this pain was a wake-up call that I could do more.

Once again, I find myself thinking about the role of minimalism in my life. 

I’ve also got another child on the way, and it’s made me think about how to best simplify my life for the sleepless nights and mad days ahead. Do I really want to be wasting so much time cleaning under and around things when I will need that time with my baby, and for my sanity?

Many people would advise leaving the mess be, and that it’s perfectly understandable as a new parent, but I simply can’t stand chaos or disorder. Especially if I know there’s something I can do about it.

When you’ve been minimalist for long enough, it becomes as natural as breathing. You don’t really think about it because you’ve trained your mind so well and the habits you adopted don’t require a second thought. 

The problem with that is that you can fall back into a rut without realising. It seems like I’ve been ready to move onto the next stage of minimalism for a while, but not realised as the days have rocketed by or merged into each other.

Since my minimalism journey started, I’ve got rid of so much stuff, that my room cleaning time was dramatically cut.  I unearthed parts of myself I never knew existed and started on the path to a new career.

At the time, I was satisfied with the progress I made, but the pain of that flare up taught me differently. 

I thought my living room was minimal enough yet was surprised to find that a vast majority of the deep clean was spent moving my collection of books and the decorative objects and photos from the room divider, all of which are mine. Then, of course, having to dust every object and put it back, even though it would all be dusty again within days. 

I no longer have the huge collection of books that I had. What once took up four shelves, now takes up one. There’s a few books on my ‘to read’ list that I intend to donate once I’ve finished with them, but the rest are mainly non-fiction hardbacks that I turn to again and again.

When I thought about what I was getting out of the rest of that unit and its decorations, the answer hit me: nothing. It’s just there to stop our long, narrow living room resembling a bowling alley, and to look pretty doing it.

Is it attractive? Yes. Is it worth the extra cleaning and maintenance time? No.

And who doesn’t want more time and relaxation in their day?

After cleaning the living room, I went upstairs to do a quick dust of the gaming room. I say a quick dust because the gaming room is the hardest to downsize for me, and would take forever to clean efficiently.

There’s stuff in there which is close to my heart as a gamer, plus a collection of manga and geeky books which I don’t keep with my main collection.

Not so long ago, I was convinced that having shelves crammed with games, consoles, and figures like my favourite youtubers would satisfy me . I’d always dreamed of having a gaming room packed to the gills, and of having my own arcade full of my favourite cabinets.

But for me, the reality of such a dream has surprised me. Games and hardware require proper storage and cleaning, and it’s all such hard work to maintain. Not to mention the space it takes up.

There’s also the possibility that we will need to give the room up for an extra bedroom a few years down the line if our baby is a girl.

The thought of leaving it be, then having to deal with all that stuff at once fills me with horror.

Despite downsizing my collection last year, I rarely clean the room because it’s so exhausting and time-consuming. Two hulking shelving units with games, figurines, and books, and another medium shelving unit holding more games and my videogame soundtrack collection. 

Then there’s the fact that my husband, my son, and I, each have a PC. Phew!

I’ve been considering going digital with as many games as possible and possibly using a powerful laptop over a desktop. But it’s a costly endeavour to digitise all the games I own, so I have to really think, which games do I love and really can’t live without? Why do these deserve to take up shelf space and cleaning time? How often do I play them?

When you look at your stuff in terms of the time it takes up, and not just the space it requires, the answer will become clear, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

It makes me squirm to think about not having my physical games on show. Why? It doesn’t make me less of a gamer. But it does show the money I’ve spent just on showing this hobby off instead of purely experiencing the joy it brings me.

To be honest, I don’t even get around to playing or finishing half the games I buy, even when they’re digital. The same goes for any hobby that requires a lot of equipment or collecting. There’s only so much you can enjoy.

It shows that, for me, playing games isn’t enough. I have this need to show everyone in the house, and anyone who visits, my love of games and the characters in them, as if my identity is at stake if I don’t.

But, of course, that’s ridiculous.

I frequently find myself dreaming about the kind of life the more extreme minimalists live. Fumio Sasaki, author of, ‘goodbye things’ is a well-known extreme minimalist living in Japan, and is one whose book I’ve returned to several times, because of the feeling of peace it gives me, and the wisdom in its pages.

What I find particularly inspiring is that he’s just a regular guy who decided that enough was enough and to do something about the miserable life of excess he was living. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers to achieve happiness and success, but he discovered that minimalism was a good start.

It’s not just me who dreams of simpler living; my husband has spoken to me a few times about how he’d love to be so free of stuff and obligations that he could live and work wherever he desired and not remain tied to one place. At first, that thought terrified me, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing it sounded. 

Realistically, I know I can’t live like the more extreme minimalists I admire so much, because not only do I have a growing family, we share a home with my parents. Therefore, there’s only so much I can do, especially regarding shared rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom, and storage spaces such as the shed. 

We’re also not the home-schooling type, so a life of travelling and completely letting go is something that would be far off in the future.

But I can take control of my own stuff, and I’d rather do that than have it control me and sap hours from days, and days from months.

Unfortunately, due to the current situation with coronavirus, charity shops are closed, and selling things on Gumtree or Facebook is a no-no.

Instead, I’ll use the time to list what’s currently bringing me joy and what isn’t.

Life changes all the time, and with it, the stuff that we need to enrich our lives or bring us joy.

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Almost everybody has an inner critic, that snide, sniggering, scoffing voice at the back of your head that says you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough. 

And let’s face it -with all the ways we have to compare ourselves to everyone around us nowadays, as well as intense marketing designed to reinforce beliefs that you’re lacking in some way unless you buy their product, is it any wonder that those internal insults become ever louder?

“I’ll never be able to live like him/her”

“My writing’s crap compared to this”

“I’m not smart enough to go for the job I want”

“I’ll never be disciplined enough to achieve that because I’m a loser”

“I can’t”

“I’m not”

“I’ll never be…”

“I’m (insert insult here)”

Even the most successful and confident people out there struggle with that quiet, doubtful voice most of the time. The difference is, they’ve learned how to control it, and even use it as motivation. 

You’ve probably read and heard that a thousand times, and thought, ‘Well good for them for being born with that ability’. 

But it’s not an inborn ability that people either have or they don’t. It’s all about training and rewiring your brain to think and react differently.  That takes time and inner work. A lot of it. 

Granted, some people might find it a little easier than others, depending on their past, their circumstances, the people they hang around with, and their mental health. 

My inner critic, which I refer to as my inner gremlin,  used to be like a raging tsumani. All- consuming, all-powerful, endlessly destructive. And hungry for more. 

It never used to be like that. When I was a small child, I had boundless confidence and curiosity. I’d sit and write on my typewriter on the living room floor, or write a story in my notebook and race to show anyone who would read it. 

Like most young children, I truly believed I could be anything I wanted; an archaeologist, a TV presenter, a weather reporter, a famous author. 

What happened?

Circumstances growing up, plus being bullied throughout my whole school life, fed the inner gremlin that had started to emerge once all the other children started forming cliques and showing off their own unique personalities. 

I wasn’t like everyone else. I was inappropriate, loud, wore baggy, unfashionable clothes because everything else irritated me, and didn’t understand social jokes or cues. I wasn’t interested in the things others were interested in, or in talking about relationships. 

It wasn’t until early adulthood I got diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum. 

Anyway, the older I got and the more insults were thrown at me, the more I believed them. The more I saw the other people around me, the more inadequate I felt.  I didn’t need to be told I was ugly and worthless by other kids because my own inner bully had grown vicious and gigantic by that point. 

I’d tell myself I was vile and worthless. All the while, my inner gremlin fed and grew. 

Eventually, I stopped showing off my writing outside of school. I went through periods of self-harming, and my self-esteem was as low as it could get. 

As a young adult, I still had my dreams from childhood – my main one to be an author – but I had serious issues with my identity and with extremely defensive and angry behaviour in my relationships. 

Where did all this come from? My inner gremlin which had been gorging itself quite happily over the years on all of my negative thoughts and beliefs. 

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

I was a hoarder, you see. But at the time I didn’t realise because I kept everything crammed out of sight or neatly lined up. 

Confronted with years of my own mess, I realised I had a serious issue with letting go of the past. In many ways, I was still living in it. 

I may have been an adult with a child and renting a home, but inside I was still that angry child pining for acceptance. 

That day, I let go of so much stuff, and when I did, I physically felt like this huge spiritual weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Years of attachments, sad memories, and old work finally where it belonged – in the trash. 

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

Something got sparked in me that day that triggered years of self growth, and opened the gate to minimalism. 

Because I was forced to question why I had been holding onto all that stuff, I started to ask myself deeper things, like where my beliefs came from, and why I felt the way I did. 

I started reading every self-help book I could get my hands on that appealed to the specific issues I had identified. Books about overcoming trauma, writing, confidence, self-improvement, and later on, minimalism. 

I didn’t just read these books once. I read them over and over, completing all the exercises inside them until I knew them off by heart and looking inside myself until it started to feel natural. 

It’s safe to say that those books, alongside the action I took, went a significant way in helping me to change who I had become, and started me on a path of acceptance and becoming my true self. 

For those of you who are interested, I will list some of those books at the end of this post, but keep in mind, your needs and what works for you might well be different, and that’s OK. 

Fast forward to the present and I’ve made this blog, started training to become a counsellor, taken some Udemy courses, written part of a book, and made a new friend (who is also a writer). I’ve also become brave enough to enter a couple of writing competitions. 

How did I silence my inner gremlin? I didn’t. Instead, I got strong enough to fight back and to co-exist with it in a healthy way. It’s nowhere near as big or as consuming as it was, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from writing or going for my dreams. 

It’s highly unlikely you will completely silence your inner critic because for the most part, its job is to try to protect us from pain and humiliation. That’s why so many of us remain stuck in jobs we hate, lives that are going nowhere, and relationships that don’t serve us. 

At its least destructive, it tells you to stay where you are, in comfortable waters, with everyone else. It halts and destroys dreams. 

At its most destructive, it becomes like mine did. A seething mass of hate, doubt, and negativity. 

The trick is to not feed it, and to gain power over it by fighting the inner demons that allow those beliefs to cement in your heart and mind. 

Let me give an example of the occasional things my gremlin will rasp, and the things I now say back. Perhaps some of it will resonate with you. 

Gremlin:

You’re dreaming if you think you’ve got a chance.

Just look at this article – no readers. You’re rubbish, may as well give up now.

You lead a rubbish uneventful life, people don’t care what you have to say.

What qualifies you, of all people, to think you can help others?

Me

Oh shut up, everyone started from zero. 

But I’m doing something I love. Which is more than what you can do. 

You’re just my inner critic, what do you know about writing and having fun? Nothing! 

Inner Gremlin, you’d never get anywhere with an attitude like that. You suck. You’re mediocrity itself. 

I can do what I want with my life, unlike you who can only criticise. 

I am qualified to help people because I desire to, have been through things which could be valuable to others, and am training. You don’t know a thing about helping – just critisising. 

I dare get my words out there regardless, and that’s awesome and more than most people will continue to do.

And you know what? Time after time of practising inner dialogue like that has turned the balance of power. 

I’ve taken its energy source, cut off its supply, and shrank it down by doing the thing it hates the most – taking action. 

Try it today. Argue back with your inner gremlin. Do it time and time again until it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance. 

Wage a war and confront your inner demons. Cut off its food supply. 

Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future. 

Oh, and here are the books I said I would link, but before I do that I would also like to give a mention to Anthony Moore on Medium whose stories and articles help keep me going even through the tough times.



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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

Image by TRƯƠNG QUÂN from Pixabay

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

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

The dining table has become a dumping ground once again. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your home has sneakily re-accumulated clutter, visually it can take up all of your energy and attention. 

For example, I’ve seen posts in groups where people have decluttered a shelving unit, only to still feel like something is still off.  Sometimes, the issue is lots of photos. 

They will have decluttered all the random trinkets but kept all the photos displayed for personal reasons, so all of them are vying for their visual and mental attention instead of just one or two special ones. 

If you’re struggling to get back on track, here’s some things you can do to bring calm back into your home. 

Put washing up anyway either after the meal or before you go to bed. 

It’s more stressful than you realise to have to search for a plate or utensil, only to realise it’s among the craziness of the drainer which still has the dishes from two nights before.

A common problem which can prevent you from adopting this good habit, is kitchen cupboards and drawers bursting with clutter.

How rage-inducing is it when you want to put your plates and pots away, but fitting them back in their spots is like a real life game of Tetris?

Similarly, when you want to bring them out, it’s pot luck if everything else doesn’t cascade out. Yes, I know, terrible pun.

Rather than using the draining rack as another storage solution, the trick is, to declutter your kitchen storage and keep only what you need and use often.

Once you make the space, you’ll find it hundreds of times easier, and much more satisfying to both access things and put them back where they belong.

Keep surfaces clear at all times.

I know this is easier said than done if you live with others who are naturally messy, but if you adopt the habit and the rules that the dining table is purely for eating (and maybe for the kids to do their homework etc) others are likely to follow suit eventually. 

You also want to keep hallway console tables free of clutter because it’s one of the first things that greet you when you leave the house and when you return home. 

The last thing you want is to be reminded of all the stuff that needs sorting when you’ve just got in from work, or before you even start the day. 

Kitchen surfaces should definitely be kept clear because it’s often the most functional room where people like to chat, and to cook meals.

 If you’ve got all kinds of stuff over the counters, you’re not going to feel much like cooking or being creative, and it’s not even going to be a pleasant place to hang out. 

Put laundry away immediately 

I used to be horrendous at putting away laundry. I’d let weeks of clothes just pile up in the clean linen basket, and rifle through every morning for what I wanted to wear. 

Not only did my clothes come out crumpled, I couldn’t even find things half the time because they’d be bunched up in the sleeve of a jumper or hidden in the leg of a pair of jeans. 

It also took up loads of time when I finally did decide it was time to put them away. 

When you put clothes away as soon as they’re dry, not only is it off your mind until next time, it saves you time in the mornings, your clothes are neat, and it’s easy to find what you need. 

Deal with paperwork the same day 

When you have paperwork come in through your door, sort through it right there and then. 

Junk mail should go in the recycling instantly, and bills should be filed into action piles for you to deal when you have time.

That takes all of five minutes, sometimes not even that. 

Of course, it helps to get rid of any old documents you no longer need. 

Nothing is more stressful than trying to find some important information, only to have to search through hundreds of older papers that are no longer relevant. 

If you struggle with containing paperwork, you could also go digital where possible. Many companies now offer the option to receive emails instead of paperwork, and some shops will send receipts via email rather than physically, to save paper. 

Never leave things over floors and seating 

It’s easy for floors and chairs to become a landmine of tripping hazards and shoes, especially if you’ve got kids. 

The trick is to never let things stay on the floor, and to train others (especially children if they’re old enough) to pick up after themselves. 

Chairs can also become a dumping ground if you aren’t vigilant and can collect random toys and clothes. 

Make sure that chairs are always free of clutter because they’re a place to relax and unwind, not to mess and stress. 

Make your bed every morning

This one is simple, but it’s far too easy to stumble out of your room and leave the bed a rumpled mess for when you next go to it. 

Why is that a problem? Because it makes a calm room look chaotic, and it can also make you feel lazy and unproductive. 

It’s also probably the last thing you want to be doing before you go to bed at night. 

Stay mindful whenever you go shopping

We’re surrounded by so many advertisements, and shops lay out their aisles in a way to capture your attention. 

It’s why you can go into a store looking for some cereal and toilet roll, only to come out with two new tops and a fancy new glass. 

When you go shopping, it’s always helpful to take a list with you, and anything you’re tempted to buy that’s not on the list, ask yourself why you’re buying it. 

Do you really need it? 

Do you have something similar at home?

Is it because you’re bored?

Because it’s on sale?

Also, it’s never a good idea to go on random shopping trips for fun because there’s nothing you can buy that will make you happier. 

As Fumio Sasaki talks about in his book ‘goobye things’, your happiness levels will always return to whatever its normal baseline is for you. 

Let go of the old 

There’s a reason so many minimalists follow the one-in-one-out rule. It keeps clutter from growing, and your spaces serene. 

For the longest time, whenever I bought something new like a new bag or stationary, I would always hang on to the old. 

This meant that not only did I run out of space, but my stuff was owning me. I certainly wasn’t any happier from holding on to the old, and the ‘one day’ I kept telling myself I might need them never came. 

So if you get a new jumper, get rid of an old one you no longer enjoy wearing. 

If you get a new toolset, get rid of the old ones that no longer serve you.

If you get a new bag, get rid of the ones that no longer bring you joy or suit your lifestyle. 

Sometimes, we hold onto things because we haven’t realised how much our lives have changed since we originally got the item. 

You might hold onto that hiking backpack, even though you no longer hike. 

You might hold onto your old work clothes, even though you now work from home. 

Take the time to evaluate your life as it is currently, and make your home reflect the present, not what was or what might be. 

Take time to meditate or be silent 

You don’t need to sit there cross legged, in a state of bliss if that’s not your thing, but simply taking the time to be silent and present is something that is long lost in today’s world. 

Phones constantly buzz and ding, emails fill inboxes every second, and the world loves to make you feel that busy is best. 

After all, everyone’s doing it. It seems people barely have time to chat in the street anymore, so rushed their lives are. 

Busyness might make you feel productive and on top of things, but let me ask you, how is your life beneath those superficial tasks? How are your relationships?

People who pride themselves on always being busy, may seem to be super-productive, but their lives underneath are most likely unhappy and unfulfilled.

When you prioritise being busy and ticking checkboxes, the tasks never stop coming. You will attract more and more. 

Meanwhile, you’ve inadvertently drifted from your partner, and your child’s suddenly a foot taller without you realising. 

Maybe you’re not happy with your life the way it is anymore, but without slowing down to realise it, you don’t see it until you’re at death’s door. 

Some people use endless tasks or hours at work as a way to escape the realities of their lives, or to run away from negative thoughts. 

Others throw hours and hours of their lives into their careers to climb the corporate ladder and afford more stuff, only to realise that their happiness never comes. Joshua from The Minimalists was a perfect example, and spoke about it in their books.

When you slow down and live peacefully, it’s amazing what you discover. 

Only by slowing down and prioritising the important things can we realise what we already have to be grateful for, and the things that will make us content. 

Only by slowing down and being present with our loved ones, can our relationships blossom and be the best they can be. 

When you’re glued to a screen, people and moments pass you by until the day comes they’re not there anymore. 

You’d give anything to go back to the time they were there, but realise you spent most of that time sitting with them, but clicking ‘like’ on a stranger’s post. I’ve also been there myself, and believe me, it’s the most awful thing to realise when it’s too late. 

Taking the time to be silent and present, allows you to declutter your mind and see yourself for who you really are, what people mean to you, and what your life truly is. 

Take the time to re-simplify your life today. Get back on track and make serenity a part of your everyday life. 

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

Upcoming Post – Do You Really Need That?

Are you struggling in a never-ending cycle of buying things you don’t need? Do you feel lost if you’ve not got a parcel on the way? If so, stay tuned for this week’s upcoming post which is all about what keeps us stuck in the cycle, and why you might feel the need for more, even when you know you have enough.

With this post, I won’t just be talking about the usual ‘marketers want to keep us buying’ but am going to focus on the emotional and deep-seated reasons that can cause us to compulsively click ‘buy’.

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

A Year Long Thank you!

Minimalistmojo recently turned a year old and I just want to say a big thank you to my readers and followers.

It’s been a strange and intense year of growth to say the least, and I’ve learned so much, not just about minimalism, but about who I am and what I stand for.

I want to keep this blog going to help as many as possible on the road to minimalism and self-discovery, and am thinking about some fresh new looks for the blog, as well as expanding my reach.

This week’s post is late coming, but will be about authenticity, and how we sometimes wear a mask without even realising.

Once again, thank you to all of my readers; I appreciate all of you.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

The Helping Hand of Failure – Why I Recover Faster

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I’m not perfect. 

Nobody’s perfect. 

Yet there’s this expectation in society that if you don’t have a high-profile job and don’t own the latest and greatest stuff, you’re no good. 

Marketers constantly try to convince you you’re lacking in life if you don’t own the latest phone, celebrity endorsed cologne, or the sexiest sofa.

You’re not a good parent

You’re not a good runner

You’re not beautiful enough

Not smart enough

Not cool enough

Not happy with your life

But that’s OK because if you buy today, you can rest assured that you’ll be the envy of your friends, and you’ll be so much more interesting. 

We rarely realise it, but after a while, those messages add up into an essay about how much we lack,  and life starts to feel intensely unsatisfying. Depressing, even. 

While embracing minimalism definitely made me see that happiness doesn’t come from a delivery van, it certainly hasn’t made me immune to slipping up and making bad decisions. 

On this blog, I talk about achieving goals a lot and simplifying your life so that you can discover what’s really important to you. I even share my successes so that you can hopefully start to realise the potential in you. 

But what I don’t talk about often enough are my failures along the way. The times where I take five steps up the ladder but fall down ten. 

Let’s face it, even though we need failure to grow,  it’s embarrassing to talk about and even scarier to experience. 

First off, here’s a little bit about me so that you get a little bit of context: I’m generally happy and cheerful (sometimes to an annoying degree according to my husband), I have several obsessions including writing, reading, gaming, minimalism, and self-growth.

Come into my living room, and you will see that everything is a calming white and pastel green with loads of empty space. I’ve got my future planned out, an incredible family, and quality friends. 

But it wasn’t always like that, and sometimes I fall into the same quicksand I had escaped before, slowly sinking back into old habits and ways of thinking. 

I used to be a hoarder. Not the kind of hoarder you see on those TV shows, but an organised hoarder. I was in serious denial about how much I owned. It caused arguments with my fiance, and allowed me to carry on hiding behind my stuff. 

You can read the story here, but basically, I was keeping it all because I was deeply unhappy, didn’t believe in myself, and identified strongly with my past. 

It took my mum bringing it all down to my house and my husband threatening to bin the lot, for me to finally confront the lonely memories and dusty old beliefs that kept me clinging on. 

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

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

You see, minimalism will make your life a hell of a lot calmer and easier, and it will help you to discover yourself, but it won’t solve every problem for you. Especially those that are nestled deep inside. 

It also won’t cure bad habits because they won’t go straight in the trash with your physical clutter. Rather, they get recycled into new, useful habits. 

Sometimes, when things get me down like an argument, symptoms of chronic illness, or even writer’s block, I will find myself clicking over to Amazon and Ebay. Other times, I just feel stale in myself, like a mouldy piece of bread. 

Suddenly, the bag I bought just months before has a fault and I need a new one. I need a new game despite having a mile long list of unplayed titles. I could really do with that lovely looking lunch box as it will ensure my food doesn’t leak in my backpack (despite never having that issue).

Of course, those are all elaborate stories I weave in my mind which will lead to me buying the product of interest. 

As I click ‘buy’ I feel the anticipation of the item’s arrival and start getting rid of things that are relatively new. The dopamine rushes through me, even though I know deep down that two clicks and a parcel won’t bring me satisfaction. 

But my brain doesn’t care about that fact because of the temporary feelings of elation.

Days later, the package comes, and as the packaging goes in the bin, so does my excitement. I realise I didn’t really need it, that I could have saved the money, invested in more skills, or gone on a day trip.

‘Call yourself a minimalist? Ha! You’re a phoney, you’re weak’, my brain chatters. 

Just to be clear, I don’t have a shopping addiction, because these slips ups don’t happen very often. But the shame is no less intense, and the bad decisions can lead to me making other bad choices such as eating a luxurious helping of Nutella on toast when I know I’m gluten intolerant, or having a second glass of wine even though I know I’ve had enough. 

However, unlike in the past, I find that I can get back up from the fall much faster than before. The injury doesn’t go as deep. 

I know that I’m not a phony because I strongly believe in what I practise and what I say. As sickening as it sometimes feels, I acknowledge my mistakes, and that makes me self-aware. 

Experiencing failure makes you feel like masking the feelings that come with it, and all the mean things the gremlin in your brain might be hissing at you. 

But here’s the thing: the more failures you have, the more wise and resilient you become. You grow. You learn. You start to become aware of why you made those bad choices. 

I’ve discovered that, generally, when I’m craving something new and making up stories of validation, it’s not the stuff I’m craving but experiences. 

It’s not a new outfit I’m after, but love and acceptance. 

I don’t want to own new stuff, I want to see new places, learn new skills, walk a new path, blossom into who I know I can be. 

However, even though I’ve taken action and forged a new path for myself, the path is long, sometimes a forest gets in the way, and you know how excruciating it can be when what you want is just a little bit further, and a little bit further. 

But what we often forget is to enjoy that journey. We can get so focused on hacking through that forest that we don’t see the beauty, or notice the undergrowth teeming with life.  

The trick is, to not lurk in that beautiful forest for too long, and if you fall, get right back up. 

Remember who you are and what you stand for, and walk hand-in-hand with failure no matter how scary, because it is your best teacher, and your greatest friend. 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

New Year Still Me

Why New Years Resolutions Don’t Work And How You Can Master Yourself PERMANENTLY

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I know it’s a little on the late side since January has well and truly kicked off, but Happy New Year to you all!  

And how are those New Year resolutions going? Still going strong, or starting to feel the burn? Perhaps you’ve already given up. 

If the latter sounds like you then worry not ,because today I want to talk about why New Year New Me doesn’t work, and why you can still win big this year while being yourself.

For many, New Years is like starting a fresh new notebook or journal. You know the feeling: crisp fresh pages that you’re definitely going to keep neat and fill all the pages this time. But ten weeks later, it’s full of scribbles and you’re already looking at new ones. 

That’s what New Yew Year’s resolutions can be like and this is why so many people are what I call one month wonders. 

It’s the same every year; the clock strikes midnight and everyone cheers, pops the champagne and vows to be a better person. 

‘From this moment on, I’m cutting sugar and losing weight!’ 

‘I’m going to find a new job’, 

‘I’m going to be more organised’, 

‘I’m going to stop smoking’’ 

‘I’m going to start going to the gym’, 

‘I’m going to be a better parent/partner’,

‘I’m going to get a nicer partner’ 

Half a week goes by. Then one. You’re on fire! You’re totally going to smash your goals. You can already feel yourself becoming the person you’re meant to be, that you’ve always dreamed of. 

Then week two comes and you start to feel the burn. It’s hard. Really hard. And you’ve already skipped a few days at the gym, and are falling behind schedule. 

Life is hard, so you go out and treat yourself to the biggest, creamiest slice of cake you can find, accompanied by the sweetest, most luxurious hot chocolate. Bliss. 

‘Oh well, failed already,’ you think.  But no matter, everyone else has as well. I’ll try again once the warmer weather comes.’

Thus, the pattern continues year after year. The resolutions remain the same, and the list is a little longer than before. Why isn’t anything changing? You try, but life just keeps getting in the way. 

That’s because New Year New Me doesn’t work like that.

Despite what marketing would have you believe, you’re still you, and growth takes place over a long period of time. Change must come from within if you want to see a significant difference in your reality. 

A new you isn’t something that comes about like a change in the weather. It’s like planting a tree, maintaining it, and watching it grow. It takes time and dedication. And you must be willing to fail and learn from it as a part of the process. 

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Society and social media would have you believe that you must be perfect, and that you can be perfect if only you’d buy this health drink, and this notebook. But the opposite is true. 

Without failure you cannot win.

This may feel shocking and a little uncomfortable to take on, but failure is a great thing. Not only do you learn what works and what doesn’t,  it means you’re taking action, which is more than most people do. 

There isn’t a single successful person who has got where they have or where they did without consistent failure. 

Take Thomas Edison, for example.  He didn’t see failure as his enemy, despite a thousand failed attempts at creating the lightbulb.When a reporter asked how it felt to have failed that many times, he replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

The reason so many people fail and don’t get back up is because they lack grit, don’t have a powerful enough reason for change to take place, and see failure as a terrible, unacceptable thing.  

Also, getting fired up just because everyone else is doing it. 

Everyone else is going to the gym and going on diets. Everyone else has a plan.  Everyone else is going to be better and you’re going to be left in the dark. 

But if you’re one of those people who say ‘Right, it’s New Year, I’m going to be more assertive and look after myself more’, you’re not serious enough. 

That’s right. You’re not truly ready to commit. 

Know why? 

Because people who wait until the New Year to make changes always wait for the planets to align before they start. They wait until everyone else is doing the same thing, then burn out at around the same time.

If you’re dead serious about becoming a new you and winning throughout the year, the best time to start is always NOW. 

You’ve probably read that on a hundred other posts and in dozens of books. You might even be sick of seeing it. That’s because it’s true. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s New Year or the end of summer, if you’re twenty-five or seventy. If you really want things to change, you’ll put in the time and dedication from the moment you decide what you want. 

As author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn said ‘If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse’. 

I used to be a master of excuses and spinning stories as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t. It meant I could sound and feel temporarily awesome without putting in the work.

If I was meant to be successful, success would come to me. Maybe I’d even win big on the lottery.

I grew up with everyone around me telling me that life is hard, that money is hard to come by, that I should be grateful for what I have and not do anything stupid, aka, go outside my comfort zone and look for another way in life.

I was told that people who have money or who were successful had either cheated the system or won big. 

And I believed it all. 

As a result, I looked in awe at successful people and thought they were born that way. If someone was in a higher position that me at work I looked at them almost like celebrities. I put them on a pedestal and looked at them starry-eyed whilst seeing myself as important as pond scum. 

When I discovered and started following minimalism, everything changed for me because getting rid of my hoard forced me to confront the reasons I was clinging on. 

I’ve also read tonnes of amazing self-help books and done every exercise in them, applying them best I can every day of my life. 

That doesn’t mean that I never slip up because I do, plenty of times. But it’s important to keep going. Remember what I said about failure? 

Over time my confidence has sky-rocketed, I’ve completed the first course towards a new career as a counsellor, and I started this blog. I also entered my first writing competition despite being so terrified that my heart was pounding before I hit publish. 

My mindset has completely altered from what it once was and my old beliefs have long gone out with the trash. 

But it took a lot of hard work and perseverance. I had to carve out time for personal reflection and self-growth exercises, to toss out my past in bin liners and boxes, and it had to be more important than sitting with a game controller in hand, daydreaming about a new me. 

Change didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time, and I’ll never have completely reached my full potential because growth never stops. 

In the words of entrepreneur and motivational speaker,  Hal Elrod, You are where you are because of who you were, but where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be.”

To be successful you have to make the choice to carry on long after everyone around you has quit. 

It’s easy to enter the New Year saying ‘Hell yeah, watch out world, here comes the new me!’and dive in brimming with motivation, especially while everyone else is doing the same thing. 

It’s why it’s always so hard to find a parking spot at gyms in January, why book shops start selling all the motivational self-help books, and why health food and fitness equipment adverts can suddenly be found everywhere.  

But simply buying an exercise bike and going at it when you feel like it isn’t going to make you fit. 

Buying a nicer laptop or a shiny new notebook isn’t going to make you a well-known author. 

Ditching one bad relationship isn’t going to stop you from attracting more of the same if you still harbour subconscious negative beliefs about your self-worth.  

Vowing to be better with money isn’t going to make you any richer. 

What will get you results is riding that bike regularly, churning out words daily, altering your inner beliefs so that you will no longer put up with mediocre circumstances. Not giving up when you fail, no matter how many times.

What you do must become so routine that it feels the new norm, including the way you think about yourself. 

Photo by Chander R on Unsplash

Grit and habit aside, you must also be very specific. If you’re vague and say things like ‘I will be better with money’, you’ll be scratching your head come March and blowing cobwebs out of your wallet. 

You need a detailed plan which includes specifics. For example ‘I will not go under £200 in my bank account every month. I will do this by eating out only once a month, and making lunches at home four days a week’. 

You must become like the Terminator. Your why must be so strong that it can’t be reasoned with or bargained with, and you must be relentless even when everyone else is back to screwing around. 

Let me give you an example of this from my own experience. 

When I first decided I was going to change my path and become a counsellor, I encountered a lot of resistance from others; mainly because it had come to me in a dream and it felt so right and I felt so excited that I started excitedly ranting to my husband about it. 

Then I jumped out of bed and started looking up courses and thinking of ways to pay for it, even though I was completely broke.

Not surprisingly, my family thought I had lost my mind. 

But I felt so intensely that this was the path I was meant to follow, that I didn’t stop. I went on the search for days, researching the career, talking to people, and searching for courses even when it seemed there were none in my area.

I didn’t care how long it took me or if I had to travel for miles on train. My husband was about tearing his hair out at this point trying to talk and shout sense into me (before he started supporting me when he saw just how deadly serious I was).

Long story short, a course appeared in my area as if by magic and in a very short time I applied for and was accepted onto it. In true Law of Attraction style, I ended up with the exact amount of money needed to pay for it and have now completed my course and applied for the next one. 

Without a doubt,  it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I didn’t care what anyone else said to me, what the universe threw at me, or what my current situation was. 

That’s how dedicated you need to be if you want to change your life. 

Yes you’ll have challenges thrown your way. The universe loves to do that. 

Many people see them as impossible hurdles and a sure sign that they aren’t meant to succeed.

Don’t believe it for a moment! See these things for what they really are – a test to see how serious you are. Find a way to barrage through the obstacle and you’ll get to where you want in no time. 

This brings me to my final point of staying focused.

Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to others and look at what they’re doing unless it’s for educational or inspirational purposes. 

It’s not a competition and you won’t be lying in the same grave as them when you’re gone. 

You’re living YOUR life, crafting YOUR own reality. You can only do this by following YOUR own path in life. 

If you’re constantly looking over at someone else’s path, you’re going to bump into trees,  get lost and not even see the massive pile of gold you passed ten miles back.

You’ll also probably start noticing how many more weeds are on your path than theirs, not realising they had to hack their way through a jungle at the start.

So stop dreaming and start living, TODAY

With that, I leave you with one more quote I love by Jim Rohn: 
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

Photo by Charlotte Karlsen on Unsplash

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

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

2. Positive Connections

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

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

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

3. Balance your time spent on social media

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

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

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

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

Photo by Timi David on Unsplash

4. Healthy Eating

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

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

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

5. Minimise/declutter your environment

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

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

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

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

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

6. Write some goals for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Dale de Vera on Unsplash

7. Greenery

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

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

8. Be kind to yourself

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

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

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

Stop Being a Writer in Hiding: Rediscovering Your Writer Self

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer.

I am a writer. You are a writer. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.

And just like you, I sometimes suffer from torturous levels of self-doubt.  I haven’t published any books – yet. But I do have a couple of amateurish self-help books that were written years in the past and buried in the attic. I’ve also been writing a self-help blog for the past half a year. A blog I was putting off starting for the longest time because I was petrified of failure. 

After starting my blog, people contacted me to tell me how much they appreciated me sharing my stories and advice. It was only a handful of people, but let me tell you, when you have a message to get out and you’re being authentic, it’s the most freeing and amazing feeling in the world. 

No matter how rubbish you think you’re writing is, it will always entertain or help someone. And you can only get better, not worse.  Though if you never start, nobody can ever hope to be moved by your words or inspired by your inner world.

Looking back on my old work, I see grammatical horrors, and an inconsistent flow. It’s all too easy to listen to that voice from beyond the cobwebs of your mind that says ‘Give it up now. Throw away the pen. Nobody wants to read that hot garbage. Everyone will laugh at you’.  

That voice is meaningless. Poison. It will kill your dreams and stifle your voice if you give it so much as an inch. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. As a child I would sit at home writing stories in cheap spiral notebooks, or typing up a storm on the old-fashioned style typewriter which my parents bought me; you really had to hammer the keys to get the ink onto the paper. I used it so much that one Christmas, they surprised me with an electronic one and I was beside myself with excitement, my fingers soon dancing over the keys, page after page of prose whirring onto the paper. 

At school, I put my heart and soul into writing assignments, winning commendations for the stories I wrote in English. It was exhilarating to have my work read out to the whole class, and I felt proud. 

Then I got older. And the more of life’s traumas I experienced, the rarer and more incomplete my stories became. I became convinced that they weren’t good enough, even though my cousin would read them, transfixed, and beg me to write the next chapter. I never did. I would screw up entire pages of prose, rewrite it, then screw it up and rewrite it again, until the story got abandoned completely. 

Until recently, I would continue to write half stories, only to leave them behind until they become nothing more than a long-buried memory in Google Docs or on my hard drive. Over the years I’ve read dozens of books and magazines on writing. I formed a writing habit, but it still didn’t cure me of my endless need to perfect whatever I was working on. For me, perfectionism was another form of procrastination. As long as I was forever editing my work, I didn’t have to get it out there. 

Then something happened which drastically altered that self-defeating mindset that had poisoned my writing over the years. I rediscovered one of the horror stories I had written as a child.

The story was about an alien that came into my house one day and kidnapped my family, then I discovered the family dog could talk because she helped me to defeat the alien and rescue my family. It’s cringe-worthy and hilarious to read now, but ultimately, this story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

You see, back then, I was too young and innocent to let a lack of confidence hold back my imagination. My child-self simply put pen to paper and wrote whatever nonsense her brain had dreamed up, no matter how silly it sounded or how crazy the plot. 

It’s astounding and depressing how as I grew older, experiencing trauma and setbacks, my stories eroded alongside my self-confidence. 

For many years I’d been held back by my insecurities: I’ll never be any good, I’ll never write anything worthwhile, people will never care about what I write and will judge my work harshly. Yet nobody else had ever read this story. The cruellest judge of all was me.

Without a doubt I can tell you that your mind is the enemy of your pen. Whenever you put off another project, or another sentence, you are standing in your own way of success, letting doubt and fear gain the upper hand. 

But you’re worth more than that, aren’t you? You know you are. That’s why you have so many words racing around your mind. So many untold dreams. 

The words you keep locked in your mind are endless, just like your potential. 

Whenever I feel that self-doubt creeping back in, I still my mind and get back in touch with my inner child, locked up behind bars, still poised at the typewriter. And I start to write as if I were that fearless child again, simply getting anything and everything down on paper or my screen.

Just like I finally started my blog and gained several followers,  I brought down that old buried manuscript of the self-help book in the attic, and began to rewrite it with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained as a thirty-something writer. 

No longer am I a writer in hiding. 

Through getting back in touch with that eager and neglected inner-child who’s always wielding her pen and typewriter, never caring what others think, I’ve found that old buried confidence.

Because I am a writer.

So, what are you waiting for? Go unleash those ideas and share them with the world! Your words are worth it! 

The Lies You Must See Through to Reach True Happiness

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

I used to think I wanted to be rich.

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

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

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

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

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

Then I discovered minimalism. 

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

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

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

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

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I soon learned just how dangerous that mindset was. 

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

Mainly all the stuff I hadn’t done. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your true happiness?

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash