Why Your Heart is The Best Storage – Decluttering Sentimental Items

In the last quarter of 2020 I decided to have another go at clearing the attic. This time, I vowed to put my heart and soul into it, especially because it was so dangerously cluttered.

There were many times up there I had tripped over boxes or had to do some bizarre manoeuvre to get around them like some sort of contortionist. One of these days somebody was going to fall through the attic floor or have the mass amount of boxes collapse on them. 

Unlike with my previous attempt, this time I was armed with a clear vision of the space above me being spacious and containing only seasonal decorations, luggage, and a box of my videogame cases (because I’ve been keeping the games themselves in special wallets to save space).

It was a good job I had the resolve I did because when I went up the ladder there was no way I could even haul myself up through the trapdoor.  Every bit of space I could have stood was taken up by piles of full plastic storage boxes, carrier bags, and things which couldn’t fit in any of the boxes. Things which had simply been left to the freezing cold of the winter or the sauna-like heat of the summer. 

Faced with the huge mission ahead of me, I envisioned how heavy all of it was above my head. The sheer weight of it in my life. If you’re a believer in Feng Shui, perhaps this was the reason I always felt like everything got so much ‘on top of me’ and I still had parts of me that could not move on from the past. 

I had made a decluttering attempt of the attic once before and did actually clear some space, but it soon became even worse than before, because I didn’t have a vision and was still clinging on to a lot of my past. It was as if the mess was mirroring part of my inner self, and after making such enormous changes in my life already, I didn’t want that for myself anymore.  

I started off bringing boxes down and clearing as much of the contents as possible. A lot of it was trash. Old posters, old instruction manuals, packaging to things I no longer owned. 

Other things I donated to charity shops and offered on Facebook Marketplace. 

The more boxes I opened, I was faced with a lot of mindless purchasing decisions and things I’d thought I might go back to one day.  But by far, the hardest things I’ve encountered are sentimental items. 

The first one of these things I let go of was a Dick Turpin mug that my Uncle Gordy had owned. I had been very close to him all my life and we used to have a laugh about how terrified I was as a child of this mug he kept in his display cabinet.  What was it doing here in the attic, not even serving a purpose? Gord had displayed it proudly but I was hoarding it in a box. 

I held the mug for quite some time and then I realised the reason I had kept it boxed up was because I was terrified I would lose those precious memories of our laughter together. Yet even without the object on my shelf, I still recalled those memories from time to time. 

There’s a small cup he used to own that we had another memory over that I never claimed when he passed away. I still have the memories of that cup and how he used to say ‘just a spot’ and laugh at me when he was pouring milk into it when I was an infant. 

It dawned on me that I didn’t need to keep this Dick Turpin. Instead, I wrapped it up and sent it to a cousin of mine. Unfortunately, it broke in transit.

For a moment I was horrified, but I realised that even then, I still had the memory. And I’d taken a photo of it on my phone so I could recall it at any time. It also reminded me that physical objects can be destroyed in an instant, either by accident or natural disaster. 

Despite having the photos, it’s amazing how often I don’t look at them. I don’t need to because the memories of Gordy are in my heart, not in the objects I clung to.

Releasing this made it so much easier to let go. And once I let go of that, I found myself moving onto other sentimental things – some of the hardest of all to let go of. Those were my old video game consoles I had as a child and spent many hours on , forming many fond memories. 

As a child, I had everything I could physically ever want, but most of my childhood was full of bullying at school, family trauma, and other things I would give a limb to protect my own children from. 

Videogames were a wonderful escape and there were happy times I played them with my parents, on rainy afternoons, or when I got home from school. Gaming turned into a real passion which I still have now at 34 years old. 

Anyway, one of these sentimental consoles was my Super Nintendo. Here it was, sitting unplugged in the attic and suffering the extremes of temperatures.

Attics are no place to store anything of value – photos and electronics being the main things. Proving this point, many of my Playstation games I kept had started to get disc rot, which was further accelerated by cold and the heat. 

The Nintendo was even harder to let go of because until recently, I had been a collector of videogames and merchandise. We even had a gaming room. Then our second child came along and we needed that room to become her bedroom.

I had to put things into perspective and let go of some of the reasons I had held onto them in the first place (which is another post in itself).

The stuff wasn’t getting used. Its job was to sit prettily on a shelf or to sit in the attic for the rest of time as a memory. That wasn’t treating that stuff with love and respect when somebody else could be playing it or displaying it proudly in their home. Besides, most of the games were now available in HD on recent gadgets such as the SNES Mini. 

So I sold it along with all the games. 

I did feel a few pangs of sadness as I boxed it up for the post office and saw it for one final time. Then I looked at the space that had been created and felt that familiar sense of freedom. I still had the memories and could re-experience them any time by playing the updated versions that now exist. Once again the memories were in me, not in the object itself. 

Once I got rid of the SNES, other nostalgic consoles I was keeping got easier to let go of. I had been through the process already and trusted myself to make the right decision. 

I trust my heart to be the storage space for these joyful memories, not a dusty old storage box. 

When it comes to decluttering sentimental items, whatever you decide to do with them, trust your heart, for yours is the safest place for precious memories to be stowed. Remember,  physical possessions can be destroyed. 

It’s taken me a good few months, but there is now a lot of space in the attic and slowly but surely, my vision is starting to materialise. 

There are a few things left to take care of, such as a huge box of old journals, another huge box of photo albums, and a few boxes of mystery cables and parts. I also have some organisation to do. But I’m getting there. 

Over Christmas I bought some mould resistant bags for my decorations and decluttered the ones that wouldn’t fit. I am now limited to those two bags and once they’re full I can’t buy any more without first getting rid of something older. 

Before, I had an entire box containing several carrier bags of decorations, many of which were getting crushed or broken. Not long ago I had to deal with a snow globe which had smashed and leaked its sticky, glittery contents all inside the box and over the carrier bags. 

Did I need all those decorations to have a good Christmas? No. In fact, it was a huge pain bringing them out, putting them all away and ate up huge chunks of time and energy. 

Going forward, I will be far more mindful of what gets stored up there, and I know that storing far less stuff will mean my close friends and family won’t have to shoulder the burden when the day comes I am no longer around. 

Remember: trust your heart, not a dusty old storage box. 

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers. It’s been a crazy and difficult year, and to those of you who may have lost loved ones, are struggling with mental health, or have lost your livelihood, my heart goes out to you.

I also want to say a big thank you for reading or following my blog. It means so much to me to share my simplicity journey with so many others, and I hope my posts have been helping you on your own journey.

As I said in my previous post, I don’t make New Years Resolutions because I believe that if you want to make a change in your life, you should start as soon as possible.

Saying that, I do have some goals this year, some of which I’ve already made a start on. They are:

Start up my YouTube Channel (of which I already have the script)

Improve my photography, learn photoshop skills and possibly start an online portfolio. An added benefit for being into nature photography, is that it gives me an excuse to go for long walks in nature and be fully present. It also makes me feel gratitude for the beauty of the planet and want to take care of it much better.

Minimise even further. I’m not done yet. My current inspiration for minimalism is Youheum from Heal Your Living. I love how she’s so gentle, non-judgemental, and has crafted an extreme minimalist life for herself so she can live her life to the fullest.

Make a few more friends I’m mainly an extrovert and love connecting with others.

Make even more eco friendly lifestyle changes I already have a list of things I could do which are quite simple changes. So far I’ve changed to reuseable sanitary pads, reuseable wet wipes, reuseable food wrap, and a non-toxic home cleaning solution made from white vinegar.

Learn to drive so I may access courses and also drive to beautiful places to practise photography. I turned 34 this year, and it suddenly hit me how much I’m limiting my opportunities by not driving. Most things I want to access are miles from me.

Apply for counselling level 3. I completed level 2 earlier in the year and it was extremely fulfilling. It’s also made me grow as a person in many ways, including being more of an active listener.

Look into learning to coach on simple living and minimalism/creating resources. I’ve always wanted to do this so I can do what I love as well as help other people in a meaningful way.

What are your current goals and what do you hope to achieve through 2021? I’d love for you to share with me in the comments or drop me an email.

Have a happy and prosperous 2021 and I’ll see you all next year 😉 In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay hopeful!

Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

Don’t Make New Years Resolutions…

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we all post our goals and state that this year will be a ‘New Year New Me’.

I used to make lists of things I wanted to achieve in the new year, then I’d wait for my life to reset as if by magic on the final chime of Big Ben. But now I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that I don’t want to change anything in my life. It’s that whenever I want to change anything, I start right here, right now. 

When you’re serious about your goals nothing kills them faster than waiting for that perfect time to make a start, especially on New Years. Once the celebrations fizzle out, often so do most people’s resolutions. And when you see others around you giving up, it’s even more of a perfect excuse to quit when things get challenging.

If there’s something you’ve been meaning to change in your life, remember this: There’s no need to wait for the New Year to ring in when every day is a new tomorrow. 

So, don’t wait for the fireworks, start now. Your future self will thank you.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

I’m Making a Youtube channel!

I’ve done it! I’ve gone and written a script ready for my first Youtube video on minimalism and simple living. I don’t even have a channel name just yet but I’ve taken the first step.

My hope is to share the benefits of a minimalist life with a wider audience, and with a Youtube channel, hopefully this will become possible.

It’s also a challenge for me going into 2021, to do something I have never done before so that I can grow and, in turn, help others to.

All that is left now is for the video to be filmed and edited, which my husband has kindly offered to help with. I will be keeping you all posted on here, and am hoping that pretty soon one of my upcoming posts will be a link to my channel.

Of course, I’m terrified. My heart’s pounding harder just thinking about the camera pointing at me. But that’s part of the challenge. So even if my videos come to nothing, I’ve still taken a step closer and done something my old self would never have even considered.

After the crazy year that 2020 has been, I’m really looking forward to having something new and positive to jump into and learn.

If there’s anything you’ve been putting off doing, go ahead and take the first step. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least you can say you started.

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Have a Merrier Christmas With Less

It’s almost Christmas, and although it’s different to previous years, what isn’t so different is the mad panic to buy, buy, buy, either to show love to friends and family, or out of sheer obligation. 

But as I’ve turned minimalist over the past couple of years, dramatically reducing my possessions and experiencing endless self-growth, I’ve come to realise that stuff isn’t the key to love or happiness. In fact, an excess causes untold stress, financial hardship, damage to relationships, and to the Earth.

As a child, I’d physically always had everything I wanted, never going without the latest console, latest games, or best toys. The walls of my bedroom were lined with toy boxes, but even back then, I was never satisfied. There was always a new toy I wanted, a new book, or a new video game. 

From my teens to my early 30s, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. I had so much stuff that it was breaking my bedroom drawers, had filled up several storage boxes under my bed and on top of my wardrobe, stuffed every cupboard and lined every shelf. But no matter how much I had, I wanted more, more, more. 

No matter how many games, consoles, books and trinkets I had, it wasn’t enough. I often dreamed of owning a bigger house, certain that if I only had more space to keep everything and entertain my friends, I’d finally be happy. 

It didn’t matter whether I’d just acquired an entire wishlist of stuff for Christmas, either, come January I’d hit the sales to fill the hole inside me. You see, I didn’t realise at the time that one of the sources of my unhappiness was the sheer amount of stuff in my life. Greed and excess. 

Another reason was low self-esteem which was further exacerbated from going down the path people expected of me rather than what I really wanted. Stuff was acting as a bandage for the trauma in my past, and as a smokescreen for decisions I had made that I wasn’t truly happy with. 

I hated myself with a passion, but as long as I didn’t face it and kept the smokescreen going, I convinced myself I’d be fine. 

Except I wasn’t. I was as far from fine as one could get.  All of this hoarding and consuming caused countless arguments between me and my fiance, Leighton (now my husband), and I was forever in overdraft with my bank due to spending splurges. I was also a hot mess inside. 

Then, one day, my mum had a declutter of the attic at her house. A huge amount of the stuff, she said, was mine, and she was bringing it to me to sort through. 

When she arrived, I was stunned. It took her several trips back and forth between my house and the car to bring the bags and boxes. Years of my childhood and school life bulged at the seams and was dumped on the living room floor for me to sort. 

At first, I wanted to put it all in our attic, but Leighton stopped me. “No way!”, he said, “That attic is rammed as it is with your crap and we aren’t having any more. Either you sort this or it goes in the trash!” So, with that, I was forced to confront some of my hoard, and the past I had been clinging onto. 

And 75% of it was trash. 

This experience didn’t instantly turn me into a minimalist, but unbeknownst to me, it was the first step. 

Fast forward to the present day and I can tell you with a hundred percent certainty that freeing yourself from the burden of your excess physical possessions is one of the most freeing things you can do. 

The second most freeing thing you can do is to free yourself from the desire to own more, and the pressure to buy more for others ‘just because it’s the norm’. 

Free yourself from the expectations of marketers and focus on being grateful for everything you already have, especially the people and experiences in your life. Advertisers would have you believe that to ‘give her the best Christmas ever’ you should buy their latest scent or designer handbag. That to be a true friend you should buy any number of random seasonal gifts.

Not true. 

Instead of buying your friend yet another pair of socks and a novelty gadget from the gift aisle, why not connect with them and get them something that aligns with who they are and what they want for the future? Maybe they want nothing at all, in which case you should believe them. After all, most people are already drowning in a sea of clutter and years of unwanted gifts. 

Why not spend time with them or donate to a charity of their liking instead? 

Not only will this be lighter on your wallet and your stress levels, but will help people (or animals) in need, and give you both a far longer lasting glow than any physical possession can. 

According to Nationaldebtadvice.org.uk, over 16.9 million people borrow money to pay for Christmas gifts, and one in twenty will skip paying a bill over Christmas because they can’t pay it. 

That’s madness. 

We’re falling prey to marketing and trying to buy love and connection – things which cannot ever be bought. And when you think about it, would your loved ones want you to go into debt for them? Would you want your loved ones to go into debt for you?

Furthermore, an eye-watering amount of unwanted gifts end up in the trash or in charity shops, 60,000 tonnes of which simply gets sent to landfill.

When there are so many people in need, this is a troubling figure; not to mention the damage done to our planet.

I shocked myself last Christmas when I found there was nothing I wanted my family to buy me. I had minimised so much and had been practising gratitude whenever I could, so I felt grateful for what I already had. I also didn’t want to add potential clutter back into my home, undoing years of decluttering and emotional work. Instead, my husband gifted me money to put towards the counselling course I had applied for. 

Rather than short-lived pleasures from receiving physical gifts, I invested in myself. As it turns out, taking that course was one of the best decisions I ever made. 

Since then I’ve also bought a photography course because I love taking nature photos and want them to be the best they can be. Without minimalism, I’d never have discovered any of these passions or invested in them because I’d be too busy organising my stuff and looking for more. I’d be too broke.

It wasn’t easy to reach this mindset, especially as I was used to always receiving piles of presents and spending beyond my means for everyone else. Most likely, it won’t be easy for you either, but I can assure you it will all be worth it. 

If you’re new to this I suggest starting off with small steps and changes, which will gradually snowball into huge life transformations if you let them. 

With that, I wish all of you, my amazing readers, a Merry and stress-free Christmas. You deserve it. 

My tree

The Weight of Stuff

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

I realise it’s been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I can’t deny I feel guilty about that because I was going to post an article on being extraordinary. While I do have the article, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because in the current climate, it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been sorting out elements of my own life, and thinking about my future, as well as battling pregnancy fatigue. 

I’m now 28 weeks pregnant, and what I have been focused on is minimising and simplifying my life more than ever before. 

This post is a little catch up for this blog about my minimalist journey since the lockdown started, and to share my thoughts about where I am now. 

One way I’ve been thinking about my stuff is the sheer weight of it in my life, both physically and metaphorically. 

I often read about people on decluttering journeys who load their cars with bags upon bags of clutter they’re casting off from their lives, and how many trips it takes to the charity shop. 

Since I can’t drive, whenever I donate anything and as I decide to let go of even more stuff, I walk to town with the weight of those bags. As I walk and the bags weigh me down and cut into my hands, I can’t help but think about the sheer weight of my life. 

All that heaviness. The stagnant energy that clings to it. The burden of guilt and old memories. 

I welcome the relief once the weight is gone, and it often feels as if my arms are floating. Better than that, is the feeling of lightness in my home. There’s more space for energy to flow, space for potential in the future. Not potential new stuff, but opportunities and beliefs that serve me. 

The more I cast off, the less weighed down by the past I feel, and the more hope for the future. It’s true that less really is more. 

Speaking of the future, since I get so much joy from decluttering and love to help others with it, I had a sudden profound idea to look into becoming a professional declutterer – something which wouldn’t have occurred to me had I still been weighed down by stuff.

Clutter really is something that always lurks at the back of your mind, taking up space and valuable energy. Like a computer with an error message warning you its storage is getting too full, the brain is pretty much the same, and lightening your physical load will massively lighten your mental load. 

Being 28 weeks pregnant has made the effects of minimising even more apparent. At a time when I find myself needing more rest than ever, I’ve been able to do just that because there’s no mess, surfaces are clear, and it’s quick and easy to vacuum and dust (our new dishwasher has simplified things even more – especially because my parents live with us).

I’m not having to worry about having enough space for the upcoming new addition to our family, because there’s now more than enough space to accommodate. 

In fact, having a new baby on the way is making me think of the stuff in my life even more. For example, my husband and I have been massively attached to our gaming room. It’s the place we go to chill out and play videogames, display our games, and even use as a workspace. 

But ultimately, we decided we could give up that luxury so that our second child has a room of their own (more essential because it is a girl and she’s going to be 6 years younger than my son who’s growing up way too fast). 

With that in mind I started minimising the gaming room quite early on, and while it started off hard, it’s now got to the point where I no longer feel attached and could happily pass it on , safe in the knowledge that most of it hasn’t been played in years, is realistically never going to get played again, and that most games are now available digitally. 

I also realise that I don’t need to have a Youtube worthy gaming display to prove that I love gaming. The way I do that is by actually playing them and letting them bring me hours of joy and excitement. 

Sitting on a shelf, they do nothing but take up space, look pretty, and add decision fatigue. The digital streaming services available now on all platforms have helped teach me that. And if I don’t play them while they’re available, I was never going to get around to doing so in the first place. 

Another hard thing I’ve done in the past few days is put my wedding dress and accessories up for sale. Initially, I felt sad, but when I brought the huge storage case down from the humid attic, I saw the space that had been created, and reminded myself that it would be far better bringing that same joy to somebody else than it sitting in less-than-ideal storage conditions, taking up valuable space. 

Some people are curious why the whole journey has been a process which has taken a couple of years. 

Before I was a minimalist, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. At first glance, I lived in a tidy environment, but it was bursting at the seams and I was forever organising and wishing for a bigger house so I could store more. Window ledges, cubby holes, shelves, cupboards, drawers and storage spaces were rammed with relics of my past, and things I thought I needed, and it was causing heated arguments between me and my husband (who was my fiance at the time). 

I also reacted to every whim for something new, be it a new phone, a new bag, a new journal, or another games console. These whims came all the time because deep down, I wasn’t happy and the satisfaction never lasted longer than a few days at most.

That hoarding and the constant buying was a result of years of deeply ingrained beliefs and trauma, and it’s taken a few years to get to where I am now with the mindset and beliefs I now have. Another factor is the seasons of life we all go through. 

What’s useful in one season of life may no longer serve in the future, so the minimalist journey never really ends. There will always be times where life needs a mindful reevaluation of where you’re going and what may no longer be serving you, although once you’ve done the main bulk of decluttering, it should never be as stressful or as time-consuming again, provided you stay mindful and vigilant of what comes into your life and why. 

Next time I post, I’d like to share with you all, our experience of having a brand new minimalist kitchen, and how it has changed our lives for the better. I feel it is a perfect example of the negative effects clutter can have on an entire family, and the unbelievable change in energy when clutter is dealt with.

Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, of course, that’s ridiculous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

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

A Quick Update and What’s Coming Next

Greetings all! I’ve just realised it’s been 11 days since my last post, which is annoying because I always intend to post once a week. Illness over the past couple of months has made it hard to be able to post as often as I’d like, but I am working on my latest : Wage War Against Your Inner Critic and Win.

We all have an inner critic; that niggling voice at the back of your mind that keeps you grounded in mediocrity, fear, or self-loathing.

My inner critic used to be unrelenting, powerful, and all-consuming, but I learned how to fight back, and gradually, I started to overpower it.

With the right tools and knowledge at your fingertips, you, too, can take back the power that’s rightfully yours.

The power to control your own thoughts.

The power to carve your own path.

Until then, stay tuned, and remember, you’re awesome!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Is It Really You? – The Masks We Wear and 10 Questions You Can Ask Yourself

Photo by Victoria Priessnitz on Unsplash

All of us wear masks.

The professional self we use at work, or to talk with our clients.

The sweet-talking parent we use with our three year old

The always dependable friend who’s everyone’s support post

The perfect self-help guru who needs to set an example

The sensible teacher 

The brand-name rich guy 

The party-goer

A mask is something we wear to suit the situation we’re in and it’s natural to switch from one to the other depending on the situation.

For example, the professional CEO would , perhaps, switch to family mode when getting home. 

The sweet-talking parent might become foul mouthed in front of friends, once the child is out of earshot. 

The sensible teacher might get home and start planning their crazy stag night out. 

Masks help us to adapt. 

The problem starts when we forget who we really are beneath, when we construct them purely to cover up parts of ourselves we don’t like, or when we use them purely to fit into a crowd that doesn’t match our true values. I will refer to these masks as ‘theatrical masks’. 

These days, with social media, it’s easier than ever to project the image of a perfect life, while leaving out all the crazy or mundane.

You can show people only what they want to see, write only what people want to read.

It’s easy to pretend you’re somebody else.

Carl Jung spoke about the unwanted parts of ourselves as ‘the shadow’. The parts of ourselves we don’t like to acknowledge but are there whether you like it or not.

We often construct masks to relieve that discomfort, or to appear a certain way in order to find acceptance – something all people strive for. 

Sometimes, we’re aware of using these kinds of masks, almost as if we’re performing on a stage, but most of the time, we don’t even realise it. 

Photo by Dominic Hampton on Unsplash

We think we’re a party animal, but we’re not. We think we’re thrill-seekers, but we’re not. 

We can wear masks for so long that not only do we forget who we are, it slowly becomes a part of who we are. That can be a terribly destructive thing, but not always. 

For example, as a teenager and young adult I used to be wallowing in depression and self-pity, but would pretend to be hyperactive, silly, and fun-loving. That way, I would surely make and keep friends. 

Now, it certainly got me friends, and after a while, I noticed that I was no longer pretending – I really had become more energetic and fun-loving, and I was no longer depressed. It was a classic case of ‘fake it to make it’. 

But that’s not always the case, and quite often, the theatrical masks we use to escape from parts of ourselves only serve as a constant drain of precious mental and emotional energy. 

Celebrities are under a lot of pressure to project a certain image, and thus the true self can end up totally lost or destroyed and lead to substance abuse or breakdowns. 

Imagine what it would be like to be constantly practising lines, ready to perform in front of thousands of people, day in, day out, without a break, whether you’re a celebrity or a student. 

Contrary to what many think, it’s a hundred times more exhausting to maintain a mask, than using the courage to just be ourselves. 

Left unchecked, a theatrical mask can cause serious mental health and relationship problems as we are constantly at war within ourselves. 

Marketers promote the use of masks all the time  – they convince you that if you buy their product you can appear a certain way (strengthen the mask you show to the world). 

There’s constant pressure in society, as well, to be or look a certain way.

Wear celebrity-endorsed fashion, become rich, have two kids, become a CEO, own the latest iphone, keep climbing the usual career ladder, don’t think outside the box, don’t break the mold, don’t be exceptional. 

People who do break the mold, start walking their own path, and being their authentic selves often face a lot of backlash and confusion, often from people who are busy maintaining their own masks and are concerned that you have pulled off yours. 

Image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay

Someone who quits their job to run their own business, for example, might encounter a lot of “You’re mad”, “that’s wrong”, that’ll never work.”

Minimalists might encounter others who laugh at their way of life. 

Authors might encounter people who shake their head and tell them to get a real job. 

But people who laugh at or discourage others from being their best authentic selves, are most likely wearing their own masks and are disturbed to see others break free from the stifling need to keep thoughts and dreams, as just that. 

After all, it’s utterly terrifying to be directly confronted with another truth or way of life, when you don’t know yourself, or are suddenly forced to ask yourself uncomfortable questions.

Most would rather project their worry and pain onto the person in question, rather than confront and discover themselves.

Sooner than asking things like, “If this is possible, then what have I been doing for the past twenty years?”, it’s much easier to try to pull the other person back into the circle of what is ‘known and acceptable’, or to make them start doubting themselves.

Confronting yourself is hard. It’s petrifying. It can be paralysing.

To check whether you’re wearing a mask right now, you should make a habit of asking yourself these questions:

What is my dream?

Is what I’m doing contributing to that?

What’s my opinion on (insert topic here)?

Do my words match my beliefs?

Do I speak the truth, or do I fear hurting or angering others?

Why am I doing what I’m doing? 

How do I act around my friends? 

Is that true to how I really feel? 

How do I act around my significant other?

Is that true to how I feel inside?

Asking such questions can be uncomfortable, but can bring a lot of clarity and save you a lot of energy from fake performances. 

Being authentic can lead to true happiness and a sense of wellbeing that performing never can.

Just recently, I discovered I was wearing my own mask without even knowing. 

I used to have anger issues, but over time, in my quest to become a better person, I became the opposite.

I became complacent and started covering up my true thoughts and feelings. Being overly nice to people when I felt like ripping into them. Playing the videogame platforms that the people around me said was for ‘true gamers’.

Somehow, I had discarded one damaging mask, only to put on another damaging one.

I was only alerted to the mask I had been wearing, when I almost had a mini-breakdown the other week. 

Someone had upset me and made me feel very small. I recognised what they were doing was a classic power play technique, but instead of sticking up for myself, I made a joke out of it. 

Instead of having my mini breakdown, I sat and wrote for hours. Pages and pages. And it was amazing the things I was doing simply to please others and ‘not hurt or anger’ others. 

To be accepted and liked, I would let people walk all over me, laugh at me, and control my likes. All without me being aware. 

I was pretending to be an avid PC gamer, all while deep down I prefer to play on consoles and earn the satisfying ding of achievements. Then I was wondering why I rarely played any of my games. 

I was covering up my real thoughts and feelings and acting like a mouse, all while the me inside was screaming and raging. 

I can’t tell you when the mask started, because it was more of a gradual construction, but from that moment on, I decided to start being more authentic. 

That started by telling someone close to me exactly how pissed I was with them when they were making me feel insignificant. And didn’t sugarcoat it. 

To my surprise, they quickly stopped. In that moment, I had self-respect, and I earned respect. 

It’s easy to forget how liberating it feels to say what you’re really thinking. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. 

Also, I went back to mainly gaming on consoles, and using my PC only for the most power-hungry games and The Sims. I felt so much happier.

Masks can be useful, but they can also be a major hindrance. 

They can help you to get that promotion, and they can cause you to become drained and depressed. 

They can support you or they can weigh you down. 

What type of mask are you wearing?

Photo by Noah Näf on Unsplash