The Treasure Map of Minimalism

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Hari Panicker on Unsplash

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

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

Living room/Office/Junk drawer

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

Bathroom/Bedroom

  • Out of date medicines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

Bedroom/Clothes storage

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

Electronics/Technology

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

Kitchen/Dining area

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

Airing cupboard/Under bed

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

Miscellaneous

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

I talk about some of these things in more detail here

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

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

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

 



How To Level Up Your Life By Taking Time Out

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

It was a sunny Sunday at the tail end of summer. I was at home on my computer, when my husband suggested we walk our dog, Yuki, together. We’d already been to town earlier, but something made me say yes. And I’m glad I did. 

As we walked in the sun we talked about our desires for the future, our goals in life, and things we wouldn’t have spoken about at home where responsibilities often get in the way and then, exhausted, we go off to do our own thing. 

Anyway, we walked to the field that is usually overgrown with grass and wheat. I call it The Blackberry Field. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s where dad used to take me blackberry picking as a child and is also where we used to walk the family dog I grew up with. 

This time, the grass and wheat had been cut down, leaving a wide, open expanse of rolling hill on which the blackberries were still growing down one side. The view from the top was breathtaking; all greens, yellows and browns topped with the crystal-blue sky.

You see, we live in a town that is undergoing heavy development. Everywhere you go there are new buildings springing up and huge cranes looming over the streets. Hammering, clanging, and sweating.  But here, in The Blackberry Field, there was none of that.

The sky was clear, save for a few interestingly shaped clouds that seemed to stretch to infinity. From the top of the hill, we could see rows of trees, a village in the distance, and other fields that were miles away. I watched as the shadow of a cloud passed over one of those fields like a curtain. I’d seen nothing like it before. I’d never taken the time. 

Photo by Sam Knight on Unsplash

It was such a relaxing, and awe-inspiring sight that we sat down at the top of the hill and took in the feeling of complete freedom. It was as if time didn’t exist. 

And here’s the important part. We hadn’t taken our phones or even a watch.

Everything was just as it was in the moment. 

Just us and nature. 

We let Yuki off the lead and she ran around the field like a wind-up toy while the grass blew gently around us in the breeze. It felt like we had entered a dimension cut off from the hustle and bustle of the world. All we could hear were the birds tweeting from the surrounding bushes, and Yuki as she panted her way back up the hill towards us.  

We were present. We were at peace. And we were connecting with each other. 

Seeing the fields stretching before us and houses the size of thumbnails made me feel like I was part of something much bigger. A tiny person in this massive world of infinite possibility.

My mood sky-rocketed. I felt happy and at peace, even when I had to go home and prepare dinner (I hate cooking). When you consider the tonne of scientific research which shows how beneficial and therapeutic nature is to humans, it’s no surprise that I returned home feeling renewed. Being in nature also has positive effects on depression and stress, as well as being a great way to practise mindfulness.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Too many of us fly through life not stopping to feel the ground beneath our feet or experience the surrounding calmness. We’re used to infinite busyness, the endless buzzing of notifications, and hurried conversations. Rinse and repeat.

Before we know it, we’ve gained a few more grey hairs and have accomplished nothing. Relationships are strained and people are more stressed than ever before .

There’s pressure to always be available online, to perform at work, to check our notifications, to look a certain way, to be a perfect parent, to be more successful, to make more money, to own the latest stuff, to keep up with the hottest trends and all the latest news. Feel exhausted yet?

There’s only so much of us to go around, and we can only focus on the most important things in our lives.

But if we learn to stop. If we take the time out to enjoy the present, even if it’s only on a weekly basis, it will boost mood, alter perceptions, and give way to clarity for the direction we are heading in life.

You will find yourself thinking about things you probably didn’t think about in the chaos of everyday modern life. See things in a way you had, perhaps, never considered before.

I’m sometimes guilty myself of being so focused on cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and being eager to escape at the end of the day, that I barely look at my husband when he gets in the house from work.

I cook dinner straight away, wash the pots, get my son ready for bed, then we’re exhausted and anticipating more of the same the next day. On days where both of us are working, we can both end up too eager to escape to distractions instead of each other. 

It’s too easy to pass each other by like cars on a motorway.

In the field where time stood still, I remembered why we put rings on each other’s fingers.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

But I also remember back when we were renting a house together for the first time. We were a very close couple for years, but somehow got into a routine of getting home from work and completely ignoring each other. I thought living together would strengthen what we already had. I was wrong.

I got immersed in writing or playing a game while he was busy playing an online game with friends. Then I would get up to cook dinner, and somewhere along the line we stopped eating at the table together, eager to get back to whatever distraction we were at before. We started arguing about silly little things and before we knew it; we were talking about calling it a day. 

Our once perfect relationship was almost destroyed, all because we didn’t take the time to connect with each other. Away from technology and away from ‘busyness’. Away from our own self-absorption. 

Know what fixed it?

Spending time at the dinner table again. Putting down the distractions to talk face to face.

The more we talked, the more we realised that conversation was moving away from hints about splitting up, and more about what we loved about each other, and where we wanted to be in life. 

We realised what had happened and decided from that moment on to always eat at the table together, and to go on occasional dates, whether that be a walk into town, an evening at the pub, or a night spent watching our favourite anime together – no phones or tablets within arms reach

I’d be so confident as to say our relationship became even stronger than before. 

The other day, I was chilling on my computer and my son said, “Mummy, come off that for a minute,” and took my hand. I followed him and he took me to the window and showed me the most beautiful sunset, then he smiled and gave me a kiss. That moment will stick in my memory for a long time, but it’s one I would have missed out on had I stayed glued to my computer.

A sunset outside of one of our windows

It’s not just our relationships with others that are in danger of being extinguished if we don’t take the time to nurture them. We are in danger of losing ourselves. And it can be hard to find again. In fact, it can be so hard to get back, that many people give up and wonder why they’re as unfulfilled or as miserable as they were ten or twenty years prior. 

In trying to impress others or keep up with the constant rush of life, we forget who we are.  We forget our values, what we like, what we dislike, who we love, who we admire, what our dreams are, why we want what or who we do.

We become part of the fast-flowing river, doomed to enter the sea of mediocrity before repeating the same tired old cycle again and again. 

So, instead of worrying that the battery is running out on your phone, worry about your time on Earth running out faster than the sand in an egg timer. Instead of slaving over notifications on your screen, take notice of the real life things right in front of you. Instead of ticking off one task after another, take the time to rediscover yourself and rekindle, build, or make new relationships. 

Make time for today.

For all you dog lovers out there, here’s a picture of my dog.

Starting from Scratch: How Minimalism Empowers You to Change Your Future and Be True To Yourself

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

One of the greatest things about being a minimalist, is that it forces you to think about the things in your life which are most meaningful to you. That’s no easy feat because at first glance it might seem like everything you own deserves a spot in your heart and your home. 

In the not-so-distant past, I thought the same way. Every keyring, every old party invitation, and every trinket felt significant.

But once I figured out what was causing me to hold on to these relics, I felt lighter than I’d ever felt in my life.  And after moving house a few years later and having to unpack all my stuff from a larger house into a smaller space, I discovered minimalism. 

I thought that I had decluttered all I possibly could, that I had minimised to the max. So imagine my surprise when I was struck with a question which highlighted even more excess in my home. 

My husband and I were sorting out home insurance, but we didn’t want to overpay to cover the cost of our stuff.  We got asked, “If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, how much do you think it would cost you to replace?” 

Now, while most people would frantically start estimating the worth of the entirety of their possessions at this point, I altered that question in my mind so it was now asking, ‘If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, what would be most important for you to replace?’. Minimalism has trained my mind to ask those questions of myself, but I had only ever asked on a room by room, and drawer by drawer basis.

What would be so important to me that I would have to replace it if it were destroyed? My adult colouring book that I rarely touch? My ornaments which are just there as shelf filler? And if they aren’t that important, should I use up valuable shelf space for these items which I have to clean and worry about being broken? 

If I were to have a fresh start, should I replace every book, every mug, every piece of furniture, every cable, every gift, every utensil?

Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

Just the other day, a heart with a rhyme on it that was bought for my wedding to remember my nan, went flying to the floor and smashed. I was upset for about ten minutes, then the feeling passed and I realised that it was simply something bought from a store which didn’t represent her, but my feelings about her. And when it broke, my feelings didn’t vanish along with the rubbish bag the heart ended up in.  After all, she resides in my real heart – not some pretty piece of acrylic. 

The item itself was meaningless, but I hadn’t considered that until it smashed. 

Imagining starting from absolute zero is an entirely new and sobering thought process.

It’s an overwhelming question for most, and one which would have shocked and terrified my past self to think about.  When I imagined starting from scratch, I looked around my living room and started noticing things that I wouldn’t waste the time, energy and money replacing. 

Then I noticed the things that were special to me (not including necessities such as our dining table), and they included things like my trusty laptop, and some favourite hardbacks which I regularly revisit. Above all of that was my husband and son. 

When you challenge yourself with the concept of starting from scratch, it’s terrifying, I know. It’s even scarier to consider it as a consequence of some sort of disaster. But it forces us to think about what we really need and what truly makes us happy. That, in turn, makes us think about who we are beneath our stuff.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Are you a party animal like your wardrobe suggests, or more of a Netflix binger? Are you an avid reader like your shelf suggests, or do you find yourself exploring the world instead? Are you really a fitness freak, or someone who classes a trip into town as exercise? 

Once you become clear about who you are and what you stand for, it enables you create space for your true self to shine, and it allows you to easily discern the most important things in your life. This can save you money when it comes to things like choosing house insurance, or when you shop more mindfully. It can even lead to you making big life changes such as career, or relationship. 

Minimalism gave me the space and clarity to think about why I was still in the same job position as ten years ago, despite many opportunities to climb the ladder. I was too comfy, too secure, and too preoccupied with acquiring shinier stuff, instead of listening to what my heart was saying (which was that I’m only fulfilled when I’m writing, growing, helping people with their issues, and inspiring adults to live up to their true potential). 

So, if you could start all over again from now, with nothing but yourself, what would you need? What things would you buy all over again? What would you do with your life? What would you be? Who would you spend your time with?

If you struggle with those kinds of questions, turn them around. What wouldn’t you need? What wouldn’t you buy again? What wouldn’t you do with your life? Who wouldn’t you spend time around?

Feel free to let me know in the comments.



How to Regain Control of Your Wardrobe, Save Our Planet (and look fabulous doing it)

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Last weekend, my husband and I went on a major clothes purge. It wasn’t that we hadn’t done so before. We found ourselves revisiting the task after several arguments about me not having washed any of his clothes. The reason? I perceived that he had plenty left because the drawers were always full to bursting with his t-shirts, boxers and socks.

“But I don’t wear any of those!”, he would argue, when I told him he had more than enough.

So, after deciding enough was enough, we joined forces and I emptied all the drawers and the wardrobe so it was all laid out on the bed. Seeing the hoard in it’s entirety was even more of an eye-opener than just picking it randomly out of storage.

Even though I mimimised my clothes collection significantly in the past year, I still found myself getting rid of a dress that didn’t feel like me, and a top that I used to wear on drunken nights out (that I have very few of these days). 

The rest was all my husband’s. There were shirts and sweaters he had long since fell out of love with, clothes that he never liked the style of, clothes that were too big or too tight, and those that were seriously worn out. 

In the end it filled three bin bags! One of those bags was destined for the trash, and the rest got put in the donation pile. 

The mass of clothes that piled up in our hallway as we tossed them

You can imagine the difference it made to our storage. 

Clothes in the wardrobe hung freely and were able to breathe again, and the drawers could close without me having to kick them shut or squeeze everything down. And I’ve not been in doubt about when I need to do some washing because everything in our bedroom now only consists of the things we wear often or are fond of. 

Our wardrobe after the session. I wish I had taken a photo of it before it was decluttered.

If you don’t keep a regular check of your wardrobe, it can and will overflow until you find yourself faced with yet another mammoth decluttering session. These sessions take up a huge chunk of time and patience, so it’s always best if you keep on top of it by being mindful of the clothes you purchase, and to immediately donate or trash ones that are worn out or that you fall out of love with. 

That being said, you’re far less likely to fall out of love with your clothes if you don’t fall victim to keeping up with fashion, which changes faster than the seasons themselves. Instead, buy clothes that make you feel fantastic when you wear them, and that resonate with who you are. 

And remember, the person you are now might well be completely different to who you were a year before. 

Buying quality clothes instead of fast, cheap fashion is also guaranteed to last and not lose shape or feel uncomfortable after a few washes. Did you know that an estimated £140 million of clothing goes into landfills every year?

And donating them to charity shops doesn’t necessarily save them from that fate because quite often, charity shops don’t know what to do with your used clothes, or flat-out fail to sell them. 

Buying fast fashion contributes to the issue massively because countless heaps of clothing get worn once, then end up clogging landfill. Not to mention that the people who make them are often severely underpaid and work in dangerous conditions.

If you’re ready to get hardcore with minimising your clothing, you can also try out Project 333 which aims to save you masses of time and space, while still making you look fabulous every day.  Check it out, it’s not half as scary as it sounds!

Decluttering your wardobe will save you precious time and space, and by taking control of your collection, you can also take back control of those stressful mornings.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Meanwhile, if you’re at a loss with your stuff, and have lost sight of what’s important to you, stay tuned for next week’s post about the importance of stuff.

How to Master Relaxation in a Chaotic World

Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo by Indian Yogi (Yogi Madhav) on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash

How To Live With Someone Else’s Clutter

Living with a non-minimalist 

Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

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

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

Why does your daughter have so many shoes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where was I going wrong?

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

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

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

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

I thought not. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Summarise:

Don’t nag

Don’t shout

Don’t remove other people’s stuff

Don’t preach 

Don’t forget what minimalism is all about

Do be understanding

Do be friendly

Do be patient

Do be sympathetic

Do lead by example

Do focus on you

Do remember the true meaning of minimalism 

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

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash



Clutter Culprits: How to Remain Vigilant

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Even the most seasoned minimalists will end up overwhelmed with more clutter if they don’t regularly keep on top of what comes in and what goes out of the home. Left unchecked, it’s easy to become complacent and end up back where you started. 

Below, I’ve listed some of the clutter culprits which you should be especially vigilant of. 

Pens

These get everywhere because they often get bought in packs. Unless you work at a school or in an office, don’t buy pens in packs because you’ll never get around to using the rest before they dry up and they will make your drawers messy.

Pens are also numerous in gift shops and are the next most common keepsake along with keyrings. Don’t be afraid to discard old pens, and if there’s one you love, see if you can buy refills instead of retiring it to a drawer. 

Notebooks

People are suckers for brand new, fresh notebooks or journals – myself included. I have so many journals from the past that are half-filled because I got fed up and wanted a new one. The same thing happens with notebooks, but people keep the old ones ‘just in case’, and before long there is a pile of half-full notebooks.

If you use physical notebooks, avoid buying them in packs unless you work at a company or school.

You can also consider using apps and take notes electronically, but this option isn’t for everyone. I’m a pen and paper person myself as the notes stick in my mind easier and I get more creative. 

Celebration cards

Recently, I recycled piles of these after discovering boxes full in the attic, some with names of people I no longer knew.

Cards multiply very fast because we appreciate the words that people write inside them, or people pass away and we can’t bear to throw away their handwriting.

When it comes to cards, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a select few  (I keep some beautiful and thoughtful ones in a photo album), but be sure to recycle the ones that just say ‘to’ and ‘from’, or from people you no longer recognise. You can also take photos of old cards and do away with the physical copy. 

Invitations

I once kept a hoard of old invitations in my bedroom drawer. They were so pretty and I was so honoured to have been invited to events that I kept them as a reminder. Ultimately, however, all I was keeping was junk and they got in the way.

A great event will stick in your memory so there’s no reason to keep an invite. But if there’s one you simply can’t get rid of, you could always place it into a photo album or a memory box. 

Newspapers

There’s no reason at all to keep newspapers unless there’s something valuable to you inside it. Even then, you should cut such a thing out rather than keep the whole thing. Nowadays, the same information is available online so it’s highly unlikely you’ll miss out by recycling. 

Magazines

Magazines cost more money than a newspaper, are eye-catching, and over-spilling with information. It’s no wonder that we find it so hard to throw away old magazines in case there is something great inside that we’ll never be able to read again.

But do you really ever go back and read that old information? I doubt it.

That being said, you can cut out the stuff that really interests you and recycle the rest. If it’s a collectable series, however, you can buy magazine binders which will make them beautifully presentable and read like a giant book. I took the latter option for my ‘Writers’ Forum’ collection. 

Junk Mail

Unless you’re genuinely interested in an advert or service, trash it as soon as it enters your home. Be fast and ruthless. 

Receipts

These end up yellowing in drawers and wallets until they become invisible. Bin old receipts, and better yet, if a shop offers you a digital receipt, opt for that, instead. 

Bills

Out of a sense of security we keep old paperwork and old bills, but more often than not, we don’t need them and they pile up into a miniature towers. It’s so simple today to scan and digitise anything you’re unsure of, or even to go paperless with companies.So ditch any old paperwork unless it’s very important. 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Keyrings

These get bought as gifts and holiday souvenirs more than anything else. But they’re so common as gifts we can end up with a whole haul.

Just a few weeks ago, I was travelling with a mass of about six keyrings on my house key, yet didn’t even notice until my husband stopped me before leaving for work and asked “Emma, why on Earth are you carrying such a heavy mass of keyrings for one bloody key?”. I didn’t know, either. Somehow, they had become invisible to me.

Once I realised the absurdity of it, I chose two favourites and used one to identify my house key, and another to give my bag some character. I donated the rest. 

Cables

Eventually, cables end up making a mini jungle. In today’s tech heavy world we own so many devices and all the cables and spares that come with them. Sometimes, we think we lose cables so end up buying even more, only to find the old one but keeping them ‘just in case’.

Years of this will not only make specific cables or parts hard to find, but you will end up with ancient, mysterious ones which are no longer relevant to anything you own.

As a gamer and a previous gadget addict, I have been to cable hell and back, once discarding of about three large carrier bags of unknown cables and ten USB leads. I’d say it’s fine to keep one spare, but any more than that and you’ll be lost in the cable jungle before you know it. 

Photo by Nick Dietrich on Unsplash

Batteries

Batteries end up all over the house or breeding in the ‘junk drawer’, especially if you have kids. Old batteries can explode or leak battery acid if they aren’t stored correctly, and can eventually drain of their power. Not to mention, they are extremely hazardous for small children.

Only keep the batteries you need and don’t bother holding on to any mystery batteries that don’t seem to fit into any device you own.  

Toiletries

Old half-full bottles of shampoo, freebies, Lynx gift sets and other toiletries will take over your bathroom if you don’t throw the old stuff away. If you have unused gifts, consider either using them before you buy more of a similar product, regifting or donating them. 

Medicine

Seasons come and go, and with them, coughs, colds and other ailments. One thing I’ve noticed with medicine cabinets is that nobody tends to throw old medicine away, keeping them ‘just in case’. Yet more medicine gets stockpiled every month or so until we are prepared for an apocalypse.

So, whenever you acquire new medication, discard of any old ones – it’s not healthy to have old medicine anyway, and they can also lose effectiveness over time. 

Makeup

Like with medicine, new makeup gets added but the old tends to stay in the back of the drawer. Always throw away old makeup because it’s the perfect hangout for bacteria. 

Mugs

People buy new mugs yet still hold on to scratched or chipped mugs ‘just in case’. People also like to prepare for huge tea parties that never happen, so every cup is a keeper.

Cups and mugs enter the home as gifts at various times of the year, as holiday souvenirs and as classy new kitchenware, and over time they fill every cupboard and end up stacked haphazardly.

Only keep the mugs you use and never keep scratched or chipped mugs because bacteria will thrive in them. 

Drinking glasses

These are another thing which enter the home as gifts, souvenirs and new kitchenware. I’ve seen families of three and four with enough glasses to host a party of a hundred, yet only a handful of them are ever used. Consider donating or recycling unused glassware. 

I’m sure I will have missed a category or two out, but as long as you keep an eye on most of the stuff mentioned above, you will have a fighting chance to keep your home calm and clutter-free.

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

Next week, watch out for ‘living with another person’s clutter’.


Packing Like a Minimalist – How to Travel Free and Light

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Many Benefits of Minimalism

I’m getting married at the weekend, dear readers, so this post is a little earlier than normal. I’ll also keep it short and simple.

This week, I am here to tell you some of the many ways that minimalism can benefit you.

Before I discovered minimalism, it wasn’t just my home that was cluttered, but my entire life. My mind, my emotions, my relationships. I only worked part time, yet somehow I was still always ‘busy’. I barely had time with my family and would come in through the door, immediately start the dinner, tidy up, wash clothes, and passively scroll through Facebook.

Then I’d start again the next day. And the next.

The next thing I knew, my son was four. Where had the time gone?

In our always-connected world, we speed through our days faster than we can take a breath. We rush past the beautiful summer flora, heads buried in our screens, brain miles ahead of our bodies as we plan to tick off the next box. We get in from work, dump our keys on the table and barely look at our partners or kids. There’s just so much to do and so little time!

There’s dinners to cook, a house to clean, clothes to wash and emails to answer, food shopping to do, homework with the kids, that birthday to remember, that favour to return…

Stop.

Breathe.

Feel.

As technology has raced ahead, so have our lives, and most of us seem to have forgotten how to do the above three things. By racing to keep up we are forgetting to live.

But there is a simple and elegant solution.

By embracing minimalism you can learn to stop and smell the flowers. You can regain lost time and reconnect with not just your family, but yourself.

As my donate pile grew and my space expanded,I started to see and experience so many benefits that I can’t even imagine going back to how life was before.

Below, is a list of the ways that minimalism has enriched my life and will endlessly benefit yours.

  • Regained floor space, shelf space and mind space. My space feels light, airy and full of potential.
  • An always tidy house. No more panicking about guests and wasting time tidying. This also helped me to pace myself and cope with chronic illness.
  • Less time spent cleaning because it is quicker and easier. Less cleaning means more time doing fun or meaningful activities. I now have far more writing time and time to just sit and chat when I get home from work.
  • Cheaper shopping days because I no longer feel the urge to buy shiny new things.
  • Being far more aware of the environment. Before minimalism, I had too much stuff to notice what else was around me and what was happening behind the scenes.
  • Being much more aware of the people around me. Once you’ve cleared the excess stuff, suddenly, people take the spotlight instead of the trinkets lining your bookcase.
  • Improved relationships . Having more time for others and being more mindful has lead to closer relationships in my life. There’s more time to talk and the important people in my life take priority.
  • Feeling more creative and inspired . Once I cut out digital distractions and regained so much space in my home, I could think much clearer. No longer did I take walks with my face glued to my screen, or sit on a bench updating my status. As a result, my notebooks are brimming with observations, ideas and insights. Some of the sights, interactions or snippets of conversation were fleeting. I would have missed them had I had my head down or been speeding along like a wind up toy.
  • A clear purpose in life . Clearing the clutter and adopting a minimalist mindset lead to me completely reevaluating my life and what was most important. Most importantly, there is now the space to achieve whatever I want.  
  • Space to grow. Minimalism has made me grow as a person and realise that I won’t ever stop growing. I can see clearly what needs improving, what I need to contribute to, and what I need to let go of.

As you can see, the benefits of minimalism are powerful and extensive, and I know that the list will only grow longer, because minimalism helps your values to grow in the same way the sun helps a flower to bloom.

Stop. Breathe. Feel. Live.

There’s Always More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cycle continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less stuff, more action!