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

Re-evaluating Minimalism

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about minimalism and the role it plays in my life, even more so since being locked down at home.

But there are some other situations in my life which have cropped up and forced me to rethink the role of stuff in my life, and possibly moving onto a new stage of minimalism.

In my upcoming post, I want to share these thoughts and realisations with you, because it shows how we can fall into a rut and why it’s so important to re-evaluate your life every once in a while.

Photo by Jess @ Harper Sunday on Unsplash

Starve Your Inner Critic and Claim Back Your Power

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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

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

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

“My writing’s crap compared to this”

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

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

“I can’t”

“I’m not”

“I’ll never be…”

“I’m (insert insult here)”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gremlin:

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

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

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

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

Me

Oh shut up, everyone started from zero. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let your inner gremlin decide your future. 

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



Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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

Image by TRƯƠNG QUÂN from Pixabay

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

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

The dining table has become a dumping ground once again. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep surfaces clear at all times.

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

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

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

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

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

Put laundry away immediately 

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

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

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

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

Deal with paperwork the same day 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never leave things over floors and seating 

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

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

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

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

Make your bed every morning

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

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

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

Stay mindful whenever you go shopping

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

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

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

Do you really need it? 

Do you have something similar at home?

Is it because you’re bored?

Because it’s on sale?

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

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

Let go of the old 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take time to meditate or be silent 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

Upcoming Post – Do You Really Need That?

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

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

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

The Helping Hand of Failure – Why I Recover Faster

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I’m not perfect. 

Nobody’s perfect. 

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

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

You’re not a good parent

You’re not a good runner

You’re not beautiful enough

Not smart enough

Not cool enough

Not happy with your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

2. Positive Connections

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

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

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

3. Balance your time spent on social media

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

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

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

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

Photo by Timi David on Unsplash

4. Healthy Eating

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

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

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

5. Minimise/declutter your environment

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

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

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

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

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

6. Write some goals for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Dale de Vera on Unsplash

7. Greenery

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

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

8. Be kind to yourself

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

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

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

The Lies You Must See Through to Reach True Happiness

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I used to think I wanted to be rich.

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

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

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

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

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

Then I discovered minimalism. 

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

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

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

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

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I soon learned just how dangerous that mindset was. 

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

Mainly all the stuff I hadn’t done. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your true happiness?

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash


How Rampant Consumerism is Destroying Us

Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash

I’ve been watching a riveting anime called Dr Stone. In it, a mysterious wave of light suddenly washes over Earth and turns everybody into stone. 3,700 years later, the world has reverted back to how it was before humans became advanced, and the humans that break out have to survive and rebuild civilisation. 

So many things in this anime have stood out to me, but one which has stuck in my mind is how quickly everything can be taken away in a flash, whether that’s by natural disaster, or from unfortunate circumstances. 

The humans who found themselves 3,700 years in the future had to start from scratch; foraging for food, hunting, building basic shelter, surviving wild animal attacks, and encountering other humans who’d made their own rules. 

There were no smartphones, no TV, no convenience shopping, no electricity, no doctors, and no medicine. 

Dr Stone shows just how much we take for granted in today’s modern world. 

All humans want happiness, and too often we try to achieve that by buying the things which we believe will make us happy and which marketers have convinced us we need: a new phone, the latest fashions, the latest car, the best smelling cologne, the shiniest, most expensive jewellery, the latest tablet/laptop, the biggest TV, I could go on forever here. 

Another thing which struck me in Dr Stone, was how much vegetation had taken over where entire towns and cities once stood. It made me think about how much damage us humans have actually done to our planet. 

Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

How many trees get chopped down to make new products – many of which we don’t actually need but believe will make us happy? 

How much oil gets consumed just to make the fast fashion that so many of us end up binning?

What really makes humans happy is a sense of community and belonging. Of having some place and meaning in the world. 

In his book’ The Compassionate Mind’, Paul Gilbert talks about how by 2020, depression will be the second most prevalent malady for humans. And guess what? Depression and anxiety has, indeed, skyrocketed.

Gilbert goes on to say that back in the 60’s people had a sense of community, helped each other out, and believed that technology would give us more time to be with the people we love, and to take care of ourselves. 

Instead, technology has been used to increase productivity and place huge demands on people, more so than ever before. We now live in a society where everyone is rushed off their feet and busyness is looked upon more admirably than producing quality or meaningful work. 

We live in a hive rather than a community. Tick boxes in place of what’s really important. Productivity in place of quality. As busyness has become a hidden expectation, it’s become the norm, and so has stress and mental health disorders. 

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

Rush, rush, rush. Tick, tick, tick. Click, click, click. And what for? To make more money to own a bigger house, to afford everything influencers and the media tells us we need, and to fund the vices that helps us to cope in the resulting frantic, consumerist world.

Now, I’m not saying that buying things you need or will actually bring you joy is bad. Of course it isn’t. I’m talking about mindless, frantic consumerism here.  Zombie-like consumption and trying to keep up with the joneses is no good for people, or the planet. 

At the end of the day, everything is just stuff. Some of it makes our lives more convenient, some of it brings us joy, some of it is just there to make us look or feel good in front of others, and some of it we don’t even realise we have. 

That being said, if you’re a fan of anime, go watch Dr Stone – it’s amazing!

How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

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If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

Photo by Ev on Unsplash