It’s World Book Day so grab a cuppa, curl up in your favourite chair and lose yourself in a great book.
Even if it’s ‘just for five minutes’, I implore you, sit down with a good book and realise that a whole hour has flown by.
I’ve always loved my books. I was that kid at school who loved being ‘punished’ by being forced to pull out my reading book in silence, and was annoyed when I had to put it away. Oh, and don’t even think about interrupting me in the middle of a sentence…
As a child I absolutely loved horror books, especially the Goosebumps series. Now I’m 34, and I’ve lost count of the number of self-help books, minimalism books, and other topics I’ve devoured over the years. I’ve also read a few gripping fiction books by some less-known indie authors on Kindle.
So, without further ado, here are some of my absolute favourites. Books which have changed my life, and which have stuck in my mind for some reason or other.
For me, this is the ultimate book on minimalism by an ordinary guy who decided he’d had enough of the chaotic, messy, and unhappy life he was living and changed his life through minimalism. He is what I consider to be an extreme minimalist.
In this book, Cait Flanders slowly changes her life from blackout binge drinker riddled with debt, to one of intention and freedom. This book will remind you that no matter where you are in life, you’re capable of achieving where you want to be. Inspiring stuff!
This book couldn’t have come at a better time in my life, right when I was thinking about where I was going and why. Cait compares her outdoor adventures to real life conundrums we all have, and shares her nuggets of wisdom gained along the way. A truly wholesome book to read if you’re lost in life or wondering if you’re going the right way.
A recent read which shocked me to the core, and further propelled me into eco-friendly and zero-waste living. We all need to do our bit to save the planet, and this book is a great place to start and look at your own consumption habits. Also has a really helpful chapter on caring for certain materials.
This is one of the earlier self-help books I read and has stuck with me eversince. If you want to escape a life of mediocroty, or level up your mornings, read this. Then read the follow up; The Miracle Equation.
I’m a big fan of Jen Sincero’s writing, and this book truly made me feel powerful and opened my eyes. This is a book that talks a lot about The Law of Attraction (which I’m a big believer in), but even if you’re not, don’t dismiss this.
A beautiful and simple book about Zen and simple living. The bite-sized concepts spoken about in this book are simply lovely and doable by anyone. It is a great reminder to slow down and appreciate life. I leave this one on my bedside table so I am reminded every morning.
I love Anthony Moore’s articles on Medium.com. He writes openly and honestly about his own struggles and successes in escaping a mediocre life. When I found out he was writing a book I was really excited. Apparently, this book didn’t do too well but it is a gem with simple easy advice and lovely photos throughout. If you know you’re capable of more but stay stuck every day, don’t hesitate to pick this up.
A very recent read which I raced through to the end on an emotional rollercoaster of sadness, hope, and inspiration. Rachel’s story is one of challenging severe mental health issues through her discovered outlet of running. This book had me almost in tears one minute, and feeling elated along with her the next. She just released a follow up called A Midlife Cyclist.
If you’ve ever questioned your relationship with alcohol or tried and failed to quit time and again, I urge you to read this. Packed full of scientific information, and explores the internal reasons why you just can’t seem to stop. It’s also non-judgemental and shame-free reading. Tonnes of ‘aha!’ moments and dawning realisations.
This book is a classic but despite how old the text itself is, the advice is still incredibly valuable for today. Perfect for learning how to relate to others, build relationships, and negotiate in a positive manner with just about anybody.
And there you have it! My list of absolute favourites to adorn my shelf and subconscious.
Of course, there are way more, but to list them all would take significant time, and there’s even more I’m currently reading.
If you haven’t picked up a book in weeks, months, or even years, it’s never too late to fit in a good book that might just light a fire in you.
Who knows? You might discover something new about yourself.
Give it a chance and spare five minutes of your time for a book today.
It’s the second year of writing on this blog, and over that time, I’ve grown while my pile of belongings have shrunk.
I’ve written a lot about minimalism and the process of decluttering, but since then, my mindset has changed, what I want has changed, and what I thought I needed to be happy has been challenged time and again.
I am now what I consider to be an extreme minimalist.
Minimalism is all about only keeping the things that you love, that you find useful and that bring value into your life. Once the physical aspect has reached a certain point, it extends into other areas of your life such as relationships, career, and personal values.
Extreme minimalism is minimalism taken even further and isn’t something there is such a lot of out there on the internet. Many extreme minimalists have gone furniture-free to encourage more movement in their daily lives as well as introduce even more space to move around freely. They keep only what is essential for them and live as free as possible.
What is essential will differ depending on the individual, and that will always be the case no matter what kind of minimalist you are.
Some extreme minimalists I follow are Youheum on Heal Your Living, and Anja’s Artworld. While my lifestyle is different because I have a family and different hobbies, the extreme minimalist lifestyle very much appeals to me.
As I decluttered more and started asking myself big questions, I realised that I too, wanted more, by having even less.
Of course, because I have a family, there’s only so far I can go. I can’t go furniture free, for example, as I would have done, because my family loves having a sofa, table and chairs. And that’s fine by me. Extreme minimalism isn’t for everyone, and I’m focusing on what I can do personally to minimise my own stuff so I can maximise my life.
So far, I’ve got rid of about 80% of my stuff.
It’s strange to think I used to be an organised hoarder. The stuff I held onto caused drawers to break and arguments between me and fiance (now my husband). I didn’t know what I wanted out of life other than to collect and play as many videogames as possible and write fanfiction which I never published.
I was simply surviving day to day, and was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Growing up, I had been taught that life is a constant struggle, that money is only for rich and/or crooked people, and that my dreams were unrealistic. For the longest time, I viewed successful people with suspicion and saw almost every opportunity as a con.
It has taken many years of working on my past, working on my mindset, changing the stories I told myself on a regular basis and becoming minimalist, to unlearn all of that.
My minimalist journey started a couple of years ago sometime after being confronted with my huge attic hoard by my mum.
Later, we moved into a house we would be sharing with my parents and for a time we had to live in the bedroom while a side extension was built onto the house so we would have our own living room and enough bedrooms for all of us.
Once complete, the living room was going to be very narrow and long, so I knew I had to be selective about my stuff. I wanted a fresh start, anyway. New furniture, new ornaments, new everything.
Over time, I got rid of bags upon bags of clutter. I must have been walking to the charity shops every other other day because everyone in my family started commenting on it and making jokes out of it. “You’ll have nothing left”, “Their shop will be just full of your stuff”.
Ironically, I did feel as if I had a shop full of stuff, yet none of it had brought me lasting joy.
The more I got rid of the more free I felt, and the more my decluttering muscles built. But I also started to feel guilt for the amount of stuff I had mindlessly accumulated. Some of the stuff wasn’t even all that old and was something I had convinced myself I needed but then realised I didn’t or got bored of quickly.
Some of it was gifts I had kept out of guilt and obligation.
More recently, we’ve had our second child who is now almost 5 months old, and the gaming room we’ve had will soon need to become her bedroom. As a result, we’ve been slowly getting rid of our large collection of games and merchandise (definitely some of the hardest stuff for me to part with).
Most of it, I realised, was just to show my identity as a gamer and as an interesting person. I used to want to be like my favourite Youtube game collectors and imagined one day showing it all off on camera.
I wanted my friends to come over and be wowed as they looked over my awe-inspiring collection.
Now I don’t want any of that.
Not only have I parted with a lot of my stuff, I’ve shed a lot of my ego and realised the things which are really important to me; writing, taking photos in nature, going on long walks.
I’m not saying I no longer enjoy playing videogames; that’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was 4, and can’t imagine a life without. What I’m saying is, I want more out of life, and extreme minimalism seems to be the way for me to make room for that.
I was tired of a layer of dust accumulating over everything. Fed up of dusting huge units of furniture. Exhausted with the decision fatigue when I didn’t know what game to pick. Bored of worrying about what might happen to my collection in any number of situations.
I consider myself an extreme minimalist because I am almost entirely free of decor and things that might otherwise overload my senses visually, and I’m considering sitting on the floor more and on fold-away furniture to encourage a more active lifestyle. So far, my long walks have been doing wonders for my stamina.
I’m already experiencing many of the benefits of extreme minimalism:
Less things to clean and maintain, more time to relax, be with my family, or learn something new.
Less visual clutter overloading my senses.
The more money saved by not buying random tchotkes, the more I have to support me in what matters.
Celebrations being focused on family and fun instead of stuff and storage (this is a work in progress as it involves others being on board).
More space to think and for my kids to play freely.
Space for my husband to set up his PC station for gaming and work, and still have plenty of entertainment area left.
Less worry about safety and getting angry at superfluous things getting broken by my kids.
Room for growth and potential.
Space for the big questions in life and for self discovery.
Space for silence and a cup of tea just thinking about…nothing.
I’m quite excited to continue my journey and wonder where I’ll be six months and even a year from now. Likely, I will be returning to posts like these as a fun way to check how far I’ve come.
Some time has passed since my last post, but truthfully, I’ve been going through a few things, and I’ve also discovered something big about myself in the healing process.
I’ll start by briefly mentioning that I’m in the process of healing for postnatal OCD, obsessively checking on my baby daughter, having terrible intrusive thoughts, and horrendous night terrors that have woken me almost as much as the baby. To say I’ve been exhausted is an understatement.
My mind and body have been completely totalled. I was still going out for long daily walks but that itself wasn’t fixing anything. I couldn’t understand why I felt so completely overwhelmed even when things were calm.
When I say I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, the only way I can describe it is like a constant deafening ‘noise’ in my head. Not literal noise. Just a feeling of so much going on that whenever there was a moment of silence and my baby napped, my head felt as if I had just been to a nightclub, then got home and sat in the silence with my head promising a hangover.
This feeling isn’t new to me. I’ve often struggled with it and sometimes it’s even lead to the odd meltdown. Now, I do have an autism diagnosis, but to me that’s never felt like the whole picture.
At night, I couldn’t wait to reach for the wine or the beer to ‘tone down’ the constant sensory overload I was feeling. Obviously, not a good thing.
Well, a few weeks ago, I made a radical decision. I was going to dramatically tone down as much sensory stimulation coming at me as possible. This has meant leaving Facebook, leaving Whatsapp, not checking the news, not filling in silences, not playing intense videogames for a long period of time or before bed, and not checking my phone in the morning.
The news has been constant source of worry and stress over things I can’t control, as well as yet another thing to keep me clicking and bombarding me with information. Why was I doing it to myself?
I was fed up with the urge to check all the time, losing hours to apps and then feeling as if I’d had no time to myself, fed up with feeling as if i had to respond on Whatsapp all the time (the app shows when a message has been read) and I simply don’t want that pressure to respond instantly.
Nobody should have to feel that kind of pressure unless it is an emergency.
For those reasons, I likely won’t be returning to Facebook at all or checking the news unless I absolutely have to.
I’ve taken breaks in the past thinking I would reset my habit and all would be fine. But because social media services are designed to exploit our minds and our need to be accepted, I know that isn’t going to happen which is why I’ve found myself time and again down the endless, noisy rabbit hole.
I understand that in the current climate, the expectations to communicate digitally are heightened, but for me, it’s not been doing my mental health any good.
With a 4 month old and a 6 year old autistic son, total peace is just not going to happen, so I’ve taken control of what I can so I can show up for my family as a better, calmer person, and hopefully continue to heal.
I’ve been making a habit of colouring again as part of the healing process. Honestly, I had forgotten the joy and the peace of simply worrying about what colour to use next. I’ve also been just sitting in silence for long periods of time with my favourite beverage of choice (a calming herbal tea or some hot milk).
I’ve slowed down my walking speed instead of walking like I’m on some imaginary timer, and that had paid off because I captured some great photos I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It seems that rushing around doing anything automatically makes my brain think I’m in a survival situation, so I’ve been intentionally slower with household chores as well, and in moving around the house.
I make sure to feel the floor beneath my feet, whether that’s the warm cosy carpet of the bedroom between my toes, or the cool hard flooring of the living room.
Mornings are now much slower. No longer do I rush to get myself and my son out the door to school. The stress was doing neither of us any good so I’ve started making time for cuddles and showing him the amazing sunrises from his bedroom window instead (to which he runs off to get his camera).
I also make a point to braindump in my notebook every morning which is akin to emptying the household trash and is seriously refreshing.
I’ve got rid of even more stuff. In fact, I now consider myself an extreme minimalist (which i want to talk about in another post).
I’ve cut out chemicals and sprays which I was incredibly sensitive to and switched to all natural products instead. Even that has gone some way to reduce the overload on my senses.
As I’ve slowed down and started noticing the signals my body is giving me, I’ve realised that caffeine is yet another thing I am sensitive to, which has been putting me into fight or flight mode without even realising. Without slowing down, I never would have noticed that as I chugged every cup of tea like I was on a timer.
In just over a week, my husband tells me I’ve not been waking up screaming as much, sometimes not at all, and I feel generally calmer in myself. More grounded.
Now for the revelation I discovered about myself. And it was the brain-dumping and reducing the huge amounts of sensory input which lead to the realisation.
Why is that such a revelation, you ask? Because for pretty much my whole life I’ve ignored that and lived a loud, obnoxious lifestyle.
Growing up I always had trouble making friends and being bullied, and a few other traumatic things happened in my life, so I acted out constantly. Later on, when I finally did make life-long friends, I acted silly and loud and hyper all the time (which quickly became a part of my identity with friends). I acted that way for so many years I forgot it had once been a mask. In fact, it was still a mask.
I wore this mask because deep down I feared being lonely and friendless and a little voice in my head told me I couldn’t be calm because I’d be seen as boring, that I’d lose the people close to me if I calmed down because there was nothing else about me. I continued to tell myself that story for the longest time.
Sometimes people would comment and go ‘that’s very Emma’, or ‘that’s not very Emma-like’ which further cemented these fears I had to live up to this identity I had forged.
Even after receiving a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (which has calmed down somewhat after cutting out gluten and using more natural products) I carried on like I was, continually burning myself out. I wasn’t even aware I had been wearing a mask because it had become such an ingrained part of myself.
The relief upon realising this was as if I had just dropped a heavy sack of potatoes I’d been carrying for years. I just stared and stared at the page where this had all come out of me, hardly able to believe it.
That’s not the only thing that helped me come to the realisation I’m an (extroverted) HSP. I’ve been minimalist a few years now and have become more and more on the extreme side, wanting less and less visual distraction, craving peace and nature more than ever before.
I found myself watching Youheum’s Heal your Living on Youtube (an extreme minimalist) just so I could feel the calm and because I love her incredibly serene, slow voice. But, strikingly, what made me watch these videos over and over, was that she talks about being a HSP, which is something I hadn’t heard of before.
When Youheum spoke about being a HSP and how extreme minimalism was helping that, something clicked for me. I felt like she was talking about my deepest self, but I wasn’t yet ready to accept it, so I watched it a good few times.
Upon reading about HSP’s, and finding it is a very real thing, I was struck by how much like me it all was, the only difference being I’m in the 20-30% of extroverted HSP’s – most are introverts.
So now, I’m kind of dealing with the mask having fallen away, and am having to nurture and nourish the ruined, daylight-deprived skin beneath. And I’m doing this mainly by myself because everyone else has always known me as ‘that crazy loud girl’. It’s embarrassing, to be honest, and despite being public, this blog felt like the safest place to explain it. the safest place to be myself.
I have to wonder if it wasn’t for the postpartum illness, and if it wasn’t for minimising even further, how much longer would that mask have stayed welded to me? Until I had another meltdown? Until I got yet another chronic illness?
This is the first time I’ve spoken about this.
In a way, it’s helping me to process the fact I’ve been pretending for so long and subjecting myself to unnecessary levels of stimulation and noise. All under the belief I was boring and undesirable. All because I was petrified of being lonely.
I’ve since come to realise after all these years what quality friends and family I have, and that anyone worth having in my life, will continue to love me for who I really am.
And I’m also thankful to discovering minimalism because without that, I’d never be where I am now and this blog wouldn’t even exist.
If you’re also a HSP or have recently discovered you are, feel free to comment and I will get back to you within 48 hours.
It’s been a few months since my last post, and in that time I’ve become a mum again to a gorgeous little girl.
I’ve also got back to minimising and simplifying, which is now more important than ever with a family of four, even more so because my six-year-old son has just received an autism diagnosis. I know that simplifying his life and routines can help make a difference in his stress levels and sensory overload, but the same can be said for any child, and of us adults.
Since having a new baby to take care of and settling into the new rhythm of sleepless nights, exhausting daytime hours when she refuses to sleep, and making my son still feel loved and valued, it’s forced me yet again to look at how I spend my time.
Because all my time in the week is now spent on changing nappies, doing endless feeds, keeping up with the laundry, and other household chores, the time I get has to be used intentionally whether that’s an intentional hour of rest, half hour of gaming, reading a book, or decluttering.
The past week I’ve spent a good chunk of my time decluttering the attic, not just because I love the sense of freedom and satisfaction I get, but because I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of my kids. And that involves me facing a prospect many of us don’t like to acknowledge – death.
One of the many reasons I live a minimalist lifestyle is because when I’m gone, whether that be when I’m a hundred years old, or even next month, the last thing I want is to burden my loved ones with sorting through my stuff, deciding what to keep, what goes in the skip, what gets donated, feeling guilty if they don’t keep something, trying to figure out what best represented me, and frankly, wasting hours of their remaining time on this Earth.
When I pass, the last thing I want is for people to look for me in my stuff. I want to be remembered for the life I lived, for my personality, for the things I said and how I made people feel; not the figurines I owned, the shoes I wore, the limited editions I collected, or the phone I had.
You may be thinking this all sounds a bit too much on the morbid side, but hear me out.
When I gave birth to my son six years ago, I lost 4 litres of blood when my placenta got stuck to the walls of my uterus. I almost died and one of the nurses told me how lucky I had been to have pulled through. Before that, I’d never really considered the life I was living or the impact my stuff was having. Soon after, it struck me that I wasn’t following my dreams, either. Rather, I was just floating along in life with no clear direction, buying more and more stuff to fill the sense of emptiness.
Back then I was still living as an organised hoarder, and to think back on it now, it’s sad how much stuff my family would have had to go through. Trinkets, old toys, old letters, old party invitations, tonnes of gaming paraphernalia, old stationary, overflowing boxes, relics of my past, painful memories, stuff I clung to because I thought ‘I wasn’t me without my stuff’.
As it turned out, the ‘me’ I was clinging to was the biggest piece of clutter of all, and the real me was waiting to be discovered in empty spaces, free of the hoard that weighed me down, free of the physical weight of my past, and with more free time that wasn’t wasted on organising and acquiring more.
We all have limited time on this planet, and that also goes for our children (if we have any).
Why keep a bunch of stuff for them, for our partners, for our parents or siblings, to have to spend hours, days or weeks going through our stuff when we pass on? As uncomfortable as it is to realise, it’s not like we can take our stuff with us when it’s our time. Instead, the weight of our life cascades onto family and friends. Sadly, that stuff sometimes even harbours the power to cause heated arguments and family rifts. Families get divided for decades over an antique vase, a china collection, or money, which, ironically, would probably be spent on acquiring more stuff. Stuff that won’t even matter when we’re gone.
Remember, we can’t take our stuff and whoever deals with it all can’t get back their time. Time which is so important and passes in the blink of an eye.
But enough about death, let’s go right back to the very beginning.
We’re born owning nothing. Blank slates of endless potential. All we want is the love and attention of our caregivers, and whatever we need to survive. Then suddenly, at some point along the line, we accumulate stuff. Stuff to speed up our development, stuff to teach us about the world, stuff to entertain us, stuff to distract us, stuff to show us how much we’re loved.
We grow up and we want more. More toys, more gadgets, more games, more clothes, more, more, more. Where once we were happy with love and experiences of the world, we’re taught by the people close to us, and through endless advertising, that we can’t be happy without the latest toy, the fullest wardrobe, the biggest game collection, or the trendiest coat.
We’re taught that we’re not enough, that if we don’t receive more, we aren’t loved or not worthy. Our ‘self’ gets hidden by the sheer amount of stuff, and that pattern continues through life until we break it or we die.
Let me give you an example of how too much stuff affects us as children.
Recently, I was forced to declutter my son’s room. He struggles to let go of things regardless of how many years it has been since he last played with that teddy bear or can no longer fit in that favourite t-shirt. Finally, the drawer under his bed broke under the weight of years of artwork and plastic toys that he never played with. Yet despite it all, he complained he was ‘bored’ or would roll around on the floor in a state of overwhelm. Whenever he wanted a particular toy, he always came crying to me or his dad that he couldn’t find it. I’d go to his room and it would look like a hurricane had passed through it on his hunt.
At bedtime, he couldn’t even decide what book he wanted me to read to him; he either made me choose or constantly chose ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. Even though it’s one of his favourite books, I realized he wasn’t even listening to it anymore, and had become bored with it. He was simply choosing it every night because there were far too many books on his shelf for him to process.
So, I got to work removing most of the plastic McDonald’s toys, Kinder Egg junk, and things he never touched. I also removed a pile of books he’d either outgrown, or seemed to hold no interest for him. Then, I went through all his artwork, discarding the damaged pieces, paper with hardly anything on it, or pieces I knew he didn’t care for as it was something he had done when he was two. I’m ashamed to say that most of the artwork clogging his drawer wasn’t even his doing; it was pieces I hadn’t been able to let go of because I was still clinging to his toddler stage. Most of those went in the bin once I had taken a few photos.
Bear in mind, instead of instantly donating the toys and risking upsetting him, I put the bags of his stuff into the attic to be sorted at a later date. That way, if he wanted his jingly bells back, or the teddy he had picked up that time he went to hospital when he was 2, he could have them.
Now, here’s the surprising thing.
He’s never once asked for any of it back, nor seems to have noticed that 70% of it is missing. And he’s started choosing books other than ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ all by himself. There’s also been fewer instances of him crying because he can’t find his Nerf gun bullets or other favourite things.
Quite often, we think we need more, and we assume the same for our children. Whenever we’re bored or unfulfilled, we might order something new on Amazon or go shelf-browsing until we spot something we like.
And when they’re bored, we rush to buy them another toy or download yet another app.
Instead, we need to rediscover simplicity, then do the same for our children.
We need to reconnect with loved ones, and claim back the time that is so precious, and we need to remind ourselves that we’re worth it, despite what marketing would us believe.
I realise it’s been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I can’t deny I feel guilty about that because I was going to post an article on being extraordinary. While I do have the article, I couldn’t bring myself to post it because in the current climate, it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ve been sorting out elements of my own life, and thinking about my future, as well as battling pregnancy fatigue.
I’m now 28 weeks pregnant, and what I have been focused on is minimising and simplifying my life more than ever before.
This post is a little catch up for this blog about my minimalist journey since the lockdown started, and to share my thoughts about where I am now.
One way I’ve been thinking about my stuff is the sheer weight of it in my life, both physically and metaphorically.
I often read about people on decluttering journeys who load their cars with bags upon bags of clutter they’re casting off from their lives, and how many trips it takes to the charity shop.
Since I can’t drive, whenever I donate anything and as I decide to let go of even more stuff, I walk to town with the weight of those bags. As I walk and the bags weigh me down and cut into my hands, I can’t help but think about the sheer weight of my life.
All that heaviness. The stagnant energy that clings to it. The burden of guilt and old memories.
I welcome the relief once the weight is gone, and it often feels as if my arms are floating. Better than that, is the feeling of lightness in my home. There’s more space for energy to flow, space for potential in the future. Not potential new stuff, but opportunities and beliefs that serve me.
The more I cast off, the less weighed down by the past I feel, and the more hope for the future. It’s true that less really is more.
Speaking of the future, since I get so much joy from decluttering and love to help others with it, I had a sudden profound idea to look into becoming a professional declutterer – something which wouldn’t have occurred to me had I still been weighed down by stuff.
Clutter really is something that always lurks at the back of your mind, taking up space and valuable energy. Like a computer with an error message warning you its storage is getting too full, the brain is pretty much the same, and lightening your physical load will massively lighten your mental load.
Being 28 weeks pregnant has made the effects of minimising even more apparent. At a time when I find myself needing more rest than ever, I’ve been able to do just that because there’s no mess, surfaces are clear, and it’s quick and easy to vacuum and dust (our new dishwasher has simplified things even more – especially because my parents live with us).
I’m not having to worry about having enough space for the upcoming new addition to our family, because there’s now more than enough space to accommodate.
In fact, having a new baby on the way is making me think of the stuff in my life even more. For example, my husband and I have been massively attached to our gaming room. It’s the place we go to chill out and play videogames, display our games, and even use as a workspace.
But ultimately, we decided we could give up that luxury so that our second child has a room of their own (more essential because it is a girl and she’s going to be 6 years younger than my son who’s growing up way too fast).
With that in mind I started minimising the gaming room quite early on, and while it started off hard, it’s now got to the point where I no longer feel attached and could happily pass it on , safe in the knowledge that most of it hasn’t been played in years, is realistically never going to get played again, and that most games are now available digitally.
I also realise that I don’t need to have a Youtube worthy gaming display to prove that I love gaming. The way I do that is by actually playing them and letting them bring me hours of joy and excitement.
Sitting on a shelf, they do nothing but take up space, look pretty, and add decision fatigue. The digital streaming services available now on all platforms have helped teach me that. And if I don’t play them while they’re available, I was never going to get around to doing so in the first place.
Another hard thing I’ve done in the past few days is put my wedding dress and accessories up for sale. Initially, I felt sad, but when I brought the huge storage case down from the humid attic, I saw the space that had been created, and reminded myself that it would be far better bringing that same joy to somebody else than it sitting in less-than-ideal storage conditions, taking up valuable space.
Some people are curious why the whole journey has been a process which has taken a couple of years.
Before I was a minimalist, I was what you’d call an organised hoarder. At first glance, I lived in a tidy environment, but it was bursting at the seams and I was forever organising and wishing for a bigger house so I could store more. Window ledges, cubby holes, shelves, cupboards, drawers and storage spaces were rammed with relics of my past, and things I thought I needed, and it was causing heated arguments between me and my husband (who was my fiance at the time).
I also reacted to every whim for something new, be it a new phone, a new bag, a new journal, or another games console. These whims came all the time because deep down, I wasn’t happy and the satisfaction never lasted longer than a few days at most.
That hoarding and the constant buying was a result of years of deeply ingrained beliefs and trauma, and it’s taken a few years to get to where I am now with the mindset and beliefs I now have. Another factor is the seasons of life we all go through.
What’s useful in one season of life may no longer serve in the future, so the minimalist journey never really ends. There will always be times where life needs a mindful reevaluation of where you’re going and what may no longer be serving you, although once you’ve done the main bulk of decluttering, it should never be as stressful or as time-consuming again, provided you stay mindful and vigilant of what comes into your life and why.
Next time I post, I’d like to share with you all, our experience of having a brand new minimalist kitchen, and how it has changed our lives for the better. I feel it is a perfect example of the negative effects clutter can have on an entire family, and the unbelievable change in energy when clutter is dealt with.
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.
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.