Have a Merrier Christmas With Less

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And 75% of it was trash. 

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

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

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

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

Not true. 

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

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

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

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

That’s madness. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My tree

Stuff: The Thief of Time

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. 

Before and after decluttering my sons art drawer. As you can see, the drawer above had snapped off its runners

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. 

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

I’m back!

Hi all! After a lengthy hiatus, I’m glad to say I’m back. I’ve been exhausted through pregnancy, and now as a mother to an almost 5 week old baby girl. It’s certainly been challenging to settle into the new rhythm of life as a family of four. I’d forgotten just how chaotic life can be with a tiny baby who relies on you for survival and comfort around the clock, but it’s so worth it!

Anyway, earlier I found the time to write my latest thoughts on simplicity, and how clutter affects ours and our children’s lives not just now, but far into the future.

I will publish this in the next few hours when I find a moment, but I look forward to writing more often again and sharing my minimalism journey with you all.

The Weight of Stuff

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-simplifying My Life in a Time of Chaos

Image by dungthuyvunguyen from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, of course, that’s ridiculous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

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

How To Level Up Your Life By Taking Time Out

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Sam Knight on Unsplash

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

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

Everything was just as it was in the moment. 

Just us and nature. 

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

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

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

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

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

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

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

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

Know what fixed it?

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

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

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

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

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

A sunset outside of one of our windows

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

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

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

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

Make time for today.

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

The Many Benefits of Minimalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop.

Breathe.

Feel.

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

But there is a simple and elegant solution.

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

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

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

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

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

Stop. Breathe. Feel. Live.

Finding Yourself in A Consumerist World

On a beautiful spring day last week, whilst waiting for my friend in my town’s Memorial Garden, I got thinking about how people are remembered.

So many of us surround ourselves with stuff and get buried in our digital devices, our worth falsely represented by what we own instead of what we do. Did these war heroes fight so that we could buy the latest iPhone and one-up our neighbours? So that we could passively fritter our lives away behind screens? Or did they lay down their lives so that we could have a future and fulfil our true potentials.

People’s eulogies are never about the things they owned or the size of their abode, but how they lived, what they accomplished, how they treated others, and who was important to them. Think about all the famous and revered people who have passed away and who you learnt about at school. Whether they were rolling in money or begging for scraps, these people are remembered in history because of what they accomplished, for better or worse.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Why then, do we continue to accumulate so much stuff, stifling our true selves and squandering our precious hours in the pursuit of acquiring more and maintaining it all? In our consumerist society of advertisements and social media, it’s no wonder we’re feeling more and more pressured to keep up with our neighbours, friends, family, and even strangers on the other side of the globe. When does it stop?

Unless you actively decide to do something about it, it won’t. And by that I mean become mindful about your consumer habits and marketing tricks that have a subtle yet powerful effect on us all. It’s not just the tailored ads on social media that mirror your buying habits, but most websites you visit.

Thankfully, most websites now offer their users a chance to uncheck targeted ads and limit what data they can use. But in a rush to view the website, most people skip this step.

Another way marketers get into your brain is via emails, so unsubscribe from marketing emails, particularly when there’s likely to be sales and promotions around holidays.  I’m not perfect – I’ve been guilty many times of succumbing to a tempting sale or promotional vouchers presented to me via emails. I’m no more immune to marketing strategies than the next person, but the difference is I’m much more mindful of what I allow into my inbox and what ads websites are allowed to display. Because of minimalism,  I’m also aware of what I already possess.

The most important thing of all is to be mindful whenever you go to the shops. Do you really need that ice-cream maker, or are you just buying it to satisfy a deep-seated emptiness that a friendship or hobby could fulfil instead? Think about the maintenance and space which each item will occupy and if you do make a purchase, consider removing something else less useful to you.   

It’s better to avoid shopping trips as a pastime, if you can. Such trips are usually born out of boredom and a desire to socialise with friends, but there are far more intriguing places to spend your time which doesn’t necessarily involve spending money. Plus, do you really want relationships to be built on a foundation of consumerism and subconsciously comparing stuff? I didn’t think so.                 


Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

When we’re feeling bored or unsatisfied with our lives, it’s easier than ever before to fill that void and get a quick buzz from a purchase at any time of the day or night. Online shopping is available 24/7, always there as a temporary salve for negative emotions and a buzz of excitement for something new. That’s why I deleted all shopping apps from my phone, and if I’m on my PC, ensure that I log out of sessions so it’s not so convenient to check it out on a whim.  

I try to avoid going into shops just for a browse (unless it’s a bookshop) because if I’m going for a browse it means I’m looking for ways to procrastinate from the things which will truly move my life forwards; things like working on my book and preparing my next blog post. You see, these things require hard work and focus, but the result is a far more satisfying and long-lasting buzz than anything from a store can provide.

Reading and writing nourishes me in a way that nothing else does: I need it like I need food, and without either, I become grumpy, listless, and prone to seeking meaningless dopamine hits from other sources. What’s your passion? If you’re unsure, don’t worry; once you take control of your possessions you can start steering your own destiny.

Be mindful, stay vigilant and realise your true potential. Above all, remember: you are always more valuable than any object.

How do you want to be remembered?

Photo taken in my town’s Memorial Garden. It is a beautiful place, perfect for contemplation and embracing simplicity.

The Shattered Perception of Stuff

For a finite length of time, the road to simplicity can feel exhausting because it involves so much soul searching and decision making. Not only that, but like with doing anything that’s outside the ‘norm’, you will probably encounter ridicule from others before they understand the benefits of what you’re doing. The best way to make somebody else understand minimalism and simplicity is by living the lifestyle and sticking to your values. Don’t be afraid to stand out and keep growing! When people see how much happier and more relaxed you are, they might even become a little curious themselves – just remember you can’t force them.


Photo owned by the author of Minimalistmojo

In the meantime, I’ve endured jokes that I’ll have sold off my whole house if I carry on, and even confusion from worried family members who can’t understand why I’m taking bags of my things to the charity shop every week. The truth is, going from hoarder to minimalist is a long, drawn out process which takes a lot of energy and mental strength, but the outcome is incredible and well worth it.

There are many times I thought I was done, but in fact, ended up finding more stuff I could live without. That’s a common side-effect of minimising: once you start removing things from your home, you find more and more as you slowly discover what it is that’s important to you. I like to think of it as uncovering a fossil: the more you chip away, the more reveals itself until you have a clear observation.

Last year, I had a wake up call when my four year old son smashed an expensive vase I had bought to beautify my living room. Of course, I was upset and screamed at him, and he became extremely upset. But when I took the time to look up from the shattered pieces, at his face, wet with tears, I realised something important: I could replace my vase but not my beautiful son who was growing up so fast. In that moment, I had placed far too much value on a store-bought object and caused needless anxiety in both of us. You could say the event shattered my perception on the stuff I was placing so much value on. That point was made even clearer recently, when just before Mother’s Day, he brought home this lovely plant pot he had decorated for me at school, complete with vibrant pink pansies. He was so proud and it was so much more special to me than any object from a store, no matter how expensive. The flowerpot was made and presented to me with such pure feelings that even if it got broken, I know that love is still there, and in the end, that’s more important than anything I own.


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash