Such a simple word, yet I think it is a word that leads to a whole new way of living, thinking and feeling. I first began adopting a minimal lifestyle about 3 years ago, my brain had begun to feel very cluttered and it just felt like I had so much stuff that I didn’t need. It’s been an on-going process and started off very slowly.
I read ‘Stuffocation: Living More With Less by James Wallman’ and realised that all my stuff was making me feel terrible. I had a habit of buying things to make myself feel better when I was feeling low and for a short period of time, I would feel a bit better because I had this ‘new’ shiny thing but then that would wear off and the cycle would repeat. I’d buy things to keep up with the Joneses and I’d buy stuff so that I’d look cool – but every time I bought something, it never really made me feel good about myself deep down. It was all on the surface.
One day I woke up and looked around at all the stuff I had and I knew – I was miserable. I was fed up with the job I was in – working to get as much money as I could so I could buy more stuff. I felt like I had no space in my home and for some reason even my life experiences felt empty.
That’s when I started thinking about minimalism or at least explore the concept of living a ‘less is more’ lifestyle.
My first act was actually to tidy up my home – starting from top to bottom. The act of tidying was simple, a process to create an organised living space to start with. Then I began a process of decluttering.
I started spiritually before I did anything physical. Having a clarity and sound mental health is so important and often we get lost in the brain fog of mess that we have going on in our daily lives. We don’t take a moment to clean our thoughts and process what we’re going through.
Meditation is key for me. I have to take 10-20minutes each day to clear my mind and focus on my breathing and build in a sense of calm into my day. Alongside that, I have to walk or go for a run daily in order to get into nature and away from the noise of my daily routines.
The meditation and daily exercise enabled me to think about what I was struggling with in my life and which areas in my life were causing me the most anxiety and stress. By breaking it down like this, I was able to take some control and start to help my mind calm down. I think that is the most important thing – mental and physical clutter make my mind feel like it’s going insane. Not because I am OCD about mess but quite simply, I struggle to think creatively in an untidy and cluttered environment.
My list was pretty straight-forward actually.
- PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Each one of those aspects of my life weighed quite heavily on me and so it was important for me to find a way to declutter my life.
I’ll come back to work in a moment.
Let’s start with HOME:
I actually found this quite daunting, getting rid of your possessions is hard especially when they have built up over a period of time. However, it’s important to remember why you’re considering a more minimalist lifestyle. For me, it was simple that my brain needed space to breathe and be creative – I needed it.
Pick Up Limes is one of my ABSOLUTE favourite YouTubers. Firstly, I love how kind Sadia seems – she’s really personable and I find myself wanting to listen to her. I also think the 30 days to Minimalism PDF that she produced is a great starting guide for working through your home life and getting you to point where you feel like your home is in order.
I also like the fact that she uses the Marie Kondo method as well – I think the concept of holding something in your hand and seeing if it sparks joys is simple yet effective. I also like to think about the last time I used something – if it’s been a year, it’s unlikely that I’ll be using it again.
By following this process – I actually realised how little I actually need and how having fewer things actually made me feel better about myself and more content with what I have.
This is an interesting one. We’re always interacting with lots of different people in our lives, however I got to a point where I started to question the validity of some of those relationships.
My relationships with work colleagues is probably the best place to start – these aren’t people that you would actively ‘choose’ to have in your life. You’re almost forced to interact with them due to the work environment that you are in and the fact that you have to be with those people for about eight hours a day. I can count the number of past colleagues and current colleagues that I associate with outside of work.
I found on my now private personal Instagram account that I had a lot of people that I used to work with following me/I was following them or people that I had gone to school or people that I no longer spoke to – all of those people were on Instagram, yet they were not present in my life and to be honest, I couldn’t understand why. If between us, we had not chosen to maintain a relationship with one another – there must have been a reason why. While it may seem callus – I chose to unfollow all of those people and remove them as my followers. NOT because I’m heartless but because they were no longer a part of my life and therefore our lives weren’t relevant to one another anymore.
That then leads me to my current work colleagues. Now with this I think things get a little political but I also think you have to bear in mind the simple fact that work is work and your life outside of work is your own and it’s yours to do with what you will. I made an active choice to remove all of my work colleagues from any of my personal platforms. I’ve always been a believer that my work colleagues are not my friends – they are the people that I work with to get the job done. Now I wholeheartedly agree that sometimes you meet people and you just naturally connect and that’s fine, it happens but in a work environment there has to be boundaries.
For me those boundaries are very important. They allow for clarity and a clear separation between what is my ‘personal’ life and my ‘professional’ life. Some may wonder why I took any action on social media – it’s addictive and it is designed to make you scroll through people’s lives. By removing that distraction – it does wonders for the mind. Now I only follow my family members and my close friends.
I’m going to be honest and say that it was a difficult thing to do but about a day or so later – I actually felt a sense of freedom. I wasn’t thinking about what those people were doing, whether my life looked as exciting as theirs and I felt fulfilled knowing that the people I cared about were safe and happy. My feed was filled with things that mattered to me and that was quite liberating.
In terms of ‘real life’ relationships – this is a tricky one. When we come out of a relationship, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll keep in touch with your ex-partner. It’s hard, it’s painful and often it’s just awkward and therefore the natural progression is to get used to a life without each other in it. While it may not be that easy to switch off some of your relationships – I think you have to consider the value that they add to your life and if realistically they actually bring you joy or any real meaning – this really does cover everyone in your life; friends, family, business associates and acquaintances. If you feel that any of those people are toxic to your personal calm then you need to either distance yourself from them or alternatively create the right boundaries that enable you for to co-exist with that person in a way that is meaningful for you.
For me, I choose to look at what I can learn from that relationship and consider my own characteristics and look at how I personally can improve myself.
We all need to work. It’s a fact of life – unless we’re insanely rich or come from a background of privilege, we have to work to pay the bills.
I have always been advised to never ‘chase’ the money. It’s easy to say rather than do – in my early 20s when I was newly qualified and started to earn the big bucks, all I wanted to do was keep earning. That led to me buying more stuff continuously to keep up with all the people that I was working with until finally I got into a mountain of debt which took a looooong time to clear. Having debt can be quite debilitating especially when you can’t see a way out. So I NOW wholeheartedly stand by this advice. Living a minimalist life means that you don’t buy things for the sake of it or to look good – you buy things you need, that have value or purpose in your life or because you genuinely would regret it for years to come if you did not make that purchase. I would say that being in lockdown over the past seven weeks has solidified this for me – I know what I NEED and what I buy because I am bored or because I’ve seen someone else with it. It is point and really not necessary.
I love this video by Sarah Therese – she goes through the 50 things she no longer buys as a minimalist and to be honest, a lot of them tick the same boxes as me.
I slightly went off topic there – chasing the money meant I bought a load of stuff I didn’t need, got into debt and then was forced to stay in a job that actually made me ill through stress. I developed severe insomnia and alongside that, having been a sufferer of migraines from my late teens – these began to become significantly worse.
When it comes to your work life – we all have to work but find a job you love, that allows you to pursue your passion. Being forced to stay in a job you hate because you need the money is not a good place to be for your soul – it will strip it bear.
Finally, my one final suggestion when it comes to your work life – adopt a clear desk policy. Its calming to the mind and helps you to work more effectively as you’re not surround by distractions or unnecessary detritus that just clutters up your creative flow.
I’ve touched on this a little bit already but finances for me have always been an issue because for a long period of my life, I had a ‘want’ mentality. I didn’t think about whether I needed something or why I was buying something – I just bought on impulse and then fretted massively later.
By adopting a minimalist lifestyle – I know only buy what I need or things that will bring me longer lasting joy.
A simple example would be the vegetables and herbs that I bought last month. I purchased these because for a long long time, I have wanted to be able to grow my own produce. I have been able to get things from local allotments and from farmers markets but it is not the same as growing your own. With the COVID-19 imposed lockdown, I finally had the chance to do this and make a real go of it. I want the ability to shorten my food miles and create amazing meals from the freshest of fruit and vegetables.
It’s one of the few things that I have purchased for ‘me’ outside of my life essentials like food, toiletries and supplements for a long time and it felt nice to buy something that added value to my life. I think that’s the most important thing – if it doesn’t add value then why do you need it and if you can’t answer that, then do you really need it?
Minimalism is a way of life – it’s a process that takes time.