What images does the word minimalism throw up for you? Before I had a better understanding of what it meant I would picture a house with shiny white sideboards bereft of any adornment, inhabited by a couple sporting asymmetrical haircuts dressed in black polo necks. Or, my less Stanley Kubrick retro version would be a ‘digital nomad’ (my toes curl when I hear that term) living out of a backpack and a MacBook.
Now I’ve come to understand it as something I can readily identify with, and a way I can improve my life. I do love decluttering, but for me minimalism is more about a set of principles than what you do with all your stuff. It’s not about living with nothing but understanding what you value most and centering your life around that. These values came to the forefront for me when I began maternity leave. I wanted my life to be simple and less stressful so I could enjoy time with Zahra. It shifted my priorities and made me more conscious of the choices I was making on a daily basis. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Throw something out for every new piece of clothing you buy
Imagine if you only had x amount of hangers in your wardrobe. Each hanger had enough space to breath and wasn’t cramped in without space to move. Each item of clothing had it’s own hanger with no doubling up. This would mean that every time you bought something new you would have to let something go.
2. Buy only the groceries you need
I struggled for a long time with wasting food and would hate the feeling of throwing away food and the money I’d spent on it. I’ve never been great at rustling something up as much as I love cooking. The thing that stopped me wasting food was having a realistic and smart meal plan. Buying fresh food on the days I had time to batch cook and knowing exactly what I needed.
3. Create a budget and fine toothcomb your outgoings
Get really clear on what’s coming in and out each month and where you can make savings. When I went through my expenditures I was embarrassed to find I was paying for stuff I wasn’t even using such as a phone app and a subscription service. I went through all the fuss of swapping over my utilities to find it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it did make big monthly savings. I set reminders for contract ends so I wouldn’t auto-renew and end up overpaying for things like broadband, phone contracts and car insurance.
4. Practice letting go
Of stuff. Of the things that clutter up your life, of patterns and habits that hold you back, of situations and relationships that keep you stuck.
5. Identify what you value most
Identify it, then prioritise it. How would your life be different if for example, you made wellbeing your priority? Would you move your body more, would you make more time for self-care?
6. Make space for gratitude
Removing the clutter from your home and business from your schedule frees up time and space to appreciate the simple things.
7. Start planning
The only way to live the life you want to live is to design your week. It’s easy to go with the flow and be swept up in the business of life only to realise you’re no closer to where you want to be. That project you’ve been dreaming about has still not got off the ground, your fitness goals have stalled for another week, and you still haven’t found time for self-care. When you carefully choose how you spend your time that is when you really begin to up-level your life.
8. Have a rest day
Does the idea of being without your phone send you into a panic, or at the very least create a sense of boredom? Phones are designed to be addictive so don’t worry if you feel it’s difficult to turn it off. But giving technology a break allows you to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and have real restorative rest. Even if it’s only for an hour or two.
Take a break from busyness too. I recognise when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed as I want to start doing everything at once. That’s when I stop! It’s hard to do but I’ve learned that getting out of ‘strive-mode’ and focusing on self-care benefits me far more. When I come back to it all the next day I find I’m more focused, more productive, and end up getting things done in half the time.