Minimalism and money: are you poor?

Money Saving Cash Minimalism Coins Card Save Minimalist (1 Of 1) 2

What a question.

I’ve heard it many times within the minimalism community. People asking minimalists if their way of living is simply because they can’t afford to buy the things that everyone else can.

There are many reasons to adopt a minimalist lifestyle – stress relief, saving time, freedom from anxiety, sustainability and environmental factors, rebelling against consumerism.

And money.

That can certainly be a key reason why someone would want to embrace minimalism. And that comes in various guises:

  • Spending less on stuff so that you can work less and have more free time
  • Simply not having the excess income available to spend on anything above the essentials
  • Saving money for a financially stable future rather than spending it on trinkets now
  • Selling additional belongings to make much-needed money from your clutter
The Minimalists (2010-2015) pp 8

But it’s not necessarily about being ‘too poor’ to buy things; minimalism can be embraced for any number of reasons, not just to improve your finacial situation.

In my opinion, minimalists are the most wealthy of all – time rich, managed money, invested relationships. As The Minimalists said above, they know what adds value to their lives, which is an eviable situation to be in. Whether with lots of money or with none, their lives are complete.

But, if you have savings, a secure home, investments and all the essentials, what’s left to do with your money?

An interesting question.

I spent many years as a student (and in my twenties… and thirties) not being able to afford stuff. I had less-than the minimum needed to live on, and was often floundering in my student overdraft.

But, oddly enough, I spent more then than I do now. Having no extra money to play with didn’t ‘force’ me to become a minimalist – although that would have probably helped my financial situation at the time. Instead, I just carried on spending money, buying non-essentials and not considering my financial future.

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2021) pp 57

That is until the debts got a little too grand for my liking. Until I wanted to put down roots and save a deposit for a mortgage. Until I couldn’t even afford my monthly bills. Things had to change and I simply stopped spending.

I got a budget and started to save every penny. Saving became addictive – and I wasn’t even considering minimalism as a way to save money back then.

In truth, I’ve always been a saver, but just didn’t have the funds while I was studying to be able to do that. It was only after starting to manage my money more carefully that I discovered minimalism and all the things that it would help me with – primarily peace and calmness, but also saving extra money on unnecessary shopping.

Well, I’ve been decluttering and cutting back and not shopping and not spending for so long that it feels a little alien to buy anything now. My money automatically stays in my purse and in my bank account rather than being spent. The furthest it moves is into my savings account, and sometimes into my mortgage as an overpayment.

Minimalism brought extra money to me when I sold excess collections during decluttering. It saved me money when I questioned the need to buy anything new. It meant I didn’t need as much money to live on, because I didn’t need a budget for browsing the shops. So I could work less and save more.

After a decade or more of minimalist living, it’s just a way of life for me now. And money doesn’t feel scarce any more, all thanks to minimalism.

But that doesn’t mean I want to go out and spend it now that I have it.

It’s not that I don’t want to invest in new items when my old tech, clothing and homewares have worn out or broken, it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to not buying anything that I really consider it before I do.

However, when I feel more secure in my financial situation, I admit that I am much more likely to spend money. I feel more free to browse the shops, knowing that anything I buy won’t put me in a difficult position fiscally. From buying second-hand items from charity shops to purchasing the latest technology from glossy elecronics stores, I can be freer with my money because it doesn’t feel scarce.

And when I did hit the shops recently, it was rather exciting. I felt a little giddy when exchanging my money for goods. Carrying those bags home, bursting with new items. What an experience.

But that’s all it was – a one-off experience. The novelty of shopping soon wore off. I’m not NOT buying items because I can’t afford it. I’m just not interested in recluttering my home. I’d rather spend on experiences (meals out, day trips, theatre tickets) than things.

Kaplan, J. (2015) pp 95

I can spend money as easily as the next person; it’s just that I would rather buy an experience that’s not going to clutter up my home.

Minimalism persists, while money comes and goes.

We are not minimalists because we are poor. But we are not poor because we are minimalists.

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2010-2015) Essential Essays by The Minimalists. USA: Asymmetrical

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2021) Love People Use Things. Great Britain: Headline Home

Kaplan, J. (2015) The Gratitude Diaries. Great Britain: Yellow Kite Books

Comfort without clutter

Theoretical Minimalist Inspiation Minimalism Home Lifestyle (7 Of 9)

As I’m writing this, it’s January.

Soon after ‘Blue Monday’, in fact. Said to be the most depressing day of the year

And I’m thinking about comfort.

The ways that we can soothe ourselves through the dark days of winter and the things we might need to help us achieve that aim.

Even though the Mental Health Foundation says Blue Monday is a myth, some of the factors that have caused it to be nicknamed are certainly true of the month of Janaury in general:

Gloomy and grey days. Cold and wet weather. Back-to-work feeling. Post-Christmas blues (and debts). Dark mornings and evenings.

It can be a lot to deal with emotionally, especially when you bring Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and general low mood into the mix.

The lack of exposure to sunlight in the winter can cause distuption to our circadium rhythm and the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin, which are linked to lethargy and feelings of depression – symptoms of SAD.

So it’s no wonder that some of us might be seeking to improve our January by enjoying a little extra comfort:

  • Introducing extra blankets, hot water bottles and cushions to the bed and on the sofa.
  • Adding soft, cosy lighting such as fairy lights, lamps or candles.
  • Layering up with extra knitwear, thermal bases or dressing gowns.
  • Choosing warming baths over showers, with bottles of bubble bath, face masks and luxury hair products.
  • Treating ourselves to some new items from the January sales; clothing, tech, homewares, cosmetics.
  • Enjoying entertainment by buying new music, films, books, magazines, games.

All of these items – and anything else that brings you comfort – may be benficial to your wellbeing in January. Anything that can help you relax, feel supported and put a smile on your face seems like a positive thing to do.

But, to some minimalists, the list above constitutes clutter. Those items are all surplus to requirements, making them essentially non-minimalist. You are re-cluttering.

And we need to consider the cost factor; how much of your hard-earned money is going to be ‘wasted’; how much space are the items going to take up; how much time will you need to spend maintaining those extra pieces.

The novelty of buying new things can bring a short-term boost but, as I’ve explored previously, the desire to acquire soon wears off. So even though a shopping trip to get some new comforting items might uplift you now, it’s possible that you may regret those purchases in the near future.

But, does a sparse home with only the essentials provide enough comfort? Both physically and emotionally? If you’re looking around a room with only the furniture needed to house the small number of belongings you have and nothing else, is it going to soothe you when you need to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable.

Sometimes, having a little more than the bare essentials is important in keeping us satisfied.

Sure, have just one sofa – but adding a blanket and a cushion can make it into somewhere you’d like to settle down and relax. Yes, create a capsule wardrobe of items that all work together, but why not choose an extra-snuggly knit for those cold wintery days when you want to stay warm? Okay, a light fitting in the ceiling does the job of illuminating the room, but a lamp or string of fairy lights will bring that soft glow that’ll make you feel cosy.

Nothing is clutter if it feels right to you and has a positive impact on your wellbeing.

All of those non-essential items are what make a house a home, and can help you to feel abundant rather than scarce, both of which are uplifting when it’s a grey Monday in the middle of winter and you need a little extra comfort.

Stay snug.

NHS (2022) Overview: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) [Online]. [Accessed 17th Janaury 2024]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/

Kousoulis, A. (2021) What does blue monday mean for our mental health? [Online]. [Accessed 17th January 2024] Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/blogs/what-does-blue-monday-mean-our-mental-health

The emotions we attach to belongings when we’re grieving – and how to let them go

Theoretical Minimalist Minimalism Theory Plants (11)

When decluttering, it’s not always as simple as deciding if you practically need something or not.

You can’t always pick up a belonging, decide whether or not it sparks joy, and then let it go.

It’s not about getting rid of multiples, or ‘just in case’ items, or things that no longer serve their purpose.

It’s sometimes a little more complicated than that.

Sure, those factors can certainly help you to declutter the possessions that you don’t have much of an emotional attachment to – you don’t need duplicates, broken things, ‘rainy day’ items or impractical pieces – but these dispassionate factors don’t make it any easier to let go of things when feelings are involved. And especially when we are grieving.

That’s because, sometimes, the item you’re considering decluttering is more than just the item. It’s the sentiment behind it. The emotion you feel when it’s around. The positives (or the negatives) it brings to your life.

Happiness, nostalgia, duty, sadness, peacefulness, regret, longing, love, sentimentality, guilt.

All of these feelings could be triggered by an item and could determine whether or not you’ll find it hard to let it go, even if you want to.

So, it’s important to analyse the emotional attachment you have to the belongings you choose to keep and discover whether they are serving you well or causing more harm than good.

Grief

It’s often the case that we gain extra possessions after a bereavement. We might have been kindly left something by the deceased person or we might need to clear out a relative’s home when they go into care or die.

And, when we are already coping with such a difficult time and a complex set of emotions, it can feel like the easiest thing to do is to hold on to items and deal with them later when we feel better able to.

The difficulty with items that come to us during a bereavement is that we feel a duty to keep them. To preserve the memory of the person by cherishing their belongings.

Displaying a physical reminder of the person feels like we are honouring them. Like we are keeping them with us. Sentimental items allow us to reminisce, they serve as a prompt to remind us of the good times. That’s when an item becomes so much more than an item.

After a person dies, many of their most meaningful possessions become family heirlooms, seen by those left behind as for ever containing the lost person’s essence. 

Christian Jarrett (2013)

However, it might be the case that you’ve gained too many pieces and the other person’s belongings have taken over space within your home – and therefore, space within your mind. You might also find it difficult to see the items every day and be reminded that the person is no longer with you.

But it feels wrong to call it clutter. Simply clearing it out seems uncaring – the person meant something to you, so their belongings seem like they should be cherished too.

You may want to keep some pieces. There might be important items that are special to you, that encapsulate your relationship with the person. Things that make you happy to see them – nostalgic, joyful, whistful – anything that brings positive thoughts and emotions into your body is worth holding on to, if that’s what you want.

But we do already have our own possessions that fill our homes and our time, without adding another person’s belongings into the mix. You’re not being heartless if you’re considering giving any of it up, especially if you’re finding it stressful to have more items in your rooms that you’re comfortable with.

If it’s making you sad to see the items, to feel unsettled in your space, to feel guilty about having them (or letting them go) you may need to rethink whether it’s worth hanging onto someone else’s item if it is having a negative impact on your life. Deciding what to keep and what to let go can be supremely important in this instance.

The end of an era

Of course, grief doesn’t only apply to the death of a person. It could refer to the end of a relationship, a friendship that’s run its course, or a period of time – ‘the end of an era’.

Anything that triggers an emotional response can throw up the same feelings of guilt, sadness, duty, despondency, regret – or on the flip side – joy, sentimentality, contentment, well-being and so on.

Again, it can be tempting to hold on to items that remind us of the time or honour the person. And if you feel it’s positive to do so, there’s no harm in adding possessions to your collection.

But, you can also use the decluttering process to emotionally cleanse. Letting go of physical items can be a powerful demonstration of how willing you are to move on from that time in your life.

Consider the emotional attachment you have to the things you keep around you. Do you have decor around your apartment that you got during a particularly crappy time in your life? Let those things go, but decide what to let go by thinking about what they make you feel.

Brianna Wiest (2017) pp.179

It’s true that simply having residual things from a negative time around can be triggering. It can feel cathartic to ditch those items and start afresh. Perhaps it’ll be a strong signifier to yourself that you’re willing to change or to imagine a different life ahead.

Cleaning and organising can also help to ease stress. So, if you’re currently going through a period of change or upheaval in your life, the very act of decluttering and tidying your space can help bring about feelings of calm and boost wellbeing.

However, making snap decisions when you’re already feeling emotionally vulnerable could cause regrets. You might need to give yourself time to process the end of the relationship or era before you clear out the things you negatively associate with the time.

But once, you’re feeling emotionally strong enough to experience those emotions again, you can look forward to the release that will come with letting go of the things are aren’t serving you.

When it comes to sentimental items, we worry that our memories are tied up in them and that we will forget the person or the period of time altogether if we don’t have that visual prompt. While items can and do act as a signifier of the time/person, our memories are stored in our minds, not within the thing.

So perhaps a photograph of the item would be enough of a visual reminder of those happy memories? That way, we’re not being confronted by the item each time we walk into our room – which may trigger complicated thoughts when we’re least expecting (or prepared for) it – and we can choose when we want to sit down and reminisce with the photo on our own terms.

When we’re grieving – for a person, era or relationship of any kind – emotions run high and it can be a confusing time. Showing yourself compassion no matter what feelings are thrown up is the key to processing your thoughts. And there’s no need to act quickly (unless you feel it would help) when it comes to dealing with possessions that are linked to the situation.

Give yourself the time and space to contemplate, consider and choose what items you want to carry with you and those that would, in any other situation, just feel like clutter to you.

Jarratt, C. (2013) The Psychology of Stuff and Things. [Online]. [Accessed 5th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.bps.org.uk/psychologist/psychology-stuff-and-things

Weist, B. (2017) 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think United States: Thought Catalog

What would you put in one box?

Minimalism Minimalist Box Declurttering Theory Question Moving Move Storage

If you had to fit your life into one box (or suitcase, trunk, or even the boot of a car) could you do that?

Would you need to get rid of a lot of stuff before you could consider packing up and moving to a new place?

What’s essential for you to keep and what could you easily replace if you had to?

What would you find difficult to let go of? Would you try to cram it into your box, even if it meant giving up something else?

All these questions arose when I was reading 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest and was reading her essay titled ‘101 Things more worth thinking about than whatever’s consuming you’.

Although these questions I’ve posed above weren’t in the list of 101 Things, they popped into my head when I read the following question that Brianna suggested:

What you’d put in one box if you had to move to the other side of the country and could only bring that.

Brianna Weist (2017) pp. 70.

Amongst all the existential queries, this question grabbed my attention. It spoke to my wannabe-minimalist self and made me stop to really think about what I would put in that box.

Of course, I changed the question slightly for my own thought project – moving to the other side of the world is more likely to require you to only take a small amount of possessions, so considering a suitcase to take to another country made the question more real for me.

When I began to consider it seriously, I soon realised just how many items I would quickly drop from my list of essentials to take with me.

I first thought about clothing and toiletries but soon realised that I could probably re-buy everything I really needed when I got to the other side of the world. Aside from a couple of days’ worth of travelling clothes and personal care essentials, everything else could be replaced.

So, what actually IS irreplaceable and essential in my life?

My first thought was the people and animals I love but, of course, I’m not squishing physical beings into a box, so I’m taking them out of the equation.

I started to look around my home. What did I actually need? What would I be sad to have to give away forever?

The photo albums always seem to be a big pull for me. I don’t have the best memory but, when I see a photo, I can probably tell you the exact location, the occasion, even the year, month and date. So, photos are a BIG memory prompt for me.

But I don’t need the albums for that. In fact, the yearly scrapbook albums I make would take up all the space in the box and then some. So they couldn’t come with me anyway.

Instead, I’m taking a hard drive with digital copies of every image with me in that box. I’d scan all my childhood photos and wedding albums and transfer all my jpegs from my computer so that I can still see all those photos in the future.

Although, thinking about how important my photographs are to me, I don’t trust that the hard drive would make it to the other side of the world in one piece, so I might even back up the hard drive with a second one that I keep on my person while I’m travelling. That sounds like the safest option.

Oh, or I could upload them to a cloud storage facility – if only I could figure out how to do that. Maybe I don’t need those hard drives after all? That’ll save me some space in my box.

So we’re back to zero items.

The Minimalists (2010-2015) pp 76

Let’s not be so strict. I’m going to think about what I would take if the box was quite large.

My computer would be nice to take and expensive to replace. Likewise my phone and all other smart tech in my home. But they’re not sentimental items and are completely replaceable. Urgh.

I would like to keep my important documents; my undergraduate and master’s degrees, my marriage and birth certificates, my passport and driving license, maybe even my NRA. Not very imaginative but I’d ideally like to have these documents with me.

There are some artworks in my home that I wouldn’t want to have to give up; important pieces handmade by my creative friends and family, or given to me as gifts on significant occasions, or ones that commemorate an important person or era in my life.

Again, most books I can access digitally or replace, but I’d like to keep a few; my childhood copies of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and poetry books by Janet & Alan Ahlberg (which got me into reading for pleasure at a young age) and my original The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates that I studied with during my A-Levels and which I still re-read every year.

As a writer and avid reader books are an important part of my life and although I’m willing to give most of them away, those are the handful of books that I don’t want to give up. I’ve only once regretted decluttering a book from childhood so I’m going to cling on to these ones and make sure that they fit into my moving box.

I might cut out and keep all the magazine articles I’ve written rather than moving shelves of magazines with me. But, then again, I have PDFs of most of them already, so that’s not really necessary.

We need to look more closely at sentimental items. I would take a handful of jewellery items that I’ve inherited or have been given by my husband. I’d keep a perfume that is no longer in production but that transports me back to my youth. Maybe the first music album I bought with birthday money as a kid.

I have a pair of sparkly shoes that are so uncomfortable that I’ve only worn them a handful of times but that was my first shopping trip purchase as a teen. Actually, no. They could go if there wasn’t space in my box.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been working through the question posed by Brianna Wiest in real time, so you’re getting a kind of stream-of-consciousness answer from me. But I wonder how similar your thoughts would be to my own when considering what you would pack into that one box?

What you might have initially thought of as being essential, important or sentimental might just turn out to be replaceable for you too, when you really think about it.

Perhaps this exercise will be helpful in determining what you could declutter as part of your minimalist journey. I know I’ve certainly identified a lot of things I thought I wanted but don’t actually need.

Maybe I could make some more changes now to help me achieve a more clutter-free home…

So, what’s going in your moving box?

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2010-2015) Essential Essays by The Minimalists. USA: Asymmetrical

Weist, B. (2017) 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think United States: Thought Catalog

Why you should be a minimalist during the cost of living crisis

Theoretical Minimalist Minimalism Theory Money Saving (2)

With interest rates and the cost of goods and services soaring, the cost of living crisis is negatively affecting many of us.

But, if you’re a minimalist, you may be better equipped to deal with the storm than others.

Here’s why:

1. As a minimalist you’re more conscious of bringing additional items into your home. Therefore you’re not buying anything new so the current price rises won’t affect you as much.

2. If you’re still decluttering, you may be able to sell your unwanted items. This will help you to make extra money to put toward your growing bills.

3. One of the joys of minimalism is that less stuff equals less chores. If you have fewer things to clean or tidy away, you’ll have more time. Time that you could potentially use to earn more money.

4. Or you could use the time to grow your own fruit and vegetables or to make your own frozen meals from scratch, saving money on groceries in the future.

5. If you’ve been living a minimalist lifestyle for a while, you’ll have already reduced your spending on new items and may therefore have some savings in the bank. Which will now be earning you a higher rate of interest.

6. On the other hand, soaring interest rates are making debt unaffordable so you won’t want to borrow money to buy anything new.

Using money you haven’t earned to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.

Robert Quillen, 1928

Plus, on the flip side, the cost of living crisis actually makes it easier to make minimalist choices. :

1. If you have to spend more money on heating or food, there’ll be less spare money available for you to spend on other, unnecessary items.

2. If you’re working extra hours to earn more money to cover your rising bills, you’ve got less free time to go shopping so you won’t be able to new buy items.

3. If you’re getting a higher interest rate on your savings, you’ll want to keep your money in the bank account and not be tempted to buy any new items to clutter up your home.

4. When living with fewer items you’re more grateful for those things you have. Having a high level of gratitude can help you to feel calmer about crises like this, as you want less and appreciate what you do have.

Those who display a high level of gratitude are much mor elikely to have below-average levels of materialism.

Polak and McCullough, 2006

I’ve found that the way I’ve dealt with the cost of living crisis is in complete contrast to my reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic – when I felt the need to hoard my own stuff during 2020 and became a compulsive shoppier during lockdown 3.

Has being a minimalist helped you to cope with the cost of living crisis? Have you noticed a difference in how you approach your finances since embracing minimalism?

Polak, E. L. and McCullough, M. E. (2006) Is gratitude an alternative to materialism? Journal of Happiness Studies 7, No3, September 2006

Quillen, R. (1928) The Detroit Free Press, June 4, Page 6, Column 4, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

How cleaning and organising eases stress

Theoretical Minimalist Vacuum Hoover Cleaning Decluttering Stress

Do you ever find yourself speed-cleaning after an argument? Have you done the washing up after a conflict with your kids? Ever thrown an ex-partner’s clothes out of the window when you’ve broken up? (That just sounds like sensible decluttering to me!)

If you pick up the vacuum or start frantically tidying after dealing with a difficult situation this could be a way that your brain tries to ease your stress levels. A sort of reset, if you will.

It’s all subconscious, of course. I’m sure you’re not thinking that you MUST have a clean house just to spite the person you argued with. What good would having an empty dishwasher be when you’re crying about your boss berating you at work?

Some people find that the act of cleaning or organising helps them relieve stress from other areas of life.

Dr. Brian King (2019)

If you find yourself tackling a task, decluttering or doing paperwork after dealing with a difficult situation, you’re probably it doing in order to feel better. It may provide a distraction from the situation, it might allow you time to process negative thoughts without acting on them, and it certainly helps you to use up that excess ‘fight-or-flight’ energy.

You know the phrase ‘there’s no use crying over spilt milk’? It basically means: the quicker you get on with your life after an incident, the better you will feel. It’s telling you to stop crying (the stress element) and get on with cleaning it up (to ease the stress). I think that’s essentially why cleaning and organising makes us feel better – it literally wipes the slate clean.

In fact, it’s likely that you’ll get loads more work done during a stressful time than if you were doing some run-of-the-mill cleaning and organising at home. So, if you’re struggling with mental or emotional clutter after a difficult situation, you might as well harness this to tackle your physical clutter too – and feel better in the process.

Plus, an organised, clutter-free home enables you to feel more calm and relaxed in general – as discussed in my previous article ‘You are an Antelope: Why Evolution Causes Us to Be Stressed by Clutter‘ – which explain why we feel the urge to tidy and ‘clear the horizon of danger’ after we’ve been through a tough time.

Some people find solace in cleaning and organising when they’re in midst of a difficult period in their life. If something is out of your control and is causing you unhappiness, stress or anxiety, at least you can regain some control by tidying or organising your own environment.

Often people turn to minimalism after a period of stress in their life in order to get a feeling of calm and a sense of control. I’m not talking about an argument in this instance, but other issues such as grief, burnout at work or health problems. For example, co-founder of The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn began his own minimalist journey after the death of a parent and dissatisfaction in his corporate career.

We didn’t control our time, and we didn’t control our lives. So in 2010, we took back control using the principles of minimalism to focus on what’s important.’

Fields Millburn, J and Nicodemus, R (2010-20150 pp. 10)

So, the next time you feel stressed, maybe you could try to harness your brain’s desire for calm and order by doing trying following:

  • Grab the vacuum – the noise is a great way to block out worrisome thoughts.
  • Dig the garden – the physical activity can help you to burn off excess adrenaline.
  • Tackle tasks you’ve been putting off – you’ll feel a sense of achievement doing something you’ve procrastinated over.
  • Declutter your belongings – clear the horizons of clutter to naturally bring down your ongoing stress levels.
  • Shred unnecessary paperwork – that sense of destruction will help you to feel calmer after an argument.
  • Organise your desk – to regain a feeling of control.

If you have a go at doing one or more of these tasks after you’ve experienced a difficult situation, even if it doesn’t improve your mental state, at least you’ve achieved something, moved your body and will have a tidier home, garden or desk at the end of it.

Fields Millburn, J and Nicodemus, R (2010-2015) Essential: Essays By The Minimalists Montana: Asymmetrical Press

King, B. (2019) The Art of Taking It Easy: How to Cope with Bears, Traffic and The Rest Of Life’s Stressors. USA: Apollo Publishers

How to prevent recluttering

Minimalist Home Decor Hotel Decluttering Boxes 5

If you’ve managed to declutter your belongings, good on ya!

You’ve made a decision to live with less and I bet you’re thoroughly chuffed with your efforts – I know I was every time I ‘completed’ a room.

However, within the physical and mental space left behind by the decluttering process, you may become tempted to fill that void.

You might feel the urge to reclutter.

You might not feel it quickly, as you’ll probably enjoy basking in your decluttering success for a while. But, if you don’t keep an eye on things, you might end up recluttering in a week, a month, a year, a decade.

Here are come common causes of recluttering:

You’ve got extra space. If there’s an empty cupboard, box or drawer, it means you can store stuff in it without it getting in your way and impacting on your day-to-day space. It’s tidy – but it’s still there.

You take a second look at the things you’ve decluttered. If you didn’t donate or remove your belongings immediately, there might be in a box in the garage. A box that you can easily access and decide that no, in fact, I don’t want to get rid of that… it’s coming back into the house.

You buy more stuff. Space in your wardrobe, kitchen or toolkit means you can ‘treat yo-self’ to something new. One-out-one-in, right?

You keep it ‘just in case’. You take a look at that bag of items you’re taking to the charity shop and realise you shouldn’t have decluttered that ball of wool. You might need it in the future so you keep hold of it.

This was certainly the case for me. I decluttered but I kept the boxes of stuff in the garage, ready to give away or sell. And then, the pandemic turned me into a hoarder. I went out to those boxes and decided that I might need these things – who knows when I’ll get a chance to go out to get them in the future? So I brought items back into my home.

HOW TO AVOID RECLUTTERING YOUR HOME

I know some of these ideas will sound simple, but it’s all about giving yourself a bit of a talking to. Here’s how to deal with recluttering:

  • Avoid the shops so you can’t buy anything new.
  • Get rid of decluttered items immediately so you can’t change your mind.
  • Remove excess storage solutions so there isn’t space to reclutter.
  • Know that if you need something that desperately in the future, you can buy it.
  • Take time to consider purchases. Give yourself a month and if you still want and need the item, maybe getting it is the right thing to do.

Have you had the urge to reclutter after a clear out? Do you have any tips for avoiding recluttering your home? Please let me know how you handled this issue in the comments below.

How practicing gratitude can support a minimalist life

Theoretical Minimalist Book Research Happy Gratitude More Of Less Minimalism Theory

Stress and anxiety can lead us to hoard. To take comfort in the things that surround us. We may come to rely on things to distract us and bring us happiness.

So when I began reading on the subject of gratitude, I soon realised the link this practice may have in supporting a person on their journey into minimalism – and into a happier life, for that matter.

Countless studies show that gratitude can boost happiness and reduce levels of stress and depression. When I read Janice Kaplan’s book ‘The Gratitude Diaries‘, one of the first pieces of information I bookmarked was this:

An article in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology evaluating all the literature in the field concluded that gratitude may have the highest connection to mental health and happiness of any of the personality traits studied. The conclusion: ‘Around 18.5 per cent of individual differences in people’s happiness could be predicted by the amount of gratitude they feel.’ Now, that made me stop. Being 18.5 per cent happier is a lot of happier.

Janice Kaplan, 2016, p.15

Janice Kaplan goes on to keep a gratitude diary throughout the year, applying gratitude to a variety of situations; relationships, work, health and, most interestingly for me, the stuff we own. Can gratitude really help us to want and need less?

In Joshua Becker’s book ‘The More of Less‘ the author tackles the topic of consumerism and how we are manipulated into filling our home with stuff and spending money we don’t have. Yet, even when we get the thing we want, we still aren’t satisfied.

Consumption never fully delivers on its promise of fulfillment or happiness. Instead, it steals our freedom and results only in an unquenchable desire for more. It brings burden and regret. It distracts us from the very things that do bring us joy.

Joshua Becker, 2016, p.47

The research of behavioural economist Tom Gilovich from Cornell University, supports Becker’s words. His findings discussed in Kaplan’s book showed, time and again, that material possessions are not as satisfying as we think they will be.

This is the very essence of what psychologists call the ‘Hedonic Treadmill‘. You want it. You acquire it. You’re not as happy as you thought you would be. You look for the next big thing.

You can avoid getting trapped in this materialistic cycle by practising gratitude. This keeps your focus on the things you DO have rather than the things you don’t have. It can help you feel satisfied and that you already have abundance in your life, without the need to acquire more.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little

Epicurus – Greek philosopher

Psychology and neuroscience researchers from Baylor University concluded that “materialism has been consistently related to lower levels of life satisfaction”. As a result of Kaplan’s year-long experiment to maintain a grateful outlook, her life satisfaction increased and she realised that she didn’t need stuff in order to be happy:

Instead of trying to psychological holes of the soul with jewellery and clothes and cars, it’s better to use gratitude to make the emptiness disappear altogether. As an extra bonus, people who are grateful are less likely to yearn for the stuff that ultimately won’t add to overall well-being, anyway.

Janice Kaplan, 2016, p.110

HOW TO HARNESS GRATITUDE TO SUPPORT YOUR MINIMALIST JOURNEY

There are many things you can do bring gratitude into your life and boost your life satisfaction levels – here are just a few ideas:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write the details of events you were grateful for as and when they occur so that you can look back over them during less-than-grateful times.
  • Record three things you’re grateful for. Do this in your daily diary every night to record good things that happened. It might be a phone call with a friend, a lovely meal, working in a job you enjoy etc.
  • Make a list. Brain-dump all the things – and I mean ALL the things – you could be grateful for, from your ability to breathe to your favourite blend of tea.
  • Go for a walk and notice all the things you can be grateful for; the weather, your surroundings, those smiling faces, the convenient location of the local post office, the sunset.
  • Enjoy a bit of manifesting by feeling grateful for the things you will have over the years to come; your dream career, future family, the home you’ll build, strong mental health etc.
  • Actually say ‘thank you’ out loud when thinking about something you’re grateful for.

In Fearne Cotton’s uplifting book ‘Happy’, the author believes ‘the wheels of our economy are spun by the feeling that we don’t quite have enough’ (Cotton, 2017 p. 216). She suggests that gratitude is a great habit to learn in order to feel lucky rather than lacking.

Feeling gratitude – real, whole gratitude – comes in spontaneous waves when you’re on the edge of sheer bliss, where it feels only right to smile and beam a big THANK YOU or the simple things that lie in front of you. Saying it and really meaning it can massively awaken your senses and perspective to what there is in life to feel thanks for.

Fearne Cotton, 2017, p. 215

The author suggests exercises to harness gratitude including writing a gratitude list or diary, seeking out little things to appreciate each day, noting down small things you are grateful for to build up a bank of gratitude and eve thanking bad experiences for lessons learnt.

Have you experienced higher levels of life satisfaction after practicing gratitude. Do you keep a gratitude diary? Have you become less materialistic as a result? What other techniques can you suggest? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Becker. J. (2016) The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. Colorado: Waterbrook Press

Cotton, F. (2017) Happy: Finding joy in every day and letting go of perfect. London: Orion Spring.

Kaplan, J. (2016) The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on The Bright Side Transformed My Life. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

The decluttering journey – Deciding what to keep

Theoretical Minimalist Minimalism Theory Interiors Plants (2)

Despite my desire to follow a minimalist lifestyle and the many years of downsizing and decluttering I’ve already put into my life, I still have a lot of stuff.

I just don’t know how it accumulates.

One month, I can feel perfectly satisfied that I have decluttered successfully and only own the things I need and love. I have the bare minimum.

The next month, I can feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter I still have in my home.

It’s not that I’m going shopping or bringing new items into our home. I’m simply looking at it with fresh eyes. Perhaps more critical eyes.

I could do more.

Maybe I exhausted myself before I had truly finished decluttering last month? Perhaps I was ‘soft’ and allowed myself to keep things that I didn’t really need?

Whatever the reason, the process of decluttering sometimes seems never-ending. (When will it end? Will I be in an empty room, thinking about taking down the blinds?)

So, exasperated with myself, I started looking for motivation to do more. To declutter further. To minimise more.

I uncovered a quote that I hadn’t heard of before and it made a massive difference to how I look at my belongings:

“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.”

Francine Jay

MIND. BLOWN.

Unbelievable though it seems, I hadn’t heard of Francine Jay until now. I know, right? Where I have I been for the last decade?

Don’t worry, I’ve put that right – and I now have her ‘Miss Minimalist’ book on my Kindle.

This quite came into my life at exactly the right time. Just when I was getting despondent about my minimising efforts. It has given me a new perspective on decluttering and I am diving back into the task with renewed vigour.

I’m going into every room and thinking in reverse: ‘If this room were empty, what would I put into it? What would I keep?’ Then it’s simply a case of removing the rest.

So I thought I would share this quote with you today, in the hope that it might make all the difference to you too.

Have you discovered an inspiring quote that helped you on your minimalism journey? Has someone said something to you that made you stop and think? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

The non-monochrome minimalist

Joyful Book Minimalist Maximalist Monochrome Theory 1 2

I am not a monochrome minimalist.

And you don’t have to be either.

It’s been said hundreds of times that minimalism looks different for everyone.

Just because many Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube accounts are dedicated to the monochrome aesthetic of minimalist interiors, fashion and art, it doesn’t mean you have to adopt the same style in order to be a minimalist yourself.

The aim of minimalism needn’t be living in a perfect, empty, white-walled apartment, wearing a go-with-everything wardrobe of black, white and grey clothing.

(Although I think I could be quite happy living like that too.)

In her book Joyful Ingrid Fetell Lee discusses how design and architecture can bring joy and happiness into our lives. She discusses how “uptight” minimalist decor can be repressive and drain a space of joy.

In contrast, she claims that maximalist interiors can create pleasure, and that abundance makes sense from an evolutionary perspective; citing peacocks feathers as evidence of maximalism being a signifier of vitality.

Both of these theories seem extreme to me. But I suppose it depends on just how minimalist or how maximalist a space is.

Clutter would cause stress for me but, on the other hand, I don’t plan to live in an entirely empty, soulless space either.

Fetell Lee provides an example of famous interior designer Dorothy Draper’s design of the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The lobby is painted in green, aqua and pink and when the author visited this space she was filled with pure delight.

This just goes to show how colour can be important in bringing happiness into our lives, in the same way that a simple, clutter-free home can also be.

HOW TO BE A NON-MONOCHROME MINIMALIST

What’s your favourite colour? Would you feel happier with more of this colour in your life?

If you like a rainbow of colours, go for it! Wear them, decorate with them and bring vibrant pieces into your home.

As long as it doesn’t affect you negatively to be in a space with rich or bright tones, feel free to decorate your home in any way you wish.

Do you enjoy pattern? Then bring it into your home and wardrobe.

If you like white spaces but want to stay away from the clinical, add just a splash of colour with a vibrant feature piece, such as an armchair or headboard.

If a colourful interior feels ‘too much’ try adding natural textures such as wooden furniture and plants instead to add personality to a white room.

MY EXPERIENCE

You may have noticed that there are a few splashes of colour in the photos on my website. That’s my way of putting a little personality into my website. While I DO want it to look clean, simple and (mostly) monochrome, I also want to inject some excitement too.

Likewise, my home is both minimalist and colourful in difference spaces.

My all-white bedroom is exactly what I need when I want to feel calm and relaxed. I can read, write and do yoga in peace.

While the walls of my living room are white, I chose the brightest blue sofas, and hung artwork in orange and yellow tones. It’s a happy entertaining space that I enjoy spending time in during the evenings.

My kitchen is a full-on homage to the 1950s with colourful cabinets, patterned melamine table and retro prints on the walls. It’s an uplifting room that provides an energetic start to the day.

Each room in my home feels different and suits the activities I do in the space.

Similarly my wardrobe has a neutral base of black, grey and navy, with colourful additions.

I like things simple and fuss-free, yet I need colour in my life. It makes me happy.

…Yes, I’m definitely a non-monochrome minimalist.

Fetell Lee, I. (2018) Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, United Kingdom: Ebury Publishing.

The Hotel Experience

Minimalist Home Decor Hotel Decluttering Boxes 4

If you’ve ever spent a or two night in a hotel and thought to yourself ‘well, this is all I really need’, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I want to achieve The Hotel Experience in my own home.

Hotel rooms contain all the essentials – but none of the faff.

There’s everything you need to live comfortably – bed, television, desk, wardrobe, tea-making facilities.

That’s everything I need anyway!

Which is why I believe that hotel rooms should be the inspiration for our minimalist homes.

When I’m staying in a hotel room, I usually feel relaxed. It’s not just because I’m on holiday – because sometimes I’m travelling for work or just having a night away because the journey home is too far. It’s more than that.

It’s a sense of peace.

And of having enough.

I’ve got all the things with me that I deemed important for the trip. And, when I unpack these items, they never fill the storage spaces available.

I like that feeling of abundant space.

When I sit in a hotel room, the conversation with my husband always goes like this:

“We don’t really need anything more than this, do we?”

“We could quite happily live in this space.”

“It’s got everything we need, so why have more?”

We get settled into a smaller space than we’re used to and it feels like home. I feel like we could live in a tiny studio apartment forever.

And then we go home. And nothing changes.

Of course, I love my home. I’m grateful for every room. It’s our dream location. And I wouldn’t ever want to leave it.

In fact, I don’t really like going away – so I’m certainly not enjoying the hotel experience because I’m a fan of holidays or travel. I’d always rather be at home than away.

But just knowing that I could live in a smaller space, with a lot less stuff, is reassuring.

THAT’S why I love The Hotel Experience so much.

HOW TO ACHIEVE THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE AT HOME

  1. Have a thorough declutter so that you have as little belongings as possible in your bedroom. Remove items from surfaces and store them away – or get rid of them for good.
  2. Clear out those bedside tables – mine is packed to the brim with books, pens, hand creams and notebooks. It’s better to keep only the essentials to hand rather than use the bedside drawers as storage.
  3. Minimise your clothing collection so that there’s actually some space inside your wardrobe. It’s lovely when there’s air around the things you’re hanging up – it prevents items getting creased and provides that feeling of having more than enough storage.
  4. If you don’t have a wardrobe or drawers or bedside tables, perhaps adding some more useful storage to the space will make the room feel more hotel-esque. There’s always ample storage in hotel rooms.

We’ve all got boxes we haven’t unpacked

Boxes Packing Declutter Minimalist Minimalism Box Storage Loft Attic

Which is the perfect excuse for decluttering when you’re becoming minimalist but don’t want people to think you’ve gone to the extreme.

I found myself saying this when my husband mentioned a recent minimising session to some friends of ours. I immediately jumped in with “Yes, well, we’ve got boxes in the garage that we haven’t unpacked since we moved three years ago, so we probably don’t need them.”

Our friends nodded knowingly and agreed that they too probably had the same in their loft. We moved swiftly on with the conversation without any mention of minimalism. Phew.

Now, I don’t know why I didn’t want want to make a big ‘thing’ about our journey into minimalism. In fact, I’m usually rather happy to share my opinions on how less in more and that we don’t need to buy so much stuff.

I mean, I’m writing a book about it now, for goodness sake.

But at that moment, I felt a bit weird about it. Probably because I wasn’t where I wanted to be with minimising our belongings at that moment and I didn’t want people to come into our home and be surprised by the amount of stuff we still have.

On the other hand, I already felt a bit extreme with the amount of minimising we had already done and didn’t want to admit to the vast volume of donating, shredding and clearing we’d already done.

I felt like my innate minimalist urges might not be understood and I didn’t really want to get into a discussion about the mental wellbeing I was uncovering as a result.

My conversation swerve worked. I got away with it. I’d downplayed it enough and made it relatable enough that it appeared wholly sensible to clear out those boxes.

Because we ALL have those boxes in the garage, the loft, under the stairs, under the bed. The boxes we haven’t looked at in years.

Those boxes make it easy to understand why someone would be getting rid of their stuff, and the mere mention of those boxes usually elicits agreement in anyone you discuss them with.

So if you find yourself being questioned about your minimalism journey and want to help someone understand why, just casually slip those boxes into the conversation.

Because we’ve all got them.

And none of us need them.