Note to self: Why I enjoy embracing a minimalist lifestyle

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This is a more personal post for me to explore why I embrace minimalism and to remember the reasons why I first became minimalist.

There are myriad reasons that people choose to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, so my top reasons might be different to yours. However, sometimes I just need to remind myself why I choose to embrace minimalism in the first place, why I live with minimal possessions and why I don’t reclutter my home.

It saves me time

With fewer possessions to maintain, I’m able to spend less time cleaning, tidying and decluttering. Everything that needed to go has gone, and everything that remains has a ‘home’; somewhere to store it and, importantly, somewhere I know I can find it. No more wasting time rummaging through cupboards and boxes to find a specific item. I already know where it is and can go straight to it.

And with less stuff, all neatly stored away, my surfaces are clearer and therefore quicker and easier to clean. I can vacuum all the way under my bed without having to move boxes (it was once full of storage tubs under there) and I can wipe down surfaces without shifting stacks of papers or trinkets.

My home feels bigger

When your storage furniture isn’t bursting with items and when every surface isn’t covered with items or things waiting to be put away, it makes your home feel more capacious. I feel like I’ve got ample space – more than needed – simply because there aren’t items tucked into every alcove or furniture against every wall. Even inside my cupboards and on my shelves there are empty spaces – not bursting at the seams with possessions – so that gives me a feeling of abundance too. I could have more but I choose not to.

Plus, just being able to see under furniture all the way to the edges of the room brings about an airy, spacious feeling. Additionally, that also makes it easier to keep the rooms mould-free. When I used to have a home full of items, the air couldn’t circulate and any moisture in the air would become trapped behind units, shelves and the bed, creating a fusty smell and, ultimately, mouldy surfaces. Not healthy.

With minimal possessions in the rooms, I believe that my home feels more luxurious. A bit like a holiday let, where you’ve got everything you need to feel at home but nothing excessive. No mess. Just a tidy, clean, peaceful space to enjoy. Every weekend is a holiday at home for me.

I feel less stressed

As a highly sensitive person, I can become affected by too many sights, sounds and smells. Any assault on my senses brings about feelings of stress and I can quickly become tired or need to remove myself from the situation. Without clutter in my home, I don’t get that primal feeling of being on the look-out for danger or the anxiety that comes with it. I can easily feel more relaxed and safe in my own home, which is essential.

I also don’t have a never-ending to-do list. When you’ve got lots of items around you that you need to organise or declutter, it’s always there in the back of your mind. I need to sort this, I need to clear out that. I’m talking about both physical items and digital clutter. Those unopened emails, photos un-backed-up and files from years ago that really could be deleted. That’s a massive list of tasks in itself, right?

Your free time is no longer yours because, even if you’re resting, there’ll be a niggling feeling that you should be doing something to tackle the issue. Prior to dealing with my clutter, I felt overwhelmed by the task ahead and it would stress me out just thinking about it.

Now that I’ve cleared out and organised everything, I rarely get the feeling that I should be doing something whenever I’m resting. Sure, I still have a to-do list but it’s more of a would-like-to-do list rather than a list of demands on my time that are going to sap my energy and result in me not getting any downtime.

It saves me money

I recently wrote about the ways that minimalism can help with money issues and that really clarified things for me. Rather than ‘being poor’ stopping me from buying unnecessary items, I actually found that I spent more when I had less money.

Now that I choose to bring less stuff into my minimalist home, I can save money every single time that I don’t make a purchase. Plus, I was able to earn some extra money when I decluttered my collections by reselling anything of value.

The combination of making money and not spending money has meant that I have more savings than ever and no longer need to have frugal spending habits BUT that doesn’t mean I head to the shops and splash the cash on new items. The novelty always wears off anyway. Rather, I choose not to bring anything extra into my home and instead, I spend the money I saved on experiences; holidays, day trips, event tickets, and relaxation.

This post has served as a helpful reminder of why I started my minimalist journey and what benefits I feel as a result. I’ll probably add to this list as and when I discover more advantages of embracing minimalism but, for now, these reasons are more than enough to encourage me to continue living a minimalist lifestyle. What conveniences or enjoyment have you found from living minimally? Tweet me @minimalistheory with your reasons.

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

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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

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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

When decluttering causes regrets

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I have regretted decluttering two items in my life.

It took me about three years to realise that I regretted giving up one of those items.

And the second one, I can’t be sure if it’s even gone – it might turn up one day but I might have donated it. I just don’t know.

The trouble is that, although I’m happy – over the moon, in fact – with the rest of the stuff I’ve decluttered and the resulting peaceful life and tidy home, I tend to focus on those two items.

The ones that got away.

I don’t need them. I wouldn’t use them. But they were mine once. And now I miss them.

Do you have items that you’ve given up that you regret? Perhaps the item marked the end of an era, of a dream completed, or of a project discarded? Was it the full-stop to that time of your life? Were you happy to see the back of it at the time but now yearn for those hazy days?

If so, you may have an idea of how and why I’ve come to rue my impulsive decisions.

Let me tell you what specifically I have regretted decluttering:

The first and least bothersome is a jumper. A simple black jumper. I enjoyed wearing it for years. I probably donated it because it’s such a basic item; something that can be easily replaced and I may have even already got a duplicate black jumper. I know I currently have a perfectly acceptable one in my wardrobe.

But that doesn’t stop me from hankering after the old jumper. It was the best-fitting jumper I’d ever owned. It was supremely flattering, with a scoop neck and a figure-skimming waist. But now I can’t find it, so I’m assuming that it’s gone. That it was donated with any of the other bags of clothes I’ve cleared out.

However, I think I’m remembering it in a rather more favourable light than it actually deserves. Perhaps the knit was bobbled and pilled? I think I remember the black looking a little faded? Was that scoop neck really a little too low for my liking? Did it even fit me anymore? It had probably come to the end of its life when I decided to let it go.

But I still think about it from time to time.

The more worrying item is a childhood book. This time I know I’ve decluttered it. Because I remember it being worth some money so, once I’d decided to declutter it, I sold it.

I didn’t declutter it because it was worth money – that was just an added bonus during lockdown when the world was an uncertain place and we needed extra money, not knowing what would happen to our jobs and our future.

I specifically remember not wanting it at all – it almost gave me the ‘ick’ looking at it – and being certain about decluttering it along with other books, childhood toys and so much more stuff. I think I was searching for order in a chaotic lockdown world. In fact, the pandemic had turned me into a hoarder and I wanted to regain control of my home and my mental health.

So I let that book go.

And now, three years later, it’s pinged into my mind.

I suddenly want to see it again.

More specifically, I want to smell it.

The pages had a certain smell – warm, milky, oaty – that took me straight back to reading the book as a child.

It wasn’t a story I cared about and I don’t even really remember the content or how many pages it was. But I remember the pictures and I loved that smell.

I miss that book.

So much so that I’ve been searching online to see if I can find it again to replace it. But even if I did find the same book, it wouldn’t have the same scent – so what would be the point of owning it? My childhood memories are all tied up in the aromas, not the plotline. Replacing it would feel hollow and would just remind me of the one I gave up.

So I won’t be replacing it and will just have to work on letting it go in my heart as much as I let it go in my brain.

I admit, this particular item was given up during a bit of a whirlwind declutter. A month or so of quick decisions and unemotional moments. Maybe if I had decluttered more slowly, this single regret wouldn’t have happened.

In Episode 410 of The Minimalists Podcast ‘Declutter Slowly‘ they discuss how it’s perfectly acceptible to take your time while clearing out your belongings. They make the point that it will have taken time – maybe ten years or more – to have accumulated all your possessions. So, you may need to take just as long to rid yourself of those items.

There’s no need to remove excess belongings overnight – although the all-at-once method may work for you. Sometimes, you might need to put a little more work into the decluttering process, particularly with personal items, and let things go mindfully.

And I think that a little extra thought before decluttering might have minimised my regrets.

But, then again, to have only two items haunting me out of the thousands of things that have gone is quite an achievement.

And one of those items I don’t even want anymore.

Now that I’ve written about the jumper, I’ve become more certain that it was time to let it go and that I wouldn’t even want it if I had it here now. That’s like decluttering it for a second time – it’s out of my mind now as well as my home.

If only I could feel the same way about that book.

Fields Millburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2023) ‘Ep.410 | Declutter Slowly’, The Minimalists Podcast, YouTube [Podcast]. 18th September 2023. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlR1gV5TE40&t=365s (Accessed 20th September 2023).

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

How minimalism can help soothe the ‘Micro Stressors’ of everyday life

Theoretical Minimalist Minimalism Theory Interiors Building Lego

Unexpected life events are expected to be points of stress within our lives, but did you know that ‘micro stressors’ could be having the same effect on you as larger issues such as divorce, redundancy, moving house or trauma?

They may sound small and insignificant, but micro stressors are only that when seen in isolation. When grouped together, these everyday micro stressors can build up to unmanageable levels and can sap our mental resources.

They’re the smaller things in our lives that pile up to drain us – depleting our resilience, and making it harder for us to go about our daily lives in a good and healthy headspace.

Kathryn Wheeler

Micro stressors can be found in the workplace (deadlines, working hours, demands), in your relationships (values, expectations, pressure), and within your own sense of perfectionism. Each of these situations demands potentially unreachable standards and can therefore be the root of cause micro-doses of stress each day.

But, alongside these stressors is your environment. And that’s where minimalism comes.

Although there are often factors beyond your control in some environments you find yourself in (background noise, crowding, bright lights), where you can influence those micro stressors is within your own home.

Clutter is one of the most common micro stressors. It’s a physical manifestation of the problem because it literally builds up over time. Little by little, those piles of papers and messy corners add up until the clean-up operation becomes an overwhelming task. Stressful.

But, in this instance, we’re not talking about the stress of the massive tidying task itself, we’re concerned with the mini piles creating moments of micro-stress every day; A messy shelf catching your eye and nagging you to do something about it. The stacks of unopened paperwork and unread publications weighing down your kitchen table and your mind.

It becomes tiring – exhausting – to think about everything you need to sort out all the time. The to-do list is endless so those micro stressors in your environment become maxi stressors in your life. It’s only natural – evolution has caused us to be stressed by clutter.

Minimalism is such a useful lifestyle if you want to eliminate at least some of those micro stressors from your life. Although you can’t control other people and external environments (so may just need to find ways of coping with those micro stressors when they occur), you CAN tackle your home and remove any stressors there.

At the very least, by living a minimalist lifestyle, you won’t have mess to stress you out. You don’t need to grow your to-do list to extortionate proportions because there’s a place for everything and everything has its place.

Your home environment is organised and calm. It’s easy to keep on top of clutter. You can truly relax when you’re there. Plus, it’s easier to keep clean and tidy too, which is another way to ease stress.

That said, striving for the ‘perfect’ minimalist home is, conversely, a micro-stressor in itself. Try to let go of perfectionism so that it doesn’t become a new source of stress. If you can do this while still embracing decluttering and maintaining a tidy environment, you’ll feel a reduction in those daily mini-stresses – ‘one less thing to worry about.’

Just remember that ‘good enough’ is a more healthy approach than ‘perfect’.

Final thought: Why not try bringing minimalism into your workspace too? A clutter-free desk could equal one less work-related micro stressor and could help you to keep on top of your workload, too.

Wheeler, K. (2021) ‘Common micro stressors and how to tackle them‘ [online] [11th August 2023]. Published 13th October 2021. Happiful. Surrey, UK. Available from: https://happiful.com/common-micro-stressors-and-how-to-tackle-them

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

You are an antelope: Why evolution causes us to be stressed by clutter

Theoretical Minimalist Minimalism Theory Beach (3)

You’re an antelope. You’re scanning the horizon. You’re on the look out for lions. You can’t quite see what’s beyond the trees. Did that bush just rustle? Your breath quickens. You’re ready to run at any moment. Your system is flooded with adrenaline. It’s fight or flight time.

That’s what it’s like to live in a cluttered home.

Okay, okay, maybe comparing people with messy homes to anetlopes in mortal danger of being hunted by lions is too abstract. But it’s essentially the same kind of effect; if you’re stressed out by clutter, it’s because you are programmed by nature to be stressed out by clutter.

Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.

Bourg Carter, S. (2012)

Our ancestors actually DID have the same kind of experience as an antelope. They WERE in danger from predators and they WOULD have to scan the horizon to keep themselves safe.

And it’s this tendancy to scan for danger that causes us stress in the modern era. Not being able to see the horizon beyond the clutter feels dangerous to our cave-person minds. Instinctively, this causes us to feel stressed when we’re confronted with too much stuff at once.

Some people aren’t affected by clutter in this way. Maybe they’re better adapted to modern living. Yes, maybe they’re more evolved than I am. But there’s no doubt in my mind about the stress levels I personally feel rising when I’m surrounded by clutter.

The unpleasantness of clutter is as much, if not more, a psychological issue as it is a topic of home design. Clutter can be a matter of the mind. It can immobilize us. It can get in the way of clear thinking, even clear functioning. It can derail us when it becomes excessive.

Davis. H. (2012)

In Notes on a Nervous Planet Matt Haig discusses just how quickly the human race has developed; from wearing animal skins 50,000 years ago to developing civilisation in Mesopotamia. It’s just a 4,0000-year hop, skip and jump from the first money and alphabet to email and space travel.

Did social evolution really give ourselves enough time to adapt to the modern way of life? Or are we all really just experiencing our natural pre-civilisation urges to feel anxious when we scan the horizon?

Historically we had a natural need to belong to a social group or tribe, as this was crucial for our survival. Our brains therefore have a strong ability to spot things that don’t belong which, in this instance, could be all the things your eyes have spotted ‘on the horizon’.

Our limbic brain is powerful, powerful enough to drive behaviour that sometimes contradicts our rational and analytical understanding of a situation.

Sinek, S. (2009) p.57

If you’ve ever had a ‘gut feeling’ that something was wrong but you couldn’t tell what, that’s your limbic brain sparking into action. It’s irrational, but instinctual. That’s why you can sometimes feel ‘off’ when nothing seems to be wrong on the surface of it. And we tend to trust our gut instincts in a lot of situations don’t we? Especially in over-stimulating environments.

Introverts in particular can easily feel overstimulated. Psychologist Hans Eysenck (Chung, M. 2016) proposed that extroverts can cope with higher levels of stimulation and that intoroverts are more sensitive, therefore requiring low-key environments.

When we feel overloaded in a situation or environment, we can become anxious or even panic. Haig discusses the how overstimulating the modern world can be and the effect this can have on our mental health.

Panic is the product of overload. In an overloaded world we need to have a filter. We need to simplify things. We need to disconnect sometimes… A kind of mental feng shui.

Haig, M. (2019) p.37

So, if you don’t want to feel stressed in your own home, panicked by an overload of belongings and under attack from your posessions, maybe now’s the time to streamline your stuff?

Chung, M. (2016) The Irresistable Introvert. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

Bourg Carter, S. (2012) Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies. [Online]. [Accessed 25th August 2020]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201203/why-mess-causes-stress-8-reasons-8-remedies

Davis, H. (2012) The Perils of Clutter. [Online]. [Accessed 25th August 2020]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/caveman-logic/201206/the-perils-clutter

Haig, M. (2019) Notes On A Nervous Planet. 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Cannongate Books.

Sinek, S. (2009) Start With Why. London: Penguin.

The clutter of collections & letting them go

Decluttering Selling Delilvery Parcel Boxes Clutter Collections

About 10 days ago I watched a YouTube video that changed everything for me.

I’d been holding on to a childhood collection for years.

Decades.

Well, since my childhood. Which is over thirty years to be precise.

It’s moved house with me countless times. I’ve lugged that collection in-and-out of more vans than I care to remember.

Yet I never unpacked it.

I just kept that collection boxed up. But, importantly, it was with me.

You see, I thought it was a part of me. That the items in the collection made me the person I am. Considering it was a collection from my early formative years, that could very well be true.

But I’d rarely looked at it since becoming a teenager. The collection was boxed up in the loft of our family home. And then it moved to the loft of my own home. And to the next home. And the next.

I didn’t use it.

I didn’t enjoy it.

I didn’t even look at it.

And when I watched a video by Ronald L. Banks last week, I realised something.

I didn’t need it.

The video is titled Minimalism for Collectors. If you have a collection, yet aspire to maintain a minimalist lifestyle, I highly recommend you watch it.

Just because Ron’s video inspired me to clear out my childhood collection, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience. Because, in equal measure, the video validated me in keeping some of my collections. The things that do add value to my life.

But it also allowed me to look at that childhood collection with fresh eyes and motivated me to make a change.

I realised that collection was more of a burden than something I cherished. Worse still – I felt guilty that its condition was deteriorating because I wasn’t taking care of it.

It was time for that 30+-year-old collection to go.

The Minimalists (2012-2015) pp 64

One week later I have an empty cupboard the size of a wardrobe (yes, that’s how much space the collection took up!) and I have made over £1000 selling it off.

I don’t know what happened to me while I was watching Ron’s video, but I no longer felt sentimental about the collection. There was no nostalgia, no memories of happy times playing with it in childhood. I could simply see a stack of stuff that I didn’t even want to touch.

But just because this particular collection was no longer something I wanted, it doesn’t mean I’m against all collections now.

In fact, thank goodness for people with collections, as they are the ones who bought my childhood collection from me.

I picked out the few pieces that meant the most to me – the things that made me smile – and kept those. But all the rest is gone.

I feel so much lighter, happier and at peace, knowing that the collection will continue to be cared for by someone who really wants it.

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

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.