A couple of months ago I had a bit of a stress explosion in my head. Amongst all the other life stresses, there were piles of laundry covering our bedroom, clutter adorning the surfaces, jewellery I never wear, too many clothes stuffed into drawers as I’ve run out of hangers, random unwanted gifts on shelves, wardrobes fit to bursting. A string of notifications flashing on my devices. The to-do list floated in the back of my mind amongst half remembered adverts with items crowing ‘buy me’. Bad news headlines pop up on nearby screens adding more woe to my heavy shoulders, I needed to escape the clutter in my brain and yet I was surrounded by it. Everywhere. There was no place to go.
For me, this moment was the final straw. It finally lodged one thought, one aim in my brain. I need a life that focuses on the things that give me joy. I need space to breathe and to remember what is important. I used to think filling my house with things filled it with character and gave it life. That a bare wall or shelf is an affront to all the beauty in the world. Never satisfied with my wardrobe, I needed more and more clothes to achieve a style I liked. The social norms and the materialism of capitalism that I have been trying to escape from for years still influence me. But this moment has set me on a path towards living a more minimalist lifestyle. It’s one I have actually been fantasising about for a while as if it was some distant impossibility, like dreaming of travelling to the moon. But it is possible and I need to do it for myself as well as for the ideals I want to live by.
What is minimalism?
The perception appears to be that it is the choice to eschew all aspects of modern life and run to the woods to live as some kind of hybrid hippie/hermit. That’s not the case (though, sometimes I admit that is pretty tempting …)
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It requires a conscious decision because it is a counter-cultural lifestyle that stands against the culture of over-consumption that surrounds us. ~ Becoming Minimalist
Admittedly, my partner Alex and I are not the tidiest of people. Why spend hours making the house spotless, when we could be out kayaking, or exploring the woods or playing board games with friends? I find it incredibly frustrating having to do housework after a week stuck in an office. I grew up in a household full of life and love, a pack of dogs, cats, chickens, and various small pets. The bustle of this extended family resulted in a cacophony of dirty paw prints, wet noses and tongues, muddy boots, clouds of animal fur, dirty blankets, and chewed animal toys/furniture/unidentified objects. I’m comfortable with a bit of mess, as long as it’s not gross or unhygienic. I’ve got more important things to care about.
Life is for living, not for cleaning.
That’s the whole point of minimalism when it comes to the crux of it. It’s about giving yourself the space to focus on the things you love and enjoy instead of wasting time, thoughts and energy on the things cluttering your life. The things you thought you needed but really don’t. More stuff means more time spent doing housework, finding things (yep I’m one of those people that’s forever losing things), scrolling on screens, and never getting round to the increasingly long to-do list. I’m tired of the constant navigating my way around our stuff (mentally and physically) and sustaining various injuries as I go (yeah, I have zero spatial awareness).
But also for me as someone who’s attempting to limit my impact on the planet minimalism really is a no-brainer. I’m already turning my back on materialism as best I can. I’m already limiting what I buy and spending more on quality not quantity. I’m already working to step away from the demands of social media. Minimalism goes hand in hand with a green lifestyle. Buying less and buying better so it lasts longer. Making better choices for you and the planet. Rejecting the negative world of fast fashion. Filling your life with special things you really love, not the mediocre things that ultimately end up in landfill, or worse our oceans. It’s this clutter and over-consumption, a product of materialism, that is contributing to pollution, wildlife decline and climate change.
Minimalism isn’t about giving up everything and sticking to strict rules. I’m not giving up my hundreds of books because they make me happy and enrich my life. We’ll never stop collecting board games because they challenge our minds and encourage us to spend time together, with friends and family. Our utility room is likely to always be filled with various outdoors paraphernalia because they enable us to spend time in nature, our greatest passion.
I’m really excited about my decision to embrace minimalism in my own way. It’s a step further towards my goals of a happier and greener life. First stop is building my own capsule wardrobe. I’m looking forward to seeing what this journey brings!
Want to know more about minimalism and how to do it? Check out the inspirational blog Becoming Minimalist.