I’ve been going through a purge, a cleansing of the soul if you will. Okay, so maybe not my soul but I’m choosing to believe that it’ll be a healthy byproduct of de-cluttering and cleaning out the rest of my life.
I’ve become utterly obsessed with the idea of a minimalist lifestyle, which probably comes as a surprise to anyone that knows me all that well because I am the worst kind of pack-rat. I’m the kind that throws away just enough to justify buying twice as much.
It’s a vicious circle of consumerism and retail therapy and poor impulse control.
I am too broke to spend so much on things I never wear or use or ever even wanted in the first place. And even if I wasn’t, what is the point of wasting time and money and space on these things. And more to the point, I’m tired of always wanting everything and never feeling like what I do have is enough…especially when, looking at it objectively, what I do have is already too much.
I shop for the sake of shopping, keep for the sake of keeping, and with all of this stuff draining my finances and cluttering my space, I in turn am feeling drained and cluttered. Drained and cluttered and still unfulfilled.
I needed a change, not just of my lifestyle but of my perspective. I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate my relationship with money and stuff and ultimately with myself. I’d lost sight of my own tastes and preferences in a sea of advertising and product placement. So, with no idea where to start, I did what I always do and turned to the kindle store… 20 mins and about a hundred reviews and recommendations later I settled on a small selection, already failing in my new lifestyle ambition by buying more than one.
After reading through the same badly written book with the same unrealistically strict rules and miserable checklists by 4 separate authors, it was, with the expectation of another title to mock over drinks with the girls, that I opened the 5th.
Even if you’re not interested in minimalism I’d still recommend this book, her views on the psychology of a consumerist society and the conditioning effects of mainstream advertising are insightful, genuinely interesting and very well written. She can also be found on her blog The Minimalist Woman to which I am completely addicted.
This was it, the book I had been looking for. The step-by-step plan for instituting a minimalist environment and lifestyle, and more importantly, all the reasons why each step would help me achieve the calm I’d been searching for. Four well written chapters advocating a realistic transition with the flexibility to tailor it to my life. There are no strict checklists here, just a reasonable guide to finding contentment in self instead of stuff. So starting with step one –
The basic idea is to distance oneself from the influence of marketing and societal values and become more aware of what and why you accumulate. Removing yourself from the trap of influence and getting in touch with your own values and inner preferences, giving you back more than just the illusion of choice. The plan is simple: Stop recreational shopping, do not just buy things for funsies. (I chose to make an exception with my ebook addiction, though I did limit myself to one per week.) Sounds easy right? It wasn’t. I hadn’t realised just how much time and money I spent shopping for the sake of it, which it ridiculous not just because I feel like I should have noticed but because shopping isn’t actually fun. The lights are crappy, there are harried adults and screaming children and obnoxiously loud teeny boppers and a pervasive vibe of stress and exhaustion and it’s awful. Truly, genuinely awful. So why am I still wandering aimlessly around the store with a basket full of crap? I need to just put it down, walk away and work on paying more attention to how I waste my time and money. And of course, move on to step two-
I need to stop letting my space turn into a landfill of bad habits, compulsive shopping leftovers and maybe one day things. Get rid of everything that isn’t useful or important to who I am right now. Again, it sounds easy. And again, it isn’t. I had no idea how much stuff I’ve been clinging to for completely bullshit reasons. I’ve been all… Maybe I’ll fit in to it again or it could be useful someday or I’ll fix it later and refusing to think about how none of those things are probably true and even if they are, whose to say I’ll even want to wear the stuff that I’m keeping to fit again. So what if it does become useful one day, right now it’s just taking up space that would be useful right now. And of course, my own moment of reality…I am never going to fix that, I don’t even know how to fix that. I’ve just been stockpiling useless junk in the hopes of it maybe one day being something I might want, not even need just want.
This is not to say I should throw out my stack of photo albums or adorable mementos, they have their place in whatever kind of lifestyle I lead, it’s just saying stop keeping unnecessary stuff on a maybe. Eliminate the maybes. Which honestly is a little daunting, the idea of just culling that much of my stuff in one hit is unsettling and so I’m doing a 7-14 day bootcamp cull. Day one – throw out one thing, Day 2 – throw two things, etc. You see the pattern, which brings us to step three –
Taking Back Time.
While the first two chapters were all about stuff and physical clutter this is about the mental clutter and blocks we all build up and why they’re sucking our time and energy like miserable little emotional vampires. It talks about the often self imposed forces holding me back on my path to contentment. It’s about learning to place the same or an even higher premium on time as on money, using the same level of consideration on budgeting energy and time.
We all know there’s only so many hours in the day and that life is short and we should live it to the max. YOLO, Carpe Diem, etc. But the thing I never really think about is how I use my in between time, in between all the things I’ll one day tell my grandbabies about there is a whole lot of time that just gets a little lost in the day-to-day. I constantly find myself wondering where my day went and how I’m exhausted when my to-do list hasn’t even been glanced at. This chapter is my favourite because the one thing I need most is more time, or at least to reclaim the time I’ve got and keep losing track of.
The mission is simple: Prioritise My Time.
And remember that it’s my time. I need to think about what matters to me, what I need to get done to feel productive and what I want to do to feel fulfilled. I need to stop running after the million things I’m always told I need to be doing to look like a functioning adult and just focus on being a functioning me, making time for the things that matter to me by not doing all the things that don’t. I think this is going to be both the simplest and most difficult to implement but I’m working on it and I’m feeling better already.
I’m calmer, I’m not necessarily happier but I’m definitely feeling more content and I like the redirection my priorities and perspectives have been taking. I like the way I feel taking a step back and trying to relearn myself… Superior to my past selves and closer to my final form. Just a little bit closer to almost.