It’s January. Nearly the end of January in fact- the start of a new Year and a great time to set out goals, resolutions and plans for the year to come.
In 2016 my aim was to learn to love my body. I think I made positive headway with it, learning how to forgive myself, to accept my body as it is now and to find worth and value beyond the way I look. It’s something I always have, and probably always will struggle with, but in 2016 I focused a lot of time and energy into body positivity and it’s had a positive effect on the relationship I have with my body.
This year my focus is on living a more intentional life.
Not exactly a New Years Resolution or a SMART goal but I can’t think of a better way to start 2017.
What do I mean by living a more intentional life? The best way to describe it is making sure my short term actions align with my long term values.
To do this I have had to make clear in my head what my values are. Now all that’s left to do is to ensure that the activities, relationships and things I have in my life are congruent with these long term values.
Easier said than done!
One of the ways that I have started my journey with living a more intentional life is by exploring and implementing the philosophy of minimalism.
I declutter a lot. This must do with moving house regularly, it gave me the opportunity every year or so to look at, wrap, pack and transport every item I own.
Anyone who has had to move house recently will know that you often come across items you’ve not seen or used for a long time, clothes that don’t fit, socks that don’t match (millions of those in our house!) and toys and gadgets that are broken or outdated. Not to mention the random bits of paper that seem to accumulate EVERYWHERE- receipts, old shopping lists, half-filled note books, kids drawings, out of date bills, old high school essays.
But even though I had many an opportunity to assess my belongings I still hung on to items that no longer added value to my life. The “just in case” items or unwanted gifts. I had clothes in my wardrobe that “fit” but that I never wore because I didn’t really like them or they didn’t fit my lifestyle, books that sat on my shelves gathering dust never being read or enjoyed, boxes of miscellaneous wires and old batteries, the technology they were designed for outdated long ago.
Last year I discovered Marie Kondo’s book “the life changing magic of tidying up”. After reading I ended up donating and throwing away bags and bags of items, most of which I didn’t miss at all. This was very helpful at the time as we moved house (again!) and it made packing and sorting our items a lot easier.
The Marie Kondo method was a good tool to show me “how to” declutter and organise, but the effects didn’t last that long and so in our new, smaller house “things” started encroaching on us again. My sons small bedroom was stuffed full of furniture and toys and clothes and books, the kitchen cupboards were over flowing, the cupboard under the stairs bulging and pulsating with unloved, miscellaneous items.
Having a small house with lots of stuff in it was difficult for me as, even though I’m not a “clean freak” I do like my space to be relatively clean and organised, I get stressed out and can’t concentrate with too much visual noise. Plus we have to keep things fairly sanitised for our son Joseph who has cystic Fibrosis, to avoid any unnecessary infections. So I was constantly moving things around and reorganising our stuff. Furniture would move from room to room, kitchen items would shift from kitchen cupboards, to dining room cabinets and even spread to under the stairs. Joe’s toys would be categorised and organised and moved and jumbled about in an effort to keep the space we had free and clear.
This took up a very large part of my life on a moment to moment basis, and whenever the stuff started to get too much I would get anxious and need to move it all again.
I am a person who suffers from bouts of depression and anxiety. I found that moving stuff around was an effective way of escaping from tough or uncomfortable feelings. My health was poor (and still is but I’m working on it), I was feeling dissatisfied but too “busy” to work out why and all the activities I used to enjoy were put on the back burner because I had too much self-imposed cleaning and organising to do.
One day I was looking for some inspirational podcasts to listen to (while I re-arranged the furniture AGAIN) when I came across the Minimalists podcasts. The podcasts and the website of the same name is run by two guys who have given up their fancy careers, big posh houses, luxury items and lifestyles to live a more meaningful and intentional life with less stuff.
When I first heard the term “minimalism” I imagined stark white rooms with monochromatic shiny space age furniture and for some reason an oriental woman in futuristic white clothing (why??) meditating all day. It made me think of the words STARK, and RESTRICTION, and LIFELESS and BORING. I thought to be a minimalist you had to own next to nothing and be a vegan and not have a carbon footprint.
I was wrong.
In fact being a minimalist has nothing to do with how much you own or what you wear or restriction at all. It means living a life with MORE not less. More value, more meaning, more time, more energy, more space, more relationships, more love.
“The minimalists” approach to minimalism showed me the “why” behind living with less not just the “how- to”. They provide examples of so many different kinds of lives, people and circumstances where minimalism could apply.
I am only at the very beginning of my journey with this philosophy and with living more intentionally but already I feel lighter. Over the course of 6 weeks or so now I have removed so much unnecessary stuff. Not just because I want a nice tidy house (although that does help quite a bit!) but because I want to spend less time buying, organising, cleaning, sorting and worrying about physical items, and more time doing things that give me real value, and using the items I already own that add value to my life.
I have removed bags and bags of clothes (in fact I now have a capsule wardrobe and I still find I only wear a small portion of those items!) which takes so much stress out of deciding what to wear, washing, drying, ironing and organising clothing items.
I have whittled down my craft supplies, my art stuff, my books (particularly cook books)- leaving only the items that we use regularly and add value to our lives. It means I spend less time looking for stuff, organising stuff and being overwhelmed by stuff and more time to actually make, paint, cook, read and write. (As an example, last year I think I read about three books the whole year, this year it’s not yet the end of January and I am on my third book.)
Since getting rid of a lot of the excess stuff in our lives, we have also been able to get rid of some the bulky excess stuff that stores the excess stuff! We’ve removed wardrobes, bedside tables, cabinets, coffee tables, storage boxes and shelving units from our house, and consequently our small house now seems a whole lot bigger.
Is my house immaculately clean and tidy all the time now? Nope. Do I still own some stuff I don’t need? Most likely. Do I still have to clean and organise? Yep.
But the amount of time I require doing these things has dramatically decreased. So much so that I find myself with more time for the important things in my life such as spending quality time with my husband and son, improving my health and wellbeing, personal growth and creativity.
If you walked into my home would you find stark white walls, empty rooms lacking warmth or cupboards void of stuff? No. And I don’t have a futuristically dressed oriental woman sat meditating whilst eating pulses in my under stair cupboard either!
It’s not perfect, and it never will be, minimising is a life long journey that needs to be undertaken day by day and looks drastically different from one person to another- the items I value now (my sketchers, paintbrushes, Filofax, copper candle holders and Nigella Lawson cookbooks) may look totally different from the items in your life that bring you true value and will probably look a whole lot different in 6 months from now. And that’s ok.
But is my life better with less? Definitely.
I’m looking forward to starting 2017 living an intentional, simplified life with less.
So with January coming to a close, and minimalism helping me to make space in my life for the things that matter I have set the stage for living life with intention.
If you are interested in Minimalism or living life with intention why not listen to the podcasts, watch the “minimalists” documentary (available on Netflix, vimeo, amazon or DVD amongst other formats), check out their website HERE .
Or “Breaking the Twitch” is a great vlog on you tube which explores the themes of living a more intentional life, check it out HERE.
Finally here are some motto’s, questions and quotes I’m keeping in the forefront of my mind for 2017:
“Experiences not things”
“Buy less, live more”
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful (William Morris)”
“Does this short term action align with my long term values?”