It’s the first month of a new year and time to look back, and forward.
So let me start by celebrating my blog which I started in large part to record our progress towards living a simple beautiful life.
When one makes multiple, small edits in life, it can be hard to notice any change. But thanks to my writing it down in the blog, I have recently noticed that we have come some way in our journey of simplifying, and are indeed creating and living a simple beautiful life. That said it should be stressed that we are at a point along our journey, and by no means at an end. Our lives are changing for the better. We are feeling the benefits of turning towards a more simple life.
Since starting this blog 2 years ago we have made slow, gentle progress in a number of avenues (how the 2 years have flown by). I have spent a number of years reading about Minimalism. I have written about my Minimalist influencers here. But when I started bringing this knowledge into our lives through doing courses and taking action, our day to day experience started to shift. My respect for my Minimalist influencers has only grown, as they have real knowledge to impart and all share it freely and openly. Their authenticity shines through, as they all believe in the Minimalist way and wish to share the good news.
So during the past 2 years this is what we have simplified:
- I moved from Minimalism theory into the real world with the help of a few courses.
- We started by decluttering our home (a work in progress).
- And our clothes.
- Next I rejoiced in the unashamed simplification of our calendars.
- Then I tried out various ways of simplifying our food.
- Self love then appeared in the form of my starting to run. Focus on health.
- Even my 2019 goals have simplified from the usual long detailed list.
- And most recently our attention has been focused on simplifying our finances.
The first Minimalism course I did was Brian Gardner from No Sidebar’s Design a Simple Life course. It was a month long email-a-day course which served as a great introduction for me to focus on the path ahead. In fact I think I will do it again now that I am at a different stage in my journey. And I love doing courses.
Then I attempted Leo Babauta of Zen Habits Sea Change – but it was not the right course for me at the time. I first needed to get practical before I got more cerebral. I will try it again. And how’s this for an authentic simplification manifesto on his website:
“I’m not able to personally respond to emails, and I don’t take guest posts, advertising, or requests to promote anything. I’m not taking on new projects because my plate is full.” Boom!
Next was Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered course (discussed below) and currently the Uber Frugal Month challenge (discussed below).
Decluttering our home
I have always enjoyed Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist so bought his book and signed up for his Uncluttered course. It was thoroughly well thought out and perfectly suited for me at the time. I learnt a lot and it gave me a good push into translating everything I had read about Minimalism into our home. I decluttered room by room, felt lighter, and considered more before I brought anything new into our space. Clutter regathers all the time, so it is a commitment to stay on top of it. But the less one has in ones home, the less there is to keep on top of.
Decluttering our wardrobes
As part of the Uncluttered course I undertook a month long Project 333 as created by Courtney Carver from Be More With Less. It involves dressing with 33 items for 3 months. I did it for a month with ease – but I happen to live in a place where life already is simple – so maybe I cheated a little. Dressing with fewer choices sure does make mornings easier, and it had lasting results in that I now spend 5 seconds before I go to bed every evening deciding what to wear on waking. Clothing becomes less of a focus, although I believe in making an effort, even if dressing casually.
I have thinned out my wardrobe and the girls’ wardrobes. Unexpectedly I found getting rid of my old corporate clothes somewhat emotional. It involved saying farewell to a previous version of me – before marriage, before children, a size smaller, living in London, independent. A lesson learnt that living in the present is preferable to being surrounded by worn out things from the past. With the girls I suggested they each choose 10 T-shirts besides their leggings and frocks. We are very lucky in that we are given an abundance of clothes from our cousins. The reality is that the girls wear the same 5 T-shirts. We will be donating the excess to children who will use them.
Simplification of our calendars
Our health and time are our priceless assets. Yet we so easily give them away. After clearing out some of the material clutter in our lives, we turned our attention to the open spaces, our time, and how we choose to fill it.
Although we have not drastically changed any daily routines, we are more mindful of how we spend our lives. Special thanks to Courtney Carver who celebrates spending time how it suits us. The girls have a few extramurals, they have a few playdates, but we also have intentional free and unplanned time at home. The girls need it. I need it. And now that our house is emptier, there is more space for creativity, and less to clean up afterwards.
I think being more intentional about our use of time has had a few subtle benefits:
- I don’t compare ourselves to others as eagerly. If other children have more playdates or do more activities, that is what suits them. It does not mean we are missing out or doing it wrong. It has diminished my FOMO.
- We have become more considerate of the needs of all our family members. We all need time. We all have interests and preferences. It has introduced more respect for others.
- It has clarified our choices. I choose to choose activities close to home, to prevent spending my time in the car driving further afield. I have more time.
- It has facilitated my drawing up boundaries, which so many of us find hard, I do. I am now more comfortable considering my needs, and not getting involved in everything that I am asked. After all no one but me really cares how I choose to spend my time (I read this somewhere recently, but can’t remember where, and it landed).
Simplifying our food
Naturally with more self-consideration, a focus on health came next. I continue to try out concepts like meal plans, meals on repeat, delivery companies like uCook and Day 2 Day. I have Jamie Oliver’s “5 Ingredients” cook book. Simplifying the cooking process with fewer ingredients and fewer choices. I am moving towards a more plant-based diet with meat in smaller amounts and only organic, free range. I will be ordering meat from Ethical Meats next month. Next I may try a month of a Mediterranean diet.
The key for me is to produce healthy food that is not expensive, easy to prepare, allows my family to expand their tastebuds, and although not vegan, with due consideration to the Earth.
Health & Self-Love
In March this year I will have been running 5km or more twice a week with my running partner Jane. And I have never been a runner. Ever. I think subconsciously Leo Babatua may have influenced this habit change as he simplified his life, quit smoking and started running in his story. In reality I have my neighbour Erika to thank. A children’s bike ride with my girls and her boys started me off; I didn’t own a bike at the time so had to run to keep up with the other 5 cycling round our village. We stopped in for water at Jane’s house and a whole new life was born. I now look forward to our regular runs fitting them in before school runs, on weekends, whenever we can.
It is an act of self love – once the excuses fade away and a new healthy habit has formed. Thank you to Leo, Erika & Jane.
I am a big believer in New Years resolutions. I love the clean slate that a new year offers and I love goal setting and thinking of what lies ahead. I am married to someone who does not buy into any of this stuff at all, yet year after year I carry on with my personal lists – realms of headings and points setting out my year ahead in great detail.
This year – even my goals got simplified. Here they are:
- drink a lot more water
- be kind
- focus on our finances
1 and 2 are ongoing, sometimes I do well, sometimes I don’t. 3 I have made a start.
Simplifying our Finances
I am about to end off a very worthwhile month-long course by Mrs Frugalwoods called the Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge. It’s about saving and “analysing the mechanics and the mindset behind our spending.” I have learnt a great deal, yet I still have a long way to go as the uncomfortable truth is that I am fairly poor at managing money wisely. It’s a sore point at my age of 43 that I am entirely lacking a financial plan. But the fact that I have made a start is good. The fact that I can admit this area of concern is a start. And the fact that I am owning it is translating into real action.
From a Minimalist perspective the course has brought clarity to my understanding of my spending habits and it is making me question every purchase. It has made me question “the myth of consumerism is that buying lots of stuff means you’re exerting your free will, but in reality, you’re just turning your money over to someone else for purposes they’ve designated.”
I don’t choose to live my life as a puppet. I choose a higher life, and an unconstrained life for my children. I honestly hadn’t realised the strength of the clutches consumerism had on my life. Being a spender has not stood me in good stead financially. But now with a reason (my why) behind me – that I no longer wish to be a puppet with spending dictated to by marketing and advertising – now I can choose to get sensible with our money. Earn it, save and invest it wisely, and spend it when necessary.
Our life is changing. For the better.
Perhaps Mari Kondo hit it spot on when she spoke about the life changing magic of tidying up. Interestingly I have only just signed up for her newsletters thanks to watching a few episodes of her show on Netflix. Here is the introduction I received: “I believe that if you tidy your space, you can transform your life. Our goal at KonMari is to help more people experience the life-changing magic of tidying up, and we are committed to developing the most effective tools to help you get there. Thank you for joining us!”