With the new year right around the corner, I recently set aside time to reflect on my blog and my writing—and one thing I noticed is I didn’t write much about my minimalist lifestyle this year. This wasn’t an intentional decision to avoid the topic (in fact, I didn’t actually realise how little I’d written until just now) but instead, a reflection of my life and experiences.
For me, 2018 has been all about transition as I’ve moved fully into the worlds of motherhood and self-employment. Out of necessity, I’ve been doing a lot of inner work in areas such as self-worth and emotional agility. These are related to minimalism (it’s all SO intertwined!) but I haven’t been connecting the dots here because it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind.
Having said that, lately, I’ve noticed signs telling me it’s time to refocus my attention on minimalism.
While my life isn’t overly cluttered right at this moment, I can feel a growing need for stuff that didn’t exist this time last year. I might not be buying much (yet) but I’m browsing A LOT and I feel the urge to indulge in old, comfortable habits (like shopping when I’m bored or having a difficult day).
I can see that I need to act now and get myself back on track or I’ll risk ending up somewhere I don’t want to be. This is the inspiration for this blog post, which I’ve written for myself as much as for my readers. Here are six gentle reminders about minimalism, intended to help us all set the right intentions for the new year.
MINIMALISM IS A REPEATED CHOICE
I once read that when you get married, you make two types of commitments. First, there’s the decision to get married; a choice most people don’t take lightly. It’s a big commitment but once it’s decided upon, it’s celebrated. There are parties and enthusiasm about the future.
Then your wedding day comes and goes and, sometimes, life gets harder. At a minimum, there’s less celebrating and more work as you face life’s challenges together—and this is where the second type of commitment comes into play. It’s quieter, but perhaps more meaningful, as you wake up each day and commit to loving and supporting each other. You may not always feel like making this commitment but it’s this small daily action that forms the foundation of a strong marriage.
Now I’m certainly no relationship expert, but I think this idea carries a lot of weight—and I also think the same concept can be applied to minimalism.
In the beginning, the decision to embrace minimalism can be exhilarating. There’s an initial buzz, an excitement we all feel when we decide to take control of our lives, and this fuels our motivation for the first few rounds of decluttering.
But as time goes on, this initial motivation often fades. The excitement that comes with anything new has worn off and now it’s time to make the quiet, daily commitment of choosing more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.
Practically, this might mean avoiding your favourite shop (even when there’s a really good sale) or putting down your phone when you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling on Amazon. These small daily choices aren’t as thrilling as clearing 10 trash bags of junk from your garage, but the truth is they’re more important.
Minimalism is a repeated, daily choice to be intentional about what you allow into your life—and this is so much more important than a one-off decluttering binge.
RELATED POST: 20 Ways I’ve Simplified My Life
WHEN MINIMALISM FEELS HARD, RECONNECT WITH WHAT MATTERS
As I wrote in Mindful Decluttering (my free guide + workbook):
“I realised that in order to have more of the things that mattered, I would need to let go of the things that didn’t. It turned out that minimalism wasn’t really about owning less at all! Instead, it was an intentional choice to make room for more of what matters most to me.”
This realisation—that minimalism is about creating a life that matters—was the turning point on my initial simple living journey. Now, whenever I find myself struggling with minimalism, I try to reconnect with why I started.
In the words of Stephen Covey, you must “Begin with the end in mind.”
Everyone’s motivation will be different because our values are different, but I choose minimalism because I wanted my time, space, money and energy back. Instead of wasting my precious resources on stuff I don’t really need, I want the freedom to explore my interests, to take care of myself, and to invest in my most important relationships.
Whenever I reconnect with this vision and remind myself why I believe in minimalism, it always becomes easier. I walk away from unnecessary purchases because I’m walking towards my vision for life—not because I’m relying on willpower.
If you’d like to learn more about this mindset, then I invite you to get your free copy of Mindful Decluttering by subscribing below. (It also includes practical advice, personal stories, and a troubleshooting guide to help you overcome your decluttering challenges!)
DEFINE HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH—FOR YOU
Over the years, I’ve learned another reason we struggle with minimalism is that often, we don’t have clear definitions of how much is enough. (This is also one of the reasons we have too much stuff in the first place!) Without established boundaries, everything feels like a work in progress; we’re never “done” and as a result, we’re always looking for more.
I’m actually planning to write a whole blog post on this topic, with some tips and practical ideas about how to define enough for yourself, but in the meantime, I think it’s important to start thinking about your limits.
Be honest and realistic about how much you need to be happy. Minimalism isn’t about depriving yourself but at the same time, don’t be afraid to create boundaries. It might feel counterintuitive but there is actually a lot of freedom in having fewer options.
Having said that, remember that minimalism is not a contest and what you define as enough might be different to what someone else needs. Also, know that your definition of enough can evolve and change throughout your life. We go through seasons where we need more (more stuff, more work, or more support) and others where we can get by with less.
RELATED POST: Getting Started with Minimalism: 5 Things Not to Do
YOU HAVE TO STOP WHAT’S COMING IN TOO
“But the ability to easily get rid of stuff may be making people feel a little better about buying things they don’t need, and motivating them to buy even more.”
This resonated with me because, in all honesty, it’s a truth I needed to hear. At the start of this post, I wrote that “my life isn’t overly cluttered at the moment” which is true but deep down I probably use this knowledge to justify my new purchases.
I tell myself, “I can buy that shirt because my closet isn’t overflowing” but what is the end result? I might maintain the illusion of simplicity but my precious resources are still going out the door. My time, money, and energy are still spent and ultimately, wasted if I’m buying something I don’t need (regardless of how my closet looks from the outside).
This does challenge the common minimalist mantra of “one in, one out” but it makes sense when we’re thinking about what matters most. After all, minimalism is not about owning a certain number of things or maintaining a certain style; instead, it’s about curating a life that reflects our values and personal vision.
Decluttering and letting go is one part of the equation but we must not forget to pay attention to what we’re bringing into our lives as well.
RELATED POST: 6 Tips to Stop Mindless Shopping
THE WORLD WILL TEST YOU
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about the psychology of selling and one thing is for sure: it’s not an even playing field for consumers. New technology and advanced research mean that the “Consumer experience these days is not simply designed; it’s engineered.”
This means that when we enter a shop, everything—from the layout to what we smell—is meticulously chosen to encourage us to buy more. (Especially the “big box” shops that have a lot of money to invest in this research, which is another reason to support small business!) And when we shop online? Retailers use our personal data to speak directly to our needs and desires.
In full disclosure, part of why I know this is because I sell things too (like this online course) and in all honesty, it’s a tough world to navigate. I try my best to run a value-driven, heart-centred business and to find the balance between spreading my message and not adding too much noise to people’s lives.
It’s not easy but I do try—which is probably more than can be said for most retailers. The truth is marketing is inevitable and in the future, businesses will only get better at selling.
The best way to prepare is to educate yourself by becoming a mindful consumer.
Ask questions when you feel like buying something, such as “What’s driving my desire to shop right now? Is this something I need? Or is shopping a reaction to my mood?” Also, take note of your surroundings; for example, if you’re in a shop, go for a short walk and see if you still want to make your purchase.
(If this is something you’re interested in learning more about, I highly recommend signing up for Cait Flanders’ newsletters or following her on Instagram; she is doing a lot of personal research on this topic and I’m learning a lot from her.)
MINIMALISM REQUIRES SELF-AWARENESS + HONESTY
One final reminder about minimalism: it requires self-awareness and honesty.
You must be willing to look closely at your life, even if it’s uncomfortable—and the odds are it will be. We all have clutter (physical and mental) because we’ve all made mistakes, which leaves us with two options: we can acknowledge where we’ve gone wrong and try to make better choices in the future, or we can stick our heads in the sand and continue to go with the flow.
The first choice will challenge you, at least in the short term, but the second option will eventually drain you.
I know which choice I’m making and in 2019, I’ll be recommitting to my values and my minimalist lifestyle. This isn’t because it’s trendy (I know minimalism is having a “moment”) or because I need more ideas to write about on my blog; instead, it’s because my greatest fear is living a life half-lived. I’ve been there and I’m not going back again; this time, you won’t catch me trading away my hopes and dreams for the short-lived joy of buying something new.
If you’ve gotten a bit off track with minimalism, then I hope that these gentle reminders will help you join in recommitting to minimalism in 2019. ❤️
What role will minimalism play in your life next year? Did any of these reminders help you set your intentions? Let me know in the comments! x
photo credit: Designecologist // Used with permission