Hello again! I’m finally back after a long break from blogging to take care of our new baby girl, who arrived last month. What a whirlwind it’s been! I’ve quickly been reminded how difficult it is to get anything else done with a newborn around, but more on that later…
Like many of us, this time of year always gets me in the mood for decluttering and organizing, but especially now that I’m spending more time than usual at home.
I think that I’ve probably always been a minimalist at heart. As a self-confessed neat freak, having too much clutter around the house can leave me feeling overwhelmed, frazzled and often a bit moody (just ask my husband!).
The minimalist movement seems to have been growing steadily in popularity over the past few years, with many of us looking for a more simple and fulfilling way of life. A quick search online will turn up a ton of advice on how to purge, declutter and streamline our lives.
Sometimes when we hear the term minimalism it conjures up images of depressingly sparse living spaces, with half empty rooms and nothing but the most practical and essential of belongings. But I prefer the idea that it’s really to do with being more intentional about the items we choose to keep and bring into our homes. And that can include things that might not be very useful, but are lovely nonetheless 🙂
All this being said, it’s not always so easy to translate the theory of minimalism into practice. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not quite ready to downsize to a tiny house!
And for those of us that love to shop (guilty!), we can even blame this on evolution it would seem… Apparently as humans we’re hard wired seek out rewards and therefore always want more. This is only compounded by the fact that stuff is not only cheaper but also more available than ever these days.
Let’s not ignore the kid factor either – as anyone with children knows, keeping the clutter at bay can feel like a feat akin to scaling Mount Everest.
So how do we incorporate the minimalist approach in a way that’s relevant to our lives? And why would we want to anyway?
I recently stumbled upon a great documentary on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The film explores the concept of minimalism (and the impact of consumer culture on our lives) from the perspective of people that have gone down this path.
As someone who’s interested in moving towards a more minimalist lifestyle, I found the movie to be quite inspiring and it made me think about how I could apply some of the values to my own life…
Lesson one: what it means to live a good life is not set in stone
The documentary makes a great point that the essence of the American Dream has shifted over time… while it was once about opportunity, the acquisition of material wealth and goods has now become increasingly more central. And we’re continuously being conditioned (primarily by advertising and media) to aspire to this new narrative.
But what happens when we take a step back and reassess what really makes us happy, and begin to consider what we need as opposed to what we have or think we want?
I like this quote from the Joshua Fields Millburn (one of The Minimalists, and a central figure in the documentary), which sums it up perfectly:
There’s a template out there. You can call it The American Dream or Keeping Up With The Joneses or whatever, but that’s just a template. That’s not the template. And once we realize that, I think that we can create our own template that works just for us.
Lesson two: A life with less stuff can mean less stress, less debt and less dissatisfaction
While I was pregnant and in full-on nesting mode last year I did lots of decluttering and purging of stuff that we never seemed to use or really need. Now with a newborn in tow there’s little time for anything else and I’m seeing the payoff… less stuff to tidy away, fewer clothes to wash, easier decisions about what to wear etc. For me, that’s the beauty of minimalism!
It seems to be the case that too much stuff (and the constant desire for more stuff) can actually weigh us down.
The growing prevalence of fast fashion is a prime example… the whole industry is designed to make us feel like we’re immediately out of style so that we need to buy more as soon as possible… and the cycle continues so that we’re ultimately left feeling unsatisfied. I’m sure that’s why so many people these days are embracing the capsule wardrobe approach as an alternative.
Geneva at A Pair & A Spare has some fantastic posts on how to cull and thoughtfully restock your closet as part of her “Wardrobe Rehab” series.
I know that I feel instantly lighter after a good purge. And at the same time as I’m decluttering, I’ve also started to put much more thought into what I buy… that means no more impulse purchases at Target (or at least not so many…let’s be realistic!). Ultimately I’m spending much less money this way.
All this leads us nicely on to the next point…
Lesson three: Every possession should serve a purpose or add value to your life
This seems to be the golden rule when it comes to leading a life edited.
Many of us end up with too much stuff out of boredom, or because we apply a perceived social value and status to our possessions, rather than just appreciating them for what they are. There’s nothing wrong with owning things, but buying stuff mindlessly will never satisfy any deep emotional need.
The goal is a “well-curated” life, where we value quality over quantity and are more deliberate about the purchase decisions we make.
You can achieve this by taking the time to consider your belongings and asking yourself a few simple questions. Is this useful in some way? Do I love it? If I saw it in a store today, would I still buy it?
For a detailed and practical guide on how to figure out what should stay and what should go, Marie Kondo’s books are fabulous in my opinion.
Lesson four: The things that add meaning and value are different for everyone
While the documentary touches on the broader implications of our increasingly consumerist society, it also implies that minimalism is first and foremost about creating change in your own personal world. So its stands to reason that there should be no single approach to it.
One example in our home is my husband’s collection of cookery books. There are SO MANY! And they take up a load of space in our kitchen. And can’t you find almost any recipe online anyway these days??? But as much as I long to reclaim the counter space, my husband just loves those books and so they must stay.
For me it’s probably my shoe collection. Do I really need ballet flats in five different shades? Nope! But they’re so pretty and I enjoy them, which means that they get to stay too 😉
And that’s why minimalism isn’t as simple as just getting rid of a load of stuff. Rather it’s a way of life that teaches you to feel good about keeping the things that you need or love AND about letting go of the rest.
I think that the documentary is well worth a watch for anyone interested in the idea of living more simply. If you’d like to find out more, you can watch the trailer here:
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