The 7 Changes You Must Make For A Minimalist Lifestyle
“A minimalist home is very intentional,” Joshua Becker explains in an article for Good Housekeeping magazine. “Each possession is there for a reason.”
In my free time, I’ve spent the past six months bogged down in the restructure of my manuscript, hence the reason I’ve not been as vocal on this site as I was.
Anyone who has been through the pain of editing 90,000 words knows that you need to isolate yourself, without distractions. But you also need to accept the reality that years of hard work may ultimately come to nothing. That was one of the reasons behind my last post, in which I purported the idea that there’s nothing wrong with contentment – a state of mind that seems particularly relevant right now.
Learning to be content is also beneficial if you are the sort of person I am, who has a tendency to be pulled in lots of directions, hence regularly thrown into a state of overwhelm. Which is why I want to take the idea a step further in this post and describe how I’m creating my own sense of contentment and adapting to the whole living withless idea – the principles of which you can apply to every facet of your life.
It’s called being a minimalist.
You will be aware that minimalism is a style used in interior design and decoration, which embraces a modern, rather clinical style, with no clutter or distractions – other than those you choose to have in your life. But these days, the word is being used more broadly, to promote the kind of new, pared back lifestyle many of us aspire to live – especially since COVID.
Joshua Becker describes the meaning of minimalism in his article What Is Minimalism? in the following way:
“It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it."
You may argue that, clearly, this new idea appeals to me because I’m middle-class, middle-aged, and feeling my invisibility, or because money is tighter these days as a result of our personal decision to semi-retire early. And many of those reasons are valid. However, it is clear that our younger generations are also embracing the idea to change their priorities, and while I admit that during my thirties I used to laugh at couples on Grand Designs and sea-change shows who opted out of the rat race, I now believe they are having the last laugh.
After all, what’s not to love about a lifestyle that gives us more money, time, and happiness, and contributes to the protection of our environment?
So how do you become a minimalist?
“The minimalist lifestyle is about living with only the things you need. Minimalists are free from the desire to buy and accumulate more. Instead, they find happiness in relationships and experiences.” Joshua Becker
Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But it’s not simply about wasting a bank holiday to do a spring clean – although, that’s exactly what I did last Monday, and it’s a great starting point.
There’s more to simplifying your life than the physical process of tidying up. There’s also a lot of mental work to be done and ingrained habits to change, and it can be hard to know where to start. So to help you out, these are the seven changes working for me:
Being more intentional. First of all, you have to really think about the purpose of your decision and what you really want to gain from it. My greatest fault is wasting money on tat when I’m in a funk. I can’t believe it’s taken my over fifty years to learn that quality beats quantity every time, but there it is. I’m that person who gets a thrill out of buying something new (that I don’t really need or want) and then letting it sit in the cupboard . The other important thing to do is to base your changes on what you want, not what your kids or friends expect from you, or even what your partner wants. This is your life – and if your partner doesn’t agree with your choices, chuck them out with the rest of the clutter.
Forget about owning stuff and consumerism. As I’ve already said, this one hurts. I am a shopper and I love that sense of instant gratification, which is why I haven’t caught the online shopping bug yet. I am also creative, so I take a huge amount of pleasure from wandering around malls and looking at beautiful things. An afternoon at the mall is one of the few times my brain switches off, so changing my buying habits is a work in progress. Where I’ve started is by buying less crap and only buying quality things I really need or recycled goods.
Change your mindset and your priorities. A bout of depression or serious anxiety is the best push to make changes in your life. But I don’t recommend them. Instead of waiting for that to happen – in order to meet unrealistic expectations or keep up with the Jones’ – prioritise things in your life that promote your wellness and health. Step into nature when you can, try some mindfulness if that works for you – it’s not for me, but listening to an entertaining podcast can have a similarly relaxing effect. Exercise, meet up with friends for some free therapy. Make the time to switch off and relax, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Stop worrying about what others think. Remove toxic people from your life, like friends who don’t understand your choices, who don’t value your opinion, who can’t have a discussion without shouting back at you, or who don’t treat you with the same consideration you treat them.
Stop competing with others. Forget about the Jones’. The ugliest part of a consumerist society is the way it pushes people to compete with each another and social media has exacerbated the problem. It’s natural, and throughout my thirties and forties I was guilty of comparing myself to others or attempting to live vicariously through them, but all it did was make me unhappy. The qualities I envy in people these days couldn’t be more different to the ones that impressed me when I was younger.
Be grateful. I have why me? days all the time, where all I do is moan about what I haven’t got or why things never seem to go the way I plan them, but once I calm down – usually, on a walk – I am getting better at putting those thoughts into perspective. But, don’t feel bad about them. A therapist once told me that feeling sorry for yourself is completely valid, as long as you don’t let that negativity overtake everything else.
Create processes – I have a scatty brain, particularly at the moment in menopause, and the days I don’t organise myself and write a to-do list, I achieve much less. Of course, it’s much easier to get distracted when you work from home. One minute, I’ll be writing, the next I’m flicking through social media, and the next I’m playing with the dog. But you need to be accountable to yourself for how you spend your time. That doesn’t mean you need to always be productive – far from it – you just need to be productive when you have to be. Having processes mean you’re not always chasing your tail, and you’re more likely to feel a sense of fulfilment at the end of each day.
My partner and I share the chores at home. We have a system where we walk the dog, empty the dishwasher and cook on alternate days, and the rest of the chores we have divvied up so they are equal, i.e. I do more cleaning, while he attends to the garden and the rubbish – so, we’re fairly conventional. Being organised like that stops resentment building, or feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and we can enjoy our Gin and Tonic each night without feeling guilty.