The 7 Changes Necessary 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.” 

Simplicity. A glass jar with gum leaves on a white background.
Photo by Alex Loup on Unsplash

I’ve spent the past six months bogged down in the restructure of my manuscript, hence why I’ve not been as vocal on this site as usual. Anyone who has been through the visceral pain of editing 90,000 words understands the need to isolate yourself, without distractions.

However, you must also balance that sacrifice of your free time with the reality that years of hard work may ultimately amount to nothing. That was one of the inspirations for 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 with what you’ve got is important if, like me, you are the sort of person who is pulled in lots of directions, and regularly feels in a state of overwhelm.

That’s why why I’ve decided to take the idea of contentment a step further and I’m endeavouring to create it through the idea of living with less – the principles of which can be applied to every facet of our lives.

This approach is called minimalist

Minimalism, as most of you will know, is a style employed in interior design and decoration. It embraces a modern, clinical feel, with no place for clutter – and you can adapt it to your lifestyle as well. These days, the term is being used more broadly to promote the appealing, pared back lifestyle many of us aspire to live, thanks to the stress caused by 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.

I could argue that this new idea appeals to me because I’m a middle-aged woman, sensitive to my invisibility, and it’s much easier to simply opt out of society than fight the ongoing ageism and gender discrimination. Or perhaps it’s because, financially, we have cut our cloth accordingly in line with our personal decision to semi-retire early.

Both reasons are valid

However, it is obvious that younger generations are also embracing this idea to change their priorities, and while I admit that in the past I ridiculed couples on those sea-change shows who opted out of the rat race, I think they may be having the last laugh.

Our priorities change with age

And what’s not to love about a way of life that promises more time to do the things we love and happiness, and contributes to the protection of our environment at the same time?

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

It sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But it’s not simply about sacrificing your day off for a spring clean in your home – although, that’s a good starting point.

No, there’s a little more to simplifying your life than decluttering. There’s a lot of mental work that needs happen and ingrained habits that need to change. And for some people, it can be hard to know where to start.

So to help you out, below are seven changes that are working for me:

  1. Being more intentional. First of all, you must really think about the purpose of your decision and what you intend to gain from it. Intentionality means basing your changes on what you want in your life, 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, remove them with the rest of the clutter.
  2. Forget about owning stuff and consumerism. This is difficult for me. When I’m in a funk, my weakness is my compulsion to buy new things for that sense of instant gratification. As a creative, I also get a huge kick out of simply wandering around to mall and looking at beautiful things. Where I am making changes in this area is by buying less crap and only quality things I really need or recycled goods.
  3. 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 either of those to happen, prioritise things in your life that promote wellness and good health. Step into nature as much as possible, listen to inspiring or entertaining podcasts, exercise or meet up with friends for some free therapy. Make the time to switch off and relax, and don’t feel guilty about it.
  4. Stop worrying about what others think. Remove toxic people from your life. People who don’t understand your choices, value your opinion, or who you can’t have a discussion without them shouting back at you, are not conducive to a minimalist lifestyle. Your friends should treat you with the same consideration you treat them.
  5. Stop competing with others. Forget about the Jones’. The ugliest part of our consumerist society is the way we pit people against each another, and social media has exacerbated the problem. In my thirties and forties I made myself miserable by comparing myself to others who had more, and when I attempted to keep up with them, all that did was make me unhappy. The qualities I envy in my friends now couldn’t be more different to the ones that impressed me when I was younger.
  6. Be grateful. I have why me days, where all I do is moan about what I haven’t got, or why shit seems to always happen to me, but I’m getting better at putting those negative thoughts into perspective. Feeling sorry for yourself is completely valid, as long as you don’t let the negativity overtake everything else.
  7. Create processes – I have a scatty brain, particularly right now, during 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 – like many of us do now. One minute, I’m writing, the next I’m flicking through social media, the next I’m playing with the dog. But you must be accountable to yourself for how you prioritise your time. You don’t have to be productive all of the time – far from it – you just need to be productive when you must be. Having processes means you’re not always chasing your tail, and you’re more likely to feel a sense of fulfilment at the end of each day. The old man and I share the chores in our home – like walking the dog, emptying the dishwasher and the cooking – and being organised prevents resentment building, and makes that first Gin and Tonic each evening even more special.

Practicing Simplicity In Middle Age

plant-1842299_1280There is a “family and lifestyle” blog called Practicing Simplicity, by Jodi Wilson. It offers its readers a stunning vista of photographs and tales of motherhood with affiliated yoga, cooking and lifestyle tips. I love the name: Practicing Simplicity. Scrolling through the site, there is an aura of calm that bounces off each photo captured of wild flowers, toddlers innocently at play and simple, wholesome living.

 

The idea of “practicing simplicity” is a discipline that I’ve tried to incorporate into my own lifestyle for a while now. This is not some innovative new trend I’ve discovered, you only need look around you at the wealth of organic food cafes, the current trend in home decor for clean Scandinavian lines and simplicity, or the yoga havens, but it does seem that the more I clean up my lifestyle, in terms of what I put in my mouth, how I plan my day, and most importantly, how I plan my relaxation time, the more I get out of my life. When I remember to approach everything with a calmer, more rational approach, rather than my scatty, “me first”, impulsive alter ego, everything turns out so much better.

 

I settled a client into her new home last week. With three young boys, she was telling me about how guilty she felt for not letting them do a certain sport at the weekend because it clashed with another, and was simply too hard to coordinate with her husband who is often away.

 

‘Anyway,’ she said, ‘I want them to make the most of the beach while we’re here.’

 

Like many of my generation of Xers, I imagine, I don’t remember doing any extra-curricular activities as a child, except for Brownies and Sunday School. Forgive me for showing my age by harking back to the simple pleasures of riding our bikes in the street, playing with the neighbours kids and learning through exploration, because I do wonder how much value our kids get today from being shunted through busy traffic from one activity to the next, after a full day of interaction at school. I’m not shaming, because I did the same with my own kids, and as I admitted to this mum, if I could turn the clock back I would do things differently now – especially with a kid with ADHD. Children need time to relax and reflect on the day, to be given the chance to talk, ask questions and cement close relationships.

 

I wish I’d been brave enough to hone down the list of activities we forced our kids to do to “keep up with the Jones’”. Such over-commitment left me running ragged; a headless chicken who was often bad-tempered and resentful when I collected them from school after my own hard day at work. I blame the old man’s hair loss on those weekends when NC had soccer one day and Kurt the next, after a 45hr week at work. I don’t think that those frantic, wasted hours on the weekend spent in search of that lost soccer boot or leotard, learning lines and cutting up orange segments, contributed much to our children’s education, unless they’ve since learned how to say ‘no.’

 

Sure, they made more friends, but I’m sure that their mates from school and the neighbours would have sufficed. How many times did I choose to ignore the ‘I’m tired’ whine from the back seat because I had over-committed, or because we’d paid the term’s fee or I was worried about letting the team down? How many evenings did I waste sitting in a dark car park, waiting for them to finish?

 

Kurt never did become that league soccer player and looks back on that whole team sport period with horror; NC recoils with similar distaste every time I remind her about “dance”.

 

I’m not under that pressure these days and I understand that it is a difficult one to protest against. My pressure is that blurred line between recognising when I have enough on my plate and over-commitment – although, self-imposed isolation is equally dangerous for over-thinkers such as myself, when your crazy brain errs on the side of feeling unwanted and useless.

 

If you didn’t know, finding the balance is key.

 

Life is busy enough with work, family, friends, hobbies and exercise, and these days I take far more pleasure from simple activities like reading a book, trying out a new recipe, taking a long walk or sitting people-watching on the beach, than I do from organised events where I have to reinvent myself again.

 

I’m getting older. 

 

Practicing simplicity for me is about forcing myself to relax. I’m never going to be stretched out on the floor for long periods of the day in the Downward Dog position, but forcing myself to do things on my own that have no stress attached, counter-balances the triggers of anxiety. After the last turbulent few years of life with teenagers, “me time” is about lowering my heart rate and not having to be somewhere at a given time to find my inner peace.