Give up your Sunday best!

I believe that saving things for best is contrary to the minimalist’s philosophy on life.

Around 15 years ago, I worked for a wonderful woman who was both mentor and inspiration to me. We are still friends today.

My friend taught me some valuable lessons about work and about life. One of them was her approach to having – and enjoying – the belongings she owned. She valued beautiful things and didn’t baulk at spending money on quality items that she would use and enjoy frequently. Not a constant shopper, she would only buy what she needed, but (having a good sense of colour and shape) would buy clothes that fit well, were of good quality and which she would wear time and time again. Knowing the colours that suited her also meant that new things blended well with her existing clothes.

The thing that struck me most was that my friend was clear on one thing and it’s this: there’s no point in having items you don’t use. Savings things for best is contrary to the minimalist’s philosophy, articulated in the following sentence by Courtney Carver of BeMoreWithLess:

“The best way to enjoy your favourite things is only to own your favourite things.”

Why fill your home with things you rarely use? That bone china Royal Doulton crockery or LK Bennett jacket aren’t going to give you joy if they remain unused in the dresser or wardrobe. The chances are that, especially with clothes, you might not want to wear this style or shape in 2 or 3 years’ time. So, get those things out and try them on. Wear them! Enjoy them! You’ve already invested your time and money in purchasing or collecting these items, so get the use out of them and enjoy! Chances are, you’ll save money because you won’t have to buy things for ‘every day’. Every day is here and now!

And if they no longer add value or ‘spark joy’ then don’t feel bad about releasing them into the world so that someone else can benefit. As Francine Jay would say, these are the relics of yesterday’s you. Letting go is OK too.

 

 

 

The positive spiral of decluttering 

How many times have we made a purchase, only to realise that there’s more we’ll have to buy to go with it?

Take the smart phone (and I use this as a mere example; I am not anti-smart phones). You buy the phone. It needs a case. And a charger. Don’t forget the speakers and headphones. I’m sure you can think of other things that need ‘extras’.

How about that new dress? Yup; it needs shoes to go with it. Nail polish? Have you remembered the remover? And cotton pads? The list goes on, but you get my drift.

So, what if the decision to declutter actually created the opposite effect? In her book, “The Joy of Less”, Francine Jay discusses the positive spiral of decluttering, describing it as a ‘cascade of castoffs’. Ditch the item and you won’t need all the other stuff that goes with it.

This is a bit like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball; as you reduce your debts, you create a positive snowball effect as your efforts gather momentum.

So, ditch just one thing and you may begin to benefit from a positive spiral of decluttering. The momentum will build and you’ll see the benefits spilling into other areas of your life. Less stuff? More space! Fewer belongings? Easier to clean your home, freeing up more time for you.

What will that one thing be?

Gifting with grace and love 

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The tradition of gift giving is one of the many threads that binds the generations throughout the centuries. We give gifts for symbolic reasons, for celebrations, to mark important occasions, to say thank you or simply as an expression of love.

Sparkle and shine

The Bible describes how, following the birth of Jesus, Wise Men from the East brought gifts to worship the new-born King. The careful selection of these rare and valuable items (gold, frankincense and myrrh) denoted the importance of the Christ Child to the magi.

Modern day gifting

Modern-day gifting is certainly a different story when you consider the historical meaning of the word itself. The Old Norse word ‘gipt’ corresponded with Old English ‘gift’ meaning ‘payment for a wife’. Anyone who has purchased a diamond solitaire for an engagement ring might still agree!

However, the giving of gifts in the 21st Century is a minefield, especially when the world is full of things to buy.

  • How much should I spend?
  • Will they like it?
  • Might they already have one?
  • Do they even need it?

Wise is the couple celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary who politely tell their guests: ‘No presents, please; just your presence.’

Experiences over stuff

In late August, my thoughts turn to birthdays, as we have a number in our family that fall in September. Increasingly, I ask myself if it’s possible to buy an experience rather than an item.

My philosophy is to buy fun (i.e. an experience), food (consumables) or flowers (a beautiful but affordable luxury). For example, for their birthday last year, my twin godsons enjoyed a day out with their family members (an experience, using leisure vouchers) rather than another toy to add to their collection. Everyone enjoyed it; the family was making memories together.

The gift happens in the giving and receiving

In a live meet-up held on Saturday via Facebook, Courtney Carver of said something that really made me think:

‘The gift happens in the giving and receiving’.

It’s the act of giving itself that we should consider carefully. Maybe that’s why we often hear, ‘it’s the thought that counts.’ Courtney is right. It’s not the gift itself that matters; it’s the intention behind the giving *and* receiving that matters most.

Receiving with grace

For a minimalist, the other side of the coin is the question of what to do when receiving a gift (especially a decorative item) that doesn’t really fit in your home or which truly doesn’t ‘spark joy’ in the Marie Kondo sense. Again, this is where the act of receiving – and the grace in so doing – is in your hands.

Minimalists take a pragmatic approach to unwanted gifts. The mantra ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ is not for nothing! Some like to keep a gifts box into which unwanted items go.

This provides a useful source of raffle prizes or stock for fundraising car-boot sales. Once full, some of us happily take the contents of the gift box to the charity shop where someone else can grab a bargain to help a good cause. There is no shame in doing this; once in your hands, the gift becomes a part of your belongings over whose destiny you have ultimate control.

Happy holidays

So, as summer breezes into autumn, think about your gifting strategy. Think about it now, before the summer holidays become ‘Happy Holidays’.

Remember this: it’s the gifts that are made, offered and received with grace and love that mean the most.


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Awareness + Responsibility = Results

My colleague shared this fabulous, thought-provoking phrase: awareness plus responsibility equals results.

On tweeting it yesterday, I got thinking about the ways in which this could positively influence a number of areas in our lives.

Imagine you apply this formula to personal organisation or decluttering. You want to improve your home or office environment. Your awareness of the need to do this has grown. You’ve been reading some great inspirational posts on social media or read a book by Joshua Becker or Francine Jay. However, you haven’t got started yet. That’s where the ‘responsibility‘ part of the equation kicks in.
We’ve all heard, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” So, take the bull by the horns. Do just one thing to move things forward. Take personal responsibility for achieving your goals and you will see the results.
What about other areas of your life?
Maybe you want to improve your finances, or nurture a relationship? If you want it to happen, you already have the awareness, but it’s you who needs to take responsibility and make it happen. Result = performance. You may not reach your goals straight away, but Rome wasn’t built in day.
You know what you need to do. It’s your journey.
As Marie Kondo says, “….a person’s awareness of and perspective on his or her own lifestyle are far more important than any skill at sorting, storing or whatever.” (from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying).
So, use that awareness, take responsibility and maybe you’ll see some outstanding results.

 

5 ways to do a digital detox

5 ways to do a digital detox

1. Just one device

Betsy and Warren Talbot advocate going without a mobile phone. Read about their journey via anunclutteredlife.com

For me, I have a basic pay-as-you-go phone to text and call, but not a smart phone. My single device is a tablet. That’s what I use for apps such as Facebook, which means I have to be intentional about my usage. I am not distracted when out and about, which is a great relief.

2. Digital daycare

Make a place that becomes the default docking station for your device. Put your device into ‘daycare’ when you need to charge both its batteries and yours.

3. Unclutter your social media

Choose you favourite one (or two) social media platforms. Refuse to add another, when invited to do so. When our kids were on their DofE expedition earlier this year, one of the mums created a WhatsApp group. I declined her invitation to join; in any case, the kids were supposed to be phone-free, so I wondered what could be gained by speculating about their every move…

4. Go ‘cold turkey’

Jump off your chosen social media apps for a given period. Be accountable for the length of time you choose: announce your digital holiday and your pals will know you’re not around. They will welcome you back when you’re ready to return, but I promise you won’t be missing out.

5. Switch off

Use the off switch. Turn off notifications. Know how to power-off your machines and use that button. Granny never went online – not once. So experience the joy of powering off and see what difference it can make. What will you choose to do instead?

 

 

 

When a one-second video made us stop and smell the roses

roses-1566792_1920.jpgMy husband celebrated a significant zero birthday in May. This important occasion signalled the start of some interesting activities, not least a challenge (to himself) to do 50 new things in his 50th year.

The one-second video

Alongside the ’50 at 50′ project, my husband had already begun to take a short piece of video  (lasting just one second) every single day. With just a second of footage per day, the total length of this little film is now 225 seconds or 3.75 minutes in length.

As we watch each ‘second’ flash before us, what we see is surprising. It is possible to see – and understand – so many things that have been captured: phrases, context, location, time of year, weather and so on. Each time another day’s ‘second’ is added, we can watch the whole sequence again and notice something new every time.

What we notice

What’s surprising is how much more detail we notice every time we watch again. By really paying attention, we see something new in every clip. We also begin to notice themes emerging – the dog and our walks together are a predominant one! Travel is another.
So, as we watch, we notice. We observe. We appreciate the little details that often go unnoticed as we whizz through daily life. We know that it’s good for us to stop and smell the roses, but it took a little app’ and some daily dedication to creating this little series of clips  to help us appreciate that message all the more.

Update, February 2017

To access a short retrospective review at the end of this project, Join the community and receive access to my audio recording, “1 second everyday”.

When your wardrobe audit= life edit

Are you a clutter bug when it comes to clothes? Why do we hold on to *so* much “stuff” when we may have clothes or accessories we’ll never ever wear again? What’s the rationale for keeping it?

The answers given will undoubtedly vary but see if you recognise any of the following:

1. It might come in handy one day
2. I can’t decide what to do with it
3. Holding onto this gives me a sense of security
4. It has nostalgic value
5. I’m keeping this for when my ‘ideal self’ has materialised

The One Year rule

If you haven’t worn it within 12 months, you aren’t going to wear it in the coming year either. The only exception to this is formal wear, which may be worn rarely but is still perfect and costly to replace.

Too great a bargain to give away? Still, the 12 month rule applies.

Clear your space and clear your head. Being able to see clearly what you have will enable you to create lovely combinations from your new capsule wardrobe whose colours will tone and complement one another.

Inertia

Sometimes, contemplating the task of making a decision is just too much. What’s visible on the outside may be suggestive of what’s going on inside.

Is your cluttered closet an outward expression of a cluttered mind; a broken heart; or a painful past or present? If you’re dealing with something personal, then – eventually – the clearing of your environment may help rejuvenate the spirit.

You might be going through a significant transition e.g. weight loss or a change in relationship status. You are? So, wear the clothes that fit and look great now. Don’t keep your best clothes hidden away – wear them and enjoy them – even if you’re the only one who’ll see them. You’re worth it!

Does your ecological conscience prevent you from letting go because it might be ‘wasteful’? Consider ways to share (swish); ebay; donate it; give it away.

Your security blanket

Does your stockpile of stilettos give you a sense of security? Do your long-held belongings make you feel less alone? Is your fear of not having enough driving your behaviour? Once you’ve given away what you no longer need, maybe you’ll overcome that fear too?

Holding onto the good times

That two-tone satin ball gown from 1990 isn’t going to bring back the days of university parties, so why hang onto it for a moment longer? If you’re hanging on to things because they remind you of happy times, will you be able to move forward? Relinquish these attachments and release the past. Get closure. You’re not giving away your history; you’ll always have that in your heart.

How to approach the opportunity

Don’t see it as a challenge. See it as an opportunity. Take everything out of your wardrobe. I mean everything. Try things on and evaluate them with a critical eye. Imagine you were buying them. Do they flatter? Do they fit? Do they feel good?

Make three piles:
1. Keep
2. Maybe
3. Lose

Put the items to keep back in the closet. Some people like to hang them by clothing type e.g. blouses, tops, dresses etc. Others like to hang by colour (my preference). Have a play; see what you like best.

When you’ve done, you’ll be amazed how little you actually need or use. The 80:20 rule definitely applies here. Even when you’ve uncluttered, expect to wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.

The outcome

I promise that, although you may have a few nostalgic moments along the way, you won’t regret it. Your new uncluttered wardrobe will make your daily sartorial decisions so much easier. You’ll rediscover things you’d forgotten.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll begin to identfiy other areas of your life that would benefit from improved simplicity; greater order and more space. So, the wardrobe edit heralds something of a life audit. Go on; dive in. The water’s lovely.