Can you call yourself a minimalist?

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I chatted with a new friend over lunch earlier this week. It was lovely to share our experiences and to reflect on what had brought us to our particular version of minimalism.

Are we minimalists?

Would we both call ourselves ‘minimalists’ in the sense that so many people understand? Do we live in clean, white spaces, with shiny, clear surfaces? Well, not exactly, but there were some similarities in how we chose to live our lives:
– seeking to focus on what’s important
– reducing or eliminating the things that no longer added value (yes, we declutter)
– taking time out to be less ‘busy’

We both have tiny wardrobes

Plus, we both had ‘tiny wardrobes’ and had been inspired by the wonderful Courtney Carver from bemorewithless.com

In our discussion, we considered the many and varied writers, bloggers, podcasts and other forms of communication that influenced our thinking. Each of us had come to simplicity via different means; each was following her own path. We didn’t put a label on our respective approaches but it can helpful to read about different types of minimalism if you’re curious to find out more.

Different types of minimalists

Melissa Carmara Wilkins writes beautifully about different types of minimalism, setting out the aspects that differentiate – say – ‘Experientialists’ from ‘Essentialists’ or ‘Enoughists’ from ‘Eco-Minimalists’. Read her fabulous article here:
http://nosidebar.com/types-of-minimalist/

Can you call yourself a minimalist?

So, can you call yourself a minimalist? You may not identify specifically with any of the types Wilkins describes, but let me tell you this:

  • If you want to carve out a life of authenticity, where you live your values (and not follow the path of others) you might be a minimalist.
  • If you’re freeing yourself of unwanted clutter to enable you to focus on what matters to you, you might be a minimalist
  • If you are seeking to embrace a life of simplicity or wish to be debt-free, you might be a minimalist
  • If you’ve given up ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, you might be a minimalist.
  • If you’ve said goodbye to your ‘fantasy self’, you might be a minimalist.

Maybe we are maximalists

So, you can call yourself a minimalist. Of course you can! You’re minimising the aspects of your life that no longer add value to maximise the things that matter. So, maybe that makes us maximalists….?

When yoga brought me back to simplicity

When I first went along to a yoga class over 20 years ago, I had no idea how many styles of yoga there were or just how varied the practice of my teachers might be.

Over the years, I have enjoyed a variety of classes. You might be familiar with them. None is better than the other (each to their own) and each provides a unique experience.

Types of yoga (you might be able to add to this list)

-Lolling-on-the-mat-yoga, with sleeping-bag close to hand for that post-stretch snooze zzzzzz
-Noisy-breathing-yoga; nostrils at the ready!
-Warm it up and make it hot, hot, hot-yoga
-Chit-chat-yoga with spiritual insights throughout
-Bend-it-like-Beckham yoga where ‘more is more’ and your heart will beat like a drum (warning, dear reader, this can hurt)
-Let-it-flow-yoga (I like this type – you may know it as Vinyasa yoga)
-Pull-it-in-yoga (is your belly button touching your spine?)
-Combine-it-yoga (e.g. Boga- Bike and Yoga). This category includes tea and yoga. I like that!

So, it came as a surprise when I attend a class that was new to me yesterday evening. The class was reminiscent of the very first one I had attended as an undergraduate student, when I didn’t know my ‘shavasana’ from my ‘sun salutation’. It was a very calm, thoughtful class but surprisingly dynamic in parts (don’t let the softly spoken instructions fool you).

I enjoyed the precision the teacher brought to the practice. Was the foot in the right place? Did the hips align properly? Were we moving on the breath? She also delivered a long, guided relaxation of the type I hadn’t experienced for a long time.

Often, I have found that the types of yoga offered in gyms focus more on the fitness aspects of the practice, with a short relaxation at the end. This class returned me to the place where I had begun all those years ago: one of quiet contemplation, of listening to the body, of working within my limits and of letting go. It was a simple approach in an unassuming school hall. It offered the perfect antidote to the demands of the working day and was the antithesis to the “I’m so busy” mantra we often hear ourselves saying.

It was where I needed to be, in my journey towards minimalism and simplicity. It was simplicity itself.

simplicity-is-love
(Photo by @RowdyKittens, with thanks to BeMoreWithLess)

Clear the clutter with 10 top tips

Need some ideas to get started?

1. Sweep through your main living space, gathering up the clutter that doesn’t belong there. Result? Instant ‘clear-of-clutter’ boost!

2. Box up things you’re wavering over. Close and label the box. Let its contents go if you haven’t touched the box in 6 months.

3. Create a “swishing” bag of clothes that you can pass onto others who’ll benefit from them.

4. Fill the plastic charity bag that drops through your letterbox – it’s a time-limited opportunity to clear out that clutter!

5. Choose one category e.g. Everyday kitchen items. Pack away everything then bring out only the things you use in the next month.

6. Sort items into perfect piles e.g. Hand towels, bath sheets, bath mats. Prune worn-out and un-needed items.

7. Create drawer dividers with shoe boxes or gift boxes. Use one box per set of small items e.g. socks.

8. Remove duplicates, especially those items that you’d already upgraded but where you were keeping the original ‘just in case’ or ‘as a spare’.

9. Use up what you have before buying more. Don’t stockpile.

10. Declutter something, however small, every day until it’s done.

Why ‘slow shopping’ is a minimalist thing

My mother-in-law needed a product from the chemist’s and was describing it to my husband. Before the telephone call had ended, my husband had ordered the item online at the click of a button. She received it, delighted, two days later. Job done!

That kind of shopping experience is pragmatic, useful and eminently sensible.

However, I’d also like to put the case for a slower kind of shopping.

My sort of ‘slow shopping’ is the sort you enjoy at the farmer’s market, fete or food festival. It’s the kind you discover by chance, then you realise how much you like it. It’s where you find locally made – and lovingly produced – treats and where you can also find a bargain at the same time.

This type of shopping is reminiscent of past times. It’s the kind for which you use a shopping basket and where the dog can trot happily beside you. Take my local markets. Kenilworth market is Thursday’s option, whilst Warwick’s Market Square provides Saturday’s ‘slow shop’ opportunity.

On our way to Warwick, we call at The Veg Box at Hampton-on-the-Hill (we love the extras, especially the yummy medjool dates and local honey). Then we head for the town centre.

We love Mrs Stones’ Cakes (mouthwatering pics on Twitter @MrsStonesCakes) and the bread stall, which offers artisan bread at a fraction of the cost of our local high-end supermarket. I also love being able to pick out greetings cards from the card stall, last week returning home with a stash of lovely cards. There were 9 of them, but they cost only £4 in total.

So, why is this a Minimalist thing? Well, for me, it’s about spending time with loved ones and enjoying the connections we make with the people we meet. It’s about buying produce that doesn’t come in a box.

It’s about looking after the pennies, but being able to enjoy a delicious treat that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg*. It’s about focussing on things that matter. It’s about not rushing after the next thing and you can’t do this online; you have to get out into the fresh air. So, I’d say that a tick in the minimalist box and I can’t wait for next time.

*Did you know that this phrase comes from portraiture, which was more expensive if the arms and legs were included in the painting?!

Further reading: take a look at Rhonda Hetzel’s ‘A Simple Life’

Releasing the relics of yesterday’s you

I begin this post by googling the word in its title:
relic

ˈrɛlɪk/

An object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.

I muse on this: ‘an object surving from an earlier time’. Oh, I have had a few of those in my home!
As I go further on my Minimalist journey, I realise just how many of these relics I have held onto over the years.
Since we moved into our current home, just over 4 years ago, here are some examples of things I had kept but which I have since released:

  • Riding hat, boots, body protector and crop
  • Music from a choral event I had been a part of over 15 years ago
  • Satchel from my teaching days, bought in 1997 (yes, really)
  • Cookery books from when I was just starting out
  • Toys ‘for visitors’ in the toy cupboard
  • Craft equipment from a day course I had attended

 

In her book, ‘The Joy of Less’, Francine Jay encourages the reader to, “…release the relics of yesterday’s you.” All those items listed above represented who I was before. They were physical echoes of ‘yesterday’s me’. They were reminders – in solid form – of an earlier time. Why did I hold onto them?
Quite honestly, I’d not really put any thought into it. When we moved, I bet my removals company wished I had put some thought into it! I was moving to a more spacious home, so everything had somewhere to go. Why, though, did I fill my new home with carefully stored relics? What was I thinking of?
Now, four years on, I have shifted the backlog. I didn’t need the items to remind me of the experiences they had enabled me to enjoy. I didn’t need the relics of yesteryear. The only time we have is now. So, I surround myself with only those things that mean something today. The past can be released into history. That’s where it belongs.

When out of a crisis comes simplicity

Today, my doctor told me to give up ‘stimulants’. For me, that means no caffeine from tea or coffee and no glass of wine or prosecco on the odd occasion when there is the opportunity. I have experienced two unconnected (minor) health issues that both pointed to the same thing: water, herbal tea and similar drinks are the right way forward for me.

This got me thinking.

There a number of well-documented instances of people who, after a health crisis, have found a new way of being. Take Angela Liddon whose ‘Oh She Glows’ blog led to an international best-selling vegan cookbook of the same name. Likewise, ‘Deliciously Ella’ and ‘Eat, Nourish, Glow’ (and their follow-on publications) were a response to personal crises. Out of a bleak situation came good.

So, what parallels can be seen in minimalism?

Courtney Carver of BeMoreWithLess.com is an amazing example for how she discovered a life of simplicity, following a diagnosis of MS 10 years ago. Her determination to turn her life around has taken her on an amazing journey that is a true inspiration to others.

Others such as Leo Babauta have found meaning and contentment in taking a path of simplicity, removong things in his life (e.g. smoking, overweight) that were preventing him from being his ‘best self’.

A switch to simplicity may seem inconsequential, but if you think about it, there has to be an upside – in this example – to a teetotal approach:

  • Save money on shop-bought beverages. Tap water is freely available and you can carry it with you, to avoid purchasing bottled water, which does not represent value for money.
  • Carry a herbal tea-bag to which you just have to add hot water; a simple and effective way to enjoy a warm drink but without the caffeine
  • Never worry about who’s going to drive, after an evening out. You’ll always be able to leave when you want, at a time to suit you, and in the comfort and safety of your own vehicle
  • Sleep better. There’s no doubt that a double espresso will not promote a good night’s sleep; a herbal infusion or warm milk will do a better job
  • Be fully hydrated, promoting better health and wellbeing

It’s a simple approach; it’s straightforward and it’s mine to embrace. 100% commitment is the only way.

Out of this minor crisis can only come good.

How can *you* turn turn a downside on its head and find – in the solution – the benefits that accompany simplicity?