OK, so I'll freely admit that historically I haven't exactly been what you might call a minimalist...in fact far from it. And although I'm now totally in love with the concept, at a practical level it is still somewhat more of a work in progress! But I can't deny how much more relaxed and happy I feel when I am in a clean and uncluttered space so I know it's something that is worth putting effort into.
I also can't help feeling that for the sake of our own health and that of the planet, it is a concept we all need to be embracing. We have to curb our voracious consumerism before we have devoured, destroyed and polluted the Earth's resources beyond repair. But perhaps even more important to address is the way that our current lifestyles pollute our minds and bodies and degrade our wellbeing.
No matter how you look at it our planet is in real trouble, and if we don't make significant changes to our consumption habits soon it may very well be too late. There are lots of complicated issues at play here for sure, and a lot of contradictory information over issues such as climate change, environmental impact of various energy sources, sustainability of materials and sustainability of farming practises. There is however one very simple way to know you are doing the right thing for the planet, and as a beautiful side-effect enhancing your own life...consume less.
Yes, it is that simple. Start with food. How much food goes to waste in your house? Probably more than you think, and most of it is probably entirely preventable with a little planning. Not to mention the fact that most people in western cultures could easily eat a lot less than they currently do and actually improve their health. If you are healthy and fit and the only exercise you undertake is for the enjoyment of the activity then you are in a small minority who this probably doesn't apply to. But for the huge proportion of people in our society who are overweight or obese (including me!) or a healthy weight only because you force yourself to endure hours of torture at the gym every week, you can do yourself and the planet a big favour by simply eating less. And you can make an even bigger impact by shifting your diet from highly processed and packaged foods to fresh, locally produced foods. You'll get better nutrition and the planet will get the bonus of less packaging being produced and less fuel for transport.
Next think about all the other aspects of your life...clothes, shoes, electronics, jewellery, tools, skin care, sports equipment, knick-knacks...the list goes on. How much stuff do you have that you don't use regularly and how mindlessly do you buy new things just because you can, rather than because you actually need them?
So by now you're probably starting to think 'jeez, who wrote this blog, the fun police?' But honestly, how much fun do the things you own actually bring you? If I were to ask you to tell me about the five happiest experiences of your life, would they include 'playing games on my phone' or 'wearing my red dress' or 'driving my car'. Or would they more likely be stories of occasions shared with family and friends or beautiful places visited or amazing events attended?
The truth is that things don't bring us joy, although our culture encourages us to believe they will. Joy comes from simplicity.
We need things, for sure. But most of us probably have far more things than we actually need and all those extra things just create stress in our lives...they take up space, time and energy that we could put to better use elsewhere. The process of getting rid of things that we already have can be challenging both at a practical and emotional level, and we'll talk more about that another day, but why not start with just changing your thinking about acquiring more things? Do you actually need any more clothes? Do you really need a new phone just because the new model came out? Do you really need whatever latest cool electronic gadget you're currently thinking about buying? Will any of these things actually make you happier?
The great thing about deciding that you want to move to a simpler life is that you can just slowly start making the changes that feel most comfortable for you and work your way up to the more difficult stuff. To really feel the benefits and to keep yourself focused and motivated I would highly recommend starting by creating one clutter free space in your home rather than doing a little bit here and a little bit there. I chose my bedroom because a clutter free bedroom has the added advantage of making the space more restful and thus improving sleep. I definitely still need to do some downsizing on my wardrobe, but because I can close that muddle away behind the wardrobe door I can take my time to deal with that more challenging aspect while still enjoying the benefits of an uncluttered and calming environment.
How about you? Do you have a clutter-free home or aspire to? What tips do you have for others on how to work through the process of letting go? Or maybe you have some questions on how to approach this process? Either way we'd love for you to share your thoughts, so go ahead and comment below.