Minimalism anyone? A few tips to get started.

Minimalism anyone? A few tips to get started. 
We are quite intrigued by the idea of a minimalist lifestyle. I sure am, after a couple of moves half way across the country. Statements like “less means more”, and “the less you have, the more freedom you have”, make a pretty glamorous statement, enough that we strive for this type of lifestyle in the midst of our heavily consumer-based society. Market research has been tremendously successful at getting into our psyche and figuring out how to grab our hard earned cash for all kinds of ‘stuff’ that we stock pile in closets and never get around to using. To the point that storage facilities are making a hefty profit storing the excess stuff we had to have, yet will likely never use! If this sounds all too familiar to you, read on.

How do we end up with too many possessions? Nostalgia prevents us from letting go of our stuff. Certain treasures trigger happy memories; of childhood, of sports hero status, pilot training or you name it. Those feel good items are so difficult to part with that we’ll willingly cart them from home to home, or across the country. We often fail to realize that the memory stays with us, even if the paraphernalia has long been tossed in the rubbish pile. 

Some of us are book hoarders. How many cases of books have you carted across the country, only to set them up on display again...never to be read. I’m guilty of that, due to tsundoku, the Japanese term for piling reading materials without ever reading them, yet always intending to. (Covid-19 has graciously given me additional reading time).

Clothes are another funny thing. We can really only need one set of clothes at a time, and one spare set to wear while the first is being washed.  Of course its okay to own a few outfits for various occasions; the capsule wardrobe! Yet, it’s consumerism that's got us all overloaded closets. That and our weight issues, also caused by marketing to a large extent. Clever food commercials filling our minds with desire, and additives that effectively turn us into junk food addicts, inevitably turn this into unwanted fat around our mid sections. Eventually we find a closet overloaded with a size for every season or every mood. 

And then there’s Covid-19. How many packages of toilet paper do you have stored on your closet? This is the most bizarre thing. My first thoughts about being physically isolated, or self quarantined did not, I repeat, did not revolve around TP. Hello people, the bidet is easily resurrected in this type of situation. As for me, I’d be all over the dried goods, maybe a nice store of aromatic coffee beans, then possibly one or two good bottles of wine. But toilet paper? Seriously, the stores were out for weeks, and we didn’t panic around here. 

Be honest. What else did you stockpile when this pandemic first hit? It’s a great case for a masters psychology student to analyse what we hoarded, or didn’t! 

It’s obvious that in 2020, our larger than necessary homes, which typically cost too much to heat, furnish, and take care of, are also over stuffed with, well, stuff. So, how do we make the shift to downsizing homes, and letting go of our nostalgia, our physical memories of days gone by, or the 'I might need it one day' story we tell ourselves, to earn the title minimalist? 

Here’s a few tips to get started, while you’re sitting at home avoiding your friends and neighbours, until its deemed safe to emerge again. 

1. The popularity of the Marie Condo method of organizing doubles as a great paring down exercise. Pick up each item; how do you feel? If you love it, keep it, if not, thank it and let the item go to a new owner, or in the recycle, give away or trash bin.  When I shared this method with my daughter, she proceeded to pick me up, hold on a few seconds, put me back down, and proclaim “you can stay”. Haha. Good thing, since we were in my home. I love that she teaches us to sort by category, and the storage methods she shares. More on the Condo method here.

2. If you also suffer from tsundoku, go through the piles, sort out the must have reference books, and the few you might read again, then set aside those you’ve already read, those you will likely never get to, put them in box(es) and set aside for a period of time. If you haven’t found yourself searching for that book during that period of time (2,3 or 4 months) take them to any second hand store, or give them away as gifts to neighbours. You will feel much lighter!  Another option if you’re a bit of a prankster, is to take an appropriate book ( or not) each time you’re invited to friends for dinner or a visit, and leave the book somewhere that they will see it after you’ve left, and wonder how it got there. Although, It goes without saying that this is a post pandemic activity.  In the meantime, if you don’t already have these books, I highly recommend them. See book list here.

3. Move a few times. This may be enough of a motivator to encourage a serious sorting party. It worked for me! Moving to smaller and smaller homes has truly made it a necessity to purge. Now I buy very little, due to asking myself the simple question “ do I really need this?” Aside from perishables, there really isn’t much we need. Many wants based on media, sure, but need, nope, not much. This serves a second need; maintenance of weight. Who really wants to go purchase a whole new wardrobe, and, have to store the old one “in case it fits again someday?” More hassle than worth. Easier to simply maintain current weight.  If that’s a challenge for you, please consider my habit change course. It will save your life, and so much money, and time, and make much space in your home, in your life, and in your mind. Read more here...

4. Lets move to the kitchen now. How many of you have gadget mania? When you think back to the basics our ancestors lived with, it’s a bit embarrassing the amount of gadgets we acquire to make life easier, or at least that’s what the infomercial claimed.  A few that come to mind: pizza cutting shears, banana cutter, strawberry huller, quesadilla maker, egg and muffin toaster ( all in one), Avocado get the idea. While some may seem handy, they ultimately make you desire a bigger home to house all the gadgets, and rarely get used. Now’s a great time to declutter the excess gadgets, pots, coffee mugs, casserole dishes, and the list goes on. The excess simply takes more time to rifle through when looking for the tools you actually need to flip the eggs, and stir the soup. We talk more on kitchen sadhana in the Bilssful Habits course, and how it simplifies life, makes space in your life and in your kitchen, and your spirit.  Interested? Ask me about this, anytime.

5. That’s enough about material possessions. We all have a desire for less possessions to carry about and take care of. What does travel lighter, less impact on the footprint, and live simpler really look and feel like? Here are a few things to consider; First, The less we have, the less we have to take care of, and the less we have in our mind to sort and file, and remember where it is. This frees up space in your home, space in your brain. You feel lighter, happier, and have more time to enjoy life.  Cleaning the home is much faster when you have less stuff, and less space to manage. It allows clarity, mindfulness and pure joy. It’s good for your mental health. It also allows more time for biking, hiking or kayaking or (...insert your favourite activity here).

Remember its not just about living with minimal possessions, its more about living with intention, mindfulness, and only keeping that which enriches our lives. The rest is simply weighing us down. In the end, we cannot take any of it with us, so why accumulate excess in the first place? 

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