Minimalism – Not All That Freaky

So The Minimalists are coming to Australia next year, bringing their ‘Less is Now’ Tour Down Under. When I heard this news, I was absolutely stoked and naturally rushed to purchase tickets for myself and my poor and unsuspecting husband (seriously though – he is excited to get a hug from The Huggers). The philosophy of Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus provided my earliest taste of the type of lifestyle that now permeates my every decision, my every action, and has wholeheartedly transformed my day to day life.

Since my blog started in January, I have written a few dozen articles about the way of living than aligns with simplicity – it’s called minimalism, and sometimes, the name of it sounds a bit freaky. I’m not going to lie – people get weirded out when you call it that. It sounds a bit clinical, a bit bohemian, possibly a bit artsy hipster abstract radical scientific extreme – anything ending is ‘ism’ tends to.

Last week, The Minimalists did a television interview with the Channel 9 Today Show to promote their upcoming tour and chat about Minimalism 101, and I have to say, after watching the exasperating segment, me thinks Karl Stefanovic was taking the micky fairly liberally. Luckily Ryan and Joshua seem to have a decent sense of humour, and they must get that a lot – sarcasm, irony, laughter. On the surface, it does seem quite funny. I get it – it’s fairly non-standard. I’ve had the micky taken plenty of times and I can laugh! I’m definitely no humour-averse prude – “ha ha ha, yes I actually BOUGHT something today”, “O M G I own two pairs of jeans -excessive”, “I know, rule-breaker!” – phrases uttered by me when cornered by the sarcasm from jokesters who think minimalism is a passing phase, a fad, or just outright weird.

Like anything new or different, we humans tend to react to uncertainty or non-conventional behaviour with humour. Thing is though – after watching this interview that reached hundreds of thousands of people across Australia and had the power to deliver empowerment to the hands of the consumer, I felt like the message ‘minimalism is actually great and useful’ got a bit lost in the tongue-in-cheek banter coming from the show’s hosts, and to me that’s just a shame.

I thought today that I would remedy my very mixed feelings about Karl’s reaction with a little real life information on how I, and hundreds of thousands of other people around the world, are transforming their lives (legit) because of minimalism. Here’s a challenge – I’m not even going to use the word minimalism until the last sentence of this blog. If the word itself seems freaky and off-putting, let’s set it aside for a moment and let’s just get real.

My Real – Then

Three years ago I was doing what everyone else does and I didn’t think twice about doing it.

I worked full-time and so did my husband. We were a young professional couple in Australia earning decent salaries and enjoying the fruits of having money to burn.

I watched others around me – older, younger, peers – spending time and money acquiring objects and accessories and pretty things, and because I am human I liked the idea of that, so I did it too.

It wasn’t the focus of my day or my life by any stretch – my husband and I travelled, enjoyed time together, time with family and friends, hung out with our dogs, and did plenty of non-material activities that we loved – but being on ‘the hunt’ was automatic, habitual behaviour. Shopping and the act of shortlisting prospective acquisitions was a sort of sport.

There was a little Joneses comparison thrown in for good measure, and a whole lot of unconscious inner discontent that drove me to look at the many things I had and think that they weren’t good enough for me, or for others to see, and my little inner hamster was always planning, planning, planning for that perfect XYZ to complete the look of my home or my wardrobe or something like that.

I had not brought my goals for my life into sharp focus. I was floating in a good life, a great life, but floating. I was not unhappy but I was discontented – my heart kept trying to find the next thing that would satisfy the sense of self I was looking for. All of these feelings were muted, dulled, and sometimes intermittent, but they were there.

I had more lovely things than I could even know because much of it was crammed in boxes, representing years, eras and fads that had past, but I held on out of nostalgia and a sense that I had paid good money for things so I really shouldn’t be wasteful. Wasteful. That word just makes me laugh now. The waste came at the front end – the purchase – but all I could think was that discarding the items I no longer needed would be wasteful. How backward I had it.

Increased time for sampling wine and improving my valuable sommelier skills has been a fringe benefit of minimalism.

My Real Transformation

My heart and that of my husband underwent some serious simplification surgery in 2015. It was not enlightening or miraculous and I think we both have clunked along with different degrees of mindsets at different times over the past two years. We’ve never been entirely on the same page about details but most definitely on the same page about what constitutes enough throughout this time. Enough stuff, enough energy and money wasted, enough.

It started with the Mother of all De-Clutters in 2015 because we had to move house, and from there it became a little addictive and transformative.

I started reading blogs like this one and this one and this one.

I let go of years of sentimental clutter and excess which resulted in my feeling emotionally and mentally lighter. I finally felt like I was free to live in my current season of life, rather than thinking and feeling the weight of every previous purchasing decision and sentimental object from my past was waiting in our garage to eat me, or be shuffled to the next house’s garage to die a dusty death.

I also got sick of shuffling stuff around our home or bringing in new things and needing to find space to put them, only to be sick of that shade of blue the next week. When you zoom out and see it, it’s a bit crazy. So I radically stopped shopping and bought very little in the way of clothes, homewares, and miscellaneous stuff. When I stopped buying, I had more time and energy to do what I like doing (including reading, writing, travelling, and dressing up my dogs).

We got serious about tracking our spending closely, and setting practical financial and future goals, including goals stemming from ‘what’s important to us’ and ‘how do we want to spend our time’? Because when you stop buying stuff and stop mentally cataloguing all the things you covet, you have more time and a heck of a lot more sanity to identify the most important things in life.

The harsh truth is – the more you a) have spent, b) do spend, or c) plan to spend, the more you need to work to cover costs. Simple. More work time = less time for other stuff. And time is a commodity you can’t get back.

If we don’t choose to buy as much, or as often, or as big, we can work hard with increased options for greater choice, freedom and flexibility over how we spend our time and therefore – how we live our lives.

Bohemian and radical? Nope. There are thousands of people doing exactly this (these two are among my favourites). We think normal is what others do or what we are told is normal, but in fact, normal is a unique set of circumstances that are self-created through decisive, strategic action and conscious thought.

People always think that only the extreme side of humanity lives with excess but I don’t believe that’s true. It’s easy to have that reaction. “Oh we don’t buy that much” or “I don’t even like shopping”. We all buy stuff and that’s okay. I just don’t want to be buying stuff out of habit over and over again. We all buy on autopilot sometimes or often, we all reflect on marketing campaigns and have that niggle of needing to upgrade or buy more, “treat ourselves” or any of those likes. But you can decide not to do that and you can then see that immense amount of time, money and energy that floods in when you stop.

As mentioned, more time = increased opportunities for dressing up dogs in tinsel paraphernalia and pursuing other equally legitimate and rewarding pursuits.

My Real – Now

These days, two years into a journey of simplifying – I am a happier, healthier version of my old self without doubt.

I’m in greater control of my financial future. I am clear about my goals across many aspects and my husband and I have clear shared philosophes on ‘this is important, let’s live this’ to ‘that’s not for us’. Nothing better than that.

I can find things in my home with no problem. I can get dressed quickly in the morning because I wear a capsule wardrobe and it rocks. I’m not hung up on my appearance because I don’t believe the marketing hype and use my skills of discernment to identify the messages behind the marketing. I could not give two hoots about being sold to by mass media because my inner hamster sits quiet and peaceful and is happy to enjoy the things of value I already have. I have realised that the Joneses are broke. I don’t want bigger, better, more. Because my heart is behaving true to me and I don’t believe that any of that will make me a happier person.

If I am looking to purchase anything, I pause and make decisions based on real, not false, needs and goals. I don’t waste time reading catalogues or magazines (except for supermarkets because I’m a fiend for grocery haul discounts!). I rarely watch mainstream media. I spend much less time cleaning because I have less to clean. I don’t waste my weekends ‘tidying the garage’ because we own substantially less and also, the garage is full of boy stuff 😉

I have greater control of my time and mental energy – huge for me. I simplified my schedule, my wardrobe, my kitchen cabinets, and my mental baggage. I read this book (also a TED talk) and it really did change my life. My daily social media feed is filled with bloggers and fellow real humans who have and are simplifying and just enjoying life. I unfollowed most of the label and product accounts because I got sick of being sold to on an hourly basis.

I feel a greater sense of personal purpose and skill in living this simplicity, learning form others, connecting with others, and seeing the thousands of different ways and forms that ‘simplifying’ can take for every unique individual.

I’m contented in myself. I can see the abundance in my imperfect little life and this makes me very happy and very at peace. I’m also still blissfully human – so I need to work at my Zen daily, but minimalism is the name I give to everything that led me here, and that keeps me enthralled, engaged and totally passionate about sticking to this path, and inviting others to join me.

Radical? Bohemian? Weird? You decide.

I know, I know. Easy to say when I’m a crazy ass minimalist 😉

Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.

Sarah x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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