Yesterday I went on a walk during my lunch break. It’s something I do quite frequently. It’s one of few opportunities where I have any time to myself. Our theme at the daycare this week is “Welcome Fall.” I decided that during my walk I would collect some leaves. We needed them for our sensory table. Granted, we haven’t had much fall weather yet there were still some leaves on the ground. I decided to go to the store, and pick up something to eat for lunch. I would also have a bag for collecting leaves. After purchasing my lunch, I sat on a bench in front of Pick N Save to eat. Once I finished eating, I went on my mission to collect leaves. It may have looked strange, a grown adult walking down a busy street collecting leaves. However, in that moment I didn’t care. It was relaxing, almost zen like. I was also trying to find a variety of leaves in different colors and textures. Some of the leaves around here have started changing colors, and each time I strolled past a different tree I would scoop up a handful of leaves. By the time I got back to my workplace I had leaves in yellow, red, and green all from a variety of trees.
After this endeavor, a unique calm and sense of joy overcame me. My co-teacher was also very appreciative that I’d done this since we’re limited on trees and leaves on our playground. I never thought something this simple would bring so much joy to my day.
This brings me to today’s blog post. As I mentioned previously, I recently adapted to a minimalist lifestyle. Now, it may be intimidating to some but, it really isn’t. When I first heard the term minimalist, I thought it meant you had to live out of a backpack, or you had to be able to count every item you own. In reality, the defenition of minimalism is very flexible. Some of you may have heard of minimalist art or music but, the defenition of being a minimalist is a bit different. Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of the blog “The Minimalists” define minimalism as:
A tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Not only are they bloggers but, Joshua and Ryan also produce podcasts on a variety of topics related to minimalism. I have been following them for the last 5 months. Their main focus is enjoying the little things in life, and surrounding yourself with only the items that serve you or bring joy and beauty to your life. Too often we give posessions too much meaning, or we forget to enjoy the little things.
A few years ago I was working and going to school. I’m sure many of you can relate. If my apartment was messy, or I needed to reorganize things I kept thinking about what rooms I would clean when I got home. Most of the time I would get home, tired and unmotiviated to clean. The task seemed overwhelming, as I had so many belongings. It wasn’t that I had a lot of money, or even credit cards to max out and continue to buy things. Everyone gave me everything they didn’t want. At the same time I was also couponing and collecting samples. I could not say no to “free” or even a good deal. I also wanted to try every hobby and craft out there. Because of this I accumulated a signifigant amount of craft supplies. Clothes, craft supplies, and duplicates of soaps and skincare porducts were strewn about my house. I even bought food I didn’t typically eat because I had a coupon for it. Organizing and cleaning were a nightmare. I didn’t want a messy house but, I didn’t want to deal with all this stuff either.
I used to think I had no problem getting rit of stuff. In reality I just bought or accquired more. It was an uphill battle. Sure, I got rid of stuff but, I would accquire more than I got rid of. For years I continued down this road. I thought if I shopped the sales, I was getting a deal. In the end, all I was doing is acquiring more stuff and losing space to put it.
In April of 2016 I finally realized this was about more than stuff. Many studies have shown that depression and anxiety can lead to clutter and vice versa. Clutter can overstimulate the brain and make us feel overwhelmed. As a result of having too much stuff, we do less around the house. We accumulate more stuff, and repeat the cycle until there isn’t a clean surface left. That, or we buy fancy storage containers to make it look like our home is clean. Storage containers don’t solve clutter unless used effectively.
Not only is clutter overstimulating but, it can take our attention away from important things. Because we are overstimulated it’s more difficult to relax. Our brains our overworked with making to-do lists, and we become anxious about doing tasks like sorting. In an already anxious person this could easily trigger a panic attack! When friends came over, I would apologize profusely if my house wasn’t “clean enough.” Not to mention, I was constantly losing important things like my wallet, keys, or shoes.
When I started my journey in April, I never thought it would change my life in the ways it has. It started with a binge-watching marathon on YouTube. I was watching DIY videos, and stumbled across VasseurBeauty (Brittany) and her video “How I save THOUSANDS a year! Easy Budgeting Tips that Work.” One of the tips she mentioned was becoming a minimalist. This led me to further research minimalism. Yet again I started binge watching videos on minimalism, and different minimalist challenges I could do. Over the next few months, I would systematically go through each room in my apartment. I would get rid of what is neither useful or beautiful.
Through this process I got rid of 6 garabage bags of clothes, and abundance of craft supplies, miscellaneous kitchen items I never used, as well as notebooks and papers I held onto for years. At my parents house, I also had a lot of items in storage in thier basement. It was mostly craft supplies but, I managed to cut that amount in half. Lastly, aside from shampoo and conditioner I haven’t bought many beauty or skincare products. Currently I have plenty of lotion, bath bombs (ect) and plan to use up everything I own before purchasing more. I also threw out products that were expired, and responsibly discarded products that didn’t work for me. I am currently working to cut my beauty and skincare products down to just what I need, and only purchase new items when I run out.
As I stated previously, this isn’t just about stuff! As I continued with this journey, I began to spend less time on social media. I was also spending more time in nature. I even cleared out th majority or my inbox, and deactivated online accounts I no longer use. As I began to simplify my life, I felt lighter. A sense of mental clarity was upon me. I was able to remain foucsed at work, and truly enjoy time with friends and family. Everything in my home had a place, and I felt like I could truly relax when I got home.
One thing I realized was, I sucked at getting rid of things! Previously 90% of what I would get rid of were clothes. Rarely did I get rid of anything else. Also, I used to assign sentimental value to things that weren’t sentimental. Now, instead of boxes of sentimental items, anything considered sentimental fits in one small tote bin. I never thought I would get rid of craft supplies either but, since getting rid of the excess I’ve been much more creative.
In a world where it sometimes feels like your losing control there are things you do have control over. You can control who you allow in your life. You can control the amount of posessions you own, and even take control of your inbox. Those are just a few things you can control. You can also control your thoughts. No matter how hectic or out of control your life may be, minimalism gives you grounding and a sense of control when you feel like you’ve lost it all. At least, that has been my experience.