With a mission to simplify my life, it already feels good just to have that focus; here’s what I’ve been doing so far.
STUFF – it’s my new word.
Stuff is not just the things I have around me, it’s also the daily habits I have formed over the last few years…
I stuff my handbag
Yes let’s carry the entire contents of everything I may possibly need, but actually never really need it.
I stuff my diary
With far too many appointments that no wonder I never feel like I get ‘stuff’ done – because I don’t dedicate time to getting what I need to do, done.
I stuff my day – every day
By making myself too available to others.
The ‘what if’ realisation
I’ve felt like this for a while… my life is just stuffed with things.
I only have to look around my home to see I have too much of too many things; most of us live like this, I’m not special in any way. Too many books, magazines, shoes (I’ve endless amounts of shoes that don’t actually fit me! We’ll come on to that later), clothes, beauty products (which are probably all out of date).
Cupboards crammed full of ‘stuff’, I simply don’t use or I am storing for whatever possible eventuality might come up, that doesn’t really come up.
My hubby would say house plants, however for me these are pure joy, they are an enrichment to my life and not a drain of daily energy.
Let’s take Picnic stuff as just one example of my life. This is my particular favourite at the moment, especially due to this year. We own and store plastic plates, plastic cutlery, plastic glasses, picnic baskets (more than one, and it’s just the two of us!) plus blankets, the whole shebang of anything picnic related – and yet we find ourselves holidaying in the Cotswolds this July for our summer staycation and none of it, YES none of it, got packed into the car to come with us!
Whilst away, we had two ‘formal’ picnics, both constituted in sharing the ground with a moth eaten rug that hubby keeps in his car at all times, a delight for the the dog to sit on but not quite so pleasing for me.
And as for food and drink; we used the local cafe stands in the park or the reliable cold-section in the local M&S store, choosing from their fabulous 3-for-2 offer on picnic delights that come in handy little containers that requires no decanting.
Even when the ‘what if’s’ moments do come up, we don’t use the stuff we are storing! This is a *head in hands* kind of moment of realisation!
My mission is to simplify – It won’t happen overnight and it’s not always going to be easy, changing habits rarely are. But here are a few things I’ve started to do…
My morning routine
I didn’t realise how long or how rigid my early morning routine had become; I told myself it needed to be this long in time or I wouldn’t have a good day.
I also had conditioned myself to continue a childhood habit of having breakfast before I did anything else; something my parents had instilled, which was fine for them as it kept us kids in check for their morning routine, but I haven’t lived with them for 30 years!
Starting my day in this way was hindering what I needed to do it, and it had become so long and laborious each day, it meant the only way to accommodate a new event, was to get up earlier and I was already getting up at 5.15am!
So I changed my routine. Yes after 30 years as an adult living away from home, I changed it, I found it hard, I found it awkward and at first it made me late, quite late! But with perseverance and constant reviewing my routine is much shorter and I would say my days have actually got better. My world has not fallen apart and now I get up more around 5.45am which is an extra 30 mins snooze time – what a positive result!
What I need to carry for today
“What do I actually need to carry?” I ask myself this whenever I leave the house now.
What items do I need to leave the house with? The result, not a great big brick of a weighty handbag everyday!
Now some days, when I am rushed I may head out with my brick, but then when I get to my destination, as most likely I have my car, I’ll leave what I don’t need in there.
I used to carry the entire world with me, just to walk my dog around the block, because if I didn’t have my heavy brick handbag, my entire world may collapse…. I can now say, after months of retraining my brain, I now even dare to go without a mobile phone; now I know that may be a step too far for some, but it’s actually extremely liberating not to have a SMS text, Whatsapp message, phone call or the news highlights flashing up, I mean seriously what can go wrong in 30 mins!
Making time for me
We say it, but do we do it? I’ve had #selfcaresunday evenings for a while now and I may have the occasional Saturday morning to enjoy coffee and a magazine without interruption. But time flies, the Covid months have certainly taught us that, and I found that I still have so much I want to do for me, and yet no time… how can that be?
It’s hard to make time for oneself, the guilt is immense (to begin with) and it’s taken me awhile to make the change but I basically won’t free up my free time to anyone without consideration for me. I’ve given up finding the odd half-hour or squeezing more into my day because that changes the mood of the entire day plus the half-hour can become half a day.
The easiest way to do this, is not be on your phone – avoid social media, avoid the news, avoid emails, text messages and especially the worst I find these days, Whatsapp messages.
How I manage this, is to allocate 15 minutes here and there in the day, usually I will be sitting in my garden with a cuppa to respond to messages at my convenience, not theirs – and it feels FANTASTIC!
Not taking on anything as a daily habit
This may upset some Wellness Gurus amongst us, who’ve made their whole living on suggesting to us to create habits, add gratitude into your life, be positive every minute of the day or your whole world will crumble – whilst asking you to buy their notebooks for you to journal daily or to write 5 things to be grateful for every day.
What they don’t realise is, just how much stress they adding to us.
My view is this:
- Be as positive as you can be about ANY task you have to take on that day – the fact is, we all have really fun activities in our life and we all have really boring unfulfilling tasks we have to do every day. It’s a fact of life. Avoiding boring tasks just adds stress.
- Be grateful throughout the day, you don’t have to write them down; I say ‘thank you’ directly to green lights at road traffic lights (I also nod my head too, strangers must think I am mad, but I don’t care, it’s extra gratitude in my mind). I also let people cross the road or cars out onto busy streets – it’s courteous to do so, don’t you think? I’m pretty confident in saying when you watch the news; you spend half your time thinking to yourself “thank god I have the life I have, those poor people”, bingo another gratitude point. Just stop and think about how many times throughout the day you mentally say thank you, to me that’s good enough without taking on the extra task of writing them down, in a book you don’t need, filling up your home with more ‘stuff’.
- Saying a polite no, when you need to – Helpful, that’s what my work colleagues describe me as. Nice compliment, don’t you think? I’ve also overheard family say ‘give it to Liz, she’ll get it done’ another lovely compliment, don’t you think? Yes helpfulness is a lovely trait, when it’s balanced. Don’t say no to everyone, all the time – that’s not what I mean at all. I love being helpful and being that person who helps others get what they need done; if it doesn’t hinder what I need to do. Consider what’s being asked of you and then be honest with yourself and make that connection of what is right and what is them just off-loading onto you.
Declutter or minimalist?
They are different concepts yet they sound the same.
Declutter – to remove unnecessary items from (an untidy or overcrowded place)
Minimalist – being or offering no more than what is required or essential
I am currently decluttering my life but my mission is to move towards minimalism, to a point where I am happy and content. For me it’s not about living in a white house with hardly anything around me, that’s not my personal goal, however over my years of styling and talking to women about curating a wardrobe that works for them; I get the feeling that most people see decluttering as a new start but it ends with buying more stuff to fill it again. And I don’t believe this leads to happiness.
Finding a balance between the two is where I have started – I have achieved what I believe to be the optimum level with this with our weekly food shop and what we want to eat for a healthy lifestyle.
I used to fill my shopping trolley in a mad one-hour dash around the supermarket, every week (usually after a busy day at work as I hate supermarket shopping). I did try the click-&-collect service but we ended up eating the same thing every week and this just resulted in unsatisfactory meal choices and conversations on how boring food is in our household. Added to the fact that I frequently miscalculated fresh-food consumption each week, well we may as well put £20 notes straight into the bin and I stop dashing around.
Something needed to change.
Hello, HelloFresh – a food delivery service of fresh produce (if you happen to be reading this from Mars and you have not heard of this convenience-led service). Now I am not saying they are perfect and I know over the last four years many others have arrived into the marketplace; I am too lazy to change it – why fix something that is not broken?
We have four Hellofresh meals every week – this gives us the mix of variety in our diet and keeps the chat of food alive at the dinner table. THAT as well as, a few of our favourite meals topped up on the three remaining days, now using our local butchers and fish mongers, we have finally reached an equilibrium with both our food shop and our healthy diet, a true win-win.
My fridge is not stuffed with lots of food (much to hubby’s disappointment) but we have achieved the right amount of food to consume, to store and to enjoy life where we are not tying up money, space or any unhappiness of food choices and that too me, is the right balance between declutter and minimalism.
My next steps
Shoes, I said I would come back to them. When I lost my weight a few years back, I dropped half a shoe size, plus the width of my feet significantly changed. I’ve been holding on to my shoes as I love them so much. I feel disappointed that I can no longer wear them.
Over the next few weeks as I start to transition into Autumn wardrobe; clothes, shoes, bags and anything else, my first priority is to accept what I can no longer wear due to any body changes, free up any emotional attachment I have with said items and give them a new home, just because I can’t wear them, doesn’t mean there isn’t more life in them yet!
How do you feel about decluttering and potentially minimising what you own? I’d love to know your thoughts! If you have any tips or simply want to share then leave them in the comments below.