Archives for April 2018

April 25, 2018

Letting It All Go to Regain Control

Life can be a wonderful adventure when you focus on the important things and let go of the meaningless.

I've always been the kind of person who collects all types of knick-knacks and trinkets. I was afraid to forget all the memories connected to the collection of objects. I wanted to remember all those pleasant moments and having something visible to hold on to helped me with that. At one point those baubles started to define me. In 2013, I moved to another country and started living on my own for the first time. At the beginning of this new adventure, it was a challenge as I couldn't take all the little moments with me. I felt like I was falling apart. I didn't know who I was without the sentimental things I had on the bookshelves in my hometown.

So I started making new memories, buying new things, more clothes, more shoes, and more jewelry—more of everything. Coming home meant coming back to them, remembering every second of the memory as it faded slowly away even though I had the object to remind me of it.

Finally it got me to a point in my life when I realized all these things had lost any kind of meaning, emphasized by my room, which was filled with so much stuff (much like my mind at the time). It was so messy that I couldn't just sit on my sofa without having to face a colorful shelf, my wardrobe overfilled with clothes that I resented, postcards and photographs on all of the walls, burned candles of passed romantic nights along with dried out roses from previous relationships. Although I didn't have a mirror in my room, I could see my reflection in everything. Home was not the tranquil, peaceful piece of paradise I could look forward to after an exhausting day at university. At that time of my life I was left hurt by boyfriends and close friends. I felt on the edge of taking my life, with severe depression and no desire to live whatsoever.

It all came down to one particular night when I came home from shopping again thinking I was happy. As I stepped inside my room I felt disgusted for one second. Then a quote from Kendrick Lamar’s single “Humble” popped into my mind: “You do not amaze me.” Yes, exactly! I didn't just dislike my life because I was emotionally unstable, but because I was also drowning in everything I owned.

At that time I've heard from some of my friends about the 90/90 Minimalism Rule and decided to give it a try. I ended up donating more than 50% of my things which at the beginning was such a struggle. I guess letting go wasn't so easy after all. After a couple of days and a 12-hour shift at work I came home, sat down on the sofa and saw only the empty desk, my favorite clothes organized by color, my black king-sized bed, and the black IKEA shelf with books.

I can't say that my head cleared instantly as I emptied my room of all the things that had a meaning a long time ago. It was a gradual process. I started to look after myself better, I stopped buying shoes whenever I felt under pressure, and I stopped buying jewelry whenever a guy disappointed me. I started traveling more, expecting less, and in a year my life got me to where I am now: in good health, depression-free, with a great partner, and sitting on my sofa in a minimalist and well-organized room with things that don't define me and my feelings.

April 18, 2018

How Travel Helped Me Change My Life

Taking a step back from routine to travel the world and learn to live with less.

When I left my job last summer I entered a strange state of loss and lack of direction. After four years at my school I had made good friends, taught fantastic students and my teaching was becoming pretty solid, and what’s more the job was getting easier. All the pieces of a good life were in place; I recently married my best friend and business partner of 10 years. I had a great group of friends and the financial stability of a London mortgage. I could’ve continued with my nice life but felt it wasn’t right. I worried about endless work, 30-year debt and wasting away the creative passions of my teens—it seemed inevitable this would be my life. Or so I thought. After a life-changing trip to Patagonia in 2015, I decided on a new plan to make big changes. I’m still in the process of making that plan a reality but it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Leaving school last summer wasn’t just leaving a job but leaving the life that I expected to grow old living. I stepped off the treadmill and into the unknown, free from work, routine and a normal stable life. My wife and I saved as much cash as we could save in a year, combined with gift money from our wedding and boarded a flight to Norway in July 2017. It’s been a rollercoaster of unforgettable experiences, cool people, foods, sunsets, and ideas. As the end nears I have found clear motivations on how to continue this free, happy, and inspiring way of life. But how will I achieve this?

Traveling the world on $40 a day for two people means you’ll need to live like a local person. That means queuing up to use the same transport, eating in the same restaurants and shopping around for a good price. It’s fun, once you get better at haggling and putting on a front. I learnt that to be happy I didn’t need all the luxury we were used to at home. If I could scale down my spending abroad then why not do so the rest of the time? The first part of my plan to balance my lifestyle is to cut spending to what I need rather than want. This reduces my day-to-day costs and ultimately I’ll have to live with less. In comparison to the majority of local people I met traveling, I could see that life at home in London was not balanced, quite excessive actually and sometimes wasteful too. So living minimally is one of my goals.

Next, I want to be more creative in my daily life and return to London and start using my creative skills. I have developed this attitude by meeting many makers around the world who work hard at their passion. I left our website Studio Mali open to grow and so I feel driven to make creative projects the centre of my new life by making objects that I hope people will enjoy. This goal could have only come from having time to think about it, talk about it and gather the confidence to actually do it. Traveling has given me that time and led me to people making beautiful products in all corners of the globe. It’s not about becoming mega rich by selling products, but about proving to myself that I can survive independently doing something I love.

I setup our Studio Mali blog with my wife because we wanted a project to keep us busy on the road—an output to remember our trip by. In just seven months of traveling we feel like new people, excited about what’s next and driven to inspire others to think about changes they can make to their lives. It might be that you want to work less, or explore new places, develop a skill, start a new hobby, or return to a sport you once played. These little changes or activities can help you to be happy, live in the present, and grow as people. Is a full-time, debt-laden life worth the money that you’re paid? If the answer is no then what can you do to cut down your spending and live with less?

With two months until our return day, I’ve been considering what returning to a structured life will be like. Ultimately, I don’t want a five-day working week so my plan is to work three days supply teaching. I’ll be planning to spend less, enjoy free fun like nature more, cook the foods I used to get takeaways of, and be active and healthy. We hope to sell our apartment and find something smaller, which is perhaps the biggest irony of our mortgage debt. The apartment we purchased four years ago seems to have grown in equity in that time. I may be able to buy something small without a mortgage. I may be able to live a low-cost, debt-free life where I can concentrate on doing things I love, building a balanced lifestyle in the process.

April 11, 2018

Minimalism: More Than Stuff

There has been no better tool to opening my eyes to freedom than Minimalism.

For me it was about reclaiming my time, confronting parts of me that were hidden under the “stuff”, feeling more in control of my life. It was naturally working on my anxiety, spending more time with my family, embracing self care living authentically, the list is extensive.

Minimalism has become my personal protest against consumerism. Seems obvious, right? Own less, buy less. Take a stand. Just like veganism has become my personal protest against the meat and dairy industry, it is my own personal stand against the consumerist society we live in.

The internet is a clever network. The players most savvy have figured out how to optimize algorithms, email addresses, studying what sites you browse, what you click, creating online presence profiles all to shove “stuff” into virtual shopping totes. Items you thought you needed because they figured out how to “subliminally” weave these items into your online experience. I live and purchase intentionally. I buy what I want, when I want and only when I need it.

The best part, it is so easily identifiable. I see it, recognize it and deliberately refuse to play into it. Browse a yoga site, and now it shows up on my Facebook feed. Not falling for it, Zuckerberg!

Furthermore, I no longer spend vacations wasting hours in the mall. I no longer waste time browsing online shopping sites with no purpose. I no longer subscribe to emails of non-stop sales. Because you know what, things don‘t go on sale because you need them, they go on sale because more often than not, nobody wants them. I’ll pass—on purpose.

We live in a society where status is increasingly determined by material things. It is a place where riches are determined not by the quality of life, but by the quantity of things. A world where greed and aggression is rewarded because outwardly it portrays stature. Is this really what we have become?

I've found some of the people I respected the most no longer placed on that pedestal and I realize it all comes down to my views on Minimalism. Not everyone has to be a Minimalist, but we should all work on our relationship with “stuff” and to what extent we let it define us. I realized many people I thought successful had lost the fulfillment of life simply as life‘s purpose. They worked to acquire things, they needed some tangible “trophy” to show their success because the time required to obtain it prohibited them from experiencing life. There is so much more to life. Minimalism is so much more than stuff.

It has truly opened my eyes to freedom, helped me to define myself and also those that I surround myself with. I have so much more in store.

April 4, 2018

fourweeksgood: Berlin

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Berlin, DE.

Following the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland and Tokyo this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature hits Berlin. A city that has reinvented itself over the years, transitioning from a gritty and divided capital to an artsy one. A trip to Berlin attracts both sophisticated fun-lovers and voracious culture vultures, with a great balance between cultural treasures and exciting modern attractions. One of our favorites is certainly the Bauhaus School, where the modern design concept of form follows function was developed. Founded in Weimer in 1919, by Walter Gropius, the school embraced modern technology and the use of machinery to mass produce appealing and practical products. By uniting arts and craftsmanship with technology, Bauhaus became the most influential educational establishment in the fields of architecture, art, and design. For those of you who are looking for calmness in Berlin, we strongly suggest experiencing The Liquidrom. A nude sauna situated in the centre of the city with unique architecture, which was developed on the basis of a circus tent.

You can read the full article 'The Bauhaus School: Founders of Modernism' in our Journal.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.