Archives for August 2018

August 30, 2018

Frugality and the Simpler Life

Is being frugal really necessary in order to lead a minimalist lifestyle?

When many of us hear words like simplicity and minimalism, we automatically think of frugality. Cutting back to the barest of minimums. Watching every penny. Worrying about all outgoings.

Well, my life is pretty simple, but it looks nothing like this. 

My version of living simpler doesn’t mean living frugally at all. In fact, I live a fuller life than ever. I have travelled more for pleasure in the last few years than at any other time in my life. In fact, as I write this, I have just spent the last three months travelling around Asia. 

I go to my fair share of live concerts, seeing musicians and bands that I love, and I can still be found wearing the odd designer shirt and jeans. My choice of eyewear is certainly not the cheapest spectacles I could find.

I will always take you up on the chance to try a latte at the newest coffee shop in town. 

What can I say? I like a little comfort and adventure. Does that make me a walking cliché? I don’t think so, but I’m also fine if you think it does.

Simplicity is a Gateway to Living Well

For me, embracing simplicity into my life has meant stripping away from distractions and living more intentionally. Seeking a life with more focus, clarity and meaning. Living monastically isn’t part of my remit. 

I still consume, but I’m much more careful about what I consume. In terms of material possessions, I’ve realized that I need a lot less than once thought I did. 

I’ve become more comfortable saying no and turning down requests that don’t fit with my life priorities. This is such a simple concept, yet so many of us give up our ability to say no too freely. 

None of this feels frugal. I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything—far from it. These are just intentional decisions that support me living my version of a simpler life. 

The upside for me has been more focus, more purpose and more white space in my days for adventure, or just staying still occasionally. I feel like I dictate the pace of my life more than I have in the past. 

Comparisons are a Race to the Bottom

Too many of us get caught up spending time comparing ourselves to others, rather than getting in touch with ourselves and really uncovering what it is we want most. Once we’ve uncovered this, we can take steps toward supporting it. Our actions, plans and daily tasks can align and take on new purpose. 

Ultimately, living a simple life should mean living well and without depravation. What that means for each of us will have slightly (or very) different flavors. That’s as it should be. 

Live simple certainly, but live simple your own way.

August 23, 2018

fourweeksgood: Copenhagen

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

Following the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo, Berlin, Antwerp, Melbourne and Budapest, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature hits Copenhagen, the final one of this travel series for our Journal. Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates this Danish city, one of Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals. It’s welcoming and compact, with a centre largely given over to pedestrians and cyclists. There’s an emphasis on café culture and museums by day, and a live music, bar and club scene by night.

If you're planning a trip to Denmark and looking for the most minimalist accommodation, opt for STAY. Located in Islands Brygge, this is an impressive and different concept that provides a great escape from the madding crowds. STAY Copenhagen is a residential building and the large stylish monochrome loft apartments on offer are one of the best bets in the city accommodation-wise if you don't want to be surrounded by tourist traps, and you're looking for some of that minimalist Scandinavian design. While visiting the city, make sure to also plan a stop at Den Blå Planet, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium with more than 20,000 animals and seven million liters of water. If you would like to admire some creative landmarks, head to Copenhagen’s Superkilen: a green space, a public square and a recreational area all in one. As part of a larger urban redevelopment plan, the park was designed to celebrate diversity. To do so, they decorated it with different objects inspired from over 50 nationalities which make up the neighborhood. Europe is already a brilliant conglomeration of different cultures and this park seems to embody this very notion. Definitely worth a stroll.

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

August 18, 2018

Passionate About Nothing

Not having a defined passion is not necessarily a bad thing.

Can he do it on a cold Monday night in Stoke?”

This question is one often asked in England to measure a sportsman’s passion for football (or soccer). The thinking behind it is that if a footballer puts in a positive, heart-filled performance against the hard tackling Stoke City team, they must be passionate about the sport and the jersey they represent.

But what if you aren’t that passionate about football? Or your team?

What if you aren’t that passionate about... anything?

I always see the same repeated statement when it comes to minimalism; reduce the clutter in your life and you will have more time, money and love to dedicate to your passions. The situation for me though, as a recently converted ‘minimalist’ is that I don’t have a passion to invest my new-found freedom in. Obviously, I'm passionate about family and friends. That goes without saying. But other than that, there's not an awful lot that I put real time and energy into.

I certainly have a strong interest in music, but I wouldn’t call it a passion as I’m very uncommitted and often flit between different genres. I’m a football fan, but again I wouldn’t say it’s a big passion as I can give or take going to watch games. I like wine tasting and trying different types of cheese but I’m a long way from a connoisseur. What I guess I’m trying to say is that I do have interests, but none that I have the desire to cultivate into a fully-fledged passion.

I don’t see this as a negative thing though. When I was at school, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know at the age of 30. That indecisiveness bugged me for years. This, coupled with the fact I tend to be quite faddy with things, gave me a concern that I would never be truly happy, in either employment or my interests.

The lesson I have taken out of minimalism is the understanding that it’s okay to be indecisive. My life is my own. Removing distractions and pacifiers such as games consoles or social media have opened my eyes to the misaligned self-assessment I was making of my life. I thought I had to have a defined passion and that I was wasting my spare time. I thought I needed to hustle and progress in my job within X amount of years. Otherwise, I would be stuck and aimless.

In reality, none of these things matters to me. The important people in my life won't judge me, and those who do judge aren't important. I can pick up and drop interests as I choose. I can follow my curiosity. I don’t have to wholeheartedly commit to any of my hobbies, and as far as my working career goes, as long as my job isn’t detrimental to my personal life, then it doesn’t matter.

I STILL don’t know what I want to become. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about this. I don’t go out running in all weathers or force myself to play the guitar. I am ok with that.

Coasting along in a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you don’t know what you want to do differently. Neither is a lack of clearly defined passions. If you are happy and content with life as it is, don’t try and change it to keep up with other people’s experiences or expectations. Live yourself.

August 8, 2018

Life After Loss

Memories of our loved ones don’t live in material things.

As a kid, my brother would always give me a hard time because I choked on food easily. I wouldn’t be in danger or anything, and he thought it was hilarious. He would glare at me from across the table, smile, and ask, “You choking?”

Years later, after his death, I looked around my messy, crammed apartment and imagined him asking me that question again. Yes, I was choking. But this time, not on food… on stuff. I was choking—feeling smothered and overwhelmed by all my possessions.

After he was killed, my family and Jeremy’s friends came to the house and we each took the things that were most meaningful to each of us. I ended up inheriting a lot of my brother’s belongings. All of these things filled my house, but his death still left me with a deep, profound sense of emptiness. I wanted to find a way to both manage and express my grief. I did what I thought would make me whole again: I bought things and busied myself with a personal project to tell the world about Jeremy.

I wanted to make a film about Jeremy’s life, so I bought all new film equipment. I upgraded my lifestyle by replacing old furniture and filled my closet with new clothes. Retail therapy was my coping mechanism. In addition to the material things I bought, I acquired a new group of friends and set myself up with a very active social life. By all outward appearances, I was getting over my loss and living a great life.

Years later, after graduating and getting engaged, I took a hard look at my financial situation and made the tough decision to sell my outdated film equipment to pay off debt I had accumulated. I didn’t even have a film to speak of.

Then, my mom died. I was a different person and grieved her loss differently.

I then saw how much time I had wasted after Jeremy’s death, focusing on superficial things to make me feel better but did not actually make me feel better. When I tried to dress up my grief, I just kept adding to it. I did not face the real issues underlying my desire to acquire so many things.

So, how do you become a better person after tragedy? When you have so much in your life, life begins to weigh you down. It’s hard to move, much less move on.

I was happy with very little in my life. Then one day, I came across a documentary about minimalism. I learned about a community of people who seemed a lot happier with less.

The movement to live with less really struck a chord with me. I started getting rid of the stuff I didn’t use or find joy in. Saving an item “just in case” didn’t have a place in my life.

I learned from that documentary that memories don’t exist within things. They exist in your mind. If I get rid of my brother’s clothes, I won’t forget him. As long as I still exist, and as long as I keep remembering him, he is remembered.

Since I embraced a simpler, less materialist life, the noise in my head went away. I became a better husband, a better son, and a more focused person. A less cluttered life means a less cluttered mind, and a happier one. And that’s what our loved ones would want for us. It may sound like a very difficult, if not impossible task—to get rid of personal belongings of a loved one. But I promise there’s value in not attaching yourself to things or the physical manifestations of your memories of that loved one. We’ve accumulated memories and experiences with our loved ones that live with us in our hearts and memories; donating his jacket or shoes is not going to take that away.

August 1, 2018

Learning That The Best Way to Grow is to Subtract

One young woman’s journey from organizational hoarding to a life of minimalism.

Nearly eight years ago, my parents and my two older sisters shoved the last of our over-packed boxes into the moving truck, said our tear-filled goodbyes to our house, and slumped into the car to begin our long journey. We had made a family decision about a year beforehand to move from our comfortable shack of a house in San Diego, California, to a real house in the heart of Utah. We felt that it was right to go—with my dad’s ministry work—to live the life we all wanted.

As an eleven-year-old, I didn’t think I had that much stuff. However, as my memory serves, half of the boxes in the moving truck were mine. Now, I’m not sure how true that is, but I do know that when we unpacked our boxes in our individual rooms after the 800-mile drive, my room was overflowing with things.

This new room was twice as big as it was in California, and I couldn’t wait to fill it. I had a large closet that was well past its capacity to hold clothing items, most of which I didn’t even wear. A bookshelf was placed in the corner with books upon books upon books, most of them I didn’t even know I had. There was also a six-drawer dresser and two nightstands that were completely filled.

I must have assumed that this was normal because nothing was done about the surplus of stuff that I possessed until many years later. I had done decluttering sessions here and there, but the space that I had emptied would always be filled back up again with on-sale items from the local thrift store or items that had been handed down to me from my older siblings. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I realized… maybe this isn’t the world I want to live in or the narrative I want to keep.

My minimalist journey did not begin easily. At least once a week for three or four months, I did a ruthless purge of my things. If I had not worn it in the last six months, or if I hadn’t thought about the item in six months… it was gone from my life. I had vowed to myself not to purchase anything for a few months while I used and fully appreciated the things I already owned (spoiler alert: it felt incredible).

The purge sessions became obsessive. It felt so good to give things to people who needed them more than I did, to live with a more value-aligned life, and live with only the essentials. Cleaning, organizing and reducing is still a major part of my life, but it’s no longer a necessity. I have newfound clarity in my thoughts, a spring in my step, and a radiant sense of joy that could have never been attained had I not found minimalism.

I have gone from a stuff-obsessed, bitter and moody teenager to a radiant, value-aligned and loving young woman—all because of my perspective on stuff. It’s still interesting to me to see how material items—or the lack thereof—have changed my life.

If you are feeling stuck or unhappy with where you are, perhaps look around and see what you could change. Could you declutter the negative thoughts in your head? Or could you dive into that chaotic corner of the house that remains stoically unkempt? Maybe there are relationships that you need to re-evaluate but haven’t gotten around to yet?

Minimalism, in any aspect, might just change your life forever… for the better.