All Posts in Lifestyle

November 14, 2018

Don’t Throw Away Your Kindness

Declutter your stuff, but don’t get rid of your compassion and understanding.

Something I have noticed in the minimalist community of late is judgement. I have seen comments online from people moving towards a minimalist lifestyle that have made me feel sad and disappointed. Perhaps the message of minimalism isn’t clear enough.

Minimalism is about what matters.

Living a life with less has always been, for me, about getting closer to the things that matter. I want to be able to devote more time to relationships and experiences, rather than just living day-to-day on a treadmill of earn-buy-consume.

I also want the freedom and energy to pursue my goals in my spare time, rather than being so depleted by daily life that the only thing I can manage is another evening sat in front of the TV.

Getting rid of all the excess in our lives is a great way to get closer to ourselves and to what we hold true in the world. It’s also fantastic for freeing up time and energy that would otherwise be consumed in a myriad of ways by the seemingly limitless things that we can own.

What if you’re not a minimalist?

When I first discovered minimalism, it was a bit of a weird thing that hid in dark corners of the internet. Today, the popularity of minimalism is more mainstream, but it has also gathered devotees who think that other people are somehow stupid, or less worthy, because they are not minimalists.

I have seen horrible comments online, made about other people’s spending and lifestyle choices. Ordinary folk have been called “idiots”, “dumb” or even “sickening” for buying what was judged to be an excess of things. I read a story written by a woman who decided her co-worker was stupid for buying a charm to attach to the zip on her purse. These are things that most of us would never say to someone’s face, but online it seems that we can be much ruder in an attempt to get our point across.

Minimalism is a great solution to the excesses of life, and the conservation of our planet’s diminishing resources. However, it is not okay to stand on a self-erected virtuous podium, looking down at the “consumerist masses”. How will that change the world for the better?

Minimalism is not enlightenment.

Minimalism may feel like a revelation when you finally get the hang of it, but traditionally the enlightened lead those that are yet to learn—they do not judge them.

None of us know what strangers and colleagues are dealing with, and no one is perfect. Few of us grew up as minimalists and many of us are reformed hoarders ourselves. How can we judge those that are walking the same path that we once walked?

Minimalism is so compelling to me for many reasons, but one thing that stands out is that it allows us the space to be more compassionate. Having less means we are not so wrapped up in ourselves.

There is a difference between being passionate about a way of life because it works for you, and feeling superior about your way of life because you think it's better than everyone else’s. As you continue your minimalist journey, don’t fall prey to the mistake of throwing your compassion and kindness out, along with everything else.

What the world needs is minimalists with kindness in their hearts to lead the way.

Minimalism can create communities and networks of acceptance and giving that will benefit everybody, even the people who still want to keep a charm on their purse key.

As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

November 7, 2018

From a Suitcase Lifestyle to Simple Living

How temporarily living with one suitcase can impact the rest of your life.

During my freshman year of high school, my family traveled around the world for eight months. We had decided to take off after we watched an episode of House Hunters International. It was a spontaneous decision, but we were committed. I prepared for the trip by enrolling in online school, starting a blog, learning about the first country we were going to, and finally… packing. I asked my mom what we were packing in, and she told me that we each had only a carry-on and backpack. All my clothes, personal possessions, school books, and supplies had to fit into those two bags for eight months. At first, I had a hard time believing that all my stuff would fit. But I soon started the process of deciding what was essential to bring and realized that it would not be so difficult after all.

After packing a minimal number of belongings, we departed. As I looked down through an airplane window at my hometown, I knew that I would not see any of my other possessions for a long time. Soon, I discovered that having less was not so hard. In the morning, instead of searching for half an hour through a closet stuffed with clothing, I wore whatever was clean. I may not have been the most trendy or stylish 14-year old in the world, but my clothes got the job done. As for schoolwork, I managed just fine without eight hundred different pens.

As our trip progressed, I fell more in love with living out of a carry-on. It was one of the most freeing things I had ever experienced. Whatever I did not need or could not carry, I had to get rid of. If I needed something new, I had to make sure I had space for it. If I did not, I let go of something else to make room for my new possession. I considered every addition to my small storage space deeply. To have to be so mindful of everything I owned was enlightening and revealing. It made me question what was truly important in my life.

Eight months later, I walked back into my room at home. Although I was happy to be home, I was overwhelmed. There was just too much stuff everywhere, and I wondered how I could ever use all of it. I simply trudged on, accepting that this was just what American life was destined to look like. I would graduate high school with all my stuff, go to college, spend the rest of my life paying off college debt, get a desk job so I could support myself and buy more stuff, get married, have kids, retire, and eventually pass away.

One day, when I was scrolling through films on Netflix, I settled on one called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The images on the screen flicked before my eyes and excitement welled inside me as I learned about the concept of minimalism. I finished the documentary, ran upstairs to my room, and got rid of half of my clothes. Since that day, I have been a proponent of minimalism and all the benefits it offers.

To me, the word ‘minimalism’ essentially means living with only what is useful or brings you true joy. The lifestyle is not meant to make you suffer, in fact, it allows just the opposite—allowing you to fully appreciate what you have. It emphasizes on people over things, and this helps to improve relationships in all areas of your life. Most importantly, it has taught me that material things should not be the motivation for my life choices. 

Minimalism is a form of self-care. By not overwhelming yourself with useless clutter or striving to make more money so you can buy that clutter, you are giving yourself a break. 

You are not defined by the amount of stuff that you own.

October 25, 2018

Cultivating Values

The journey to evaluating and cultivating values does not have to be as daunting as it seems.

One year ago, I had no clear values and no distinct way of understanding what truly mattered to me. I had heard major influencers in my life tell me that values are vital to living a successful life, yet nobody talked about how to define one’s values and align them with one’s passions.

For the longest time, I thought that if we are to live a value-aligned life, we needed to be vegan, minimalist, yogi, health-obsessed, and travel a lot to promote a message. It was silly to think this for such a long time, right? 

As ridiculous as it sounds, I had never explored the idea of values more because I was afraid to. I was terrified that new and refined values would change me as a person, and that I might lose people or things in my life, or have even lost opportunities. I was anxious that having quality values would create a different life for me—but what I didn’t realize was that having real, tangible values would change me and mold the best version of myself that I have ever presented to the world. 

When I began to research values, I originally wanted to adopt the values that other people had, instead of curating my own. I tried being vegan for a few months because everyone else was doing it. I attempted to be a fitness enthusiast because the models on Instagram had beautiful canvases. It got to the point where I even asked my parents if I could borrow the car for a few weeks so I could go on a road trip that I hadn’t planned out. 

After my parents had declined the idea for the road trip (rightfully so), I realized that none of these things that were attempted were for me. None of these “values” had stuck with me, because I wasn’t doing them for the right reasons. These experimentations were because I was feeling pressured to be someone I was not—no, am not. I felt the pressure to have multiple values all at once, when in reality, values take time to cultivate. 

This last year has been filled with genuine, intentional research to see what my values are. It started with an idea of what I cared about. My faith, the earth, animals, and my body. The next thing I had to do was see what could be done in my personal life to ensure that I was aligning with the things that I valued and cared about. It’s that simple! I wish someone had told myself earlier on that living a value-aligned life was so much easier than I ever thought it could be. 

I may not be a wholehearted vegan, doing yoga every day, or doing everything I can to save the animals or earth. Regardless of this, I am taking steps to becoming the person I have always wanted to be and living the value-filled, value-aligned life I have always dreamed about.

October 18, 2018

Big Decision, Clear Answer

Evaluating values and finding direction will lead to better decisions.

Recently I found myself facing a dilemma. Life had thrown up a big decision and it was one of those moments that would shape everything after it. An opportunity had arisen to move to Sri Lanka for a work opportunity with my girlfriend. We had grown weary of London’s sirens, tourists, and expenses and were ready for a change.

The move to Sri Lanka had clear upsides. It would open us up to an entirely different world—access to Asia, its foods, culture, weather, people—all steeply contrasted with the London life we had become used to. The problem was that we had already decided to move to Bristol, a relatively affordable alternative to London with a hugely creative and exciting culture.

Bristol or Sri Lanka?

A sofa or wild new experiences? Jungles or waterfronts? Monkeys or squirrels?

The problem with making decisions is that before you can decide what to do at any given moment, you must clearly know your priorities. The closer you are to this source, the more accurate, straight, and true your actions will be thereafter.

In order to come to a conclusion, we began the process of examining our values. We found that we had strong desires to cultivate space for ourselves, our things, and our hobbies (for me; cooking, for her; yoga) in a less highly strung city with a slower pace of life. We dreamed of a lounge to entertain others, our own bathroom and a fridge of a decent size—all things rendered difficult in London’s restrictive housing market and our recent full-time studies.

After much deliberation, the answer was clear. Bristol was the better fit for now. The Sri Lanka opportunity dried up but this did not matter—we had challenged our trajectory and values and in the process of doing so, we had learned more securely what we wanted out of life. Of course, our priorities will change, but in the present moment, I truly believe that there is nothing more important than knowing where you want to be—and making the move.

October 11, 2018

A Minimalist Office Space

How a minimalist setup can reduce distractions, increase focus, and improve efficiency.

I have worked in public education for 18 years, and three years ago I attended a professional development event that focused on decluttering one’s office and working smarter by focusing on the most impactful things at work. Little did I realize just how transformational this would be for me personally and professionally.

One of the first things that I learned was how distracting an office, filled with clutter and personal heirlooms, could be. Besides, do you really want to emulate your home in your office? Your work environment, regardless of its shape or size, is designed for you to produce work in the most efficient way possible. Personal trinkets all over the place will not help you get your work done, but it can certainly distract you and coworkers.

As I began my journey several years ago to declutter my office and eliminate useless paperwork that I had stored digitally anyway, I heard many coworkers say that my office looked “too professional” and didn’t look “homey” at all. Regardless of the varied opinions of my office peers, I was on a mission to give this a try. Several years later, it is in a state that I would consider minimal, or rather streamlined.

My office only contains those items that I need to do my job. Many of my coworkers say my office looks like a conference room, and now I tell that that was my point all along. My office is a space where I meet with people to get essential work done, and now that it is not cluttered, I offer my space to anyone in the office that needs a private meeting space or privacy.

So how has decluttering my office and using minimalism helped? In several important ways:

  • My office is easy to clean, looks professional all the time, and can easily be used by anyone when I’m not there. My office projects the image most employers want to see for their organization.
  • My focus and efficiency has increased significantly, as I am no longer searching for one thing in a big pile of papers. I have moved my analog, paper existence, to a digital one that I have available to me anywhere I go.

Minimalism spilled over into my personal life once I saw the actual value it afforded me in my professional life.

October 4, 2018

Minimalism is an Individualistic Journey

There is diversity in minimalism in spite of the ‘perfection’ that is portrayed online.

The other day, I went to a hair salon to touch up my short pixie style and I showed the stylist a photo off Pinterest. This photo was of a young woman's feathered pixie, and I told him that I wanted it exactly like the photo.

As he was shaving down the back of my hair, he pulled out his mirror and said, “Would it be okay if we went a little shorter in the back? It's not exactly like the photo, but I think it would fit your personality better. I’ve never done anything quite like this before, and you'd be the first person I’ve ever seen with this hairstyle.”

Though hesitant, I said yes.

We continued our conversation as normal, and as the hair styling went on, we made more alterations to the photo than I ever thought possible. With clammy palms and a lot of encouragement from the hairstylist, the result was something I have genuinely never seen before but fell head over heels for. He later said to me that he appreciates me having the courage to bring in a photo yet work with him to create a product that is better than the original inspiration.

It occurred to me on the way home that this is how minimalism works as well. We so often think that our version of minimalism has to be exactly like the photos on Pinterest, the YouTubers that have white walls and a perfect kitchen, or the nomads that live out of a backpack.

Minimalism is not set in stone. If it was, then we would all be walking around in plain t-shirts with no personality diversity. It is vital that each person’s version of minimalism is different. Part of the beauty of living with less is that each person chooses different things.

We all have our own ‘why factor’, reasons and benefits for purging our lives of excess. Your version of minimalism could be appear wildly different to another’s.

Do not be afraid to have clammy palms and move forward with something that you know is different. Create something within your space and life that you have never dared to do. Dare to make a better version of minimalism than the inspiration you are gleaning from. Dare to be true to yourself.

There is no “right” way to utilise minimalism. Find what works for you, and run as far as you can with it.

September 26, 2018

Mnmllist

The ultimate bookmark for minimalists featuring a simple list of links to all things minimal.

When we adopt the minimalism ideology, we use it primarily as a tool. A tool to rid the excess in life to make way for that which is important and for the things we value most. Minimalism not only inspires me to live more simply, it also influences my approach to design.

I wanted to create a resource that many minimalists would value—and not just the design conscious looking for a bit of inspiration, but even those looking to live a more meaningful life. I didn’t look to recreate something that already exists with a simpler approach. Instead, I realised that what I needed simply did not exist—an ever evolving list to all things minimal. I decided to create the ultimate bookmark for minimalism enthusiasts, including everything from books, bikes, clothing, furniture, to technology. All presented in a clear, well-structured, and unobtrusive categorised list of text links. Created in collaboration with web developer Manu Moreale, we launched Mnmllist

It lists only 3 items per category, but each category can be expanded to display more links if we’ve got round to adding them.

Of course, there are many blogs and resources out there dedicated to minimalism, but nothing that is open to literally anything. The site is still in its infancy, but we’re having fun curating this over time, and we invite contributions if you can think of any categories or specific links you think we should add. We hope this little Mnmllist site will become a useful resource for you. If not today, then perhaps when it’s more mature.

September 14, 2018

The Comparison Game

What happens when too much of a good thing turns sour?

My YouTube recommendations list is chalked full of videos about minimalism in all aspects—zero waste, intentional living, podcasts on the topic, and even things such as minimalist yoga.

Social media is something I don’t understand, yet am so entranced with. Without it, I personally would have never heard about minimalism or known what an impactful journey it would lead me on. The videos in my recommendation feed allow me to expand my ideas on simple living and get creative with the life I already have, which, of course, has been a good thing. But, what happens when too much of a good thing becomes a drawback?

The impact of social media on our lives is clear when doing the research—when we allow ourselves to mindlessly scroll through the media pages long enough, we begin to judge those on the media platform, their followers, and even ourselves. Though the idea of endless minimalism videos seems harmless (and some people’s dream), it can begin to have an impact on one’s thoughts as they take a deep look into their heart and possessions.

For me, almost all the people I am following on social media are minimalism enthusiasts, which has shaped the way I view my possessions and the frame of mind in which I consume now. While this has lead to the more intuitive, productive, and free person I am today, it has also caused some downfalls.

After feeding myself white walls, sand-beige furniture, and clear kitchen countertops through other people’s social media posts, I found that I looked down upon myself for owning more than I thought I needed to. I saw creators with all their possessions zipped up in a small backpack, ready to board their next flight. I thought to myself, “why am I not traveling with 45 items? I could easily do that.”

We tell our youth to be careful when consuming so much social media on a daily basis and to not compare ourselves to the people we see online. We understand that our lives are our own, and that the things we are scrolling through are merely a highlight reel.

Comparison is a silly game that we play with ourselves because we don’t fully understand the concept of another person’s life. We don’t see the behind-the-scenes of the photos we’re scrolling through, and we don’t have a single clue as to what their personal life is like. All we are seeing is what they want us to see.

Minimalism is not practical for everyone, nor is a pristine living room or traveling the world with 45 items in a backpack. The more we compare ourselves to the people around us—regardless of whether they are minimalists or not—the more unsatisfied we become with our own journey.

You are here because you are wanting to become the best version of yourself. Please do not let the comparison of others ruin the sparkle of that exciting adventure.

September 6, 2018

An Ancient Philosophy

What modern minimalists can learn from the ancient ideas of Stoicism.

For some, minimalism appears to be a relatively recent concept. Perhaps cooked up in a Scandinavian design studio or in Silicon Valley. However, minimalism actually has deep roots in schools of philosophy that are thousands of years old.

Whilst Buddhism is certainly one such source, possibly the most direct ancestor was Stoicism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy. Stoic ideas have greatly helped me refocus my ideas about the world by articulating wisdom that is true and valuable, regardless of time or culture.

One of the key foundations of the Stoics is to learn to fully appreciate the things that we already have and be truly grateful for their presence. If we learn to thoroughly value what we already own, then we will ease our desire for more.

Of course, in the modern world, full of advertising and sales, people are taught the opposite—to always want more. The problem with this is what’s known in psychology cycles as hedonic adaption. We work extremely hard to fulfill a desire, initially getting some satisfaction, but soon enough, we adapt to its presence and no longer find it as desirable as we once did. We end up caught in a loop of dissatisfaction with no expiration date.

The Stoics understood that in order to break free of this loop, they could practice negative visualization. They would imagine losing their most loved possessions. Their family, their money and their health—all lost.

Visualization of this kind can makes us bulletproof to any eventuality because, in our minds, the worst has already occurred. From then onwards, we can only see the positive actions and potential in the world. We are protected from the naive and at peace with our current situations. We can appreciate everything.

Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.

—Stoic Philosopher King Marcus Aurelius

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.