Can moving house change your life? Apparently, it can. In her blog post, Michele Connolly writes about how her life transformed with the decision of selling her apartment. She discovered the joy of living with less and realised that she should live more in the present moment.
A while ago, I read Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. While I liked some of the tips, I found her advice to have a ‘joyful’ relationship with every item you own a bit comical. However, if you haven’t read the book but would like to know what the buzz is about, read the summary here: ‘8 Decluttering Lessons Learned from the Marie Kondo book’.
Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:
I have quite a few unfinished projects. You know, the ones that you start and never quite complete. These include a half-finished crochet bag, a partly-knitted cardigan for my daughter, a drafted article for a magazine, and many others. Every time I come across any of these projects, or even begin to think about them, I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty about not being able to find the time and the energy to complete them. I feel guilty about the time I have already invested and the resources I have already used. And the fact that I start to perceive myself as unaccountable doesn’t make the situation any better.
Every time I am confronted with my unfinished assignment I promise to myself that I will find some time in the nearest future to complete it. This helps for a while. This helps until the next time I come across my unfinished work, and then end up in the same loop: the guilt – the promise – the temporary relief – the oblivion.
I have decided that I need to do something about all these uncompleted assignments. Not only do they take up space in my house but they also clutter my mind. And so my new quest has began: to find a way to deal with them once and for all.
What to do about unfinished projects
The most important thing is to identify them. I did two things: I made a list of the ones I could remember, and I decided that if I came across any other uncompleted work, I would deal with it straight away.
The list is a living document that I often refer to. The first time I made it, I went through every item, considered it and either kept it or removed it. I am dealing with the items on my list on everyday basis and tick them off once they are completed (and what a good feeling that is!). The list is kept in the notes on my phone for easy access.
I decided not to think about the projects that I remove from the list, and, in this way, to unclutter my mind. If they are tangible projects, I physically get rid of them, nevertheless the stage of completion.
How not to feel guilty about getting rid of unfinished work
Sometimes it is still difficult for me to throw away a partly-done project. I think about all the hours I spent working on it, about the money I invested, and about what it could have become. I don’t like waste, and getting rid of something that could be of any use seems like a crime. On the other hand, if I wasn’t able to complete a particular job in, let’s say, the past two years, there is hardly any chance I still will.
What helps me not to feel bad about getting rid of a partly-completed project is considering what I will gain by doing so. And what is my gain? A peace of mind and a cleared space; a space that could be used for moving forward with a new idea.
Why are we so attached to our unfinished projects?
Have you ever felt that you should not give up even though all signs say that your project is not going to be a successful one? You might be a victim of ‘sunk cost fallacy’. This is when an investment, a financial or an emotional one, becomes the only reason to carry on. You might have invested a lot of money, energy or effort into something, and you just want to be consistent. My advice? Take time to reconsider, evaluate pros and cons of continuing, and make a well thought-through decision. You might get an injection of energy or you might decide to discontinue. But don’t carry on just for the sake of consistency.
How to set up a reasonable framework for completing unfinished project
If you decide to keep your project on you ‘to-do’ or ‘to-be-completed’ list I suggest that you start working on it as soon as possible. What works best for me is assigning a time slot every day to finish off my project. It could be any amount of time, really. I think that 5 minutes of a regular daily effort is much more than nothing. And this is how I completed my crocheted rug project; a project that I did in 1/3 and left untouched for about 1 year. Surprisingly, even to me, I completed it in 3 days.
I am not a huge fan of deadlines so I collected all my unfinished jobs and started to work on them, one by one. If you, however, like deadlines, you might want to give yourself a specific time frame. If the project is still unfinished after that day, just remove it from your life without any remorses.
Your challenge: do it now or forget about it without feeling guilty and move on.
To read more about ‘sunk cost fallacy’ refer to chapter 5 of ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ by Rolf Dobelli.
If you came into my house today, probably you wouldn’t say that a minimalist lived there. You would most likely need to have another glance at my place. You would need to go through my drawers and bookshelves. Perhaps you would need to check my computer files and my cabinets. Then you would realise that I do have a minimalistic approach.
Yes, I call myself a minimalist but it doesn’t mean that I live in a cave unsurrounded by objects. To me, being a minimalist is about having the ability to filter through things and ideas in order to identify those most important. It is about finding out what is most essential. It is about reducing the number of distractions to make space for what is most meaningful. It is about making the right choices. It is about staying focused on what really matters and getting rid of the rest, be it ideas, people, everyday items etc.
My minimalism is a journey. Most often I succeed but I also fail. It is an ongoing process of self-improvement through which I am still learning to make a better use of things. I don’t want to be defined by the things I own, yet, on the other hand, what I own is an expression of myself.
The biggest learning so far has been realising that I can live without; without so many books, without a lot of kitchenware, or without boxes filled with keepsakes. But I have also learned that I like to collect certain items, i.e. I have quite a number of shoes because I simply love footwear and fashion.
My successes as a minimalist
Never quite a collector, I anyway managed to assemble a considerable amount of objects. One of my accomplishments is getting rid of a lot of them, including books, CD’s, DVD’s. At the same time I realised that I do not need to store any of such because of the advances of technology. This decision has made me reduce the number of books I buy today in print as I have moved towards e-books.
My other success is that I decluttered my closet. I got rid of everything I did not like or used any longer. Now I only own clothes I really like which makes my life much easier and more pleasurable. I simply don’t need to make difficult clothing choices every morning; I can take the first thing from the closet and I am sure I will feel good wearing it.
The minimalistic approach I adopted made me also rethink my career path. Having reflected upon what I truly enjoy doing and what I am good at, I made some decisions regarding the future of my professional life. I considered a variety of options, carefully sieved them through and made up my mind. As a result, I set up a few goals, signed up for courses, and worked with determination towards achieving my aims. Making this decision and staying focused has paid back.
My failures as a minimalist
As you might have read in one of my earlier posts (‘Why I already failed at keeping my New Year’s resolutions’), I cannot make myself not to buy anything for a set period of time. And this wasn’t the first time I did such an experiment. On the other hand, I am a fairly reasonable consumer and most of my purchases are well-thought through, even if they seem spontaneous. I don’t know, but maybe a shopping fast just isn’t for me?
And I still struggle with the number of objects we have in the house. Even though I did some major decluttering, it still feels that we own too much of everything. It might be because once you start the process of cleaning out your space, you cannot stop. Once you realise that you can be without things, you see how many more you could get rid of. Anyway, it is still a struggle and I sometimes feel I might never be completely satisfied. I am afraid that the number of items I have will always exceed the number of items I need and use.
What are your successes as a minimalist? What are your challenges? Please share in the comments.
Why is it sometimes so difficult to get started with things? Why do you often keep on thinking about doing something but never actually do it? Why do we often think it is better to wait for a better time? What if this better time never comes?
There are probably a lot of things that you would like to explore, learn or do. You might be considering getting a new hobby or you might want to change your career path. You might be thinking how good it would be to learn a new skill. Or while browsing images on the internet you might be planning that one day you will redecorate your bedroom so that it will eventually resemble the one from the pictures you dreamingly look at.
Stop making excuses
But you never actually do anything, Instead, you come up with excuses or conditions. You say that you don’t have enough money to buy a new camera and so you have to put your interest in photography on hold. Or you allow yourself to start learning a new language on condition that you complete the course you are currently taking. Or you promise yourself that you will start jogging if you find a reliable jogging-mate. The thing is that if you continue thinking this way you will never do the things that you want to do.
Stop waiting for a better time
You cannot keep on waiting for the perfect time to start a new chapter of our life. What if this time never comes? So stop imagining the perfect moment and start acting because the best moment is now. Had I waited for ‘the perfect moment’ and for the time to feel 100% ready, I would have never started this blog. It was a new and unfamiliar territory that I have been exploring along the way. I have learned a lot by doing. I wouldn’t have learned a lot by waiting and reading about ‘how to’.
Take action now
Think about the future and how grateful you might be to yourself for taking the action now. Don’t postpone whatever it is you want do. Some preparation is always needed but, in my opinion, we learn best by action and by trying things out. And even if you are not successful, see it as a valuable lesson. At least you have tried your ideas out and don’t live in a ‘what-if’ land.
It is ok not to feel ready and it is ok to start things even if you don’t feel you are fully prepared. Be braver and forget about the urge to be perfect. Stop thinking ‘I wish I could’ because you can if you really want to.
What has been the best thing you have recently done for yourself?
Do you want to be more successful? Start working on you credibility using these five steps. Credibility can only be earned. The more credible and trustworthy you are, the more chances to be successful you have. To me, it is about wanting to become an expert and always willing to learn more.
If my previous post inspired you to start writing, here is some advice on how to write every day. My two favourite tips are: start small, i.e. assign 5 or 10 minutes for your first writing sessions, and embrace imperfection. You need to start somewhere!
Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:
When do we write? Do we make use of writing in our lives?
Our writing skills develop mostly throughout primary and secondary years of schooling. We learn the first letters when we are just a few years old. It is usually our parents or kindergarten teachers who show us the letters and who teach us how to write a few familiar names. As we continue education, we learn how to build sentences, how to write coherent paragraphs, and then how to produce compositions, descriptions, essays and reports. We study the structures and practise using conjunctions and linking words to make smooth transitions between paragraphs. A few of us start diaries or journals, others try to express their feelings in poetry or songs.
As life goes on, we ditch the diaries and personal notebooks. We still write, though, now mostly ‘to-do’ and check lists, CV’s and personal letters, or reports and presentations for work. We text, write e-mails, fill in calendars with appointments, make status updates on Facebook or write captions under Instagram photos. Some of us might pick up diaries or start blogging, but, sadly, most of us tend to forget that we could use writing in many more ways.
I would like to encourage everyone to start writing. Or to start writing more if you already write.
In my teenage years I used to write diaries and short funny poems. In high school and at university there was so much writing involved that I didn’t even think of writing for pleasure. I picked up writing after a long break in January 2016 when I decided to start this blog. My original idea was to use blogging as a tool to promote myself as a coach. I did not know, though, how exciting my adventure with blogging would become. I had not idea how much I would enjoy the process of creating posts, from the moment of coming up with an idea to the laborious process of editing and polishing every sentence. I discovered a pure joy of writing, and I didn’t even know I had it in me.
Writing for self-improvement
When I look at my first posts I can see that they are rather short. The moment I started the blog I realised I wasn’t quite sure whether I could express myself clearly in writing. I had a lot of ideas but when I started to create first posts I had many doubts. Firstly, I wasn’t sure if my writing was precise and coherent enough, or whether what I wanted to write about would be found interesting. Secondly, I was not writing in my mother tongue. It was quite a struggle in the beginning, and the fear of exposing myself was adding to the anxiety. However, after some time and a lot of work I realised that I truly enjoy writing and blogging.
Yes, writing means work and it takes me hours to compose each post. And yes, I am never totally pleased with the outcome. But I can also see that my writing has improved a lot, and that my thoughts have become clearer and better organised. Hard work has been paying back!
Writing for creativity
To me, writing is like a self-propelled machinery. Once I started, I cannot stop, and the ideas keep on flowing and developing. One things leads to another, and not only do I have more ideas for the blog posts, but I also start to think of other ways to channel my writing. Writing has proven to be a fantastic outlet for my creativity, and just thinking about new posts has enabled me to explore many ideas not strictly connected to writing. I have, for example, taken a course on social media marketing and started to take more photos. All these activities allowed me to reconnect with my inner self; something I had missed since my life had changed with the arrival of my daughter.
Writing for problem solving
Writing can be a fantastic tool for brainstorming and for problem solving. When you have an issue you don’t know how to deal with, I suggest that firstly you describe your problem in writing. Then write down ideas how to solve this problem. Write down as many possible solutions as you can come up with, even unconventional or unrealistic ones. Don’t limit yourself here; often looking at unrealistic or even crazy solutions can be a source of new ideas. After you have completed your list, review all the options and choose the most satisfactory ones.
Writing for keeping goals
Each company has a vision and a mission statement. How about you? What is your personal mission statement? Do you know what your vision is? What do you aim for? I think it is important to keep a written reminder of own values to get to know yourself better. It is also a good idea to formulate your own mission statement and to review it every once in a while.
I keep my goals and my mission statement in a small notebook. I believe that writing down my goals makes me more accountable for them. Also, just taking the time to formulate my mission statement helps me define who I am. In the same way, being clear about my values helps me navigate my way through life.
Here is a list of writing tools that I use on a daily basis:
a small notebook (currently a squared pocket notebook by Moleskine) – for writing down ideas, for keeping my goals updated, for making plans, and for brainstorming,
Notes (an application by Apple) – for keeping shopping lists, to-do lists, to-read lists, etc.,
Google Keep – for writing down ideas, for drafting blog posts, and for saving links and web articles,
Google Docs – for drafting blog posts, for planning coaching sessions, for working on own coaching tools, and for creative writing,
Strides (an application by Goals LCC) – for tracking progress with achieving goals and habit change,
WordPress – for blogging, obviously, but also for storing well-developed drafts.
This probably isn’t a very impressive list but I like to keep things simple. And the most important thing is TO WRITE, for which all you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.
What is the last thing you wrote? What is the next thing you are going to write?
‘What if I told you 10 years from now your life would be exactly the same? Doubt you’d be happy. So, why are you afraid of change?’ – quote by Karen Salmansohn, author of ‘The Bounce Back Book’
Imagine your life in 10 years’ time. Where are you? Where do you live? What is your family situation like? Where do you work? How does your day look like?
I guess you are imagining some advancements and some changes for the better.
What if I told you that nothing in your life would ever change…
That you would wake up one morning in 10 years’ time only to find yourself in exactly the same situation as you are in today.
Your day looks the same. Your daily routines are the same. You wake up at the same time, you take the same bus to get to the same job. You still occupy the same desk at work, only that it has more coffee stains and more ink marks on its surface.
At lunch time, you go to the same place. Or you bring your packed lunch from home and eat in the same lunch room at work. The only difference is that there are more new faces around and most of your good colleagues are long gone.
Your job duties haven’t changed much. You hold the same position and perform a set of familiar routines. You don’t feel inspired and inspiring any more. Every time someone new starts working at your office, they raise their eye brows when they hear how long you have worked there for.
You take the same route back home as you have done for the past decade.
At home, your and your partner’s arguments take the usual, well-exercised path. You still haven’t resolved how to divide household duties and the issue of unloaded dishwasher comes back every other day. However, the unpainted walls in the kitchen don’t bother you any more. You have grown a habit of not noticing the faded shade of blue.
Your social circle haven’t changed much. You haven’t learned a new skill, discovered a new hobby or gone to a new place for holidays.
You look back and wish you have done thinks differently. If you had, you would probably be in a very different situation today.
What to do not to end up there?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to suddenly wake up in 10 year’s time only to find out that I wasted years of my life. This vision is exaggerated, but I am pretty sure that there are plenty of people who wish they made smarter choices or better-informed decisions when they still could.
So start changing now! Don’t wait till next Monday, next month, or next year. All it takes is some reflection and then willingness to change.
Which aspect/aspects of your life would you like to dramatically change in the coming years?
Does having children mean an end to your minimalist lifestyle? Is it possible to continue as a minimalist and have children? Does bringing up a child always mean clutter and a flood of toys? Can you stay true to your values without depriving your kid of the joys of childhood?
If you have ever asked yourself such questions then I can relate to you. As someone who strives to be a minimalist I was concerned that having a child would mean an end to my organised lifestyle. I would imagine piles of toys scattered everywhere. Or I would see pink clothes with princesses and frills that I would not have the strength to say no to. My worst nightmare was accommodating clutter by inviting home a lot of unnecessary things. It would seem like an attack on my carefully curated and edited collections of beloved objects.
The good news is that the reality isn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Well, a lot has changed, including myself and my attitudes. I think I have become more relaxed and more tolerant about having some mess at home. And when this mess is creative it means that I have a happy child!
Of course, a lot of new objects have found their way to our home. Some of them were necessary and useful while some were just impractical and meant wasted money. However, I think that I somehow managed to successfully manoeuvre through the traps of buying too much stuff for my daughter.
Below are a few simple rules that I try to follow:
Smarter choices: children’s clothes
I have a few favourite colours for my daughter and try to buy clothes within that colour scheme. In such a way everything matches everything (well, mostly) so it is fairly easy to compose her outfits. Also, I buy just a few patterns for easier matching (usually stripes and dots).
I let my family and friends know my preferences so they have a better idea of what kind of clothes would be most welcome. But, most importantly, when I am asked ‘What could we buy for her?’, I politely say that she has enough and doesn’t need more.
I part with gifted clothes and accessories that don’t meet my criteria of quality, functionality and appearance. If possible, I return them to a store, I resell or donate them. I do it without feeling any guilt. In my opinion a gift serves its purpose when it is thought about, purchased/made and given. After I have received it, it is my choice what to do with it. And if I don’t like it or don’t need it, I let it go.
Smarter choices: children’s toys
I use similar criteria for toys that I use for clothing: a toy should be educational, purposeful and of a decent quality. To me, it is also important that a toy is visually pleasing. I believe that by choosing prettier objects I help my daughter develop a taste for nicer things and become a more aware consumer.
If my child doesn’t play with a certain toy, I give it some time. I encourage her and show ways to use it. If it still doesn’t catch on, I get rid of that toy. And I don’t have any regrets about it; the money has already been spent.
I don’t feel guilty about partying with the toys given by family and friends. In my opinion, it is my job as a parent to decide how and with what my child plays.
I came to a realisation that even the fanciest toy is nothing compared to the time spent with a parent who is willing to play. It is better to have three toys and a company than hundreds of toys and no one to play with.
Teaching children that it is ok to part with things
How about inviting children to assist you when decluttering and cleaning? In such a way they can learn how to make first decisions as consumers.
I often invite my daughter to assist me when organising her things. By helping me she learns where all her things belong and where to put them back. She is getting better and better at this. Already now, at the age of 3, she often surprises me by remembering where to put things away.
It is also important to me that my child learns that letting things go is natural. She knows, for example, that to get money for the trampoline, we decided to sell her pram and some toys. Sometimes she helps me choose the toys to get rid off, and she sees me packing them and putting them aside. I hope that she will always value the intangible more than any material possessions. I also hope that in the future she will become an intuitive consumer: someone who can make smart shopping choices.
Of course, I do make mistakes. There are some things I bought on the spur of the moment. They were a waste of my money and my time. But I keep on trying and, hopefully, I am getting better at becoming a minimalist parent.
What are you tips for keeping your children’s clutter at bay?
I really like the three pieces of advice shared by Rachel Thomas, the co-founder and president of Lean In Foundation. The best one: you have zero chances of being successful if you don’t try! By the way, check the LeanIn website for many more inspiring articles.
If you wonder how to become a high achiever, I recommend that you read ‘It Only Takes 6 Steps to Plan Your Success’ written by Jim Rohn. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, mentor and speaker who influenced many motivational authors popular today. According to him, success is ‘a few simple disciplines practised every day’. I like this definition!
How to build a child’s self-confidence? One small change in how you talk to a kid can make a tremendous difference. It is called ‘a growth mindset’ and you can read more about it and the research behind it here.
Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:
Here are some interesting thoughts on using technology when on vacation. I agree that technology might be disruptive and I rather spend my summer holidays without it.
I am a bit too old to call myself a ‘millennial’ but am totally into living a simpler life with less stuff. Here is a Washington Post article explaining why a younger generation might be loosing sentimental attachment to things.
A story on how becoming a minimalist can change your life for the better.
Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration: