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.
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?
My friends ask me sometimes how I manage my time and am able to do everything I do. This question puzzles me because I don’t think I do anything exceptional.
Yes, I do consider myself organised. I work four days a week, I take care of our child, and I take care of the house. Nothing unusual, right? On top of this, I try to establish myself as a coach. This means that I run this blog and am currently working on improving my website. I constantly want to learn new things that can help me with my career; I took three courses in the past 1.5 years and now am looking for a course in writing. To me, what I do isn’t anything unusual. I believe that a lot of us could make similar lists, couldn’t we?
Having a goal
In my opinion, the key to time management is having a clarified goal. Knowing what you want helps you focus on the activities that will get you there. It can be one of those big life goals, like starting a family, building a house, moving to a new country or completely changing a career path. Or it can be a smaller goal; something that you want to achieve in the coming months or years. Once you realise what is really important to you, you can start planning your days by choosing the right activities and resigning from the ones that present little or no value to you.
Prioritising and planning
Do you know which of your activities are important and which aren’t? Have you ever had a proper look at your everyday routines and analysed their usefulness? Is what you doing every day bringing you closer to reaching your goals? I have, and such analysis astounded me and gave me great insights.
Let’s have a look at the four quadrants of time management. This approach to time organisation was presented by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’*. Covey recommends focusing on important things before they become urgent, and emphasises the necessity of planning. By following this advice we should be able to limit or even avoid stressful situations because we take time to predict, plan and prepare.
The four quadrants of time management:
Below is the same grid completed with examples of activities:
Analysis of your time management skills
Now it is time for you to complete this chart with your everyday activities (download).
After you have completed the grid, take a while to thouroughly analyse activities in each of the quadrants. Here are some thoughts and questions to help you with the analysis:
Quadrant 1: These activities are urgent and important, and need to be dealt with immediately. They can be a result of your poor planning. What can you do to avoid ending up in situations requiring you to make important decisions under pressure?
Quadrant 2: These activities are important but do not need imediate action. The items that you listed here require time, preperation and attention. What can you do to improve your planning and to start every task having an end result in mind? What can you do to shift your daily activities to this quadrant?
Quadrant 3: Here we have activities that are urgent but unimportant. They might be a result of the lack of planning and/or motivation. What can you do to eliminate unnecessary emergencies and to minimise the number of items in this quadrant?
Quadrant 4: In this quadrant you listed unimportant and non-urgent activities. These items bring little or no value. What can you do to minimise or eliminate time-wasters?
Once you have done the analysis and sifted through your daily activities, you should be able to start planning your days and managing your time more efficiently. And remember that your goal is to stay in the second quadrant. This means that you should focus on making plans, building relationships with people, looking for new opportunities, relaxing in order to stay balanced, etc.
What are your reflections after doing this analysis? Feel free to share in the comments.
*This model is sometimes also referred to as ‘Eisenhower Box’ or ‘Eisenhower Matrix’ because it was developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the USA, served as a general in the United States Army, and also became NATO’s first Supreme Commander. He lived a very productive and organised life.
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?
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:
I am super excited today because it is officially the first day of my summer holidays. We have no specific plans at this point but I already know how I want to spend the summer, no matter where I should find myself. So here it is, my rough guide to enjoying the summer time while staying true to a minimalistic way of living. All the tips come from my experience.
Yay, summer sales! Well, I am already done with sales shopping this year so no more time wasted (yes, wasted) in the shops for me. A few years ago this time of a year would mean spending hours walking around the stores in search for nothing in particular. I would end up buying things that I didn’t need, didn’t really like, and, as a result, didn’t wear or use much. Wrong size, wrong colour, or wrong shape didn’t matter as long as they were justified by a lowered price.
For the past few years I have been wiser, and this year I am particularly proud of myself. I purchased a few items that I had had my eyes on for a while, including a woollen spring/autumn coat (60% off), a suede skirt (also 60% off), and a black leather wallet (66% off). At the point of writing this I am not planning to hunt for more bargains.
Shopping while on vacation
… and spending time in shopping centres buying a lot of stuff we don’t really need. I am not saying shopping is essentially bad, but what is the point of going to a different place and locking yourself in a shopping gallery instead of being out and relaxing? Also, all these stalls on the way to the beach – ahh, these can tempting and not easy to avoid. My advice – don’t even stop there unless you want to end up purchasing tones of plastic toys for your child, another pair of cheap sunglasses, or the ‘latest-trend’ bikini for yourself. You don’t need those, nor does your child need that third plastic spade.
If I want to stay true to my values and not to come home with a moral hangover I don’t use holidays as permission to spend recklessly. Yes, I do spend more money in the summer but I would rather get nice memories or small tokens to remind me of the wonderful time I had. This is what I exchange my money for:
Going to a nicer restaurant and trying a new dish.
Going on an excursion.
Buying some local food that I can bring home, preserve and enjoy at a later time (i.e. Italian ham, Spanish cheese, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, local wine).
Buying locally made craft (i.e. a ceramic salad bowl, a vinegar bottle).
Sometimes, I also bring back recipes and I try to recreate the dishes we especially liked.
Spending money in a smarter way
I try to find a balance between not spending too much money and yet not missing out on what a place I visit has to offer. I don’t want to come home broke after a two-week holiday and I don’t want to feel there was more I should have done, seen or experienced. So how to find this balance?
First of all, I realised that we don’t need to eat out every night. The deal is: one night out and one night in. And since I enjoy cooking, there are usually fresh local foods to use, and the apartments we stay at often have a balcony or a terrace, we can still have a great meal in wonderful surroundings.
The other tip is to resign from breakfasts that the hotels offer (the holiday deals often include breakfasts and other meals for extra price). Instead, we either prepare breakfasts ourselves, which costs the fraction of the hotel price, or we find local places to eat out (and this is also a rather inexpensive option). Last time we went to Mallorca, we would take a 30-minute walk by the beach every morning to go to a local cafeteria that offered amazing tomato toasts (2 euro) and delicious coffee (1,5 euro). We would do that nearly every day and we still talk about these walks, the quiet beach, the cool breeze and the toasts, of course.
Every time when I visit my sister and she looks into my suitcase, she is surprised that I pack so little. The thing is that I can pack mine and my daughter’s belongings into one average-sized suitcase. I have learned one thing: not to take too many clothes and not to take anything ‘just in case’ (well, this does not apply to some medicines, especially when you are travelling with a small child). My stand is that there are always shops so should I desperately need something, I can always buy it. I don’t think this has ever happened, though.
I don’t pack 3 smart dresses ‘in case’ I am invited to a party. I don’t take 3 pairs of long trousers ‘in case’ the weather changes for the worse. There is no recipe what to take and what to leave but it should be fairly easy to figure out for yourself based on your experience. Really, have you ever used all the things that you packed? So no, don’t take things ‘in case’ and enjoy the pleasure of travelling light.
… is what the summer is for. The holidays wouldn’t be great without proper relaxation and rest. It is a summer post and maybe relaxation should be mentioned as first. But then the focus of this post is how to be minimalistic so it comes here.
I am a person who needs to learn how to relax better. I have tried several ways and methods, and here are the ones that help me switch off best:
Dot-to-dot books for adults are my fairly recent discovery. Having tried colouring books for adults last summer and realising it is not for me, I kept on exploring. And then I found dot-to-dot books by Thomas Pavite. What I especially like about his books is that unless you check the inside of the book cover, you don’t know what you are drawing. What a great way of spending hours with a pencil in your hand! And I warn you: dot-to-dotting can be addictive.
Reading is absolutely the best way for me to relax. And what could be best then reading a great book in the sunshine? Right now I am into biographies and autobiographies. A couple of weeks ago I finished John Cleese’s autobiography (‘So, Anyway…’) and can recommend it – what a great style of writing and a great sense of humour.
I also like lighter summer reads. My favourite author is Jane Fallon (i.e. ‘Getting Rid of Matthew’, ‘Got You Back’). I have just read her latest novel (‘Strictly Between Us’) and am in search for a good easy summer read. Do you have any recommendations?
Playing with my child used to be one of the chores until I rediscovered the joy of behaving like a child (well, sometimes!). So now we have a bunch of activities that we both enjoy. We do drawing and painting, we cut paper, we dance and sing, and we try gardening. I also started to make clothes for her dolls. This is something I used to do for mine when I was about 8-10 years old.
Cooking is not new to me but finding out that I really really like it, is. A few times a month I try a new recipe with more or less success. Some of the dishes make it to our regular menu while others are never tried again. I just like being in the kitchen, chopping and mixing, and waiting for the final result.
The other way I use my time off is to do extra decluttering at home. Amazingly, I always find things to get rid off – and this is another reminder to not buy more things when on vacation and to carefully consider every potential purchase.
My plan for this summer is to reorganise our walk-in closet and my daughter’s wardrobe. I want to try on every piece of clothing I own and to let go as many as possible. The same goes for my daughter’s clothes. She grows so fast now that I need to do regular reviews of her garments.
It may sound strange but decluttering is my way of relaxing. I really like cleaning, organising and decluttering – it just calms me down.
What summer tips do you have? How do you relax best?
There are a lot of books and articles out there offering a variety of methods on how to limit your wardrobe or change your shopping habits. I don’t think there is one perfect method that would suit everyone; we are all different and what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. I find a great value in coaching, especially in the GROW model. This model can be applied in a lot of areas, so why not use it in decluttering one’s closet?
The GROW model in coaching
The GROW model was introduced by Sir John Whitmore* in 1980’s. It is a simple four-step method for finding solutions and setting-up goals. This method is widely used in both business and life coaching, and can be successfully applied to a lot of fields.
Each letter in the word GROW corresponds to one step:
G – goal
R – reality
O – options
W – will
The GROW model in achieving the perfect wardrobe
When using the word ‘perfect’ when referring to a wardrobe, I mean, of course a wardrobe ideal for you. I don’t think there is a recipe of how to build a wardrobe that would be perfect for everyone.
If you would like to use the GROW model in helping you to edit your wardrobe, take some time and answer the following questions:
How could you describe your ideal wardrobe?
What specific items of clothing should you have in your ideal closet?
Do you know someone who, in your opinion, has an ideal wardrobe? How do you describe it?
How would it make you feel to have an ideal wardrobe?
What does it mean to you to have a closet full of clothes ideal for you?
What benefits of having a perfect wardrobe can you list?
Once you have an ideal wardrobe, how will your perfect shopping day look like?
How would your life be different if you had a perfect wardrobe?
What words do you use to describe your wardrobe?
What clothes do you have in your closet?
What clothes are missing from your closet?
Which clothes do you never wear?
What do you do with the items that you never wear?
How do you feel everyday when you open your closet and choose clothes to wear?
How do you decide on what to wear?
How do you shop?
How long have you been thinking of editing your wardrobe?
How do you edit your wardrobe?
What methods have you tried to edit your wardrobe?
Which of these methods were successful? Why?
Which of these methods were unsuccessful? Why?
What could you do differently?
What is stopping you from having an ideal wardrobe?
What else could you do?
Which options work best for you?
What is the first step you need to take in order to achieve an ideal wardrobe?
What are the next steps that you should take?
What deadline would you set for each of the steps?
When are you going to start working on your ideal wardrobe?
How will you know that you are successful?
How motivated are you?
The above questions are examples and can be answered in any order. It is important to be honest with yourself and to set aside enough time to go through them. I highly recommend taking notes and writing the answers down; this helps not only to see the whole picture but also makes you feel more accountable for your actions.
I hope that you feel motivated to get started. Let me know in the comments how coaching helped you achieve your ideal wardrobe. Good luck!
*John Whitmore is apparently not the only name that appears when it comes to the authorship of the GROW model.
How much do you enjoy receiving items which you don’t like or have no use for? How much more do you enjoy receiving used items you don’t like, from a member of your family or a close friend?
Yes, I know how it feels. You get something and then you feel obliged to keep it because it was given to you by a closest friend. You think he or she might be sorry to find out that you got rid of it.
But don’t you do it yourself?
I was there before. A nice sweater that I didn’t wear any more but felt I should not throw it or donate it because it cost me quite a sum. How about giving it to my sister? And so I would. It made me feel good, and it made my sister’s closet full of garments given by me. She would’t wear them (her style is very different from mine), but she wouldn’t throw them away, either – they were gifts!
Now my sister and I have these two rules when it comes to exchanging things: one – we only accept the items that we really like and intend to keep, two – none of us should feel guilty about getting rid of the items we no longer have use for. These two simple rules help both of us have more control over our closets.
My conscious journey towards simplicity started about two years ago when two major events took place in my life: I moved house and then my child was born.
Seeing all my life belongings packed in boxes wasn’t as bad as unpacking them and considering whether I would really need all those items in my new home. My attitude towards all the things changed even more after the birth of my child. I realised that the fewer things I owned, the less time I would spend on keeping them in order and the more time I would have for my child.
I think I had always been inclined towards simplicity but I would never call myself a minimalist. In the past months I have really started to enjoy the feeling of lightness that comes with having a less cluttered home. And, what comes with it, a less cluttered mind.
What steps towards simplifying your life have you taken?