Labels or No Labels? (A Zero Waste Minimalist Reflects)

I made the decision to give up plastic long before I ever heard the term “zero waste”. Back then, in 2012, my focus was on reducing my plastic consumption. It was only after I stopped purchasing items in plastic, and began to choose cardboard and glass instead, that I really noticed for the first time how much packaging I was consuming. Glass and cardboard are heavy, and now I was carrying glass bottles home on the train, rather than plastic packets, I really began to notice it!

When I found out that glass is not recycled in WA, where I live, but crushed into road base (which is not the virtuous cycle of recycling we’re told about glass), I decided that the better option was to avoid packaging altogether. Living with less plastic became living with less waste.

As I started thinking about waste more generally, I began to realise that many of the items I owned were not being used, and were therefore going to waste. If I donated these items to people who could use them, that was a far better use of resources. I’d read about minimalism, but it didn’t seem to be something that I could do. I realised that I needed less stuff, but I didn’t want to reduce my possessions down to a handful of things that fitted into a suitcase.

When I first heard of the name zero waste, much later, I didn’t think that it included me. I took the term very literally, and I figured that because I still recycled, I could not consider myself zero waste. I couldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist either, because minimalists don’t own three saucepans and consider it necessary to have both a round baking dish and a square baking dish, and definitely wouldn’t deem a set of muffin trays a must-have item.

One reason I didn’t like the labels was because I felt that they were absolute, with no room for error. It was as if, by declaring myself to be zero waste or a minimalist, I was implying that I was something that I was not. It seemed somehow fraudulent. How can you call yourself zero waste when you still recycle? How can you call yourself a minimalist when you own more than 100 items?

But what I found was that the labels zero waste and minimalism pique people’s interest. Everyone has ideas about what these labels mean, and they want to ask questions.

Questions about waste: Does zero waste mean you don’t use toilet paper? How do you buy things without plastic? What on earth is a worm farm?

Or questions about stuff: But if you don’t own things, what do you do in the evenings? Do you sit on the floor? What about photos?

It’s a great way to get people thinking, and talking…and maybe even doing!

When you have a generic statement about trying to live lighter on the planet, create less waste, and live with a bit less stuff, it’s too vague for people to really grasp what that looks like.

That, I think, is a missed opportunity.

It’s a missed opportunity because living with less waste is something that we can all do. It doesn’t mean going without, or being deprived, or weaving your own clothes and living in a cave. (Unless you want to, of course!)

People who describe themselves as zero waste or minimalists look just like other people. We live in regular houses. We have regular jobs. We do regular things. You couldn’t pick us out in a line-up! We just choose to create less waste, and own less stuff. Owning a reusable water bottle or refusing a plastic straw is not difficult, nor time-consuming. Donating a bunch of items you never use to people who truly need them is a win-win scenario.

And so, I use labels. Not because I’m perfect. Of course I’m not! Not because I want anyone to think that I’m perfect, either. But because it helps to start the conversation. And it helps others realise that these lifestyles are not about being perfect. It isn’t all-or-nothing, and every action makes a difference.

These labels are not about absolutes. They are about ideals. They are something to work towards. They are about values. We use these labels because we share the same values.

You can call yourself zero waste and still put out the recycling bin. You can call yourself a minimalist and still own furniture, and kitchen appliances. You can aspire to one of these lifestyles, or to both, and not call yourself either.

What’s important isn’t what we choose to call ourselves, or how we decide to describe our lifestyles, but the actions that we take.

We all have different lives, and different circumstances. We all make different choices, and have different versions of “enough”. Zero waste and minimalism look different for everybody. Every version is equally important, not matter what it looks like.

Labels can be useful, but they shouldn’t be a distraction. Let’s not get bogged down with definitions and comparisons. Let’s make better choices. It isn’t about perfection: it’s about doing what we can.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What do you think about labels? Do you love them? Do you hate them? Are you indifferent towards them? Do you see them as a distraction, or see them as a useful tool to start conversations? Do you see them as a way to group together people with the same values, or as a way for people to compare themselves with others and perhaps be frozen into inaction? Do you like some labels, but avoid other labels? Do you feel that using labels makes you feel part of a community? Do you feel that using labels opens you up for criticism? Have you had any experiences, good or bad, from using labels to describe the choices you make? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Introducing Hoarder Minimalist: the Decluttering Guide with a Conscience

On my decluttering journey, I found two questions that nobody seemed to talk about. The first was “how”. There were plenty of resources on the “why”, and the benefits that a life with less could bring. More time, and more freedom. Less clutter, less stuff, less frustration and less stress. I knew that was what I wanted. I could imagine what it felt like. But…

How did I actually get from where I was, to where I wanted to be?

I knew that a “packing party” wasn’t going to work for me. (Ryan Nicodemus from the Minimalists famously held a packing party, where he boxed up the entire contents of his house, and over three weeks discovered what he needed and what he didn’t. At the end of the three weeks, he discarded everything he didn’t use.) There was no way I could do that. There was no way I wanted to do that. I wanted to take my time and think through my decisions. But I didn’t want to be thinking through my decisions for the next few years!

Other than a few decluttering games, I couldn’t really find much information on the “how”.

The second was the waste. Everything I read seemed to gloss over the bit where we have to decide what we are going to do with the stuff! It seemed to be whittled down to a few words: “donate, sell or discard.” What was the best way to donate? Where was the best place to donate it? How did I ensure I wasn’t just burdening the already full charity shops? What about selling? And most of all, surely there was a better place for everything else than “discard”?

Was it even possible to declutter without sending anything to landfill?

I’ve always been passionate about living with less waste. Yes, what that looks like has changed over the years (gone are the days when I thought that recycling everything was good enough!). Decluttering and minimalism have been extensions of this for me: both in terms of resources (owning stuff that I don’t use is a waste of resources) and in the wider sense (wasting my time, energy, money and at times, my sanity). I couldn’t declutter if I thought everything was going to end up in the bin; for me, it would defeat the purpose.

I’m know I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know I’m not the only person who dreams of a life with less waste and less stuff, and wants practical steps to achieve it without sending plastic sacks of usable items to landfill!

So how does somebody who cares about waste declutter, and what do they do with the things that they no longer need?

Those were the questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. Now I’ve got to the end of my decluttering journey, I have those answers, and I want to share them with you.

I’ve spent the last few months pouring all of the lessons learned, a-ha moments realised and the actions taken, and I’ve created a resource that I’m really proud of. Called Hoarder Minimalist, it’s a comprehensive guide to decluttering with a conscience. It’s not just a bunch of tips and tricks: it’s a practical plan with actionable steps for anyone wanting to live a life with less stuff, who values experiences over things, and who doesn’t want to trash the planet in the process.

banner_availblenow_940px-latestbook-workbook-plannerDecluttering isn’t something that can be finished in a single weekend, but it doesn’t need to take forever! There is an end and you can get there. I know that by sharing my experiences, you will make progress quicker and see results faster. Whether you’ve been decluttering for a while, you’ve just started out, or you’re still in the thinking-about-it stages, the life you dream about is just around the corner… and whist the journey is rewarding, the end is definitely better! After all, it’s about more than stuff. It’s about freedom.

Introducing…Hoarder Minimalist: Decluttering the Zero Waste Way

Hoarder Minimalist offers a Main Book, a Workbook and a Journey Planner. The Main Book (147 pages) is the roadmap for your decluttering journey: an actionable step-by-step guide to living with less. There’s a whole section devoted to letting go of your items responsibly. The Workbook allows you to explore some of the ideas presented in the Main Book in more detail, and to really personalise them to your own individual set of circumstances. The Journey Planner is for you to track your journey, record your milestones and watch your progress unfold.

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Option One: The Hoarder Minimalist Bundle contains the Main Book, the Workbook and the Planner, and is priced at AU $26.95 (bundled savings $7.95).

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Hoarder Minimalist Main Book

Option Two: Alternatively, if Workbooks and Planners aren’t your thing, and you don’t want to pay for stuff you don’t need (I get that! You’re decluttering, after all!) the main Hoarder Minimalist book is available to purchase separately for $19.95.

(If you change your mind later on, the Workbook is also available to purchase separately for $14.95).

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And of course, I cannot wait to hear your decluttering stories! Any revelations, a-ha moments and epiphanies – share them all! I’d love to see any before-and-after pictures too. If you’ve any questions, suggestions or comments, I will be happy to help. I always love to to hear from you. In short, my inbox is always open, as are the comments below!

Good luck with the journey, and I will see you on the other side : )

A Zero Waste Minimalist House Tour (Yes, Hoarders Can Change)

Last week I talked about how I’d successfully decluttered my wardrobe (after many attempts and years of trying). In my journey towards living with less waste, I’ve learned that owning stuff we don’t use, don’t like and don’t need is as much a waste as throwing it away. After all, it’s taking up space, time and energy, and for what?! It isn’t being used!

Decluttering doesn’t have to mean throwing stuff away, though. There is no need to send anything to landfill – so long as you have the patience and the commitment to seek out new homes for the things you no longer require. Even the act of giving things away has really cemented in me the understanding that if I don’t want to create waste, I have to think very carefully about what I let through my front door. If I don’t need it, it isn’t coming in…because it will only be something to deal with (and stress over) later.

After years of battling with trying to let go; knowing that my stuff was taking up my time, energy and space, but feeling powerless to act, I’ve found my own way. A way that didn’t involve car boot-fulls of stuff to the tip, or black bin liners dumped in the nearest charity bin with more that a little doubt that any of those items would get re-sold. I made peace with my stuff, and my past choices. Rather than wasting my energy feeling guilty and remorseful about those choices, I used this energy to find new homes for the things I no longer used. Decluttering with a conscience.

My driving force has always been to find my “enough”. I’m not interested in pursuing as little as possible, or being able to count my possessions, or fit them into one suitcase. My “enough” doesn’t look like that. My “enough” is everything that I need, and nothing more. My “enough” means several different sized baking tins; it means a collection of glass jars for food storage and preserving; it means more than one pair of shoes. What my “enough” is not: it is not stuff languishing in the back of the cupboard. It is not stuff that makes me feel guilty, or remorseful. It is not stuff that I’m keeping “just-in-case” when I know deep down that “just-in-case” will never happen.

On that note, I’d love to show you round my home! This is what “enough” looks like for me. Your “enough” probably looks completely different. It’s not about right or wrong, or better or worse. It’s about being true to ourselves. I’m sure there are things I own that you can’t imagine why I’d need them, and similarly, I’m sure I don’t have things that you couldn’t possibly live without! (The great thing about this is, when other people have things that we don’t own, there is always the opportunity to share – to lend and borrow!)

The Kitchen:

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Inside some of the drawers:

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Under the sink:

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The Lounge Area:

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Our Dining Table:

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My Desk / The Spare Room:

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The Bathroom:

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The bathroom cupboard:

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Books:

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The Bedroom:

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Under the bed:

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I used to try to imagine what it would feel like to live in an uncluttered home, and let me tell you, it feels so good to finally be there!  Knowing that there will be no more weekends of sorting and decluttering, and that my weekends are mine to spend how I really want to. Which isn’t rearranging my stuff…again.  I’d wonder if I’d regret letting go of things, but in truth, I haven’t missed anything. It’s amazing how little I truly need. I just needed to let go of the excess to find this out. All that extra stuff was just wasted time, money and energy… and a huge distraction. I just wish I’d realised sooner, and made a few less mistakes along the way.

Decluttering hasn’t been an easy journey for me, but it has been rewarding and so worthwhile. Now I’ve had the chance to reflect, I’ve taken all those lessons and insights, and I’m putting them together into a brand new resource. If you’re looking to declutter your life (and especially if you hate waste!) I think you’re going to love it! All is revealed here.

What’s next for me? Well, I’m keen to keep experimenting with the idea of less. To keep questioning if I really need things, and to let them go if I don’t. I’m confident that by choosing more versatile garments in future, I will minimalise my wardrobe further. I’m sure I can make space in other areas, too. Time will tell : )

Now I’d love to hear from you!? What did you think of my version of “enough”? How does it compare to your idea of “enough”? Has your version of “enough” changed over time? If you are decluttering, what are your current goals? What are your biggest problem areas, and where have your biggest successes been? If you’re already living a minimalist lifestyle, what were the biggest lessons you learned along the way? What were the hardest items for you to give away/let go of, and how do you feel about them now? If you had your time again, what would you do differently? Anything else you’d like to add? I love hearing your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

5 Excuses that Stopped me Decluttering (here’s what happened when I stopped listening to them)

My ideal wardrobe looks something like this…

…A small selection of clothes that I like, that fit me, and that I wear regularly. I can remember the last time I wore everything, and think of an occasion where I will wear each item again in the near future.

…Everything fits in the space, it does not feel crammed in or squished, and I can see at a glance everything that I own. Choosing an outfit is easy. I do not spend hours trying to piece together an outfit, or trying on and taking off multiple items before choosing the same old thing I wear every day. I have a clear idea of what goes with what, and most items I own can be paired with a number of other items.

…The clothes I own are comfortable, and I enjoy wearing them. That does not mean I will ever win prizes for fashion awareness, style, or colour coordination. It does not mean my clothes are perfect. But I am happy with the things that I own.

For three years I worked on decluttering my wardrobe. It was a slow and thankless process, and progress was slow. Very slow.

July 2014… [Everything on the rail to the left of grey trousers hanging near the suitcase, plus the two shelves immediately under the towels are mine.]

wardrobe decluttering and minimalism in progress

Jan 2015… [Everything on the rail to the left of the ties hanging on the right, plus the two shelves immediately under the towels are mine.]

Decluttered Wardrobe October 2015

October 2015…  [Everything to the right of the dress hanging in the centre and the two shelves on the left underneath the towels are mine.]

It was only when I really thought about why I was decluttering my wardrobe, and my home in general, that I began to formulate a plan, and over the next six months my wardrobe went from that…

…to this:

Wardrobe Decluttering August 2016 Treading My Own Path SML

My half is everything to the left of the long dress.

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Everything that isn’t hanging on the rail fits in a single drawer.

There are 26 items hanging on the rail, plus 2 jackets. I’m wearing another pairs of jeans, a t-shirt, a jumper and a scarf. The drawer contains exercise wear (2 pairs of cycling shorts, a cycling top and cropped leggings) plus 2 pairs of shorts, another top, 2 scarves, underwear (2 bras plus the one I’m wearing, 7 pairs of socks and 8 pairs of underwear) and a pair of leggings. There is a top in the laundry basket. In total, that’s 60 items, and excluding underwear, 42 items.

Do I have a perfect wardrobe? No. It’s not as mix-and-matchable as it could be, and I’m clearly no style queen. Do I feel that it is enough? Definitely. I wear everything on the rail. And I know that as things need replacing, I will choose better.

For 3+ years I chipped away at my wardrobe. What finally pushed me to declutter to a place I was happy with?

Firstly, I drilled down to what I wanted from my life. More time, and more freedom – who doesn’t want that? But what did it mean to me? What did it look like? And how was my stuff getting in the way of that? (I wrote about this in my last blog post, so here’s the link if you missed it.) This is what I did next.

Long-time readers will know that my wardrobe has been my biggest struggle, but these tips can be applied anywhere. A laundry closet piled high with towels and bedding. A toy cupboard so full the door won’t quite close. A garage or shed stacked high with boxes, some of which you’re not entirely sure what they contain.

I took everything out of my wardrobe and into the lounge, as I had done several times before, and one by one I went through each item. I asked myself – did I wear it (and more specifically – could I remember when I last wore it, and think when I might wear it again in the near future), did I need it, and did I like it? There were only three possible answers: yes, not sure, and no.

Everything that was a resounding “yes” went straight back into my wardrobe. The “no” pile was put aside for sorting – those items for selling or donating, and any rags. What was left was the “not sure” pile.

Now I went through each piece and asked myself: what story or excuse am I telling myself about this item? What is my reason for holding onto this? Why was I “not sure”?

I found there were a few common excuses I was telling myself.

Excuse #1 :I’ll lose weight and slim back into the clothes that used to fit.

Of course this could be true. But I’d been telling myself that I was going to slim into my clothes for three years. I’d set myself a 3-month deadline, and when I failed to meet it, extend it by another three months. The truth is, I wasn’t increasing my exercise or giving up chocolate, and when it came to it, I didn’t really want to. My weight was unlikely to change. If it did, would I even want to wear those clothes that had been languishing in my wardrobe for 3+ years?

Why allow myself to be reminded of what I hadn’t achieved every single time I opened my wardrobe doors?

Excuse #2: I’ll wear it someday/it might come in useful.

The real question is: why didn’t I wear it now? I found that my reasons included: because I already owned something similar that I preferred, it wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t appropriate for the weather, or it simply wasn’t practical. In the past I’ve been guilty of keeping items of clothing for the time when other, preferred garments wear out, and I’ve learned that well-made clothes take a surprisingly long time to wear out. When they do, will I even want to wear that garment that sat in the closet untouched and unloved for 3+ years?

Uncomfortable clothes rarely (or ever) become comfortable. The weather is unlikely to change much (I’ve no plans to move), and the clothes I own need to be practical for where I live and what I do now.

When I drilled down to it, this idea of “just in case” was generally linked to these next excuses.

Excuse #3: I’ll never get back what I paid for it, so getting rid of it would be a waste of money.

I have purchased items that I then haven’t worn, or have only worn a handful of times. It was never my intention not to wear them, but because they weren’t comfortable or practical, I chose not to. Some of these items were expensive to buy, and others had taken a while to track down, so they had cost me time and money. I didn’t want to feel that I’d wasted my money, and I kept them.

The truth is, I had wasted my money. I wasted it the moment I made the purchase. Whether the item sat in my wardrobe or was given away, that didn’t change. I’d made a poor choice – it happens, and we’ve all done it! But rather than forgiving myself for making a poor choice, I’d keep the item hanging there, unworn. It didn’t persuade me to wear it. It simply reminded me every time I opened my wardrobe doors that I’d wasted my money, and left me feeling guilty.

Excuse #4: If I could find the right shoes/haircut/accessories, it would suit me.

I kept items that didn’t really suit me because I loved the look of them. I loved the fabric, or the design, or the colour – but sadly it didn’t love me back. I was holding onto this idea of my “fantasy self” – the me who looked good in these clothes.

However, the reality was, they didn’t suit me and I didn’t wear them. They weren’t flattering, and didn’t suit my skin tone, body shape, or my age. I realised that loving the style (or the design, or the brand) doesn’t always translate into wearability. Just because it looked great on the model in the catalogue, or in the shop on the rail, that didn’t necessarily translate into looking great on me.

Excuse #5: I hate waste, and getting rid of stuff is a waste.

This was the excuse I struggled with most. I’d justify keeping things that I didn’t wear because “I didn’t want them to go to waste”. Yet there is no rule that says decluttered items need to go in the bin. With a bit of effort, it is possible to find new homes and uses for old clothes.

I turned my idea of waste around. If I had items that I didn’t use and didn’t wear, surely keeping them was a waste? The idea that by sitting in my home unused they were not going to waste was crazy! If I could donate them, that was a far better use of resources.

What about the really tatty stuff? At some stage clothes need to be gotten rid of. I’m happy to darn holes and wear old clothes, but there comes a point when I start to feel miserable and frumpy. For me, that’s when they have to go. I have to let them go. Keeping them and hating them is not healthy, nor is it helpful (and they don’t get worn). It’s fine to have a set of old ugly clothes for the garden (if you actually garden) but there’s no need to have a wardrobe full of them. (That doesn’t mean they need to be binned. They can be cut up into rags for cleaning, composted or recycled.)

As I went through each item one by one, I reminded myself why I was doing this. What the end goal was. Why each choice mattered. Did I want to keep unnecessary items in my home? No. What would the costs (in time, energy and money) be? I’d attempted to declutter my wardrobe over and over. It really wasn’t that much fun. Did I want to go through the same process in another six months, and then another? What would the time spent decluttering be taking away from?

This time, there were no excuses. There were no ‘if’s or ‘but’s or ‘maybe’s. There was plenty of guilt. I’m not someone who lets go of things lightly. But this time, guilt wasn’t a reason to keep things. It was a reason to let them go.

What’s next for my wardrobe? I’m looking forward to building a capsule wardrobe, with more flexibility and things-that-go-with-other-things. I’m planning to try experimenting with less. But for now, I’m enjoying the simplicity of my wardrobe exactly as it is: no more can’t-find-anything-to-wear sulking, no more guilt, definitely no excuses, and no more weekends spent decluttering…again.

[Want to see the rest of my house? Next week I’ll be sharing how we’ve decluttered and what our minimalist living space looks like, so if you’re keen to have a virtual nose around, stay tuned!]

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you struggle with wardrobe decluttering or do you find it easy? How do you feel about your wardrobe right now? Are you happy, or do you feel like you have a bit of work to do? Tell me about any wardrobe decluttering experiences… the good, the not-so-good and the downright terrible! What have been your biggest struggles? Are there any excuses that you tell yourself? What have been your best wins or greatest realizations? Do you have any tips to share? Is there anything you need help with or ideas? If you were going to add to this list, what would your advice be? Anything else you’d like to add? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

From Decluttering to Done: can this one step make all the difference?

About a year ago, I was in a local town hall, with friends, watching a live band perform on a Saturday night. I was enjoying the music, and the company, but in the back of my mind I was distracted, thinking about other stuff. Or more specifically, I was thinking about stuff. My stuff.

I’d spent the day trying to declutter. I was planning to continue the following day. I was wondering whether I should get rid of something (I don’t remember what – maybe an item of clothing), or if I needed it, and what the best way to dispose of it would be… and then I caught myself. I noticed what I was doing, and realised how absurd it was.

I was letting my stuff spoil the moment. I was letting my stuff take up valuable space in my mind, as well as in my home. I was letting the process of decluttering take over my free time and my thoughts.

I’d been slowly decluttering over the past three years. I’d got rid of a heap of things I didn’t need and didn’t use, but the process had been slow. Here and now, at the gig, I realised that the longer I took, the more I was taking time and energy away from doing what I really wanted to be doing. (Which was not rearranging my wardrobe – again.)

The longer I took, the more I’d miss out on living my best life. “My best life” didn’t mean anything profound – it was as simple as this one evening.

Being able to spend time with my friends, or relax on a Saturday night. I could carry on decluttering the way I’d been going, and I’d still get there, but it would be long and drawn-out. How many moments like this would I miss in the process? I didn’t want to waste any more time. And so I didn’t. I made a plan.

I was clear what I wanted: a life with less stuff. I knew why in general terms: more time, more freedom, more connections and experiences. Yet I’d never really thought about what this actually looked like or felt like for me. The concert seemed to connect those dots. It really drilled down to my “why”.

What did more time look like? What did it feel like? What did I personally mean by freedom? What kind of experiences was I searching for? Was it about the big, soul-searching experiences, or was it being able to enjoy the simple things on a Sunday afternoon, undistracted by chores and clutter?

Why did I want a life with less stuff? There were many reasons.

I wanted more time.

I didn’t want to spend hours cleaning my home, or sorting, or dusting and vacuuming and putting stuff away.

I didn’t want to spend time rearranging ornaments or shopping for accessories.

I didn’t want to waste time looking for stuff amidst the clutter, or rummaging through overflowing drawers or cupboards.

I didn’t want to open my wardrobe to find a stuffed closet yet nothing to wear, trying on endless outfits before just wearing the same thing I always wore.

I didn’t want to be preoccupied thinking about my stuff.

What did I want to do instead? I wanted to spend my free time exploring, learning, and spending time with the people I care about. Visiting National Parks, reading, and leisurely breakfasts with family.

I wanted to spend my free time experiencing new things, being outdoors, and getting involved with my local community. I wanted to spend time with my friends, in a local town hall on a Saturday night, watching a band – not distracted by old jumpers and other stuff.

I wanted the stuff I owned to be useful and make my life easier – not distract me and take time away from the truly important things.

I wanted more freedom.

For me, freedom simply means having options. It’s not about being able to pack everything I own into a suitcase and heading off into the sunset. For me it’s about being able to make choices about how I spend my time. Not having to work extra long hours to pay for stuff I don’t need, or feeling burdened by a house full of possessions that need maintaining.

For me, freedom comes from having less stuff. Not owning more than I think is necessary (what I call my “enough”). The less I own, the more freedom I create for myself because the more choices I have. My husband and I can live comfortably in a small space with little storage. In Perth, this means we can live in a central location in a neighbourhood we like, close to amenities and transport. If we needed to move, or to pack up, we have the choice to do so – and owning less makes it easier.

My family live on the other side of the world, and part of this freedom means having enough savings in our bank account that if I needed to make a trip home, I could. It is far more important to me to have the money saved for that than to own a brand new dining suite, or the latest mobile phone.

Owning less also means less debt. The only debt we have is our mortgage. We saved up a sizable deposit to reduce the amount of debt we took on, and we made sure we could comfortably afford the repayments. Taking on a mortgage was a big decision, and we would love to be debt-free, but we don’t feel like our mortgage is stopping us doing the things we want to do – and for us, that is important. Previously we rented, and we loved the freedom that gave us. We don’t really see one as being better than the other: both offer different freedoms to us.

I wanted more connections and experiences.

I want to spend time with friends and family, I want to learn and to travel and to experience new things, and I want to have time to get involved in and contribute to my local community. I used to feel embarrassed about inviting friends over because I always felt that my home was a mess. As I began decluttering, a lot of the mess seemed to go away – and what was left was easier to deal with. I can’t believe I let my stuff get in the way of those relationships!

I also found that by breaking the cycle of working and shopping, I could use the money saved to go out for dinner with family, or take a short break down south to get amongst the trees and reconnect with nature. I created space in my evenings and weekends to take part in community events and contribute in a way that added value to my life and allows me to give something back to my local community.

I wanted less guilt, and less waste.

Every time I was faced with something in my home that I didn’t need, didn’t use or didn’t like, I would feel a wave of guilt. I’d feel guilty that I’d bought something that I hadn’t used, feel guilty that I’d got sucked in by some clever marketing campaign, maybe feel guilty that I wasn’t quite how I wanted to be. (If you have anything hanging in your wardrobe that doesn’t fit, you will know this feeling!) I don’t enjoy feeling guilty, so why didn’t I do something about it?

Somehow I’d justify keeping all these things because I hated the waste. Except, I’d failed to see that by keeping things that I didn’t want, didn’t use and didn’t like, I was creating waste. I was wasting good resources by not using them. If I wasn’t going to use them (and I mean by this, if I wasn’t going to use them properly, or regularly – if I wasn’t going to love them and get the best use out of them) then they were already being wasted.

Rather than feeling guilty about getting rid of perfectly good stuff, I began to realise that it was far worse and less ethical to keep perfectly good things for myself when I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to use them. It would be far better to pass them on for someone else to love them and get maximum use from them. Not only that, but all this worrying and contemplating was wasting my time…time I could spend doing other, better things.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time to declutter and make space in our lives. These things do take time. Decluttering is not something that is finished in a single weekend. But time is valuable, and the longer we take, the more we miss out on doing the important things.

I have no doubt that in the three years that it took me to get to this point, I missed out on great opportunities and experiences. After the concert, I was determined not to allow another three years to slip by. I wasn’t putting my dreams on hold for three more years. I didn’t want to ever be at another concert worrying about how many things were in my wardrobe.

More time and more freedom – we all want that. (“I really wish there were less hours in the day”, said no-one, ever.) What was a game-changer for me, what really made me see results, was actually drilling down into the specifics of what more time and more freedom actually looked like in my life, and what benefits they would bring to me, personally. What was it that I really wanted? How would I use this extra time? What did “freedom” actually mean to me? Then the biggest question – how was the stuff I owned preventing me from achieving this? How could decluttering, and letting stuff go, help me get closer to these goals?

Once I was really, truly clear on my goals, everything began to change. Joining the dots shifted my perspective: I was no longer somebody who simply liked the idea of a life with less stuff, and who slowly chipped away at decluttering the excess. The task at hand now had meaning and purpose, and a sense of urgency that hadn’t existed before. Even my decluttering nemesis, the wardrobe, finally came within my grasp. (In next week’s blog I’m going to share some “before” and “after” pictures so stay tuned.)

It’s not enough to simply want to make changes in our lives. We have to know why. We have to be clear on the benefits, and what they mean to us. Change can be hard, and there will be setbacks and wrong turns along the way. Being really clear as to why we’re doing it, and what we truly want, is what enables us to get up after these missteps, dust ourselves off, and try again.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried to make changes in your life? Have you considered your “why”? Have you thought about what success will look like, and feel like, for you? What are your main reasons for wanting to change? Have you struggled with change in the past, and did you manage to overcome those struggles? o you have any insights or tips to share? Have you embraced the idea of decluttering – and has that embrace transformed into action? Are you stuck at the planning stage? Have you had success – and what were your secrets? Do you have anything else you’d like to share! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

6 (Embarrassing) Confessions of a Zero Waste Minimalist

Ah, those embarrassing decisions of the past. We’ve all made them. (Yes, all of us!) When we change our lifestyles, there are all those choices we made pre- lifestyle change that – when we think back to them – just make us want to cringe. Did we really think / do / say that?!

My personal lifestyle-changing epiphany came in 2012, and for the last four years I’ve lived a plastic-free, zero waste and minimalist lifestyle. I’ve embraced the idea of having “enough”, and slowly reduced my annual landfill waste to fit in a jar, and decluttered all the unnecessary things that were going to waste in my home. But for every “after” there is a “before”.

Let me tell you, my pre-2012 self made some pretty cringe-worthy choices. Here are 6 of my worst.

I “collected” single-serve sachets.

As a kid, I liked to collect stuff. In addition to my collection of National Trust bookmarks and interesting pebbles and rocks, I used to collect single-serve sachets of sauce and sugar. I have no idea why. I had no use for sachets of hollandaise or tartare or French dressing, yet I was fascinated by these tiny plastic portions of sauce.

I’d clear out whole condiment trays at cafes, and store them at home in a box. Sometimes I’d take them out and admire them. I loved how small they were, and all the different colours. But I never used them. Now, the waste of single-serve items means I’d never, ever take one – and I certainly wouldn’t admire them!

I used to ask for an extra straw.

As a teenager and in my early twenties, if I ordered a drink in a bar, I used to ask for an extra straw. One straw wasn’t enough for me, I had to have two! I wish I could shed some sort of light onto why I thought this was necessary, but to be honest, it completely baffles me. Now I live with straw shame.

I purchased (and used) a coffee pod machine.

This must be my most embarrassing, shameful confession. Yes, in my mid-twenties I purchased a coffee pod machine as a birthday gift for a partner… and of course, I used it. It wasn’t a Nespresso machine with those metal pods, it was a cheaper version with the plastic, non-recyclable pods. Not that the recyclability of the pods matters, because the waste that goes into the production of new pods cannot be offset by recycling the old ones, whatever the material.

Single-use convenience at the expense of the planet. There are so many other ways to make and enjoy a decent coffee. I thought that pod coffee tasted good. Now it leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

I bought “novelty” gifts.

Novelty gifts. Those “humorous” items that get a laugh, and maybe a few minutes of pleasure, before spending the rest of eternity in landfill. The presents you give to people “who have everything” – yes, I fell for the marketing.

If someone truly has everything, they definitely don’t need novelty gifts. No-one needs pointless tat. Was it really worth spending my money on stuff like this, and creating the extra waste for a couple of laughs? No. Now, if I need to buy a gift for somebody who has everything, I buy tickets, or a restaurant voucher, or an experience. Or toilet paper. Because even people who have everything need toilet paper.

I bought things I didn’t need because they were “bargains”.

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Bargains are one thing, butI used to confuse bargains with “stuff that’s been reduced in the sale”. Actually, these are quite different. A bargain is something that you need, that is available to buy for far less than it is actually worth. Something in the sale is an item that is being sold at a cheaper price than it once was. That doesn’t mean it’s a bargain (it could be on ‘sale’ from a heavily inflated price). If we don’t need it, it definitely isn’t a bargain!

I used to shop in the sales. I’d buy things that were heavily reduced (the big red tag told me so) simply because they were reduced. I didn’t think about whether I needed it, would wear or use it, and how much I would have paid if I had seen it without the red tag. Saving money was a reason to buy it – except I wasn’t saving money at all. I was spending money. Buying stuff I didn’t need was a waste of money, time and resources… and it just added to the clutter and stress of my home. Now I’m clear: a bargain is only a bargain if I need it.

I owned stuff I never used.

Pre-2012, I never really thought about how wasteful and unnecessary this was. It wasn’t that I intended not to use things, but I’d somehow entangled my sense of identity in with the stuff I purchased. I’d pin my dreams of being slimmer on buying tighter-fitting clothes. I’d attach my hopes of mastering a new hobby by buying all the equipment. I’d envision the life that I imagined for myself, and choose things that fitted in that life, rather than the one I actually lived.

I’d buy products before the act, so to speak, and these things remained unused, singing my failures softly to me whenever I saw them in the back of the cupboard. Both minimalism and zero waste have taught me that if it’s not being used, it’s going to waste. Keeping things we don’t use isn’t an inspiration to change, it’s a reminder that we didn’t. If it’s not useful now, it’s better off being given to someone who will use it. Now I only own things that I use.

Why am I sharing this with you? Not because I enjoy embarrassing myself! I want to show you that people can change. We’ve all made poor choices in the past. I certainly have! Those poor choices don’t define me though, just as they don’t define you. We all have the opportunity to do things differently next time.

We can take those poor choices and learn from them, and make better choices in the future. We can look back and laugh (or cry!) at the memories, but we don’t need to hold onto them. Those choices represent who we were, not who we are, nor who we are capable of becoming.

It doesn’t matter if those choices were years ago, or last week, or even this morning. Mistakes made in the past, however recent, are no reason to avoid trying again in the future. Whether that’s reducing plastic consumption, refusing single use items, stepping off the consumer treadmill or something completely different, we can all make different choices. Forgive yourself for those cringe-worthy choices of the past. Know that next time, you can choose better.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Were there any of these that you could relate to? Any that you (fortunately) never made the mistake of choosing? If you’ve made lifestyle changes, did you have an “epiphany” or was it more a gradual process that led you to make changes and see things differently? Was it one thing that inspired you to live life differently or a number of different things? Do you have any confessions of your own? What embarrassing secrets do you have from your past that makes your present self cringe in despair? If you’re in the process of making changes, are there any current habits you have that you’re beginning to question and wonder why you make those choices? Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Can Decluttering be the Opposite of Waste?

For the longest time, I thought that decluttering and zero waste were opposites. Didn’t decluttering mean chucking decent stuff away, and zero waste mean throwing nothing away and hoarding it all?

I couldn’t imagine that the two could work together, yet decluttering has been an important part of my zero waste journey. I’ve come to learn that decluttering and zero waste living are not opposites at all. Decluttering can be just as much about wasting less. If you want to live zero waste, don’t write off decluttering.

Here are five reasons why decluttering is a valuable part of living with less waste.

Decluttering doesn’t mean sending to landfill (or dumping at the charity shop).

When it comes to getting rid of unwanted items, the two most commonly cited options are discard or donate. Discarding really should be a last resort, saved only for those things that are damaged beyond repair, non-recyclable, and possibly dangerous. But what about donating?

Charity shops want goods that are clean, in working order and desirable.They need to be able to sell them! (Charity shops are not places to take soiled, damaged or dubious goods simply because we can’t bear the guilt of throwing them away ourselves.)

But charity shops aren’t the solution for everything, and they don’t have limitless storage. Taking our winter wardrobes in the height of summer will likely mean good quality items end up unsold simply because there isn’t the demand, and offloading things in the week after Christmas when the rest of the country is doing the same thing probably won’t be much help, either. Not all charity shops can accept electrical items.

If you really care about waste, you don’t need to ‘hope’ that the charity shop will on-sell your stuff. You can take matters into your own hands. Finding new owners for the things you want to declutter is the best way to ensure they stay out of landfill.

Before donating, call the charity shop and ask if there are things that they need (and also things that they don’t). There will always be things in high demand and things that aren’t.

Don’t limit your donating to the charity shops. Women’s refuges, charities and animal sanctuaries are other places that accept donations. Schools, clubs, community groups, crafting societies and charities all have needs and might be able to help take unwanted items. Online classified sites like Gumtree are a great way to find new owners for unwanted goods, and a way to offer broken goods for parts and spares.

Decluttering is a way to maximize the use of something.

This sounds counter-intuitive – how is giving something away going to maximize its use? This depends on whether we actually use the things in question. Owning stuff we don’t need, don’t use and don’t like is a complete waste.

There are two main reasons we keep things we don’t need: just in case (fear of the future), or guilt (regret for the past).

We might need it in the future. That is true. But if we haven’t needed it so far, what are the chances? Could we get a replacement quickly, affordably and second-hand? This will depend on individual circumstances, but in most cases, there is no need to keep something just in case.

There will be someone out there looking for that item, who will use it today.

We might feel guilty. There are many reasons that we feel guilt: we made a poor choice, spent too much money, didn’t lose the weight we’ hoped, dislike the handmade gift that we know took so much effort and time.  Keeping something out of guilt does not increase the chances that we will use it.

Keeping an unwanted item and thinking that we somehow alleviate the guilt won’t work. The best way to ease the guilt is to let the item go.

We sometimes try to justify keeping things that that we don’t use rather than giving them away by telling ourselves that we are reducing waste. Actually, the opposite is true. Owning something that you never use is the biggest waste of all. It is far better to give these things to people who truly need them and will use them every day.

Decluttering as an end, not a means.

Decluttering is about removing the unnecessary, the unused and the unwanted from our homes. It’s about removing the excess, and keeping only the things we find useful and beautiful. If our homes are filled with items we use regularly and appreciate, there is little or no waste.

Yet decluttering will only reduce waste if it’s treated as a one-way process, rather than a means. If the purpose of decluttering is simply to make room in the house for a big shopping spree where the old stuff is replaced with a bunch of new stuff, clearly that is going to generate a whole heap of waste.

Until the cycle of consumption is broken, and needless things are no longer brought into the home, decluttering can never mean less waste.

Decluttering helps conserve resources.

Have you ever tried to buy something second-hand, and not been able to find it? Sometimes we need things, and we want to purchase them second-hand, yet that isn’t an option. If we really need that item, we’ll probably have to go and buy it new.

Yet somewhere, there would have been an unwanted, second-hand option that would have been perfect.

Rather than keeping things to ourselves, we should embrace the opportunity to share what we have. There are so many resources tied up in cupboards, wardrobes, playrooms, shed, garages and attics around the world in the form of unused stuff.

Decluttering frees up these resources so others can use them. Donating items we don’t need gives somebody else the opportunity to use them, and helps prevent new purchases.

Decluttering helps form new habits.

I have always found decluttering hard. I found it hard because I was forced to confront my poor decisions (impulse purchases, wasted money, non-repairable items), and my failure to achieve what I’d hoped (hobbies that never got off the ground, clothes I never slimmed into).

I know I’m not alone in this.

We’ve all made choices that we regret, and we’ve all purchased things that in hindsight, we wouldn’t purchase again. Because I struggled so much with decluttering, I now think much more carefully about what I bring into my home. It forced me to examine my old habits, and think about the decisions I had made in the past.

As a result, I now make better choices. Can the item be mended? Can it be recycled? Is it built to last? Do I have a real, genuine need to own it? Is there a second-hand market for it?

I can appreciate well-made clothes, or admire chic decor or clever design, but that doesn’t mean that I need to make a purchase.

There will always be beautiful things. If I don’t need it, or can’t see how I will dispose of it responsibly, then I don’t buy it.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you living or working towards a zero waste lifestyle, and how do you feel about decluttering? Is it something you’ve struggled with or something you’ve embraced? Have your views changed over time? What have you struggled to declutter? What are the reasons that held you back? What are your success stories? Are you a master declutterer? What are your tips for ensuring your items find good homes? What unconventional places have you found that will accept your unwanted items? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

What This Single Wardrobe Item Taught Me About Minimalism

I recently took a trip to the charity shop to find myself a black, long-sleeved top. My previous one had life-expired at the end of last winter, and I needed one to wear underneath a big thick woolly jumper dress (we are in the depths of winter here in Perth, and Australia gets colder than you might expect).

The shopping trip was uneventful – after visiting a few stores, I found a suitable black top (made from 100% cotton – I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic fibres in my wardrobe) and took it home.

What I bought wasn’t interesting. What was interesting was the realisation that came afterwards.

What one black top made me realise about minimalist living...

What one black top made me realise about minimalist living…

I was trying to remember what the last item of clothing was that I bought. I thought back over the last couple of months, but I couldn’t think of anything.

I thought back a little further, but still nothing.

I remembered that at the start of the year I went on holiday. I definitely didn’t buy anything whilst I was away, and I didn’t buy anything new for the trip. I thought back to last year. I remembered I purchased a new bra (actually, two). That would have been last September. I didn’t buy any new clothes for 9 months.

What was most interesting to me was not that I hadn’t purchased any clothes for 9 months, but that I hadn’t even noticed. I hadn’t wanted or needed to buy anything, and so I hadn’t.

What I owned already was enough. There had been no struggle, no doubt, no frustration and no resentment that I hadn’t purchased anything. That’s what it is meant to feel like, I realised. Minimalism, decluttering and finding our “enough” has nothing to do with going without, or holding back.

It is about finding our “enough”.

Being content with what we have. No chasing more or pursuing better.

How things change! Of course, it didn’t used to feel like that. It didn’t feel like that at all! There was a time when I bought new clothes to cheer myself up, to feel better, to “prepare” for a holiday or new job, for a special occasion or event,… oh, and if I just happened to be walking past a shop window and saw something I liked.

I was never a prolific spender, but I had way too many clothes. The idea of not buying anything new even for a couple of months would have sparked fear, resentment, and probably a rebellious why-shouldn’t-I-buy-it shopping trip. (In fact, I remember an specific occasion where that did happen!)

So what changed?

I realized that I owned too many clothes.

That was probably my first realisation. That my wardrobe was full, yet I didn’t wear many of the things that I owned.

I realized that if I couldn’t bear the idea of throwing any away, I had to stop buying more.

In the beginning, I found wardrobe decluttering really hard. I couldn’t bear to part with anything! I didn’t want to get rid of the tatty old worn out stuff (I care too much about waste) but I didn’t want to get rid of the shiny new stuff either. (I would enjoy wearing it once the old stuff wore out, surely?)

My logic was, that if I couldn’t bear to get rid of anything, then I had to stop buying more.

The logic made sense at the time, but it didn’t seem fair. I resented it. Have you ever felt like that? My tattiest clothes made me feel grumpy when I wore them. Every now and then I’d buy something new – because I wanted to cheer myself up, because I was sick of the same old tatty things, or because I needed something to wear.

Despite having a full wardrobe, I just didn’t seem to have anything to wear.

I realized that my relationship with clothes was all wrong.

I started really asking myself why I had a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear.

I asked myself why I purchased things, and then never wore them.

I asked myself why I used clothes shopping as a way to cheer myself up.

I found some answers.

I realized that I had a tendency to buy clothes that were a little on the tight side (rather than the next size up) because I really wanted to be slightly slimmer than I was. This slimmed-down version of myself never happened, so I was left with a lot of items that were a little too clingy, tight and uncomfortable.

I realised that many items I owned and liked simply didn’t match with other things that I owned. They weren’t complete outfits.

I realised that when I did buy new clothes, it was a reaction to feeling miserable wearing tatty things. I care about waste, but if wearing tatty clothes makes me want to go shopping, that doesn’t work, does it? I realised that I was a little too swayed by adverts and shop windows.

I realised that other things brought more meaning to my life than clothes shopping, made me happier and were far more fulfilling.

I realized that I needed a wardrobe full of things that I actually liked to wear, and that fitted.

This seems so obvious, but the theory did not match the reality when it came to my wardrobe. There were plenty of “used to fit, and maybe will fit again” items, even though I knew it had been years since I last wore them.

There were plenty of items I liked the look of, but didn’t find them comfortable, or practical. There were plenty of items that didn’t match anything else.

What I needed were clothes that did fit, were versatile and practical, that I liked and wore often. Anything else was wasted space (and resources).

I realized, each time I decluttered, that I could manage with far less than I thought.

Most of us have full wardrobes, and wear the same five or so outfits every day. Back in 2014, I thought reducing my wardrobe down to 100 items would be a milestone achievement. At the time I owned 169 items, and that was after 2 years of decluttering!

Yet when I got to 100 items, I realised that it was still far more than I needed. I wasn’t wearing everything I owned. As I reduced further, I still knew there were items I didn’t wear often enough. I went from feeling like I “needed” things to being very clear that I didn’t. I had enough.

Minimalism is not about going without. Minimalism is about finding our “enough”. In those 9 months, I never felt like I was going without. Not buying anything new was easy.

It hasn’t always been easy, but slowly, something has changed. I stopped pursuing more. I stopped seeking solace through shopping. I let go of the idea of “needing” more and embraced the idea of “enough”.

Owning less has been eye-opening, satisfying, and ultimately, very rewarding. But wanting less is even better.

Now it’s your turn – I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you working towards pursuing a life with less? What lessons have you learned along the way? What a-ha moments came to you? Have you struggled with letting go, and what are your reasons? What obstacles have you faced? Have you ever felt guilt, or resentment, or frustration in the pursuit of less? (Surely it’s not just me?!) How have you been able to turn that round? Or is it something that you still struggle with? Are you new to the journey, and if so, what are your biggest challenges? I’d love to hear about your experiences so please share them with me and leave a comment below!

5 Lessons on “Enough” Learned from Minimalism

At the very core of minimalism is the idea of embracing “enough”: figuring out what is truly important and useful, and letting go of the rest. We often think about this in terms of the things we own, but actually it’s more than that. Minimalism is not just about having enough. It’s just as much about being enough.

Being enough means finding contentment and acceptance with our lives the way they are right now, in the present moment. That’s not to say we don’t want things to be different, nor is it dismissive of the fact that change can be good and worthwhile; it’s more about letting go of expectations.

It’s about finding happiness in the present, rather than pinning it on the future (I’ll be happier when x). It all comes down to enjoying the journey rather than focusing solely on the outcome – which may or may not happen as we’d like it to.

That’s not to say it’s easy! We’re hardwired to dream and scheme and plan, wish things were different, imagine what the end result will look like before we’ve actually done the work, and compare ourselves to others.

Unlearning those habits is a big task. Being aware is a much easier first step.

Here are 5 lessons that minimalism has taught me about “enough”.

1. “I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.”

There is so much that needs changing in the world, and of course I want to do as much as I can to help make it happen… but I can only do so much. I used to lament about how I should be doing more, but I’ve realised that this made me stressed and ultimately more unproductive – I was almost frozen with fear and doubt.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something… and that is a whole lot better than nothing. That is a great place to start.

Whatever I do, I am content that at this moment, it is enough. When I was worked up about not being able to do everything, even one extra thing seemed like a huge burden. I’ve noticed that when I feel more relaxed that what I do is enough, I start to notice these things as opportunities to do just a little bit more.

2. Comparisonitis is a waste of energy.

I love using social media as a way of spreading my message, and sharing the messages of others. But I’m also aware that it can be a slippery slope towards getting comparisonitis… which is where we start to think we aren’t enough. We start to feel bad, and think about what we can do or buy to make ourselves better, rather than accepting that we are the way we are.

Remember, the images and stories we share on social media are (usually) a curated snapshot of the best or most interesting things in our lives. When all these images are put together, the feeds we see can be overwhelming. Being exposed to a constant stream of how much fun everyone else is having (which isn’t so much the reality as the perception) can negatively impact our feeling of self-worth.

I try to follow only people I find inspiring, who keep things (mostly) positive and have a practical focus. I keep the aspirational lifestyle stuff to a minimum. I also avoid checking social media when I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps keep comparisonitis to a minimum.

3. You don’t need likes, follows or shares to be complete.

It’s great when other people like and comment on our feeds – it’s confirmation that we’ve touched someone else with our thoughts or images. Who doesn’t enjoy those shared connections? But chasing approval shouldn’t be the focus or the why. There’s enjoyment and satisfaction to be found, regardless of the approval of others, in the process of writing, creating and sharing.

Personal satisfaction keeps us going when the things we share maybe don’t have the responses we’d like. Worrying about winning the approval of people you don’t even know is a distraction.

Appreciate the likes and comments and shared connections that you do have, and be thankful for them, because behind the likes and emojis are real people who genuinely care about what you say.

4. Do what feels right.

This is as much about gut instinct and intuition as it is about figuring things out on a completely practical level. Just because someone else does things a different way, that doesn’t mean that’s what is best for you. For example, I’ve read articles that have told me that the ideal blog post is 500 – 700 words. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to squeeze what I want to say in so few words! And guess what – people still read what I write!

For me, that was less than enough. I am comfortable with a little more. Another example: I cannot fit my entire possessions in a suitcase, and I have more than 100 things. But I don’t feel that I am tripping over things I don’t need, so I am not chasing less. I am happy knowing that for me, this is enough. It is not a competition.

5. Don’t let feelings of less than enough hold you back.

Our own journeys and our own stories are just as important as anybody else’s. When I first started contemplating blogging in 2012, I nearly didn’t start because I saw Beth Terry’s blog and thought: well, she’s already covered everything so well, what more do I have to offer?

Later (once I’d started blogging, but still in the early days) I began embracing minimalism, and I wasn’t sure whether I should write about that because people like Joshua Becker already do an amazing job.

But then I wondered: maybe there’s a place for me, too?

Maybe I don’t know everything about living plastic-free, and maybe I have too much stuff to be a minimalist, but I still have something to add to the conversation. It’s not about being the best.

If I’d worried about not being the best, I’d never have started, and I’d have missed out on so many great experiences, lessons and connections.

Minimalism is about far more than simply getting rid of a bunch of stuff: it’s a whole new way of thinking. I’m not perfect at any of these, and I still slip up, but being more aware of finding “enough” within myself has made me more positive, boosted my productivity and increased my happiness.

I never realized when I first decided that I had too many possessions that the journey I was about to embark on would be so rewarding, and have such an impact on my life. But it has, and I’m grateful.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on the idea of being “enough”? Do you associate minimalism with the idea of being enough, or do you focus on the idea of having enough? Do you focus on another idea entirely? Where do you sit on the positivity-and-acceptance-of-yourself scale? Do you focus on the successes you’ve had, and the satisfaction that you get from just doing? Do you get bogged down with comparing yourself to others, or wishing things were different? How do you deal with the knowledge that there’s always more to be done? Have you any experience of using mindfulness techniques, and have they helped in your journey? I really want to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

Suitcase Minimalism and 5 Things I’ve Learned

We gave notice on the flat we rented at the end of November, hoping to be able to move into our new flat but knowing that if we couldn’t, it would be an interesting lesson in minimalism. In the end, the new place wasn’t ready. Obviously we needed those lessons! On Christmas Eve we moved out of the old place and with nowhere to call our own, began relying on the kindness of friends and family. We stored some of our stuff in a friend’s garage and have dragged the rest back and forth across town as we sleep in various spare rooms made available to us.

We’ve been couchsurfing across the city for a month. It’s been novel. It’s been exasperating. It’s been fun. It’s been draining. It’s been challenging. And of course, I have had some interesting insights into my relationship with stuff.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Minimalism for minimalism’s sake misses the point.

We have put stuff in storage. A few bits of furniture, kitchen stuff, a couple of boxes of things. Most of the things in storage are not things we couldn’t bear to part with, but items that were convenient to keep. We are only moving a few suburbs away and we are not paying for storage, so why give items away only to have to buy them again later?

We could have got rid of everything, but what would that have achieved? What point would it have proven? I want to move into our new place and get straight into planting the garden, not spend the first few weekends re-accumulating all the stuff we gave away. Minimalism is about finding out what is enough and getting rid of the unnecessary, not getting rid of everything.

2. Minimalism is not about counting your stuff.

There are minimalists who have less than 100 items, or who can fit their entire personal possessions into a single bag. This is not me. I have no idea how many items I own, although I’m sure it’s more likely to run into the high hundreds or even thousands. And actually, I’m not interested in counting them.

There are plenty of minimalism counting challenges out there based on numbers: Mins game (where you get rid of 1 thing on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third and so on all the way up to 30 – which means 465 things in total) or Project 333, where your wardrobe is 33 items of clothing for 3 months, or the 40 bags in 40 days challenge (actually, this would probably wipe out everything I own – I have nowhere near that amount of stuff in total, let alone that I want to get rid of!) are just a few I’ve come across. Counting the stuff you’re getting rid of, however, is different to counting what remains.

When we left our stuff in the garage, we didn’t count it. We felt everything in there was useful and we needed. What does it matter what that number of things is? What would we use the number for? To compare ourselves to others? Minimalism isn’t a competition.

Minimalism is a personal journey: finding out what is enough for you. Enough isn’t a number.

3. The less you have, the more you can focus.

It has been a revelation to me how much easier it is to get stuff done when you remove most of the distractions: and by distractions I mean stuff. With most of our stuff packed in boxes we are operating out of a few bags filled only with the basics, and it’s been surprising how productive I’ve been.

Jobs that I’ve been putting off that come under the “need to do but really can’t be bothered because they are boring” category, like finally tackling my ridiculously non-minimalist inbox, laptop saved files and hard drive and filing / organizing / deleting thousands (yes, thousands) of unnecessary emails and files. Tedious but oh, it feels so good to be onto it!

Also the jobs that come under “procrastination central”. The things I’ve been saving for when the time is right… which of course, it never is. When you completely run out of distractions the only thing for it is to stop procrastinating and start getting stuff done!

4. Too little stuff can stifle your creativity.

It’s been great paring down to the absolute basics. On the plus side, I’m getting lots of stuff done. On the downside, I can feel my frustration rising because of the limitations I have.

By limitations, I don’t mean distractions. I mean the things I love to do that I can no longer do. Like baking and cooking. I can cook still cook dinner, sure, but without utensils and ingredients and storage space, we’ve had to stick to the basics. We ate the same vegetable lentil ragu for dinner 4 days in a row. I miss my kitchen.

Getting stuff done is fantastic, of course. But I’m not a robot. I can’t just work at 100% capacity all the time. I need rewards and down time – and that is what cooking is for me. It nurtures my creative side. It gives me happiness.

Finding “enough” is finding your sweet spot, when you don’t feel frustration because you are constantly looking for / maintaining / cleaning your stuff, but you also don’t feel frustration because you don’t have what you need. Living out of a couple of suitcases has made me realise that a couple of suitcases is less than my “enough”.

5. However many clothes you have, it’s (probably) still too many.

Okay, so I don’t know how many clothes you have. But I know how many I have…and it is still far too many! I’ve written about my wardrobe decluttering struggle many times, but after posting most recently back in October I had a major epiphany and decluttered a whole lot more. I didn’t think I was done, but I thought I was getting close. Now we’ve moved I’ve observed I still have too many clothes. It seems you really don’t need to own that many outfits at all!

The main reason I’ve found this out is that there is very little wardrobe space where I’m staying currently, so most of my clothes are still in my suitcase. Being lazy, it’s far easier to wear the things on the top, wash and repeat. Which means I’ve probably been rotating the same 5 outfits over the last 2 weeks. Which means I could probably manage with 5 outfits most (all?) of the time. Not that I intend to cut it back that far (yet) but I’ve noticed that I haven’t felt restricted, or lacking in choice. In fact, it’s been super easy to get dressed every morning!

Post writing that October article, I thought I’d made great progress. Now I know I could get rid of more. I’m rather looking forward to unpacking when we finally move and seeing what else can go. Maybe Project 333 (which I’ve always considered completely impossible) may be within my grasp after all!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever tried to find your “enough” sweet spot? What did you learn about yourself? What was “more than enough” and what was “less than enough” for you? What would your one thing that’s you’d never want to let go be? Have you ever tried living out of a suitcase? Tell us about it! What did you love and what did you struggle with? Any other insights you’d like to tell us? Please write a comment in the space below!