Posts

So…You Want To Be a Minimalist?

Decluttering. Minimalism. They seem to be the new buzz words right now. There’s definitely a shift towards people being more interested in owning less stuff. At the Less is More Festival last week, the Decluttering workshop was full to capacity and there was standing room only. Even with the doors closed, a “workshop full” sign and a volunteer on the door telling people there was no room, people were still fighting to get in!

There’s nothing fun about clutter. It drains our energy, and research has shown that it increases stress and even causes depression. It also takes up time – in cleaning, moving it all around, and searching for the stuff you’re sure you have but can’t quite remember where you put it. Plus there is a monetary cost – in paying higher rent or mortgage repayments for a bigger house, or renting extra storage, just to house that stuff we don’t really need.

So the idea of decluttering seems pretty appealing. So does the idea of getting organised so our houses are no longer boxes with roofs that exist to hold our stuff, but sanctuaries of calm and zen. And minimalism, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

googlesearchminimlaismIf you search for “minimalism” under Google images, this is what comes up. Spacious apartments with clear surfaces, clean lines, neutral tones. Minimalism is also a design style, which helps confuse things a little. But when people talk about being minimalist, they’re not talking about what furniture they buy.

If you really want to be a minimalist, if you really want to have less clutter, there are a few things you need to know.

Things to know about being a Minimalist

1. Minimalism doesn’t mean having amazing storage so all you see is a sea of clear bench tops and surfaces.

Minimalism does not mean you have an incredible capacity to organise. It means having less stuff. Don’t think you can organise your way to minimalism.

2. Minimalism means letting go.

We are natural hoarders. We keep things because we think they might come in useful. We keep things because they remind us of things that happened in our lives. We keep things because we attach emotions to them – we feel guilty about disposing of things that others have given us, even if we don’t actually like or want or need them; or shame at having spent too much money on something we never use.

Maybe we worry about the cost the environment. But if we really want to live with less stuff, we need to look at our relationships with our stuff. We hold memories in our hearts and in our minds, not in boxes stored in the garage. If things no longer serve us, we need to let them go.

3. Becoming minimalist doesn’t happen overnight.

We can’t just decide to declutter and that’s that. It takes time. Some things are easy to let go of, and others are much harder.

Even as we let go of things and give them away, more things come into our life. It is something we need to work on. Maybe it is something we never stop working on. It’s definitely not something we complete over the weekend, and then go back to “normal”.

4. To truly embrace minimalism, we need to look within ourselves.

That may sound a bit new-age, but decluttering and getting rid of stuff doesn’t automatically stop us from desiring things. We are constantly bombarded with adverts telling us our lives will be better if we buy this or that; that we’ll feel happier or more content if only we spend our money with these companies.

As long as we believe this, we’ll continue to buy more.

Think about your happiest memories. Do they involve spending time with friends and family? Do they involve holidays, special occasions, exploring nature, being outdoors? Or do they involve buying the latest gadgets? We don’t need stuff to make us happy.

5. It’s not a competition.

It’s not about who can have the least amount of stuff, it’s about what is the right amount of stuff for each of us at the point of our lives we are in right now. It’s easy to feel like giving up because we know we’ll never be as good as x.

If you’re feeling like you have too much stuff, if you know there’s things in your house that you don’t really need, if the piles of clutter are stressing you out, then you will benefit from letting some of it go.

That doesn’t mean you can’t stop until you only have two outfits left in your wardrobe, and two bowls in the kitchen cupboard. That might work for some people. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t matter.

Do what feels right for you.

Reap the Rewards

No-one said it was going to be easy. It’s so much more than just taking a couple of boxes of old junk to the Good Sammy’s. But the rewards are so much more than just having a couple less boxes of stuff, too. Try it and see!

My minimalist living space (I’d like to show you around…)

I often refer to the “tiny apartment” that I live in, and I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be nice to take some pictures and, well, invite you round for a (virtual) look.

But then I didn’t, because the flat was never quite tidy enough. Despite my constant quest to have less stuff, there always seems to be stuff cluttering up the place. It’s not that we have a great deal of stuff, but we also don’t have huge amounts of furniture or cupboard space to hide all our stuff like other people do. It’s a constant reminder to us that we have too much.

Another thing that put me off was that despite me calling our home the “tiny flat”, I realise that it is far bigger than many other “tiny” homes. In fact, there is a tiny house movement, and if you know anything about that you will realise that our flat in no way qualifies. Tiny homes are seriously tiny, and our apartment is palatial in comparison. I didn’t want to face the wrath of readers outraged that I have been making fraudulent claims all this time!

Lastly, I’m well aware that our flat is never going to be photographed for House Beautiful (or whatever those glossy home magazines are called). My eye for style goes as far as to recognise that some decor does indeed look pretty and stylish, and our flat has nothing like that in it.

We don’t have strategically placed cute retro teapots, or a surf board (why is it that every house I’ve seen photographed recently, no matter how far from the ocean, has a surf board?), or candles and flowers in all the corners. We don’t have quirky vintage antique stuff, we have old (and in some cases a bit tatty) stuff.

But then I got a grip on myself, and thought, so what? I like my house. Do I care that my house isn’t a interior designer’s dream? No. I like it. We like its simplicity. I like not having to dust all those quirky vintage nick-knacks.

Does it really matter that our flat isn’t the smallest house ever? Not at all. We are happy with the amount of space we have, so why would I compare it with other far smaller houses? They may be cleverly designed, inspiring and beautiful, but they would be too small for us at this stage in our lives. We need a space that we can live in, not one that impresses others with its tiny-ness.

Does it matter that it’s a bit messy and full of stuff? Well…I’d rather it wasn’t, or course… But we still invite our friends round, so why wouldn’t I take photos and invite my virtual friends round too? It’s just stuff, and it really shouldn’t have the power to influence my decisions!

So here’s the tour. It’s our attempt to live simply with less stuff; we have had some successes, but there are still plenty of areas we’d like to improve. It is a journey, and one that we’re always working on.

The Living Space

When you walk through the front door, you immediately step into the living space. There’s no porch or entrance hall. Our flat is pretty much a square, so from the front door you can see right the way through to the other side.

Livingspacefinal Livingspace2 LivingspaceothersideThere’s no storage aside from what furniture we have, which means lots of things can’t be put “away”, as there is nowhere to put them. My bicycle lives next to the dining table, and our broom sits next to the fridge.

This is our entire book and DVD collection. We don’t own a single DVD, and of this little stack of books, three are actually loans from friends. Who needs books and DVDs when you can borrow what you want from the local library?

Books are a minimalism success; my desk, however, is not. On a typical day, it looks something like this. That’s not to say that I’m not organised, because I actually know what’s on all those little bits of paper and always notice when they get moved. I just have a terrible habit of writing on the back of old receipts and old envelopes, and they accumulate. Mess and clutter are not healthy though, and I need to go paperless to get things a bit more zen in my litter corner of the room.

Messydesk

The Bedroom

It’s a bit more zen in here. There’s no space for any furniture in the bedroom, although we’ve had to squeeze my boyfriend’s bike into the small amount of spare space that we do have.

Bedroom Bedroom2 Fortunately we have an enormous built-in wardrobe…

closetcombined…and it is full to the point of almost overflowing! Yes, we have far too many clothes. No, they’re not all mine! Yes, I do have far too many pairs of shoes. Yes, they are all mine. Definitely an area I need to work on. But progress is being made. I’ve given clothes to the charity shop, and I’ve downgraded others to kitchen rag status. Last year I only bought a handful of items, and so far this year I’ve bought none. I don’t intend to buy anything else until my collection has at least halved. This is my compromise to myself, because I don’t want to send stuff to landfill, and there’s a lot in there that is too worn for the charity shop to take.

The Bathroom

Bathrooms in rented apartments are generally nothing to write home about, and ours is definitely no exception.bathroomsmallThere’s not too much clutter, but we do have a ridiculous amount of towels. (This isn’t even all of them – there were some hanging out on the line when I took the picture!) I’m reluctant to get rid of them; the charity shop won’t be able to sell them for much and I don’t want to send them to landfill. So another compromise – as they wear out they won’t be replaced. Right now, they (just about) fit into the space we have, and so they can stay.

towels

The Kitchen

I would love a bigger kitchen as I spend a huge amount of time here (you may have noticed that I like to cook?!). Learning to manage with what space I have has been hard, but I think it’s been good for me. Oh, and don’t judge us – we rent this flat and did not choose the lime green/acid yellow tiles ourselves!

Kitchen1 Kitchen2I’ve been able to keep the cupboards pretty orderly, and I only keep the things that we use regularly.

The pantry, however, is a different story! No matter what I do, I cannot seem to empty it out. I am pretty good at finding things in there, but my boyfriend does not fare so well, unless he knows there is a jar of chocolate spread… (I also don’t label the jars – surely everyone knows the difference between ground turmeric and ground cumin? Or rapadura sugar and soft brown sugar? They don’t? Oh. No wonder my boyfriend is reluctant to cook!) It’s cluttered, and awkward, and there’s been a few near-misses with almost smashing glass jars. But my love of food (and the bulk produce stores) means it never gets any less full. Any tips greatly appreciated!

PantryThose jars to the left of the pantry are there because they don’t fit in the pantry. Definitely a sign that I have too much in there!

Outside

We have a small space outside, which houses our two worm farms and various gardening-related bits and pieces I collected from verge collections. I then discovered we don’t get any sunlight so we can’t grow anything much here, sadly.

balconySo that’s the tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking around. I’d love to hear what you think, and if you have any tips for those areas that I need a bit of help with, please share them below!