On Saturday, I crossed the 8-month mark of my yearlong shopping ban. How I’m already two-thirds of the way through this thing is a little crazy to think about – mostly because, truth be told, I’ve almost forgotten about it entirely. I still get the odd pang to buy a magazine or pick up a nail polish, usually when I’m in line to buy groceries or toothpaste or something. For the most part, though, I never think about shopping, because I know there’s nothing I could buy that would make my life better than it is right now.
That has been the most incredible part of this journey, so far: realizing how rich and full my life is, in its current state. When you’re not thinking about all the new stuff you could be accumulating, you have so much more time to just enjoy what you already have and all that life offers you. What started as a decision to declutter my home, and embrace a simpler lifestyle, has turned into what I believe will be a lifelong journey as a minimalist. Here are 3 life-changing truths I’ve discovered in the early stages:
1. It gives you more time (to do whatever you want). This might sound obvious, at first. When you have less stuff in your home, you can spend less time cleaning. Makes sense, right? And that’s certainly been true, for me. I wipe down surfaces all the time, but there’s literally nothing in my condo that needs to be organized/tidied up. As a result, I never have to spend my weekends cleaning. But it’s gone further than that. Everything we own requires a little bit of our attention. Now that I have less physical clutter, my brain also seems to have less mental clutter. I don’t have a laundry list of things that need to be done constantly nagging at me anymore. Instead, I get to wake up and do whatever I want. So, I workout, go for hikes, see friends, read, write… and sometimes I just nap or sleep more, guilt-free. It’s incredibly freeing.
2. It helps you become more resourceful. A few weeks ago, I found myself with two pairs of pants that had rips in them. When you can’t shop, your only other option is to fix the things you own. And when I decided to up the ante on my shopping ban, one of my goals was to learn how to mend my own clothes. So, rather than throw the pants out, I finally asked the women in my family for a sewing lesson. With my aunt’s help, last week, I patched up the hole in my pyjama pants. She also let me take her sewing machine home for a couple months, so I can play around with it and see what else I can do. It’s not uncommon for those who decide to live with less to build up a community of like-minded individuals, who can all share their talents and swap stuff for free. I just never would’ve guessed I’d be one of them. (Next up, gardening… and I will need help with this, too!)
3. It reveals what matters most. Coupled with the shopping ban, minimalism has shown me that I don’t need to consume and spend money, in order to feel better about myself or my life. Beyond that, though, I feel like it has adjusted my entire moral compass to face a new north. Minimalism is both the path I’m taking and the destination I want to end up at, and it turns over a new leaf everywhere I look. It takes self-awareness to a new level, as it constantly forces you to ask yourself: does this contribute to my life or take away from it? I’m finally choosing to only work on projects I get really excited about, spend time with the family and friends who also give time to me, and take care of myself first, by working out more, sleeping more, eating better, etc. And the list goes on and on. The more happiness I find, the more I realize what matters most and the easier those decisions get.
The 30-Day Minimalism Challenge
While I’m happy with everything I’ve discovered about myself in this journey, so far, there are still so many little things I want to try, test out and tweak. I want to do one final declutter/purge, build journaling and meditation back into my daily routine, get offline more, and continue to re-evaluate my priorities and commitments – all things that will help me live a more intentional life.
A couple weeks ago, my friend J. Money shared an image with me that he found on Pinterest, and the minute I saw it, I knew it had to be my next 30-day challenge for 2015. Take a look:
DOWNLOAD: Printable Version
I’m not great at starting these challenges on the first day of the month, as proven by my successful shopping ban (started July 7th) and my failed TV ban (started January 1st). I’m also not great at doing these kinds of things in order. It’s too restrictive, and that’s not what intentional living is about.
Starting today, March 9th, I’m going to do one thing on this list every day for 30 days. I’ll tweet about some of them (follow me!) but also plan to update this post every day, to document my experience. If you’ve been wanting to live a simpler life and test out the minimalism waters, I’d love to see some of you join me! Just print off the list (I created a black and white PDF version) and cross things off as you go.
Are you up for the challenge? :)
My 30-Day Minimalism Challenge Updates
Day 1: #26 – Identify Your Stress Triggers
Unbeknownst to me, I started this challenge on the same day I would be forced to face some other problems I’ve been trying to ignore, and I ended up having a bit of a meltdown. After a couple phone calls and some journaling (#21!), I was able to identify when I’m most stressed and what causes it, and came up with some ideas to change my situation. I finished the day with an epsom salt bath, which is the beginning of #22.
Day 2: #23 – Go Bare-Faced
I never wear makeup, on days when I work from home/go to the gym/don’t go out after. :)
Day 3: #9 – Downsize Your Beauty Collection
I feel like I cheated with this one, because I already only have 1 of everything I use (with is 6 items total). I did, however, go back under my bathroom cupboard to see if there was anything I could get rid of, and found 3 things (shampoo/conditioner I don’t like + an old lotion). There is literally nothing more I could remove from my bathroom now; that feels pretty good!
Day 4: #18 – Unfollow and Unfriend
I’m only friends with ~200 people on Facebook (keep that profile fairly private), so there’s no one to cut from that list, but Twitter is always another story. I go through the list of accounts I follow and clean it up every few months or so. Tonight, I did it again and unfollowed 30-40. My motto with Twitter is that you don’t have to follow everyone you know. Just follow people who add to the conversation.
Day 5: #2 – Meditate for 15 Minutes
I had my third float session tonight, which involves floating in a sensory deprivation tank for 90 minutes. I can’t say enough good things about floating. Maybe I should write a post about this soon…
Day 6: #14 – Practice a New Skill
I fixed another pair of pants, this morning, using the sewing machine my aunt let me borrow. Honestly, a month ago, I was going to throw them out. Now, I can easily get another year out of them. Big win!
Day 7: #6 – Follow a Morning Ritual
It’s been a couple years in the making, but my morning ritual now is to wake up slowly (meaning I don’t jump out of bed right away), make my bed, put the kettle on, make coffee and drink it before doing anything else. I don’t check my email or work or anything else. There’ll be enough of that later, but the first 30 minutes or so of each day are all mine. Today, I drank my coffee on my deck. :)
Day 8: #19 – Go for a Walk and Practice Mindfulness
After work, I drove up to the lake by my place and went for an hourlong walk around it. I paid attention to all the sounds and couldn’t believe how still the water was. I’m so grateful I can call this place home.
Day 9: #3 – Declutter Your Digital Life
I cleaned up all my bookmarks in Chrome, including deleting entire folders of things I thought I’d read or should know about. Sometimes, you just need to let that stuff go. I also cleaned up my desktop, deleted all files/folders I don’t need and streamlined the rest. <– Streamlining digital stuff is the best.
Day 10: #13 + #27 – Clean Out Closet + Junk Drawer
I’ve been itching to do one more declutter. I don’t have a junk drawer anymore, but I went through all my closets and cupboards and drawers, and managed to bag up another 37 items to donate. On top of the 3 things I tossed from my bathroom last week, that’s 40 items in total that will be removed from my house this month. I have officially removed 65% of the belongings from my home… and I’m done!
Day 11: #16 – Don’t Buy Anything for 24 Hours
So far, I’ve done this on March 11th, 17th, 19th and 23rd.
Day 12: #12 – Define Your Goals for 2015
I wrote and published my goals at the beginning of the year, but reviewed them and decided it was time to do a major revision. My financial goals are the same (to save, save, save!), but personal, career and travel goals have all changed. The overall theme: less is more. Big surprise. ;)
Day 13: #8 – Learn to Enjoy Solitude
Again, I feel like I cheated with this one, because I live alone, work from home, etc. and am generally quite comfortable spending time by myself. I still don’t love spending time outdoors by myself, though, so am trying to change that… one walk at a time. :)
Day 14: #5 – Identify Your 3-6 Main Priorities
After revising my list of goals for the year, it was easy to see there were a few categories they all fell under.
I needed a few mental health days, so I didn’t look at the sheet. But I did repeat a few of the things on it, without realizing. I didn’t spend any money on Day 15 (#16), I practiced sewing again on Day 16 (#14) and I went bare-faced today (#23). Turns out, this might be the 33-Day Minimalist Challenge. :)
Day 18: #20 – No TV All Day, Read Instead
I listened to a podcast while I had coffee before work, started another at the gym, then I was out for most of the evening and read a book before bed. I will admit, I’m still uncomfortable in the silence sometimes. But a day without TV often ends up being much more productive (and I sleep better after, too).
Day 19: #7 – Streamline Your Reading List
Ack! I’ve had so many books on hold at the library and 4 became available at once. It’s totally unrealistic for me to read 4 books in 3 weeks, so I grabbed 2 and left the other 2 behind. The decision was easier than I’d expected, because I find I can’t read a book unless I’m in the mood to read about that exact topic, and 2 just didn’t interest me right now. <– This entire experience was a win for the shopping ban, because it reminded me of all the times I’d mindlessly bought books with the intention to read them, and then left them untouched (some still to this day). I’m so glad I don’t do that anymore. After picking up the 2 new books, I went home and removed holds I had on 2 others.
Day 20: #21 – Journal for 20 Minutes
For the first time in my life, I finally cracked open a journal and started writing without caring how it looked. I’ve seriously always been such a perfectionist that I hated making a mess in my notebooks, or writing things on this page and then later thinking they should go on that page instead. (Oh dear, that’s the editor in me, haha.) Anyway, I spent at least 20 minutes writing in my journal on Saturday, and continued to write more on Sunday. It’s a mess, but it’s helped me put all my thoughts down on paper (and even brainstorm more).
Day 21: #28 – Let Go of a Goal
I wanted to travel to the UK/France this year but it’s just not going to be feasible. It hurts to let that goal go because I’ve been thinking about it for a long time… I even wanted to make it happen in 2014! Oh well. Maybe 2016 will be the year.
Day 22: #4 – Don’t Complain for 1 Day
Ok, I will say… I wasn’t entirely successful with this. BUT! I woke up and decided I wanted to be super positive all day and I was successful in that. Whenever I realized I was about to complain about something, I tried to just turn it into a story about how I was going to change the situation and then switched topics.
I was so busy last week that I couldn’t even think about this challenge. However, I can look at the list and see that I’ve built a number of these things into my daily routine. The one thing I am still trying to do every single day is practice single-tasking (#17). I fail often, but even if I just do it intermittently, I find I’m more productive. So, I’m crossing that one off, and will pick the challenge back up this week!
Day 28: #15 – Examine Your Daily Habits
I’ve consciously tried to create my perfect daily routine, over the last few weeks, but I really examined it today, so I could document it in tomorrow’s blog post.