Sea change, the tide is turning, go with the flow, swimming against the tide – the sea is a rich source of metaphors for change and adversity. I guess there’s something about the finality of standing at the ends of the earth and being confronted by the cold, grey, braying uncertainty of the sea (obviously if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where the waters are clear, warm as the perfect bath and crystalline, the uncertainty underpinning the aforementioned metaphors may not make quite as much sense!) Whatever your form of expressing a sense of change, that is precisely what appears to be happening in the realm of simplicity and minimalism.
Simplicity is regularly talked about in these waters, but over the past few months, I have noticed simplicity being mentioned more and more around the web. I’ve found beautiful, thoughtful posts in places that are expected and even the beginnings of transition in places more unexpected. There are sites where I would expect to hear about the latest this that or the other thing accompanied by endless flea market finds, where now there is a yearning for simplicity. All around the blogosphere, people, normal, everyday people, are bagging up excess books, clothing and clutter to make more space for living. I can’t help but hope that this transition amongst bloggers is a signal of a wider change. After all, where bloggers go…
To distill simplicity: it is about making room for and grasping the intangible – time, freedom and creativity. The fewer physical distractions one is surrounded with, the easier it is for intangible, ethereal simplicity to seep into your life.
Having fewer distractions opens the world up in so many ways. Here are a few:
Explore your passions – less clutter doth a freer mind make. As soon as I stopped thinking about the stuff surrounding me (by donating it) I suddenly had more time to write, take photographs and sew. It went further than the pursuit of hobbies – I started this blog, began doing volunteer copywriting and photography work for a local charity and pushed to make writing part of my day job. It’s amazing what a little practice and increased confidence can do – my work for the charity has been published and sent to thousands of donors and my employer was totally accepting of my shift to spend more time writing for them. I genuinely couldn’t have envisaged these changes a year or two ago.
Space to think and work – I don’t fall into the category of full-time bloggers, but do know of a lot of bloggers who are full- or part-time self employed through their blog and associated small businesses. Even if you are in ‘normal’ employment (like me) and work from home sometimes, the serenity of a clear, clean and minimal environment makes a huge difference. Clear space improves concentration (no visual distractions) and productivity (no thoughts of, ‘forget this report, I need to rearrange my bookcase by colour and size. NOW.’) Ultimately, this means that work happens in working hours and free time is exactly that – free – and, most importantly, yours to do with as you wish.
More space for partner/children/feline companion – I truly believe that Joe and I (and Molly, our cat) spend more meaningful time together now than we ever have. Sure, we still watch TV, we’re only human, but we do turn it off more frequently and neither of us watches for the sake of watching anymore. Planned TV viewing is so much more enjoyable, I’ll always make time for Parks and Recreation and Mad Men, but I certainly don’t need to watch the dreary, cheesy and dull Blue Bloods just because it’s on after.
Spending time with the people closest to you in a multitude of different ways strengthens relationships. Sometimes, it’s good conversation, sometimes a heated game of Trivial Pursuit, occasionally it’s a jam session with Joe playing the piano (annoyingly well) whilst I aim to follow the chord pattern (badly) on my concertina. I can only apologise to our neighbour, especially for the rendition of the Game of Thrones theme – we are truly sorry.
A greater sense of your style – I believe everyone should feel comfortable in his or her own skin and it’s much easier to find a style that makes you comfortable when you’re not stared down by an aggressive rainbow every time you open your wardrobe. Too much, be it colour, shape, style or texture, sends the message to your brain that you should think more about this, that you’re not showing your creativity unless you build an outfit from the mess. The current truth, the one beyond the plethora of cheap, fast fashion – I love wearing grey. I think a good slate-grey top in a nice cotton or merino is very flattering on me and I instantly feel more confident and comfortable. This is coming from someone who didn’t own clothes in a neutral shade (not even black or white) until about 3 years ago. Maybe I’m getting old, but I see no going back.
Once I had decided to keep only what I love and want to wear, my wardrobe was so bare I was forced to tackle dust lingering in the farthest reaches. With the vacuum was safely stowed once more, I had to confront the very real fact that I had outgrown or had never really liked, my clothes*. All that time, all that money – it’s hard not to sink beneath the weight of regret. My advice – eBay the stuff you clearly spent way too much on and has kept its value; the rest can bring joy to someone else. There is no happiness to be found in eBaying every t-shirt and scarf and it takes vital time away from points one and three.
*An empty wardrobe cannot be a reality for too long and I’ll be covering the rebuilding process in an upcoming post.
More time – this is the behemoth, the big sell, the moment we seal the deal, because who doesn’t want more time? It’s our most valuable commodity after all, and anyone in any form of employment is being paid to give their time to something beyond themselves. It’s big business, but can leave us tired, stressed and anxious with little time to pursue our passions. Not everyone is able to change their job at the first sign of stress and discontent (but maybe it could signal working towards change?) but we can all control our home environments and any stressors that arise from that. For me, owning less has meant that I spend less time cleaning, repairing and organising. With areas of my home that are less than perfect (hello junk drawer!) I aim to reserve enough time to give them a complete overhaul in the hope that it’s a one-time chore and future upkeep is minimal. Sweeping through your house discarding, donating and clearing can feel like a massive time-sink in its own right; but it is important to remember that time invested now is building the foundation for more free time in the future. Sure, I’ve spent many hours going through my clothes, but at least I’m not having to climb into the loft to pilfer through three or four GIANT granny-bags of clothes before I get dressed – true story – just think, I could still be clocking up the hours with that thankless piece of madness.
Intentionally simplify and time will find you. Surely it’s worth a shot? At the very least you’ll finally dispose of those old Girl Guide uniforms and gymkhana ribbons.
I couldn’t be more excited to discover that more and more people are seeking simplicity and gently questioning the lives we are expected to adopt – which is why I try to include a good variety of links at the bottom of each article (maybe I should compose one giant sourcebook? I’ll think about it when I’m next off work!)
Simplicity and minimalism are journeys, there is no end and most people may not fully remember the beginning. We’re not seeking to complete something or win at a game. It’s about the journey and the freedom it brings you. I think my original attempt to distill all of this can go one step further and be summed up thus:
Be kind and live intentionally.
Classic TED talk by Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice
Reading My Tea Leaves is a beautiful site with a focus on simplicity and minimalism.
Her Library Adventures on her journey to conscious living.
Madelynn at Wide Eyed Legless writes extensively on minimalism with a focus on curating a simple, functional wardrobe.
Into Mind is a great resource for all things simplicity with a particular focus on wardrobes and style.
15 Minimalist Hacks to Maximize Your Life – Buzz Feed does what it says on the tin.