minimalism 101

A photo of a wooden floor, clear and clean, lit up by a setting sun, revealing doorways into several rooms.
Clear lines, clear mind (photo by Jo)

Are you a minimalist?

For over 15 years I have been shedding whatever I perceive to be in my way of living a satisfying life. I don’t remember exactly how this transformation started but I suspect I have been conditioned for it: years ago, living an artist’s life required moving from place to place, transferring whatever possessions that could fit into a borrowed car. However, that just answers the question regarding physical objects. When asked what it is I get out of minimalism, I reply “truth”. So to talk the walk, I believe that managing toxic relationships since I began adulthood is likely the birthplace of my perspective. Once powerful barriers (guilt from expectations mostly) were removed, then I could see the landscape that is my life.

Cues from art and design

You may think of minimalism in reference to music, art, design and architecture. I am not educated on these topics (I recommend looking some up; they are fascinating!) but I can describe my attraction to certain work created in these genres. What I generally perceive as a reduction to basic elements following certain ‘rules’ (a limited number of notes, less objects, a repetition of colour, a continuum of lines..), minimalism gives birth to something new and invigorating and I find myself drawn into that present moment. I am able to contemplate ‘what is here’. Minimalism does not create a void ; in a simplified context, I am challenged to look at myself and my life as it is without accoutrement, to be thankful for what is good and useful and then, if need, generate a fresh perspective.

Own less, keep the best

So what do you choose to incorporate into your life? I suggest that the minimalist way is a continuously evolving exploration, influenced by the different chapters in your story, to determine what you need and want. It is this part of minimalism that interests me the most. It is not just about letting go of things, but about choosing to honour yourself with a meaning-filled existence. From eating healthier to nourishing supportive relationships to embracing self compassion. With fewer objects to hide behind that may project a false façade or to reject societal portraits that we are expected to emulate, it can be daunting to change direction toward a life that hopefully connects with your values and creates optimism and hope. What you may choose in some cases will be different from the norm, requiring a certain amount of vulnerability and therefore courage to stand proudly with your decisions. But at the end of the day, when you are alone, you can take a deep breath, heaving a sigh of relief that you were true to yourself.

What to choose

When it is time, reintroduce beautiful objects that serve you well. I have written in the past about having three teapots! They sit out in the open, are beautiful to look at and touch, they work very well and contribute to wonderful moments of gathering and conversation. These things support me in my pursuit of happiness. What I don’t need are ‘dust collectors’ on shelves, an under utilized closet stuffed with clothes and I am essentially paperless. As the evolution continues, my latest reducing aspiration is multitasking less. Working smarter, not harder helps me turn out a higher quality effort. Do one thing at a time and do it well. And what about people? Nurturing a support network of favourite individuals who like me, have my best interests at heart and, of equal importance, those who I can contribute to as they grow and thrive. I can share my triumphs and my pains and I love it when these special connections reach out to me to do the same.
Most everything seems more doable when my mental health is observed and encouraged to think positively. I have been writing for over a year about a general anxiety that I acquired and although the practical cause was removed, the habit of a pounding heart and racing brain still remains. I have not found a way to eliminate this condition yet but through mindfulness I have learned to manage and calm myself, fairly automatically I discover. Half the battle I find is just giving myself permission to be this way: “Hmm..there it goes again. Okay.” I follow with an exercise (physical or mental) to brighten up the room and I carry on.

Take control, love what you do

As a coach and organizer, I accompany clients as they ‘mentally, emotionally and physically declutter’. Conversation often swirls around the lack of energy and focus to keep a freelance career going and that it is tough to get organized when feeling unmotivated. Imagine working so hard for years, filling a resume with many experiences, all the while following certain beliefs about your career choice. Yet what may be happening is a deep shift toward a need to clear the slate and to determine what is really important and from there create a new path that may provide more fulfillment. Easier said than done! Sometimes fear prevents us from looking too closely at any new found dissatisfaction, let alone figuring out where to go next. Who do you want to become?

The first step is saying “Yes!

Just work on one aspect of your life at a time. This could be a health improvement. For example, often my clients just need more sleep – it is amazing the transformation from such an accessible action! Or after filing your taxes, create a new system of accumulating and filing receipts. Next year you will be so thankful! Stand up for yourself; tell someone about a behaviour you do not enjoy, but rather than blaming their action, state what you would like, presenting a positive message that reflects you. This requires exercising courage which comes from being vulnerable, putting yourself out there. It is amazing how quickly this develops resiliency that in turn supports optimism and provides the mojo to do it all again.

I want to, I get to

A brief note about language. Listen to how you describe yourself, your actions and the day you are inhabiting. There is nothing wrong with releasing frustration or disappointment when warranted but otherwise pick and choose perspectives that cheer your heart and express them with gratitude!

Stay dry in stormy weather

There is only this one life to live. I choose to make the most of it! Sometimes, however, there are events that are beyond our control. Major turmoil can come out of no where! Through the minimalist lens of reduction and creation, you design and build a solid house that can withstand a hurricane. It is possible though that, in the event of a storm, the structure may be destroyed, yet your strong inner home will remain intact. Be patient – cuts and bruises feel sore for awhile! Be thankful for the strength you have constructed and trust that it will guide you quickly back to health.

How could you start reducing today? What do you desire to bring into your life to support your objectives?