I have been going through a bit of a transition lately. It's not an overly dramatic life overhaul kind of thing, but more about putting greater intention behind my actions and decisions. A lot of this has to do with now having a child and with that, significantly less time for myself and less time to work than ever before. This means I have less time for self-care, work half the hours I used to, and have a stronger desire to live more purposefully and mindfully. This is what has inspired this experiment with minimalism and discovering how to be more present and living more simply with less.
See, the business and life I set out to live when I started all of this back in 2007/2008 when I was twenty-seven years old, is one that I would not yearn for or desire today. Goals, objectives, humans – all of these things evolve as we grow and learn. I once thought I wanted to have it all and that was my drive. I can't even remember what I thought having it all meant. What I do know is that whatever I thought I wanted at twenty-seven, most likely would require me to take a nap today.
What I am now coming to realize is that I don't want it all, at all. I want less. Way less. Maybe it's motherhood, or maybe it's reaching a certain level of professional and financial security, but having it all for me has become about having and doing significantly less, all while living life with more ease by reducing the number of decisions I need to make.
I am doing this with what I call intentional simplicity -- being mindful of how and where I spend my money, how I spend my time and who I spend it with. It's not at all about deprivation, but about selection. I have been dabbling in this for a year now, and in the last six months have taken it to a new level. If you listened to the first episode of the Today Is The Day Podcast, you would have heard us chat about the one question we ask when making decisions: Will this simplify or complicate?
Here is what I have found: having the intention to live with less dramatically simplifies life and reduces stress while increasing our ability to be present in the moment. And my current top benefit: there are less decisions that need to be made.
Having the intention to live with less dramatically simplifies life and reduces stress, while increasing our ability to be present in the moment.
The Simple Trick: Reduce The Number Of Decisions Decisions
We have to make hundreds of decisions every day – some big ones, some teeny tiny. How do we simplify this? Start by making a few really big decisions. It automatically eliminates a ton of little decisions that need to be made and boom – less overthinking, less stress, more life to live. I have started playing with this at work -- empowering others to make decisions I don't need to be making.
I always went ahead and implemented it in my personal life. Reducing the decisions also directly reduced my spending and I am feeling lighter and brighter because of it. I am currently in the early stages of experiencing the benefits.
I have brought more minimalism into my life by first making a few key intentional decisions.
My Life Experiment in Simplifying And Living With Less
I've been experimenting with a whole bunch of new habits over the last while. Below are the top five changes or commitments that have had the greatest impact on improving my quality life. They are not extreme by any stretch and I can't really think of a reason not to give it a go.
I Stopped Buying Clothes
According to the New York Daily News, the average woman makes over 300 trips to clothing stores or malls annually, racking up 400 hours a year shopping. Becoming Minimalist did the math and this amounts to 8.5 years spent shopping. No. I can't.
I have never been a big shopper, and don't enjoy any element of the process except the bit about having something new to wear. I want that fresh new, perfectly fitted thing to just magically appear in my closet. Since that's not going to happen, I am taking a year off from shopping. The occasional second-hand item is okay, and I can take things I already own to get altered or, preferably, do it myself. I can also sew my own if I feel so inspired or in need. I am thinking that I'll just get a full jumpsuit to wear every day beginning when the temperatures drop back down in the fall. This isn't about hand-cuffing myself to a decision and then walking in the park barefoot when my running shoes falling apart; it's just about simplifying.
So far, this decision has been a full on winner. I don't look for new things. I quit online shopping cold turkey which is also cutting down on screen time, packaging, garbage and everything else that comes with online shopping. I just shut off that part of my brain. I don't have to decide between two pairs of shoes I love because neither are an option nor are they needed. I have shoes on my feet already. I'm good.
Here we have the winning combination of less decisions, less possessions, and less money spent on something I don't need. Less is already feeling like way more.
Responsibly Getting Rid Of More
Life is easier when you're not drowning in clutter. I do better work with a cleaner desk. I sleep better in a clean room. And my brain is way more creative and open when not distracted by the mess. That's why all the walls everywhere that I have control over are painted white. A blank canvas for my life. I don't want a storage closet, or even my own closet, full of stuff that no longer 'sparks joy' as the cool kids call it.
I am slowly but surely selling, donating and giving away that which no longer has a purpose in my life and I am not replacing it with more stuff. Just simply living with less and using the cash from what I sell to buy whatever I want at the farmers' markets. Fresh, locally grown, organic vegetables have incredible value to me over an old pair of boots that I enjoyed once upon a time, and is now ready for someone else to love.
Making More From Scratch
Food is one of the biggest expenses in our household and I'll admit that with a little more financial comfort over the years, we splurge on more indulgent food items. With any ready-made food also comes an increase in packaging. And so in the last six months, we've committed to making a certain number of things exclusively from scratch only. This includes:
- fermented nut cheeses
- mustard (the recipe for this is in my cookbook)
- hot sauce
- coconut yogurt
Gluten-free sourdough bread is next on the list, but in the interim, as hard as it is, we've held off buying any. I am also working on growing more and more of our food and herbs in my backyard garden. Currently, my garden functions more as a very expensive hobby but it makes me happy to be out there so I declare this a win.
Gaining Confidence and Having Less F*#&$ to Give In Saying No
This is a big one. Not everyone gets us. We do live a bit of an alternative lifestyle than some of our friends and family. Though it is an ongoing process, I am accepting that not everyone understands the choices we make, nor wants to even try. Life is precious and moments matter. I choose not to spend money on things that don't align with my values big or small and this decision alone invites in the freedom to say no. It's one of those big decisions that eliminates hundreds of little ones.
Additionally, as an introvert, the more time-restricted my life feels, the more I need to honour that part of myself – to prioritize downtime. Because of that, I am getting bolder and more comfortable in saying, "Thank you but it's not my thing."
Mindfully Qualifying The Splurges
This one goes something like this: Should we go out for green juices or just pick up some veggies when we're out and make juice-making an activity at home with our son? Should we go out for a scoop of coconut ice cream, or slice up that watermelon we have? Should we get a babysitter and go out for a fun gluten-free pizza date, or make it ourselves with this recipe, and enjoy it on the back deck after the baby goes to sleep? Should we buy that bag of organic cherries or a nice bottle of wine?
This is where intentional simplicity meets the freedom to splurge. We have asked ourselves all of the above questions in the last week. We could have said yes to all of the former, or yes to all the latter (feel free to guess!). What it came down to in making these decisions is what's simpler? What is most enjoyable in the moment? Is it worth it today/tonight/tomorrow?
Nine times out of ten, we will come to the decision to do it ourselves, stay at home, or choose the lower cost option and in knowing this, the questions are being asked less and less frequently. Again, big decisions eliminating the little ones.
Keeping It In Perspective
We are not giving up the comforts we have worked extremely hard for over our entire adult lives. We are also very much aware of the blessed life that we live, and that simply living where we live is its own luxury on a global scale. There are millions of people around the world who, if they had our opportunities and circumstance, would have their greatest stress and fears eliminated. I know this.
I am grateful to know that at this moment I am living the life of my dreams. My goal is to be absolutely present with that fact.
My son will be off to school in a year or so. We are raising him with the very same intention that we are living our own lives. I want the freedom to be there when he is done school for the day. These are the goals that drive my decisions today.
The question I am working to answer is this: What is the trade-off? I don't want to miss out on living life because of some programmed need to always have something new to wear, or for my son to have the latest and greatest toys. I don't want to work more just to have more stuff. This is the common tendency today. As a society, we are at record-breaking levels of personal debt (the estimate is over $4,000 in credit card debt per American between the ages of 18 and 65). We are not happier for all the consumption. And our planet isn't either.
It can be so easy to fall into a pattern where we are working more, to earn more, to buy more, to take fancier trips, have nicer cars, nicer clothes, and as a result have less time to enjoy the simple pleasures that come from being present with the everyday life we have created for ourselves. And today, well today is the day. Today is always special as it's where we are in the moment.