Life After Stuff. I’m realising the ‘stuff’ isn’t just physical items. Negativity is something I’ve been trying to have less of in my life. It creeps in insidiously, through our pores like a poisonous gas. It also spreads rampantly from one person to another, more contagious than a virus and masks cannot protect us from it.
One of the biggest sources is the media. Previously, I’ve switched the telly on at 6pm most nights to watch ‘the news’. I like to know what’s going on, keep up to date on current events. It became a habit, something I did without really thinking about why I was doing it. Instead of catching up on the events of the day, I realised I was just listening to constant negative and catastrophising stories about how life is getting harder, more expensive, more stressful. Conversations between others then carries on this theme, complaining about the cost of buying a house, petrol, a lettuce and of course all things Coronavirus related.
It doesn’t stop there, I’ve noticed nearly every interaction with work colleagues and friends ends up being negative and complaining about something. “Oh, its going to be a long day today (groan)”, “I’m so tired”, “so and so did this or that”, “Ugh, its raining again”. I am as guilty as the next person.
Social media is just the icing on the cake. We now have a platform where we can complain about anything and anyone to an audience of friends and strangers. People say stuff they would never say to others face to face. People can post whatever they want, whether it is true or not and often it’s taken as fact.
All this negative noise seeps into our consciousness and we believe it and we become stressed and anxious and overwhelmed. SO, I’m trying to have LESS of it. Less TV, less ‘news’, less social media, and less negative talk.
I’m trying to catch myself before I say something, and check whether there is a more positive way of saying it. I’m trying to be more conscious of the mindless things I say and do and be more deliberate. And I’m trying to avoid the default position of negative. Because I really do think that things aren’t as bad as the noise would have us believe.
What if I told you I made $25,000 this week, all from the comfort of my lounge and wearing my pyjamas.
Minimalism is about having less… and more. One of the areas I’ve been looking at in my life, is my budget. I want less debt and financial stress and more financial freedom. I define financial freedom not by being ‘rich’, but by feeling secure that I can pay my bills and that I have a safety net of savings in case of emergency.
The principles of minimalism in regards to money are like any other resource we have. Be mindful and intentional about how you use it to reduce your stress and have a more meaningful life.
There are two types of budgeters. Those that do, and those that don’t. I’m very much proactive when it comes to trying to reduce my bills and expenses. In fact, I get very excited at the thought of finding a better deal! I get that others prefer to just not think about it, but putting your head in the sand is costing you your hard earned cash.
“The best way to give yourself a raise is to spend less”
Now, I’m not saying you have to eat canned soup and never go on holidays. You could actually save yourself some cash right now without having to give up anything. It will cost you a little of your time.
When we bought out house 18 months ago, we used a mortgage broker. It doesn’t cost us anything. Every six months, I get an email from him saying that he’s got us a lower rate on our loan. I don’t have to do a thing! However yesterday I emailed him and said I think we can get a better rate and said I was looking at a cheaper non bank lender. Within hours he responded by saying he had spoken to our existing lender and they had reduced our loan rate by 0.22% and he had found another loan that is another 0.21% cheaper again if we want to refinance. That’s a saving of $24,253 over the life of our loan!
This trick works for other things too. Your electricity, gas, mobile phone, internet, car insurance, house insurance. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but in exchange for a few hours, you could reduce your expenses by thousands of dollars and how good would that feel?
This is not exactly a blog post today. I just wanted to share one of the biggest influences that got me on my current path to re examining my life.
The concept of minimalism was not completely foreign to me. In fact, several years ago, I signed up to Joshua Becker’s newsletter, Becoming Minimalist. I got regular emails of articles that he had written. I never read one. They just clogged up my inbox. I also signed up to The Minimalists blog. I followed them and Colin Wright and Project 333 on Instagram. Again, didn’t actually look at or read any of it.
Then one day, I did notice an Instagram post. Even though I don’t remember exactly what it was about, it triggered me to start listening to The Minimalists Podcast. That was January 2022. Since then, I listen to or read something to do with minimalism pretty much everyday. I’m truly inspired.
So today, I just want to share a TED Talk that The Minimalist did in 2014 that really sums what got me hooked. It is less than 15 minutes long.
I’ve been listening to a podcast lately by The Minimalists. One of their favourite sayings is, “Do your short term actions align with your long term values?” In other words, do the things that you spend your time on on a daily basis, really reflect what’s important to you? I have found this so challenging because it made me realise that my daily actions weren’t necessarily in line with my values. I wasn’t even sure exactly what my values were? I had never really stopped and thought about it. Until now. Over the last couple of months I have tried to focus on finding out exactly what my core values are. Values are principles, things we deem important, they affect our behaviour and character and govern the way we behave. They are the things that are most important to us. I’ve mentioned my health a bit lately because I’ve realised I want to make that more of a priority than I have in the past. Relationships is another value that most people would have at the top of their list. It’s also right up there with ‘health’ as the value we probably don’t give enough of our time and attention to. Sadly, many other values temp us like wealth, status, vanity, possessions and Instagram likes.
Knowing what our values are makes life a little simpler because it helps our focus. It helps us to spend time on those things that are important to us and not get distracted by the myriad of other stuff that surrounds our lives.
I had a patient (I’m a nurse) say this to me this week, it was his excuse for not getting a medical issue looked at sooner. I’ve heard this statement plenty of times before, I’ve even said it myself. This time, however, hearing it really stopped me in my tracks and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What we really mean when we say this is “other, less important stuff is getting in the way of life”, yet we continue to let the ‘other stuff’, the less important stuff, take up our precious time. Often it’s just distractions, noise, clutter, that takes our attention from the minute we wake up.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve decided I needed a strategy, a plan, to try and stop myself from being distracted by the less important and focus on the more important. Of course it helps to know what the more important stuff is first. For me, it is my health. For the past 10 years, my health has not been the best it could be. I’ve been plagued by pain and fatigue, and as a consequence, I’ve put on a lot of weight, which of course has just made things worse. There have been times where I’ve literally felt like a 70 year old and I was in my 40’s. Now I’m 50, and I do not want this trajectory to continue.
Back to my plan. Now every morning when I wake up, I remind myself, that my health is the most important thing, and I ask myself “what am I going to do today that reflects this”. Before my feet even touch the ground, I have a plan, I’m a bit more focused. Even if it’s just one small thing, one slight change in trajectory will mean the direction I’m heading in will be different to what it was before. “Life got in the way” shouldn’t be an excuse for not doing things, it should be the goal.
We bought our first home 18 months ago. I was 49. It’s the first time I’ve had a house that’s mine. I spent several years in government housing as a child and have been renting or living at my mother in law’s since then. I’d been dreaming about this my whole life. I couldn’t wait to buy furniture and decorate it. We’d never really bought new furniture before, we had a lot of hand me downs. ‘I deserved this’ I told myself. I like mid century modern and retro styles and I started following Instagram and Pinterest pages and finding vintage stores looking for inspiration. When we moved it, I finally got to start shopping for my dream ‘look’. I bought furniture and items to decorate. Then I started to find it quite stressful because I’d always see something ‘better’ than the thing I’d already bought. I was constantly on Facebook Marketplace looking for things and feeling the pressure to buy because If I saw something vintage, I didn’t want to miss out. I might not see another one. It was really taking the fun out of what I thought would be a fun experience.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a change. I feel…calmer. Less overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure why initially. On reflection, I think the difference is that I feel like I have less mental clutter. My mind doesn’t seem to be as busy. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed since I started looking into minimalism, is that I don’t feel the desire to shop as much as I did. I feel more content with what I’ve already got. My mind is not constantly thinking about looking for bigger and better.
I feel like a smoker who has been hypnotised to stop smoking. I feel like I’ve overcome an addiction. An addiction to constantly wanting more.
If that title conjures up images of gyrating models in tight black dresses with slicked back hair and red lipstick, then you lived the 80s. Ah the 80s, famously known as the Decade of Excess.
Looking back, the 80s were a real turning point in consumption. Up until then, there was less choice and less advertising, but more significantly, less pressure to consume. All that changed in the 80s when ‘Greed became Good”. We started to be told that what we had wasn’t enough, we needed more, better, shinier. That message has become so extreme now. We are completely bombarded with advertising. It is estimated that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day! It’s undoubtedly not that different in Australia.
The message has changed subtly too. Instead of “you need this” it’s now, “you are no good unless you have this”, “you will not be happy until you have this”. It’s an outright lie, but nearly all of us have all been brainwashed by the cult of consumption. We have been programmed to consume constantly and mindlessly. The only way out is to STOP and question every purchase.
How much time do you spend on things in your life? Work, exercise, housework, watching TV, scrolling on social media? Does your time spent reflect what’s important to you? The things you spend your time on are actually the things that you prioritise, for good or bad.
I often wonder to myself, “where has the time gone?” Or think, “I had so much to do today and I did nothing”. I decided to have a good look at exactly what I was spending my time on, so last week I did a little experiment. A time audit. For a couple of days I kept track of how much time I spent doing various things throughout my day. I realised that I spent a lot of my precious time being distracted by things that weren’t that important. ‘Pottering’ around the house (whatever that is), wandering around shops, scrolling on social media, watching Netflix. Not only did I waste time, I felt stressed and guilty because I didn’t do the things that I really wanted to get done.
I realised that in order to focus more on what’s important, I needed to figure out what that was. For example, I would say my health is important, but that has not been reflected in my time allocation. I have been in pain for over 6 months because I have herniated disc in my back. I saw my physiotherapist four months ago and he sent me an email with some exercises to do. I have not done them. Until this week. I’m trying to remind myself each morning to not get distracted and focus on what’s important.
Time is our most precious resource.
And it’s a finite one.
When my mum passed away, it was left to me to empty out her house. She had a lot of stuff. A LOT. I was quite traumatised by her death at only 58 years of age. While still in the depths of my grief, I was faced with the monumental task of having to empty out her house in a fairly timely manner as it was a rental. I was absolutely dreading it and it felt so overwhelming. The main reason it was so stressful was because my mum had become a hoarder in her later life. She suffered from mental health issues and became unable to manage her stuff. In her house were garbage bags full of…well, more bags. Hundreds of plastic shopping bags. And garbage bags full of clothes that were never worn. In the end, 90% of the stuff in her house literally went in the garbage. Nineteen years after her death, I have very few items that belonged to my mum. A few pieces of jewellery, a funky dress she wore in the 70s, her Sunbeam Mixmaster and a retro glass bowl. A few months ago the glass bowl fell and broke. I was sad, for a second. Then I realised that I really didn’t even like that bowl, and I wasn’t going to lose any of my memories of my mum because the bowl was no longer there. This has also allowed me to let go of the Mixmaster that she received as a wedding present in 1969. I don’t think she actually used it after the 70s, but she held onto it. Then I’ve held onto it for the past 19 years. In that time, I’ve moved house 3 times, lugging it with me even though I never used it once, I don’t even know if it still works. I have a photo of it, but I don’t need to keep it.
Put your hand up if you’ve ever decluttered your home or had a big clean out? 🙋♀️ Now put your hand up if you’ve done it more than once 🙋♀️🙋♀️. I’m a serial declutterer. I regularly take a big bag of stuff to Vinnies and we diligently load up our curb side every 6 months for the council cleanups. Despite this, when we moved from our house of 14 years, we had a MASSIVE clean out. Several boot loads of stuff went to the charity shop and we filled two skip bins full of rubbish. Despite this, when the moving truck arrived at our new home, I was shocked at the amount of stuff that was in that truck! We’ve been in our new house for 16 months now and we just put another load of rubbish out for the council cleanup and I had a big garage sale a couple of weeks ago.
Why do I still have so much stuff when I get rid of so much?
The answer is simple, getting rid of the stuff is only half of the solution. The other half is not bringing anymore stuff in
That’s the bit I haven’t been good at. But things feel different this time. I’m hopeful I’ve turned the corner to a brighter, less cluttered future that requires less decluttering.