Category Archives: minimalism

do nothing

One of the things that I have noticed as I get older is how much I value having simplicity in my life.  I value a quiet existence.

When I was younger and eager, I had grander plans for my career.  I set myself up for a workaholic lifestyle.  I was no stranger to this; my father did the same, and even now, he still continues to do so even though he should maybe be enjoying his retirement years.  I worked hard, worked extra on my own hours assuming that this is what life was supposed to be, and at some point I would be rewarded with all the fruits of my labor.

It took a couple of decades (plus some) to realize that this is not the life I wanted.  I did what I thought I was supposed to do, then at the end of every night I would crash into bed for a couple hours of sleep only to rise again early the next morning and do it all over again.  I was exhausted, fuelled by caffeine and deeply unsatisfied even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

It took a major life event to change all of that for me.  It took a complete upheaval in my personal and even professional life to realize that I was miserable with what I was doing, and looked at how I could change my life to enjoy what I had.  The key was simple.  The key was a simple life.

Your job or your career is only a means to an end.  It does not define you.  It finances your life but it is not who you are.  

Once I looked at it in this way, my personal life began to flourish in ways I never saw before.  I love my personal time now.  I choose what to do with it.  I take classes in what interests me, not what I think will give me more advantages for work.  I create.  I love.  And sometimes, I do nothing.  Doing nothing was a difficult concept to grasp, but now that I have released so many of the career-focused ideals I enforced upon myself, I can now see how wonderful and refreshing doing nothing really can be.  I highly recommend it to anyone.

Enjoy your life.  Relax.  Take time to appreciate things.  Do something for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

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meditation in modern life

This weekend I have had the very fortunate opportunity to spend it with a group of ladies with the same common interest.  We have all gathered to learn how to teach meditation.

What interests me about meditation is that while some consider it to be “New Age”, it seems that every culture and religion has some form of meditation; they may just call it something different.  Prayer with a rosary, meditation with a Tibetan mala… really, not much difference there.

Mindfulness is a buzz word that has been thrown around lately, but what does it mean to you?  Do things with intention.  Recognize what it is that you are doing.  Mindfulness is being taught in some schools.  Being mindful while eating is a tool used for some diet regimes.  All forms of meditation.

You can sit to meditate.  Lay down to meditate (be careful not to fall asleep, although, that is yet another form…), or walk to meditate.  This one is most difficult for me because walking is associated with thinking for me, which is the opposite of meditation.

Nature lends itself to calming and quieting the mind and is a wonderful place to sit and be still.  Have you ever tried it?  It is blissful.  It seems to melt away the stresses of what we do during our daily grind.

In the path of my life, it makes sense that meditation and mindfulness is present.  Along with minimalism, where intention of what lives or comes into my space, mindfulness is also present in every decision I make when it comes to consumerism or purging.  I become more acutely aware of the disarray in my space and it affects my inner serenity.  I wonder, does it affect yours also?

physical clutter affects everything

Clearing physical clutter is important.  It is important not just because it cleans the space you live in, but it cleans your mental space too.  Having stuff linger in your space affects many aspects of your life, whether you realize it or not.  It hangs over your head.  It’s one of those things that you think you will get to…eventually.  But when is that?  When does eventually come?

I had a garage full of waste.  I had a deck that needed work, and the debris ended up in my garage.  I didn’t think it through, I just knew that the deck needed to be fixed, and I would deal with the debris after the fact.  It was hidden in the garage, right where I should have been parking.  But for over two years, that clutter invaded my space and was constantly on my mind.  Not only that, I also had debris from some minor renovations I had done inside my home from up to four years ago.  It was sitting in my workroom in the basement and sitting on my mind, knowing full well that I needed to manage it at some point.

On an unrelated topic, but still relatable, I have a fantastic friend who pushes me to do things from time to time, in the best possible way.  He also needed to remove clutter, so we made a plan.  Yesterday, we were able to clear all that debris away for both of us.  We both have a clear space and that opens up mental space also.  I am able to park in my garage once again, and I have the ability to free up some of that mental space all that debris was taking up for something much better.

Sometimes we do not realize how much space and energy that physical clutter takes up in all facets of our lives.  If you consider one simple thing:  I had two winters of not being able to park in my garage.  That means two winters of wondering how much snow we received overnight, and expending energy to clear snow off my vehicle in order to get to work in the mornings.  Had I taken the time to remove that mess when it first was created, I could have spent those five to ten minutes every morning in a more relaxed way.

Clutter is a burden in many ways.  This long weekend is a perfect opportunity to tackle some of those burdens.  I have taken care of what was burdening me so that I can now appreciate the fruits of my labour.  I hope you can do the same.

lazy summer days

Summer days are meant for doing a certain amount of nothing.  It rarely seems the case these days, as I watch my friends and their children rushing to summer hockey camps, day camps, intensive swimming lessons, and a plethora of other activities to fill their summer days.

What happened to just having nothing to do?  To the days of going to the park and playing, or reading?  What happened to just being a kid?

This isn’t a popular perspective where I live, and I would wager it isn’t where you live either.  These days, everyone needs to be scheduled to the hilt, because if you aren’t busy, you are wasting your time, right?

Wrong.

There is so much benefit in just allowing yourself time to be.  Time to sit and just watch the day go by is so mentally therapeutic!  Being busy does not equal being productive.  This is something I have learned after years of having too much going on in my life.  There is still too much going on, but I am still a work in progress too.  I am officially on holidays for two weeks, and while my time clock may be stalled, work wise, my actions have not.  I still have lists of things I wish to accomplish during my time off, but I know full well that there are too many lists and too little time.  Where do I fit in time for me?

It’s ok to let the dust settle in the corners once in a while, or for the dishes to wait until morning.  We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while so that we can function optimally.  Don’t forget to take time out to relax and do nothing.  There is so much value in just being.

what do we really need?

I was fortunate enough over the past couple weeks to gain some perspective on the philosophy of minimalism.  I spent the better part of a week away, cultivating relationships with family friends.  During this time, I needed to choose what I would do with my down time in the evening.  I brought a couple minor things…a tablet to continue with my writing, some kitchen cotton to crochet some dishcloths-a minimal mental task that keeps my hands busy when I’m feeling tired, and my aromatherapy studies.

During the course of the week I discovered a couple things:  The space I was spending time with was peaceful with minimal items in the room.  It simply allowed the mind to rest.  I spent more time with people, interacting instead of spending time in front of distractions.  The tablet never came out until everyone was settled into their beds.  It was a good exercise in being present.

A valuable lesson came out of this experience for me.  I discovered that even though I hold on to the ideals and philosophies of minimalism, I am still finding that there is a lot of stuff that lives with me in my house.  After returning home, I looked at my house with a refreshed minimalism lens and began going through things to donate or discard as needed.  It was quite satisfying to shred fifteen year old documents, and provide a new home for clothing items that were gently used, or not used at all.  In the kon marie way, these items had served their purpose at the time, and now they needed to be thanked and sent on their way.

I still have a way to go, but it is a journey.  I am still ever grateful for the experience to refresh my determination to live a simple life.

simpler times

Heritage locations that showcase how life used to be lived can be a great reminder of just how far we have come.  It’s also a reminder of how much simpler life used to be.  People didn’t have computers, smart phones, or even robotics to help do their jobs.  They used good old muscle power.

I spent the day at one of these such sites this week.  I like to visit places like this alone and truly immerse myself in the sense of what it was truly like at that time.  Why?  Because I hope that the reminder will help me to appreciate what we have now.  Also, to remind me that we don’t need everything we have in this modern life we live.  It helps reinforce my minimalistic lifestyle and appreciate what I have and use daily even more.

We live a good life.  We don’t plow the fields with a horse drawn plow anymore.  Most of us don’t even have a need to grow our own food, so if we do, it is more of a hobby than a necessity.  Imagine the wonder that our ancestors would have had if they were told that growing food would become a hobby!

We are beyond fortunate.  We are spoiled with having immediate gratification.  Taking time to remember this perspective is grounding.  I am grateful for the reminder.

quality time

I value quality time with those I love.  Spending time together is worth more than any store bought gift, in my opinion.

This weekend was one of those weekends where we didn’t have anything pressing to do.  Being a long weekend on top of it, we decided rather last minute to take a trip to the zoo.  Since it is a three hour drive each way, we made sure to get up nice and early.  We packed up the cameras, water bottles and music for the drive and away we went.  We always stop for coffee and breakfast before leaving town.  It’s just what we do.  The kids eat while I drive, and I have my caffeine fix.  Sometimes they fall asleep on the drive, sometimes we all sing along to whatever song is playing.  Sometimes they read.  It’s always enjoyable no matter what.

I’ve come to crave these little day trips.  The adventure of getting away, of taking a trip unplanned.  Just drop everything and go.  Sometimes these are solo trips if the kids are not home that week, but I love the ones where they come along the most.  It’s good quality time well spent.  On top of that, my eldest had a chance to continue developing his photography skills in a different setting.  He’s getting very good at it, and I am very proud of him.  But there’s something to be said for getting away from home for just a little while.  A change of scenery.  A little excitement.  Spending time outdoors, and believe me, we were out there walking around and enjoying the sun and the setting for a good five hours at least.  These are the little things that they will remember as they grow into adults.  These are the things I will remember as they grow up and move on to live their own lives.  I will know that they will have those happy memories to draw upon.  They will have that influence for how they might like to live their lives, and should they have children, to do what they enjoyed as kids for their own.

Quality time.  I read somewhere that you have 18 summers with your children before they are grown.  This is what I’m doing with my 18.

cultivating creativity

Creativity is a huge part of my world.  I see my world through the lens of a photographer, remember things with a writer’s pen, and dream with a painter’s brush.  My soul breathes creativity, and it warms my heart to know that my children have inherited that gene from me.  While it sometimes breeds frustration when we cannot achieve the product that we have dreamed of in our mind’s eye, the process is still very important.  As I watched my younger one crochet his own creations at the tender age of ten years old, he can see what he wants to create.  He has taken my guidance and moved beyond what I have given him and created more…turned it into his.

What comes with this territory is frustration, upset, sometimes a couple tears, but then it ends in pure joy.  The joy that you don’t get from buying an item, but one of soulful satisfaction for doing it yourself.  It may not be perfect.  It may not be the product envisioned, but it is a unique, one of a kind item that was created with love, determination, creativity, positive reinforcement, and joy.

do more of what you love

I have had a week where I was able to spend time doing the things I enjoy.  There were still things that needed to get done, like take the little ones to school and make dinner, but I did these things in a way that I preferred.

We walked to school, which is a convenient 5 minute walk.  We brought the dog both ways.  We didn’t need to use before and after school care this week, and that made a huge difference in how much time we had to do things together and the free time they had without having homework or meal time.  Our days suddenly gained a lot of time.

We made meals that were fun and delicious with organic whole foods that were deliciously vegetarian.  Dinner became a joy instead of a chore.

It’s amazing how the simple things take on more enjoyment when you have time.  Less stuff means less to clean.  Less to own means less to owe.  This gives way to freedom.  The less you need to work to pay the bills for the stuff you need to clean.  Seems pretty straightforward, no?  With less, you can do more of what you love.

the art of simplification

There is a lot of discussion about Minimialism, particularly since the documentary about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (http://www.theminimalists.com)  came out.  It really isn’t anything new, but perhaps new to the masses who are caught up in commercialization.

I have been on my in and out journey through minimalism for years and years.  I know that I do feel better when my life is uncluttered.  I feel stress and anxiety when there is too much stuff in my house and in my life.  And I could suspect that you feel the same too, whether you recognize it at this moment or not.

I look at minimalism as a component of simplification of one’s life.  I think simplification truly is an art to achieve these days, what with all the social media and marketing proclaiming how we need this and we must have that.  Why you’re just not important if you don’t have x, y, and z.  I call bullshit.  We don’t need any of that stuff.  The big corporations need us to want that stuff.  The CEOs who make six, maybe even seven figures a year because they have convinced the masses that all this stuff is necessary in our lives.

Guess what?

They’re wrong.  So very very wrong.  We don’t need all that crap.  We don’t need to have the latest and greatest phone or computer.  We don’t need to spend a million dollars on a house just because that is what is expected.

What we need is to live within our means.  What we need is to be comfortable saying no to consumerism.  What we need is to spend more time with family and loved ones.  To spend time enjoying life without worrying about debt or clutter or how popular we are or how many friends we have and how we compare financially.  We need to get back to basics.  To live simply in all aspects of our lives.  To find joy everyday in the little things and be thankful for the chance to be here…the chance to wake up in the morning.  Not everyone has that same luxury.

Life in its simplicity is finding joy in the small things.  Recall that motto I posted a while back?  Life is lived in the mundane.  Let’s live.