A Journey to Minimalism – Looking Ahead.

Here we are on Day Two of the Minimalists 21 Day Plan. I’m not sure yet how I feel about it, I didn’t feel as though I was really doing much yesterday with my so-called “Must List”. After all, I’ve done this sort of thing in the past. It kind of feels like a super long set of New Years’ resolutions – they feel too big, too unwieldy to be able to turn around in 21 days. And, maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t see anything about de-cluttering, anywhere!

But I guess that’s the point – yesterday was all about ascertaining goals, realising that minimalism (as these two see it anyway) is more than just a state of having few possessions but a mind-set that can guide you through life and lead you to make better decisions all round. That sounds good to me – I often feel like things have to change, that something’s got to give, but I rarely feel the empowerment to follow through. Maybe they are giving me the tools I need to actually pull my finger out and eventually get around. Rather sneakily they are pervading not just my home (as a standard KonMari method might), but my mind. I’m de-cluttering my soul as well as my space, apparently. I’m willing to put a few more days towards it if it gives me results in the long-term. I’m happy to keep an open mind. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

Below is my Must List. These are the things that have been bothering me and I figure I want to (and now have the power to) change. On Day Two the Minimalists include their own shortened Must List and I’m surprised to see it’s actually less abstract than I thought it had to be. There’s me going for the deep and meaningful (which they have a healthy dollop of too), but they also include things like listening to music more, eating sensibly, exercising. I guess I put that under putting more effort in my interests as, if you hadn’t guessed it, being healthy and advocating for health are pretty high on my list of priorities. But who’s to say we need the same list anyway – reading mine back again, I’m pretty happy with it.

  1. I must worry less
  2. I must be more patient with people around me
  3. I must spend money more wisely
  4. I must invest more time in my interests
  5. I must put more effort into my relationships
  6. I must improve my writing
  7. I must consume less
  8. I must care more about the environment
  9. I must be more grateful for what I have
  10. I must only make plans I intend to follow through on
  11. I must stop relying on the internet to solve my problems
  12. I must stop being bored
  13. I must work smarter, not harder
  14. I must read more
  15. I must take more interest in the world
  16. I must stop over-analysing everything

Today is another day put towards thinking rather than doing. But the emphasis here is that the thinking is active – it is described as a day of planning. They suggest I put around an hour’s effort into this, hence the late post. Rather nicely (for me anyway, I’m not feeling so imaginative this morning), they have included a set of questions to be answered. It’s all going to get personal again…

What is standing in the way of my musts?

I suppose to a certain extent I am. Because most of the time I don’t put the thought in, or the effort. I just catch the regret afterwards. I often let myself get into negative cycles (especially with the boredom, the worrying, the analysing), once I start that spiral there’s only one way: down. Probably until I have a sleep or a meal and can think straight again. What can I say, it’s the way I’m built. But some large part of it is also down to habit – this negativity (as far as I know) is probably just a very unfortunate reflex. I’ve had it since I was small. I feel it fluctuate throughout the year. For example, if I know exams are coming up – that means revision is around the corner. I start feeling down almost as part of my exam prep. That just makes no sense. The exams aren’t measured on how I felt about them emotionally, they’re measured on the hard numbers of what I get right and wrong. How I feel has nothing to do with it. It’s obviously the wrong response to have – and it doesn’t just hurt me but it hurts the other people around me.

So if I’m able to focus more on the improvements, the positive changes, maybe I can cut out this negative cycle. I know it will take baby steps but to be honest I just feel sick to death of worrying about every damn thing all the time. I just want to learn to let it go and maybe if I have enough other things going on in my life (like spending time with the people I love, writing everyday, finally learning how to skateboard) I can get past it. Distraction and a little bit of faith may just work it out.

As for other things standing in the way I guess we also have logistics and funding. I currently live between London and Cambridge, spanning uni and home so there isn’t much consistency in terms of being able to, say, start a course and stick to it. But that’s something I’ll have to work around. Funding, well. I’m a student – that’s probably enough said. But then again, if I can focus on points 3 and 7 maybe I’ll open up more opportunities for myself in the long-term. That would be nice.

When did I give so much meaning to my possessions?

I’m not really sure how to answer this question. When? Surely it should be a why… I guess I’ve never really thought about it. It’s just the society we live in, isn’t it. Consumerism is fueled by the media, we even have days celebrating buying stuff (I’m looking at you Black Friday). We’re actively encouraged to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. The point of them meaning something to me is also tricky. I probably only have a small number of possessions that are irreplaceable. Childhood teddy bear, my battered 80s’ edition of the Shining, family photos. The rest could go. Yes I’d be upset and probably put out because that would mean sourcing it all again, but I’m fairly sure I’d get over it.

I think to keep things short I’m just going to say on some scale I have always put some meaning into things. I’ve felt the thrill as I’ve bought unnecessary items which supposedly guarantee me some sort of lifestyle overhaul only to become redundant in the near future. And if that thrill counts as a meaning, then yes, I’ve always felt it.

What is truly important in my life?

My family. My friends. Their health and wellbeing and mine.

I want to get as much out of life as I can, wring it dry. I want to learn more about this messy, equal-parts-ugly-to-beautiful planet that I accidentally found myself on. If I think about it, I should never have any reason to be bored, there is so much to find out and learn.

Why am I discontented?

Because I promise myself these changes and rarely see them through. I build myself up only to knock everything down. I feel the self-disappointment, the guilt. And these things I’d miss out on if I did get round to it and make the change. I also feel I just spend so much of my life filling in forms (I’m aware this will only get worse) or finding things I’ve lost or waiting around for things to happen. I know these 21 days will not be the miracle cure. I know that we all have to deal with a bit of crap every day. But I don’t like the emptiness I sometimes feel when I think about it all. About the opportunities I’ve not pursued – the times I’ve told myself I couldn’t when I was just too scared to follow through. The things I could have achieved or learnt.

I guess I feel discontented too because the world we live in supports those feelings of negativity. I know it’s very easy to pass the buck but social media does not help anyone *she blogs, ironically*. It’s true though, and we all know it. Of course our lives appear dull and banal when we can only see the select perfect moments of other people’s lives laid out in front of us. We don’t question it, there is the assumption that they are living their lives to the full and we are missing out. It doesn’t matter that they had to take that same selfie 46 times to achieve the perfect lighting. Or that they didn’t actually enjoy the paella they just posted to Instagram. I wouldn’t even say I’m that bad – I don’t spend much time on Instagram or Facebook, but I do still feel its effects. It only feeds the little voice at the back of my head that says I’m not living life to the full, fueling that discontentment just a little bit more. The icing on the shitty cake.

Who is the person I want to become?

I want to be happy. I don’t quite know what that means. I want to be content with everything I have, satisfied with the choices I make and able to live in the moment more. I want to have the capacity to deal with the ups and downs of lives and to throw myself into everything. I want to appreciate it all, give and give back. Be interested and never tire of everything the world has to offer.

I am a horribly cynical person so I’m aware I won’t be changed overnight into some sort of gasping lunatic who is surprised by everything. I want to be realistic. But I don’t want to inject negativity into everything, some things should just be taken as they are and appreciated for what they are too. I want to feel empowered in my decisions and surround myself with love and kindness, doing my bit for an intolerant world.

How will I define my success?

I guess I’ll read this back and weep, for a start! I’m not sure it’s a success that will ever really be defined. I am happy to just have it as an ongoing project for the rest of my life – that maybe I’ll one day be shocked at the changes I’ve made and how they’ll benefit me.

How will my life improve if I own less stuff?

The things I need will be far easier to find – I’ve already realised that post-wardrobe clearout. I hope to find more clarity, lead a more refined experience. The idea is if I don’t get so attached to the things I own I won’t be so invested in my past. What’s done is done after all. I’ll be accepting the transience of life a little bit more and respecting that time moves on. I should let it, who am I to stand in it’s way. Hopefully if I stop looking to the past I’ll be able to invest more thought and effort into my future, but most importantly – into my present. I want to live in the moment more. I want to be more grateful for every second that I have. I must be more grateful.

***

So there we have it. I’ll catch you all for Day Three tomorrow, right now I’m off to read something. Or maybe I should dust off the skateboard…

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