Minimalism: The Highs and Lows

I was wondering recently how long it’s been since we discovered minimalism and was surprised to find that my first blog on the subject was 26th March 2017! I can’t believe it’s been over a year!

My first blog was about starting the clear-out process with something simple. And we chose mugs.

At the time we cut down our mug collection from 28 to 15 and I clearly remember finding it really difficult and finding justifications to keep more than we’d originally planned!

Beardie and I now only own six mugs. We have two each and then two spares in the cupboard for guests/builders. This is perfect for us, but wouldn’t be ideal for someone who has a lot of friends over for tea and cake!

Approximately one year after starting our Minimalism journey – I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the highs and lows.


Highlights

It doesn’t take as long to clean

The rooms that we have tackled already have a lot less clutter so it’s easier to keep them tidy and to clean.

I’ve saved money

Particularly on clothes. I wasn’t an extravagant spender anyway and I haven’t given myself a spending ban at any point – but I’ve been making more sensible purchases and I’m finding it easier to let things go if they’re not right.

I’m creating more

Saving some time and money means I have more time to spend on creating. I’m growing more fruit and veg in the garden and I’m finding more time and money to spend on sewing and knitting garments for myself.

I’m looking after myself

Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of stuff! It’s about simplifying your life and living more mindfully.

I’ve always been a big advocate of self care and this was largely the motivation behind the Moody Blanket. I believe that looking after our minds is as important as looking after our bodies but it’s something many of us feel we don’t have time for.

I started a habit tracker this year to encourage me to meditate daily, eat healthily and get more sleep. I really feel the benefits when I stick to my daily habits and I notice the negative impact when I let things slip for a few days.

Habit Tracker by Clementine Creative

The Lows…

‘Stuff’ stresses me out

I’m quite an impatient person and if I decide to do something I generally just want to get it done! However – I knew that rushing through the initial ‘getting rid of stuff’ part of minimalism wouldn’t work for me. I’ve had big clear-outs before and I inevitably put things out of sight to sort out later. This time I want to do it thoroughly and make a lasting change!

People deal with the process differently. Ryan of The Minimalists had a packing party – putting all his belongings in boxes/covering furniture and then only keeping what he had used within a certain amount of days (extreme!). Whereas Josh (also of The Minimalists) gradually got rid of the majority of his belongings in the space of a year.

Beardie and I kick-started things in June by playing The Minimalism Game. When we came to a standstill we followed this up with a mini packing party for our kitchen crockery at the end of last year. Other than that we’ve just been gradually working through things… and it’s a slow process.

We’ve probably tackled more than half the house which is great – but because we haven’t completed the process of minimising every room, I always feel like I should be doing ‘stuff’ and ‘stuff’ becomes stressful!

I feel guilty

I guess it’s natural when taking good care of oneself to feel a bit selfish!

I find meditation particularly difficult because my mind bounces around and I feel like I ‘should’ be doing something else.

But taking time out can often make you more focused, more productive, calmer and generally a nicer person to be around. So ultimately self care is caring for everyone… my brains just not calibrated that yet!


As you can see – the highs outweigh the lows for me! I would love to hear from you if you’re working on simplifying your life too… particularly if you’re a fellow crafter surrounded by ‘artistic clutter’!

The Minimalism Game…I did it!

I won’t lie – I’m happy to have finished the minimalism game. Not because it was difficult…but because, once I got started, it was so easy it scared me!

465 Items sounds like a LOT of stuff – but once you get started you soon realise it’s not that much. I quite quickly started to find the game a bit restrictive because I was recording everything in photos and sharing on Instagram. Throughout the game I’ve actually got rid of other stuff which I’ve not recorded – either because they didn’t fit it with the grouped items for the day or because I didn’t want to photograph piles of rubbish!

A lot of my items were books, yarn and fabric. With yarn I came up with a system for deciding what to keep and I’m planning to go through this regularly to ensure I’m not accumulating.

With fabric I just kept the pieces I absolutely love and the remainder went to quilts for grenfell and some to friends.

Then knitting books were tricky! They don’t take up much space (or so I thought!) and I always have that fear that I might need them for work. I guess that’s why I’ve kept every single book produced by Rowan since I started working for them in 2008!

So I decided to be strict with myself here. I’ve kept all the current books, but I know I can get hold of a copy of old books if I need to – so I don’t need to keep physical copies of absolutely everything. I’ve kept collections of books which I enjoy looking through regularly  (Rowan mags and Kim books), reference books I use (stitch dictionaries etc), and books I plan to/think I will knit from. This meant I got rid of 5 boxes of knitting & craft books – condensing one and a half bookcases down to about two thirds of a bookcase. And it feels great!

The hardest thing by far is getting rid of things I’ve made. Back in the early noughties I made myself a coat from a Vogue pattern and I’m still a little bit impressed with the sewing skills past Jem had! I wore it lots and got a huge amount of pleasure from telling people I made it.

But it’s now been in my wardrobe unworn for years because one side of the hem dropped. I’ve always thought I’ll fix it and wear it again – but in reality I’ve gone off it a bit. I’m not sure about the colour and I don’t like the big collar. So I’ve decided to give it to charity and hope that someone else enjoys it.

I’ve always found it difficult to get rid of things that I’ve made but if I’m no longer getting enjoyment from it – I hope someone else will. And if it’s something I never enjoyed – maybe a knit that didn’t turn out right or just didn’t suit me – then I don’t want to be reminded of that every time I see it in my wardrobe!

The minimalism game has been a great way to get started, but I feel like this is just the beginning. There are lots of great podcasts from The Minimalists which are keeping me motivated and focused on why I’m doing this. I want to not be overwhelmed by “stuff” – both physical and mental clutter. I want to make better use of my time. And ultimately I want to be healthier and happier.

Clearing out the physical “stuff” is the first step and rather a big job! I’m not going to rush myself – I will just gradually work through the house. I can already feel the benefit and I quite quickly moved from thinking “our house is too small” to thinking “we have far too much stuff!”.

The most useful tips I’ve picked up from The Minimalists are…

Don’t keep sentimental items just because they trigger a memory. The memory isn’t in the thing! I think this rule applies to handmade items as well. If you want a memory trigger – take a photo of it. I’m planning to set up a folder of “memories” to store digitally. But if you love the thing or use the thing then of course you should keep it!

Do you need it “just in case” or “just for when”? For example – I held on to my boxing gloves for fifteen years just in case I took up kickboxing again. That seems unlikely now so they’ve gone to charity! However -I haven’t used my snorkel for a few years – but I need that just for when I go on holiday so I’m keeping that.

If you want to find out more about Minimalism, visit The Minimalists website here. And if you want to see how Beardie did with the minimalism game, you can find his blog here.

I would love to know about your experiences if you’re a fellow knitter embracing the minimalist lifestyle!

Minimalist Yarn Stash

I’m one week into The Minimalism Game and decided to tackle the yarn stash in week one!

I think I probably could’ve done the whole month just with yarn if I counted each ball, pack and oddment individually – but I felt like that would be cheating. So on day seven I got rid of seven bags full of yarn!

Starting this process has really made think about my relationship with “stuff” and what I need versus what I want.

I said in my previous blog about Minimalism that I’ve started to feel overwhelmed by “stuff”. I feel surrounded by things that make me think “I need to do things/I should’ve done that/I don’t know what to do with this” and it makes me feel guilty and stressed.

I’m trying to focus on the long term benefits of playing the minimalism game, but the process is really challenging… and it’s going to get harder!

Looking through things and wondering why I’ve held onto them makes me feel guilty because someone else could’ve been using them. Getting rid of things that I want to keep (i.e. yarn) is difficult! But once it’s out the door the hard part is done and you start to feel a little less weighed down.

So to help myself stay focussed, I made a little chart! I found a few of these on Pinterest for clearing out your wardrobe…but of course yarn requires different criteria.

This little chart helped me to be more ruthless and more honest/realistic about what I need and want in my stash.

I still have significantly more yarn than I need, but seven bags full was all I could bear to part with right now. I’m sure I will come back to it at some point before I finish the 30 day challenge to really question myself about what I decided to keep.

If you have any tips on how to be ruthless throughout this process – they would be most welcome!

The Minimalism Game

I’ve mentioned the Minimalism documentary a couple of times in previous blogs and if you haven’t seen it yet I would definitely recommend it!

It’s really changed the way I think about my quality of life.

For a long time now I have felt strongly that time is more important than money. It’s why I made the decision to leave my demanding full time job to work freelance back in 2014 and it’s why I choose to work part-time now. I’m constantly striving for that perfect balance where I can do the job I love, pursue my creative urges through freelance work…and still have time to eat, sleep, relax and enjoy life.

So far this year, that balance has really been challenged. But after a very busy few months, things are calming down and I’m starting to feel like this balance is achievable. But I know I need to make some changes.

Jem Weston Moody Blanket KAL 2017When I’m busy I have a lot more teal “meh” days on my Moody blanket. This is mainly because I just become overwhelmed and don’t have time to switch off. But I’ve started to realise recently that I’m also overwhelmed by “stuff”. Just think about how much less stressful it is to work at a nice clear, tidy desk rather than being surrounded by piles of paperwork. Everywhere I look in my office I see things I need to do – whether that’s a pile of receipts I need to add into a spreadsheet, papers that need to be shredded, my broken shredder that needs to be fixed or replaced so that I can shred the papers…I’m feeling stressed just thinking about it!

And it’s not just work “stuff”. How much stuff do you just walk past in your home everyday and don’t use, need or get any pleasure from? But it still takes up space or needs cleaning. I think we’ve all got things lurking in the back of the wardrobe that we’ve not worn in a year, or a box of stuff that hasn’t been looked in since the last house move.

But minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything you own.

It’s about living a more considered life. Not buying for the sake of buying and only owning what you need and get “value” from – which will be different for everybody. I personally get a huge amount of joy from my yarn and fabric stash! But I’ve quite happily moved over to the kindle – so do I need shelves full of books? That’s a question I will be asking myself whilst playing the Minimalism Game.

So if you fancy clearing a bit of space in your house and your mind – join me to play the Minimalism Game in June!

The idea of the game is that you get rid of one thing on day one…

Two things on day two…

Three things on day three…

And so on for 30 days!

By the end of the challenge you will have cleared out 465 things. I’m not going to lie…this is going to be difficult! To make it doubly hard – Beardie is also embracing the concept of minimalism and will be playing the game as well. So after 30 days we will have gotten rid of 930 things between us! I’m not sure we own enough things to complete the challenge – but we’re really excited to give it a try.

On The Minimalists website they say that you have to get the items out of the house by the end of each day. That for me would be a logistical nightmare as I’m often on the road and away overnight with work. So I’m planning to do a few days at a time – throw out anything that will just be going in the bin, and box/pile everything else up as I go along for charity shop, selling, giving to friends. I also think I will struggle to photograph and share each day individually so I’m planning to share seven days at a time over on Instagram if you want to watch my progress and join in!

We will be starting on Saturday 3rd June. Who’s on board?

Let’s get minimal!

 

Minimalism 

I recently watched the Minimalism documentary over on Netflix. Since watching it I’ve been following The Minimalists over on Instagram and gathering pearls of wisdom!

I don’t want to live in a blank space but I’m aware that I have a lot of superfluous “stuff”. This stuff actually adds stress and pressure to my life because it’s more stuff to clean/look after/feel guilty about getting rid of because I hate waste!

I love the idea of streamlining and only having things I get value from in my home. Things I use/wear or things that bring me happiness. The following quote pretty much sums this up for me…

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

William Morris

I’ve already made a start on minimalism. Whenever I see something I want to buy, I’m asking myself more questions. Do I “need” it/is it useful? Do I really love it? Will it last? Where will it go? Is it worth it?

It’s amazing how quickly you can put yourself off spending money!

I really want to pay the Minimalism game but life is rather busy at the moment and just the thought of it overwhelms me! So in the meantime I’ve decided to just set myself some mini challenges until I have time for full house minimalisation! (I’m just making up words now…).

So I decided to start with something simple. Mugs!

Who needs 28 mugs? Certainly not someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee! But I do get a huge amount of pleasure from making myself a hot chocolate in one of my favourite mugs. It’s my little treat in the afternoon when I’m working from home.

I thought mugs would be easy to sort – but where do we draw the line between how many you need (probably one each realistically) and how many you love (approximately 28 apparently).

Rather than deciding which mugs to get rid of – Beardie and I decided to approach it differently and just choose five mugs each which we wanted to keep. I started by removing these three lovelies from the choice because I will use these as candle holders/small vases/plant pots (which will be minimalised another time!)

And then we chose our five each….which ended up as seven and a half each because we wanted to keep a couple of “builders” mugs that we wouldn’t be upset about if they get broken, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to break up pairs of mugs!

Despite a bit of cheating – it felt like a good first step and pretty satisfying to get rid of ten mugs we don’t use!

Is anyone interested in playing the Minimalism game with me later this year?!