Flickr / ‘Dress Shirts on Hangars in Closet Black and White’ by Steven Deplo

I came across Rachel Aust at the start of 2016, her weight-loss and healthy eating videos were what drew me to her YouTube channel and Instagram. I admired her work ethic and discipline, it spoke to me and I worked out for an hour on a cross-trainer every day for 4 months solid as a result at the beginning of the year. After some health troubles and multiple trips to the doctors and to hospital my exercise journey was cut short and I didn’t pick it back up for the rest of the year. This I don’t actually regret, I needed the rest and I put my health and mental wellbeing first over exercise, which I believe is just as important. At the time I didn’t realise I was simply over exercising and using it as a form of control. Despite being a somewhat messy person and having bouts of determination only for them to simmer away, I do tend to commit to something I feel passionate about for an extended period of time, rarely do I stick to something for a few days. It is at least 6 months to a year. The point I need to get to is to push past a year and make it a life-long positive change. Now, what does this have to do with minimalism? Whilst Google defines it as “a deliberate lack of decoration or adornment in style or design,” I find this to be misleading to the movement as it manifests in people’s lives.

    Whilst minimalism incorporates less decor it is not meant to just be for aesthetic reasons but more so mental ones. By relieving yourself of unnecessary clutter and bringing your possessions down to the mere basics, you are able to look at what you own and be more satisfied with keeping solely what you use and need. Moreover, this extends to the organisation in your daily life as well, you begins to see what ways you down in life. This all began the week before Christmas where I decided I needed a break from social media, I deleted my Instagram app, my Twitter app and deactivated my Facebook. I wanted to see how long I could go without the constant interactions, and after the first-day hump of wanting to check my phone or the itch to see if I had messages, it became surprisingly easy and by day 4 I had no desire to really return to these platforms daily. However, the modern era means that to remove yourself from social media is to also remove yourself from certain responsibilities and as duty called over the holidays for me to address some Epigram work I logged back into Facebook and Twitter to reply and explain why I had been gone. This then became a daily thing. I was no longer deactivated but would instead log in once a day to check my messages, reply, see if I had any important notifications and then log back off. This way I could control when I wanted to interact and when I didn’t, without there being anything stopping people from getting hold of me if necessary. This continued for the next week, and the next, right now I am on the 3rd week and I feel as though I made the right decision and actually feel better mentally because of it. Not only did it free up a lot of time for me to spend with family over Christmas and get some reading and writing done, it allowed me to feel as though my mental state was solely my own.
    It can sometimes be hard to realise that others interfere with how you think and feel so easily with just a message and to be able to break away from this, or at the least not be bombarded with people being socialites, is healthy. Now I had more of a mindset that was solely on helping myself feel better and be more productive. I got all my Christmas shopping done and wrapped by the 21st and  I had already written 3,000 words for an upcoming essay that wasn’t due for another 3 weeks in a week. I found myself with a lot of free time and not a lot of distractions. Whilst shopping for my mum I remembered a book I had seen in Waterstones named ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo and thought of her and what I viewed as her constant and insensate tidying. Unlike myself, my mum took great pleasure in tidying and cleaning, things I thought I was completely averse to. I saw it as pointless, things were going to get messy anyway and I knew my way around the mess! So why change? As she began to read it and tell me what the advice Kondo was giving I suddenly felt the same spark and desire she had to clear out all the unnecessary clutter in the house. Now suddenly with so much more free-time being cut off from social media I felt the need to be productive. I thought long and hard about what in my bedroom I actually needed and what was simply…there.

I shall try and give you a breakdown of what happened in the next 2 days ( 26th of December to the 27th):

Flickr / ‘Young woman browsing shelves’ by State Library Victoria Collection photostream

The Books

    (December 26th 2016) When I first entered my room I wondered where I was going to start and once I laid eyes on my full suitcase of books, the multiple books scattered all around the house and my spilling over bookcase… I thought it would be a good place to start. The first thing I did was take every single one of my books from all four corners of the house, empty out the suitcase and my case and lay them all on the floor. Being sat in the middle of easily near 400 books I was a little overwhelmed. I decided I would start with 3 piles.

     The 1st was the books I wanted to keep, 2nd books I wanted to give to charity/sell and 3rd was books that were so annotated and marked they would have to be recycled. Before picking up the first faithful books I thought of two questions, “Do I love this books?” and “Would I ever read this again?” They may seem like simple questions but they are actually quite hard to answer, you may have enjoyed a book but have not picked taken it up since the first read and it just collects dust, you may have books that cost a lot of money even though you don’t need them and never again will. I started to slowly go through each pile, many old GCSE English Literature books, broken copies of ‘The Odyssey‘ and ‘Lord of the Flies‘, and multiple Shakespeare plays from all my years of studying. I found I had 2 copies of Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliet, despite having the entire Shakespeare anthology in leather-bound on my dresser. I parted with books I already owned in better condition, a huge stack of old Jacqueline Wilson from primary school, books I had read for school that I hated etc. I found myself with around 150 books I actually wanted to keep. I had only about 5 that were too broken to give away or sell and simply put them in recycling. Now I was left with 345 books that I had to sort into selling and charity. I used the site Ziffit to scan the books I had remaining and of the ones I could sell it came to a total of £38.90! I couldn’t believe it, and much like every other English student my first thought was, “I can put this towards my next term book budget.”

Flickr / ‘eDidaktikum’ by Priit Tammets

The Boxes 

  (December 26th 2016) Next, I was onto the boxes upon boxes I had scattered around my room of which the contents I was completely unaware. Once I opened the first one and dumped it out onto the carpet I realised it was full of ring binders from my precious A-level revision days. I kept searching for something else, I must have kept these boxes around for something else? I searched through the next one, full of binders, and the last huge one, almost entirely binders and two packets of never before opened acrylic paints. Why do I hoard these? I will never need my psychology or philosophy cue cards ever again, yet the hard work felt like it would have gone to waste if I got rid. I had kept all the practice exam papers, all the notes, the highlighted essays and feedback sheets. These were all in the past now. The only papers I needed to keep were my exam certificates, yet this mindset seems only simple in retrospect.

    I started to sort piles of paper from binders and plastic wallets, stacks upon stacks of them. I was ruthless, I wanted this out of my life now, it was the past and I was holding onto it to prompt memories that I already had without them. By the end of the process, there were 2 huge bags and a box of solely paper I had kept. Then another 3 boxes of just junk I no longer needed including an old huge telescope and an easel from my preteen years I never even owned the chalk to write on. All that was left after this extensive clear out that took 8 hours was one small box of things I wanted to keep which contained around 10 little things like brand new notebooks I had found in the rubble and lots of stationary that had disappeared for years and I had only now gotten reacquainted with. Once I had cleared up the mess in my room, now taking no time at all as all of the things I wished to get rid of had been moved downstairs, I realised just how big my room was. I fell asleep that night feeling as though I had lost 10 pounds and was eager to get up the next morning and sort through my clothes which I had no touched during this process. I was now pumped to expel everything unnecessary from my life and with each thing, I got rid of I felt I had gained a lot more.

Flickr / ‘what clothes?’ by Lucian Stanescu

 The Clothes

    (December 27th 2016) I woke up in the morning feeling determined to finally tackle my wardrobe and get rid of the huge amount of clothes I had that I would glance and then simply discard mentally. Now it was time to do that for real. I took all the clothes out of my drawers and off every single rack and all my shoes and moved them into another. I then sorted them into dresses, tops, jeans/trousers, skirts, jackets, shoes, underwear, socks, belts and tights/leggings. I took one pile at a time and sorted it into ‘keep’, ‘charity’ or ‘discard’ like I had done with the books and this time was ruthless, especially with the items that I wore once a year or had kept for years “just in case.” By the end of the tops alone I had around 10 left and 2 bags of clothes of charity already. I continued this until by the end of the ordeal I had 6 pairs of shoes, 10 tops, 3 jeans/trousers, 2 leggings, 5 pairs of socks, 2 new packs of underwear, 1 belt, 8 dresses and 7 coats. Of course, I still have some to go through as some items were in the wash but the next day my brother and I set off to the charity shop. With 3 huge bags of clothes in hand. It felt to know that these clothes were going to someone who may need them and of course the money to charity. Getting dressed was suddenly so much easier when I knew where everything was and exactly what I had. The next day I went out and got a pair of tights and a plain black t-shirt, 2 simple things I was missing and would allow me to actually wear a lot more outfits. This helped with both style and substance.  I was able to minimise my clothes in a way that actually aided me getting dressed, and isn’t that the point of clothes to begin with?

Flickr / ‘Police Cadet working at computer’ by Ciy of Boston archives

File Organisation and Emails 

   (December 27th 2016) I decided that I was sick to death of opening up my email each day to a mass amount of clutter, email subscriptions I didn’t want, updates I didn’t care about and promotional codes for things I would never buy. I decided I wanted to hit the legendary Inbox Zero and clear all the useless emails so I could actually see what I needed. I started off with my main gmail account I had since 2012 and saw that I had around 3,700 emails in my inbox and doubted my popularity was that great as for them to be all personal. I decided to search my Twitter notification and hit deleted, the same to my old Tumblr account ones, my random Pinterest account I had never used, all my Facebook notifications etc. on top of this all old emails from years ago between friends, conversing with 6th form tutors, emails I had sent to myself with essays I was writing on the school computer etc. I got my entire inbox down to just 8 emails after a few hours of work. These were the ones I actually needed and could get to and search with ease now.
    The I moved onto my university email which stood at around 1,700 emails and got it down to just 6. I went to an old email account I only used really for Amazon and empty the whole thing. In each email I unsubscribed from each company I didn’t want to receive from, resulting in around 12 subscriptions being removed.
    Next. it was time to start to sort out the files on my laptop, I went through my documents to find that almost all the stock pictures and old essays I had stored on there were useless, everything I definitely needed I backed up to Google Drive and with one click I deleted everything else. Now I could begin from scratch sorting out each file into its own folder when the time would come and actually be able to see what I was doing. I decided to do the same to my phone. I realised that all the photos I needed I had uploaded to Facebook or Instagram and deleted 900 randomly sitting on my phone. I went through my phone and got rid of 12 contacts I was no longer using, unfriended 9 people I was no longer in contact with on Facebook, deleted all apps I no longer used and cleared out my text messages to 0. I went through my YouTube subscriptions and unsubscribed from all channels that I no longer wanted updates from so my feed wasn’t cluttered. I turned off the notifications for all but my phone, Whatsapp and texts. I can’t tell you how good it feels to turn on the WiFi in the morning and not getting 10 notifications but instead just be able to open up the music player and zone out. I changed everything I could to black, white and grey so I wasn’t being bombarded with a random assortment of colours and could actually see what was what on my laptop, phone and accounts. I tidied up the design of this site and felt more professional for it. For a moment I wondered whether this was suppressing my personality but then realised this was the mindset I was currently in and this was a natural reflection.

I hope that this first post of hopefully many more gives you an insight into how quickly the minimalist mindset can help turn your life around bit by bit and I hope the productivity and progress continues into 2017 and beyond. If you have any tips or questions feel free to click my contact button and message me! 

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