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16 Jul 2016
I am 100 kgs lighter than I was last week. And boy, do I feel incredible.
No, this isn’t some advertorial for the newest, hottest miracle weight loss drug. I’m not about to show you how the Top Five helped me get a Victoria’s Secret model figure (I’m happy with my non-model figure, thank you very much). There will be no waist-shrinking or bum-lifting going on.
I have lost 100 kgs. But it may not be what you think.
I am simply simplifying.
Losing weight. Feeling lighter. These statements are so often connected with losing body weight. I can’t actually tell you if I’ve lost any body weight this week — but I am lighter because I removed a whole heap of stuff from my life. And that does feel so incredible.
Stuff. You know stuff: knick-knacks, bottles, gifts you have never used, old t-shirts and towels, the pieces that line the back of your wardrobes, dusty books you read or never read years ago, chipped mugs and old paperwork, out-of-date vitamins and cold remedies wedged in the back of drawers. In my house, it’s all gone.
I now have space and clarity. I can breathe.
What’s the inspiration for my sudden weight loss? For my house cleaning extravaganza?
Well, I attended an action-inspiring talk by a couple of guys in their early 30s who joined the minimalist movement.
These two best mates were each earning six-figure salaries, living the high life in fast-paced corporate jobs. But they had become distracted from the most important things in life. Then, it all came crashing down around them when they lost loved ones (wives and mothers). When they were forced to sort through a lifetime of possessions, they realised they didn’t mind getting rid of the stuff … They just didn’t want to get rid of memories (read more about their philosophy).
This little anecdote really lodged itself into my mind: One of the guys was furnishing a new place. He went to IKEA (as you do) and started buying the essentials: a couch, table, chairs, etc. He then moved onto the accessories that we all buy: a lamp, rug and a few prints. He joked about how important it was to choose a print that reflected his “sense of professional edginess.” He realised how much of his identity he was connecting with this stuff.
We are what we own, right? Wrong!
So how do you begin to change your material-loving ways? Well, the guys have a few suggestions (and I have a few suggestions…but more of that later). When sorting through their stuff, they asked themselves a few questions to help determine if something stayed or if it went:
If you answered no to all of the above, please place the item in your nearest recycling bin, giveaway box or rubbish bin. And proceed to next item.
After the talk, I was inspired.
I went through bookshelves, unused toiletries, my wardrobe, the kitchen — both the pantry and kitchen cupboards. Did I really need four sets of 24 wine glasses? The last time I had that many people drinking at my house was 15 years ago, in the haze of uni when sad pre-mixed vodka and raspberries were the drink of choice (and definitely not fine wine). Out went the wine glasses, the old books, the fashions of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
You’ve heard this saying before: “You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” For me, this experience was like the total opposite of that statement. I never realised how much I didn’t need this stuff until it was gone.
Things move quickly through our place now. If I finish a book, I pass it on to someone else straight away. I don’t ask for it back; I ask that they pass it forward to others. Bills get paid and future payments are set. Birthday cards get sent on time. Food doesn’t get wasted. And to the surprise of my husband and parents when they visit, things get put away by me (it’s a revelation!). I love the clear space I have created to focus in on my goals.
I did have an ulterior motive: We are about to renovate and almost completely rebuild our house, so we will be moving into a much smaller space for up to a year. My minimising process got me so excited to live in a really clear, clean environment. Our home is now full of only the things we love and the things that are practical to supporting the lifestyle we love.
Right about now you are asking, “What’s this have to do with positive thinking and gratitude?” Well, my friend, here’s what else I have learnt:
Stuff can distract you from the elements in life for which you are truly grateful: your health, your friendships and familial bonds, love, your safety and security, laughter, nature and kindness.
Sometimes when you consciously choose to not have an extra 100 kgs of stuff laying around, you begin to feel grateful that you have the luxury to make that choice.
Focus on Who You Are,
Not What You Have
Say you are thinking about buying a new piece of technology: a fancy watch that talks, tracks your heart rate and shows your text messages. Sure, you can afford it. But do you need it? Will it bring you joy? Think about how nice it is that you can afford to buy a talking watch in the first place. Think about how grateful you are for the simple watch you already own and that your life is awesome even though it doesn’t include a talking watch.
Minimalism is about appreciating what you have in life, not amassing piles of possessions. It’s about tuning into what makes you happiest. It’s about looking after our environment and being generous with the things you no longer need. It’s about making healthy decisions about what you bring into and keep in your life. It’s about knowing that we are surrounded by the materials that do really matter to us.
Money Can’t Buy You Love,
But You Should Love What You Buy
A cluttered space creates clutter in your mind. That mental messiness can cause stress, anxiety and lack of focus.
When you clean out your environment, you are also removing the mental and emotional baggage you have collected over the years. You make room for the present, and you can then better concentrate on what’s important, on your goals and on being positive and mindful.
Practically speaking, minimalism gives you more time, less distraction, more focus and more satisfaction (when you take yourself out of the rat race, you always win). You make more room for those intangibles we talked about earlier: relationships, nature, love, etc.
Plus, you have extra confidence knowing that you have the skills to survive with just the necessities (and even those I-love-it-so-much-I-don’t-want-to-live-without-it “necessities”).
OK, I promised that I’d give you some tips for minimising your stuff and maximising your happiness. Here are 10 tips to help you ditch the dregs.
Get organised. Before you start, put everything in its spot and take inventory. Notice what you have too much of and what you don’t have room for.
Know your resources. There are loads of resources to support people making this shift. There is even a platform in Australia called TuShare. It means that people will come and collect things for free from you. Also, a Pomodoro app is a simple timer set for 25 minutes. It helps ensure a short period of serious focus toward one task. Start by setting 25 minutes once a week. With laser focus, you will be surprised what you get done in 25 minutes.
Emotionally prepare and disconnect. Minimising can be difficult. Remember that you are not tossing out memories or giving away experiences. And don’t worry about tackling your whole house; that can be overwhelming. Start with one drawer, and don’t move on until that drawer is complete.
Master your clutter. Zen Habits gives 18 five-minute tips for decluttering. Pick one tip at random every couple of weeks, and get it done.
Wear everything in your closet. I’m serious. It may take you a few months, but it is worth it. At the end of each day, think about how you felt in your outfit, if it fit right, if you want to wear it again. If you didn’t love it, toss it in the giveaway pile. Better yet, if you don’t want to put it on in the morning, let it go. Oprah has a similar concept with her Closet Hanger Experiment.
Similarly, use your feelings as your guide. If you feel confident in a dress, keep it. Confidence is a positive emotion that drives positive action. Guilt and shame have the opposite effect.
See clutter. No, really, sometimes we don’t really notice the clutter in our homes, cars and offices. Unclutterer offers some really useful (and hilarious) tips for helping you see your clutter, including inviting a puppy or a toddler over to your house.
Take it one day at a time. Literally. Give away one item each day…forever.
Be mindful. Before you clear your space, think about what you want and what you need. Think about what matters to you and what gives you happiness. Let this mindfulness be your guide as you work.
Be in the present. So often we collect items that we once used or that we plan to use in the future. The rollerblades you will one day lace up, the camping equipment you enjoyed once upon a time. If you don’t use it now, you don’t need it.
Lastly, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up for my regular so-useful-you’ll-thank-me emails. I am all over the best and brightest developments in the world of positivity and self development. So let me do the sorting for you and bring you only the most effective tools and tips to help you live longer, be healthier, happier, more confident, less lonely, more relaxed, more creative, help you bounce back from hard times quicker, experience improved emotional balance and even sleep better.
With loads of gratitude,