During 2013 I felt I was being pulled in lots of different directions – know the feeling? I was working full-time, keeping up with my blog, completing photography commissions, seeing friends and family, exercising, maintaining my home, travelling, wasting far too much time online and so it went on.
Although I like to be busy I found the lack of me time exhausting, so I tried to reduce my commitments. After looking at an average week I realised there was nothing I could or wanted to drop. I therefore decided to simplify everything else, starting with my physical environment.
So as 2014 began I embarked on a huge declutter of my belongings. When you cut back on the physical stuff it’s inevitable other areas will follow, and so here began my journey towards a calmer, simpler and easier life. One that felt lighter, made me feel content and gave me my time back.
1. Let go of stuff
I no longer wanted to waste precious moments cleaning and maintaining my home, and so the biggest change was to remove all items that I didn’t use or love. The process transformed my life and living in a simpler environment made me feel calmer and happier.
2. Abandoned the pursuit of unnecessary belongings
When you’ve simplified you don’t want to buy more stuff, and when I stopped looking at online shopping sites or wandering around shops I had more time, and money. Although a minimalist lifestyle is not about stuff, I find living with less means I enjoy the things I have a whole lot more. After all less is more!
3. Morning routine
The secret to more hours in the day is to get up earlier, and although I’ve never been a morning person waking up in a tidy clutter-free home is energy boosting. I’m lucky that my man works locally and so we have breakfast together each morning. Time to relax, eat and chat make a huge difference to my day.
4. Regular exercise
A low maintenance home frees up time and energy, and so I was able to establish a regular exercise routine. I tried to stick to set days – two per week – but didn’t get upset if I missed one. I also used my walk to and from work (a 9k round trip) to relax and really enjoy the world around me. I have a tendency to over-think and so trying to be as present as possible is good exercise for the mind!
5. Cut back on the internet
Too much time online makes me feel busy and restless so I tried a few internet-free days, and survived! I was amazed at the extra time I had and how much I achieved. Following this I set myself three rules:
- No internet before 9am or after 10pm
- Regular internet free mornings and afternoons
- Stop checking the iPhone/iPad!
Obviously I don’t always stick religiously to the above, but I have removed the habit of constantly checking my technology. I’ve also rediscovered books, how retro!
I unsubscribed from emails, newsletters, catalogues and anything else that did not add value to my life. I also deleted things from my computer desktop and files I no longer needed, and organised everything that remained.
7. Quiet mind
Living in a clutter-free environment made me aware of how busy my mind was, and so my next step took me towards mindfulness. After some research, talking to friends and trying a couple of iPad apps (Headspace – Andy Puddicombe is really inspiring – and Mindfulness Daily) I feel I’m getting somewhere. Although it’s still early days and I’d welcome any tips.
8. Being present
In the summer I visited the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. At both places I decided – with the exception of an iPhone snap – not to take any photographs. I wanted to experience them fully without faffing around with my camera.
Six months on and my most vivid memories from my trip are of those two places. It was worth taking the risk and it has motivated me to try to live in the moment a little more, rather than forever trying to capture it.
9. Learnt to relax
I’ve always struggled to relax but it happened as a result of the above. When you simplify there are less household chores and distractions, enabling more time to put your feet up.
10. More time for family and friends
And finally, cutting out the life clutter gave me more time for family, friends and all the other things that bring me the greatest joy. ‘Collecting moments and not things’ is a pretty good rule to live by.
If there are ways you’ve calmed and simplified your life please share them in the comments.