I haven't written in over a month. This was somewhat intentional, and partly not. You see, with one's journey to minimalism comes an awareness of clutter in everything, not just your surroundings. I have gained a new focus on how I spend my time. It turns out there can be just as much clutter in the minutiae of daily life as there is in our homes.
I have always prided myself on being busy, as if it were a badge of honor for full life. I'm a planner and a doer, endlessly coordinating and executing. Most days I can juggle working, volunteering, socializing, wife-ing, cleaning, crafting, reading, exercising, still get in my 8 hours of beauty sleep and occasionally still have some time remaining for a tv show or a nature documentary. Granted we don't have children (yet), so this entire subject will need to be reevaluated when we do, but this is where I am now, at this moment in my life: pretty average in busy-ness.
But just because I CAN do more, doesn't necessarily mean I should. Being busy is easy. Being un-busy, deliberately and on purpose, is not. So recently I've been replacing multi-tasking with single-tasking. I have been actively trying to slow down and be just productive enough to get by. It is about doing less, but not in a way that makes me lazy or stagnant. I can still make progress and have momentum- but with more control, focus and intention. Minimalism of time, instead of space.
I have an exceptionally long list of things I want to do in life- everything from wine tasting on a safari in South Africa to building a backyard greenhouse to dusting all of the baseboards in the house or sewing a button back on my favorite cardigan. With each task that was crossed off the list, it would only be a matter of time before I would add on something else. The pursuit of doing and achieving was continuously growing, never ending. In reality, most of these tasks can (and will) wait until another time, or may never happen at all. But since I enjoy creating lists as a tool to stay organized, I will probably always continue to create and add to them. In my efforts to downsize all areas of life these days I've been trimming down the big list of aspirations into my "Daily 3": three realistic, achievable goals per day. This, it turns out, has proven to be just the right amount of busyness.
What I've learned so far:
Redo your To-Do. At one point in the recent past, the endless To Do list was beginning to define me. The chronic end-gain and plotting my next move was all I thought about, and I stopped remembering to live in the present. While being productive is one of my greatest strengths, I don't want my to-do list to rule my life. So, in true minimalist fashion, I've started dividing the list into "Essentials" and "Extras"- basically, needs vs wants. The Essentials list involves what is truly important in life: Health (medical appointments, self care tasks), Happiness (travel, outdoors, hobbies, music and art) and Relationships (time with family and friends, service to others). The Extras are everything else- all of that other stuff that won't matter on my death bed (work, shopping, chores, and yes- even this blog).
You Only Live Once. I read somewhere that "If it's not a 'Hell Yea' then it's a 'No'", and when applying this mentality to big life choices AND daily life, it can really help you feel in tune with your goals and identify what your priorities should be. I've been striving to do things when feeling charged and motivated to do so, not out of obligation. If anything feels like a burden or unneccesarily stressful, I take a moment and think about its importance and urgency. My inner compass will usually point me in the right direction of either moving forward or pulling back. Examples: If I am not enjoying the book I am reading, I don't have to finish it. If I truly don't enjoy cooking and am feeling overwhelmed by the thought of it, then its ok to veggies and hummus for dinner. Free yourself of the heavy 'I should's" and replace them with breezy "I could's."
Put Down The Phone. Social media is a massive time-suck. While the vortex of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest can be fun and entertaining sometimes, I mostly find myself in a place of mindless scrolling- just scanning for random things to grab my attention, which of course usually leads even further down the rabbit hole of triviality. As such I've been using an app to track my daily social media usage. Talk about eye-opening. While 1 hour of social media doesn't feel like a lot over the course of a day- it adds up to 7 hours in a week! So by the years end I could potentially spend over 1 full day and night staring at a screen? No thanks! Recently I've been able to catch myself whenever I grab my phone out of habit or boredom and make the choice to use that time in a more productive way- to work on a Daily 3 goal or something from the Essentials list. And when all else fails, there's always the Extras list too.
Empty The Mind. Blame my over-analytical personality or the curse of being a woman, but I am almost always contemplating and ruminating about something. When I "space out" it is because I am deep in thought about something, not because I am deep in space. There is stimulus around us all the time- from advertising, alarms, alerts, and flashy screens- everything is a distraction from ourselves. Even without kids it can be challenging to find a quiet moment in the day. Not just noise-free, but THOUGHT-free. You can find opportunities for stillness everywhere though- by closing your eyes for a minute or two before getting out of the car somewhere, turning off all devices when you're eating a meal, sitting outside on a sunny day without your phone or a book, or anything other than yourself. Let your mind wander for a bit, but every once in a while try to bring it back to the here and now, and nothingness.
To do less, pause more, and simply breathe with a blank mind has been one of the greatest lessons minimalism has taught me. Finding this peaceful silence can actually make us more productive because each action will be in flow- in alignment and in tune with your higher purpose. So if I only write a blog once a month, then it's because I am really "busy". I'm occupied with the life-long task of decluttering my days, trying to make room for my best self.
Love & Light (and less)