Around this time last year, whilst exploring the back-streets and side-alleys of YouTube, I came across a series of videos on minimalism. Sure, as a word I was familiar with what it meant but as a lifestyle movement? Not so much.

As a kid and teenager, I was a hoarder. I liked to collect things. Stones, keyrings, marbles... I could honestly go on and on. Lots of kids collect things, I know, but I didn't like to part with the things I had collected. Much of this meaningless tat I held on to until I moved out of my family home for University. Some of it even stayed with me until very recently...

Many people would argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with having collections of things and to a certain extent, I agree. If collecting things makes you happy and gives you a harmless hobby then fair enough, I am not going to tell you to get rid of anything you don't want to.

The problem I kept facing was that I am - at heart - a total neat freak. Mess stresses me out and prohibits me from focusing on tasks until I have sorted out whichever mess is in my immediate vicinity. I would lose countless hours sorting an area which had only just been sorted the week before. The simple problem? I had too much stuff.

Whilst my home (and life) is nowhere as simplified as I would like it to be one day, I would like to share five things that I have learnt in my first year of exploring minimalism in hopes that it will inspire you to perhaps consider embracing aspects of it into your lifestyle: I guarantee it will make life easier for you.

1. By decluttering, I have cut cleaning time in half. Easily.

As I alluded to above, having less stuff makes it easier to tidy and clean up.

For example, by removing my kettle, toaster, smoothie-maker, wine-rack and coffee-grinder from my work-tops in the kitchen has transformed cleaning it into a job that takes a couple of minutes rather than ten. I use the grill instead of the toaster and only take out the other machines when I need them (which isn't even everyday anyway!)

As someone who will always have far too many books (sorry guys, that English Literature degree isn't going anywhere just yet!) I have found that by decluttering my bookshelves every couple of months is a really good way to not only make a bit of money (thank you WeBuyBooks.co.uk) but also to clear up space. Dusting around a less cramped bookshelf is so much easier and makes my room feel bigger somehow.

Removing random, meaningless knick-knacks from surfaces in the living room and bedroom too means dusting and polishing takes mere seconds as opposed to minutes: this time really does add up! I have also found that surfaces actually seem to stay dust-less for longer when they aren't scattered with random ornaments anyway. By only keeping the things that bring me joy - mainly plants - I have cut cleaning time in half. Easily.

2. If I had waited just one week, I would not have bought that thing.

Impulse-buys are so common with the development of online shopping and I'm sure it is a trap we have all fallen into at some point (particularly over the lockdown period. Am I right!?) There have been so many times that I have bought something online - and in person, to be fair - that I have liked for a few weeks and then never used again. By the time you realise you don't actually want the thing, you have ran out of time to return it (or have used it so you can't!)

A few months ago I started to abide by a simple rule: if something costs over £20, I have to wait 24 hours before buying it. If I still want it then fine, I will buy it. However, if something costs over £100 then I wait a month. Yes, a month. This morning, I bought myself a new kitchen table because I have had my eye on the same one for over thirty days so I am convinced that it will be a sensible purchase I won't regret in a few months time (I'll keep you posted...)

I can honestly say that I have saved myself a couple of hundred pounds by doing this for just a few months - I can't wait to see how much I save over the course of a year!

3. 'More isn't always necessarily better: sometimes, it is just more.' - The Minimalist Way by Erica Layne

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Why having or doing "more" is seen to be so good, I can't quite wrap my head around. If you have two really amazing pairs of jeans that make you feel confident, wouldn't you rather just wear them than alternating between ten that sag in all the wrong places and have unintentional holes in them?

Something else that having more can result in is decision-making fatigue. The Minimalists talk about this a lot in their books and on their podcast. If you have fewer options then it takes you less time to decide, leaving you with more energy to make more difficult and important decisions later on in the day. There is a stereotype that all minimalists wear black t-shirts and black jeans every single day. This is false, but some people do have one-staple outfit that they wear most days just to keep things simple. A quick YouTube search of 'minimalist wardrobe' would provide you with a multitude of examples.

Me? I'm not quite there yet, but I have significantly decluttered my wardrobe over the past year and it is something I keep getting the itch do again and again. As I said in a previous post, a 2018 study conducted by relocation and removals company Movinga revealed that the average person in the UK did not wear 73% of their clothes in the previous 12 months. I do not want to be one of those people so I am trying to only hold onto clothes that I truly love and enjoy wearing. So far, I haven't had to go naked. So far.

4. I do have time to do the things that are important to me.

Minimalism is not just about the amount of things you own, it also takes into consideration the things you choose to spend your time on. As they say - who is 'they' by the way? - time is money and how you spend it makes a huge amount of difference to your life. Being able to prioritise the things that coincide with your values is super important and it is something that I am currently looking at in quite a lot of detail in my own life.

This month I have been running every single day to prove to myself that I can: I can make time to do it because it is important to me and whilst I don't think I will continue to run every day for the rest of my life, it is good to know that with the correct mind-set, it is totally within the realm of possibility.

Blog posts on this challenge and on discovering your core values to follow in the near future...

5. 'Love people, not things.' - The Minimalists

Things break. Things change. Things can be stolen.

People, on the other hand, can stay in your life forever. As much as I trust I could have another ten years or so of life in my trusty Levi's 519s, I am fairly sure they won't stay with me until the day I die.

Having people you love and adore around you is so much more important than being surrounded by meaningless materialistic items. Don't get me wrong, there will be things in your life that bring you joy, that aid you in your work or hobbies, that are important to you, and these are not things that you should necessarily declutter. However, if you love your phone/computer/handbag more than you love connecting with others, then it may be worth thinking about for a moment.

Spending your time and money on enjoying experiences with those closest to you is far more likely to positively impact your life than buying another jacket that you might wear once a month. Being a minimalist does not necessarily mean being frugal - although saving money can certainly be a welcome outcome of a minimalist lifestyle - it simply means living with intention and being invested in your values rather than material things.

Like I mentioned in Sunday's post - check it out here if you missed it - baby steps are always better than none so if becoming a minimalist is something that seems really intimidating and not totally for you, then fine, but I hope this post has given you some food for thought about some aspects of a minimalist lifestyle that you could begin to incorporate into your life to live simply, happily and with more intention.

People/works cited in this post:

The Minimalists - American authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who promote a minimalist lifestyle. Check them out here http://theminimalists.com

The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy by Erica Layne

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