Minimalism: clearing out the clutter

Forgive me for not writing last week. I’ve been heavily focused on learning about technical aspects of creating a website as well as the developing the content for it to generate awareness and market myself as a designer. I regret that I didn’t spend some time to write to you as I am not really doing this blog for anyone but myself so I owe it to myself to get these thoughts out there and possibly help someone in the process. So back to the topic I most want to write about: minimalism.

My background is Chinese and we have a tradition that before new year comes, we clear out and clean the home preparing ourselves to invite good luck into our homes during the new year season. You may hear firecrackers and dragons and lion dancing on the streets, which is figuratively supposed to scare the bad, evil spirits away. If you’re like me, or know of any person who is Chinese and follows certain traditional values, you will see us sweeping, mopping, do our washing, getting a haircut, pay our debts, anything to clear any bad energies that lurk and linger in the home. I guess the fresh start doesn’t hurt! I physically feel great when the house is clean and I have donned a great outfit and a new hairstyle. So it must have an impact on my mental energy too.

I have been on a mission to part with things that don’t add any value to my life since moving house last year. This quest has been two fold, it refers to the physical things in my life as well as the thoughts, behaviours, habits and connections I have. What am I really holding on to? What do I gain from keeping certain aspects of my life?

I started with the easy bit of cleaning out the wardrobe, and all my paperwork that I don’t think I need. It is still a work in progress but it feels better already. It is still is hard to part with sentimental bits of paper, card, photographs, messages etc. from the past. I know because I struggled when I changed my phone over to a new one recently, and found myself holding onto and saving messages that were written 3 years ago! The clothes were easier… as I kept saying to myself that if I had not worn it for the last year, it was out. Plus, my new wardrobe in this tiny apartment forced me to give the charity bin as much as possible. It felt great!

The big plus of throwing away old things that do not add value to your life is that you can find the things you love or appreciate more easily. I am not fumbling through junk to get to the things that I really want to use or wear and therefore less time wasted on things of lesser value. What’s the use of wearing a holey shirt when you can wear a beautiful bright one that suits your energy? How good are you going to feel when you see your friends and family, bring your best out everyday? So start small, start with the easiest thing you can do. Throw out things you hate, or do not really value aesthetically or practically. If it makes you feel better, and it’s a valuable item, and just not to you, maybe it is worth selling it or giving to charity so that someone else who needs it. I might also add this documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things to get a sense of what I mean about letting go of objects that don’t add value in our lives, and the idea of ‘less is more’ has been taken to a whole new level.

I think this translates to our relationships and people also. This sounds harsh but you are doing yourself a favour by allowing an energy more in tune with you, into you life. I have always been one who sees value in everyone and accepts people for who they are. I have always tried to be inclusive and been in touch with everyone I once had a connection with. But that is mentally exhausting and it can affect your important relationships because you’re not able to bring as much as your best to your loved ones. Now, I recognise it’s time for a change, to value myself more, and to value my needs as well as committing to great friendships, family and people who I value. By giving more energy to the people that matter, and less to the people who don’t, I am giving to myself.

It takes on the same precedence as the physical stuff, and you can go through the same thought processes. Do I really need this person, do they make me happy? Are they adding value to my life? Are you just keeping in touch just because you used to be great friends? And now you really have nothing to give to each other? It sounds selfish but it may not be. If your need is to be of value to others, then giving to someone who needs your love and attention, then you are are giving yourself the best gift of all. But really ask yourself and list the things you value you in your relationships, what your needs are, and who is really really important in your life. Isn’t it time you focused on people who matter more? Or made way for new and interesting people who you can learn from or enjoy being with?

On top of this, I wanted to see what behaviours that I can do away with and what would add value to my life. It means, throwing away the behaviour that have led me to the same predictable unwanted outcomes. I suggest to start small, take baby steps because it is hard. Find the root of the problem, why are you doing the things you are doing, that you know aren’t getting you anywhere? You see, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” a quote by Henry Ford rings true if you want something different in life. Behaviours are hard to get rid of, because the brain is telling us it’s comfortable, it’s what you’ve always done and survived with in the past. But maybe it’s time to assess what was ok then, may not be great for you now.

I have decided to list a few so you know what I mean. One example is that I am going change by doing what I can, rather than be perfect because this idea of being a perfectionist is driving me to the ground. I either procrastinate and never do the things I’ve wanted to do or I do it so well, it consumes me. Like writing this blog! It’s best that I get it done than not at all. Another behaviour I wish to change is being late. I know I’ve given myself slack or made up a tonne of excuses in the past, but I can see how others feel about it and I’m having anxiety attacks about being late all the time. If I dig deep, I know it comes from trying to do too much at a given time, trying to optimise my time and making the most of every living minute. However, I think in doing so, it doesn’t give breathing space to take in the experiences I’ve been having, and this jumping from one event to another may not be the wisest thing to do. The constant stress and axiety, is probably not good for my health as well as the relationships in my life. There, I’ve given you two examples of behaviours I wish to change. I know I am getting better with time with recent times, and it’s easy to revert to old behaviours but I have to remind myself of what I really want to be, or do in life. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, and want to get out, it may be time to think about what you can do differently. Be brutal, be brave but also be kind to yourself and take the steps to change and elimate the things you’re doing that isn’t helpful in your life.

This idea of minimalism for me exends from the physical things in the home, to relationships and behaviours. I challenge you to do this with me, start with the home, your physical space and maybe it will catch onto your thoughts, behaviours and even with people you let in your life. It’s time to keep only the valueable in your life, and be prepared to let new and exciting, great energy into your life with this year of the rooster!