One morning in early January, I opened my email inbox and found an email from the Minimalists, two American guys, whose writing on minimalism and living a simpler life I followed since 2014. In this email, they promoted the online programme A Simple Year 2017, a year of guided simplicity to make space for the important things in your life. I learned that there would be a new topic each month, such as clutter, food, money, relationships, and busyness, presented by a specialist in this area. When I read through the description on the website, I had the sudden realisation that this is what I would do. I listened to my body and signed up on the same day.
As this is a 12-month programme, I will share my experiences every month on this blog. This post includes the January and February topics.
The January topic was de-cluttering, something that I am pretty good at and I have often spoken about at my downsizing talks. The major goal for the first month of the year was “to learn to reconnect with what’s truly important in life so we can identify clutter and let go.”
I read the material on the website and decided to de-clutter part of our garage, which hosted my studio. Over the past seven years, I had amassed lots of acrylic paintings on canvasses, notebooks and visual diaries from design school, several presentation folders with my assignments on foam core board, A4 folders with archived brochures from suppliers of colours, finishes and furniture, craft material, and props, which I had used for styling jobs or for decorating at shows and events. There was a lot of stuff!
Most of my supplier archive I had never used but I was reluctant to throw it out, as a lot of my time had gone into building and growing it.
However, last year after a rollercoaster of ups and downs in my business, I had made the decision to focus on writing and let go of the interior design side of things except for the tips and resources around downsizing on my book website.
A Simple Year 2017 came at the right time and gave me the permission to let go of the physical objects that kept me attached to the past and prevented me from moving forward.
The same day I opened the content for the first month I spent two hours in my studio, emptied the shelves and ruthlessly build up a pile for the general cleanup, which I booked afterwards. It was a cathartic exercise, as I realised that there was so much stuff that had lost its meaning for me. I noticed that it was not important any longer. I was ready to let it go. Afterwards, I felt relieved and informed my family the same evening what I had done and that they could still add items for the general cleanup, which would not happen until mid-February. Over the next weeks, the pile grew bigger until it finally disappeared. Out of the garage and out of my life.
What can you let go in your life right now? It’s never too late to start tidying up and making space for the important things in your life.
In February, the motto was slowing down in our crazy world of busyness. I had come to a point where I could not hear it anymore. No matter whom you met, when and where, everyone was busy. It seemed to be fashionable to ‘be busy’. I tried to ban this word from my vocabulary and noticed in my daily conversations how challenging it was not to say it. In the next weeks, I made a mental note how often people said that they were busy. It occurred to me that people just said it because this was what everyone expected. The other person would nod in agreement, and the superficial small talk would continue. No one was actually interested what the other person was doing and what they were passionate about. I was determined to ban the word busy from my vocabulary for once and all.
The material on the website included a list of nine articles about how to ban busyness from your life. I especially liked the ones about the art of lingering, of doing nothing. The author encouraged the reader to allocate time to wander unknown paths and, at the same time, to wonder and observe the world in awe. I could very much relate to these strategies, as I had applied them to my life for a while and spent hours and hours sitting on our deck in the past weeks staring at Middle Harbour; trying to make sense of what was happening in my life after my spiritual experience at a wellness retreat at the end of 2016.
One of the homework tasks was to create a slow space somewhere in our home. By definition of the programme, a slow space is free of screens, uncluttered and decorated with things that inspire us and make us happy. I did not have to create this space, as I already had my slow space: our bedroom. Apart from my time as a student, I never had a TV in my bedroom, and we kept this rule in our family home, much to the protest of my teenage son. However, in this matter, I kept steadfastly.
Our bedroom was decorated with a couple of my artworks and a richly textured, white macramé wall decoration interlaced with little shells and golden accents. Apart from a reading light, my bedside table kept my pile of ‘books to read’ and a framed image of my mother, who I had lost to cancer 20 years ago. The only other pieces of furniture apart from the bed were a single woven chair with a decorative cushion and a blanket folded over the armrest and a high board with our jewellery boxes on top.
Since I started writing my memoir, our bedroom has become my evening retreat. After dinner is finished and the kitchen tidied up, I usually disappear upstairs, have a relaxing shower and make myself comfortable in our bed to read. For me, it is a lovely way to wind down from a long day. I ticked the slow space off my list immediately.
The next homework task was to find a suitable morning routine to start the day. Similar to my evening routine, I had developed a morning routine over the past years. I would get up at 5am and spend the first hour of the morning writing my memoir or working on other projects before everyone else was up and got ready for work and school. I cherished the peace in the house and the stillness of the early morning hours. As I was always an early riser, I found that my most productive time was in the mornings. I ticked this task off the homework list as well.
Do you have any strategies to reduce the busyness in your life? How do you react when people tell you that they are so busy?