Poem of the moment | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/poem-of-moment/

A poem of the moment

These are just some thoughts, I think,
that came to me at the kitchen sink.
Does my mum love my dad,
and if so why are they so sad?

And does my dad love my mum?
What does it mean if love’s not there,
what happens to all the things they share?

I think some thoughts about me too,
like why my girlfriend left me, and what was I to do.
It was a long time ago,
maybe I should let it go?

Where will I be next year, where will I be next month?
I’ve moved back home to study, yet, done nought but worry.
I worry about the world, what the future brings,
With Brexit, Tories, and plethora other things.

I cannot see my future, no light at the end of the tunnel.
It seems like the job market is squeezed into a funnel.
I think I’ll get myself some land and grow my food to eat,
but land is so expensive now, and none of it for sale.

If only people could love each other,
without fear of being judged;
maybe we’d get somewhere and,
not blame the ‘immigrants’ for everything we can’t be arsed to do.

Ole Blighty ain’t a country, its just an island in the sea.
The quicker we can see that, the quicker its not just you and me.
The state’s and nations across the planet are nothing but a construct,
oh wait, so are these thoughts, I think I’ve done the washing up.

The Value of Voluntary Simplicity | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/voluntary-simplicity-gregg/

The Value of Voluntary Simplicity – Richard B. Gregg

Originally published in 1936, social philosopher Richard B. Gregg coined the term ‘voluntary simplicity’. As a Harvard graduate and later a student of Gandhi’s work, in this article Gregg explores the philosophical, intellectual, spiritual, social and very real reasons for adopting a simple life. Gregg was an influential author, with much of his work focused on creating non-violent social change, Martin Luther King, Jr cites him as an influence (Ansbro 1982).

As minimalists, we would do good to read this and deeper understand how a simpler life can create good in the world. Gregg’s article is an inspiration to many, including Duane Elgin who wrote a book titled, Voluntary Simplicity.

Download the PDF article: The Value of Voluntary Simplicity

Ansbro, John J. (1982). Martin Luther King, Jr: The Making of a Mind. Orbis Books. pp. 146-7, 149.

Time without clocks | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/time-without-clocks/

Time without clocks

Can you imagine a day without time? No need to be here, or rush to get there. Just, here, now?

I recently got back from a rock climbing trip. Three days spent camping, climbing & contemplating. All spent between a cliff and the sea with 5 others, all friends from our University’s climbing society (apart from one, who’s an honorary member). From the moment we met till the moment we parted, there was never a mention of the time. We had spent three days together, and not once been concerned about it. It was a magical experience. Something we all noticed.

Changes come with spring

It’s that time of year again: the days are just getting longer, there’s a rainbow of blossom, the sun is higher in the sky, and everyone seems just a little bit happier. For those of us in the education system, this means one thing: exams & deadlines!! A time where we want to be outside, but force ourselves to be at a desk, trying to learn that equation off by heart (the one that you’ll never have to remember), or linking social theories together in order to create a somewhat coherent theoretical framework for an essay. Days getting longer generally means more time to revise.

Getting away

It was with this in mind that the 6 of us planned a trip away: the calm before the storm. We arrived at the Isle of Portland Monday afternoon, parked our cars and hit the crag. The sweet afternoon warmth touching our skin as we climbed on the limestone. Spending the afternoon climbing, and with the sun beginning to set, it was time to find a spot to camp. We wanted to be right by the crag when we woke up, and (as with most students) we don’t have much money, so we decided to wild camp.

Sun setting over the horizon from the Isle of Portland

We found a beautiful spot, protected from the wind by two boulders, looking out onto the sea, a safe distance away from the cliff. As the moon woke from its slumber, we had finished putting our tents up. We heated our pre-made pasta and had a few beers before hitting the hay. Happy to be resting our weary bodies. Eager for the next day.

Awaken by the sun, we crawled out, and were surprised by the awe of the view we had half seen the night before. Endless sea in front of us, beautiful rock to climb behind us! Unfazed by it being early or late; we had coffee, cereal bars and chocolate spread; packed our tents away and went for a full day’s climb. Only stopping once to satisfy our stomachs with a local pub lunch. The day seemed to last forever and it was the reddish hues in the sky that hinted to us that we are nearing the end. Not a clock, telling us the day is over. Nor the fact the library is closing due to the Easter break. This evening a camp fire was in order. The spot we had adopted as home, had obviously been someone else’s before. Stones indicating a fire place were already there, and we only had to add the wood.

There is something special about sitting with friends by a campfire. The warm glow in everyone’s face, seems to bring people closer together. Flames twist and dance in the darkness of the sky, unaware of themselves, completely free. The spectators of the dance are in turn engulfed by a blast of smoke – as if to wake them up from their trance. Time is lost in these moments.

The final day came, and what a glorious day it was. The wind had died down, the sun was turned up to 11. A few uni friends, who lived in the local area, joined us for (what I imagine was) the afternoon. We got another full day of climbing in, ate couscous for lunch, and, alas, it was time to head home. Loading up our gear, we made a quick trip to the pub for dinner again, and then headed homeward. A journey back, back to reality, back to responsibility, back to work. We had to un-press the pause button, and be controlled by time once more.

Timelessness in a timed world

Back home, the very next day, I was in front of my laptop, typing away at an application for a conference I want to attend. I was thinking about dates and deadlines. Where I have to be next weekend, when I’m going to go here and how to meet them, there. Catching up with everything I had left behind. I had completely lost the timelessness of the previous three days. Life, once again, was in hyper mode and my brain was loving the adrenaline and dopamine kick from it.

Simultaneously, I instantly missed the serenity I had felt sitting in a harness 20m up a cliff with the sun on my back and sea breeze in my hair. This was a sign. A sign to take back control. Finding the moments of timelessness in a day and cherishing them. Meditating in the mornings, when the air is fresh, the birds are chirping and my mind is clear. To be present in my work and in moments of joy.

My realisation is that we need time to forget about time, from time to time.Click To Tweet

So find moments in your day when you can loose track of time.

Flexitarianism? | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/flexitarian-food-choices/

Flexitarianism, a useful term?

Heard of Flexitarianism? Yeah, me neither. But it’s supposedly going to be a key food trend of 2017! Flexitarians essentially follow a vegetarian diet, but they eat meat every now then. “Isn’t that a normal diet?” I hear you say. I would say not. “Is it useful then?” you ask. I’m going to say no to this also.

The different dietary options

Most of us will have heard of the major dietary choices: Vegetarian, Vegan & Pescetarian. Some of us may have heard of Fruitarians, or the other vegetarian sub-categories: Ovo vegetarianism & Lacto vegetarianism. Moving to university halls was the first time I was really confronted with people who chose these diets. I knew of the diets before, but had never fully thought about them. My partner for the first few years of university was a vegetarian and I loved cooking for the two of us. That, alongside my (vegetable focused) mediterranean diet, meant I got to know and love the veggie diet even before I chose to follow it, and then develop that into a mostly vegan diet.

What’s what:

Vegetarian (commonly referring to Ovo-Lacto Vegetariana): excludes meat and by-products of animal slaughter (e.g. rennet/gelatine), but includes eggs & dairy (that’s the ovo-lacto bit).

Vegan: excludes all animal-derived products (e.g. honey, dairy, eggs).

Pescetarian (or pesco-vegetarian): the vegetarian diet, plus the inclusion of seafood.

Fruitarian: diet of around 3/4 raw fruit, some vegetables are acceptable.

Ovo Vegetarian: vegetarian diet with eggs, but not dairy.

Lacto Vegetarian: vegetarian diet with certain types of dairy, but no eggs.

Food philosophies are chosen for a multitude of reasons: ethical, moral, environmental, religious or health. None of these reasons are ‘better’ than the others and none are binding.

A misconception

In a conversation with a friend who identifies as vegan, she pinpointed a common misconception. Discussing a situation where she was having dinner out with friends and a meal she chose had egg in it (which is ‘not vegan’). Her friends were shocked by her choice and asked if she was allowed to eat eggs. To which she, in my opinion correctly, answered, ‘I’m allowed to eat anything!’

And here is where I feel the problem lies. Many people assume that being a veggie or vegan is about a restriction and limitation of what you can or cannot eat – which in a way it is – but it is still down to you to decide how (& what) you’re going to consume food. This is crucial to understand.

If I say, ‘I’m not going to eat beef because it has disastrous environmental effects’, or that ‘I’m stopping eating chickens because of the terrible cruelty they are exposed to throughout their lives, from debeaking as babies to being kicked into lorries when being shipped off to factories’, I’m making my own decision, it is not a limitation, it is a (moral) choice. Much the same way as we avoid committing crimes in our daily lives. It would be easy to just swipe a chocolate bar from the store, but our moral mind restricts us and reminds us not to. These are analogous.

Understanding the above, we can say that those of us that choose a non-mainstream (meaning a non-meat eating) diet do so, mostly, out of intentional choice. In doing this, we are acting on values that we believe and thus are working towards a life that is more aligned with our true self. A life more honest to oneself is the best path to happiness. And here is why, in choosing our diet, we are not limiting ourselves, but consciously being our full selves.

When you can’t choose

There are situations where we cannot choose our diets, thus cannot be ourselves however. Let’s look at some examples:

Travelling abroad – some countries whole diets are fully built around meat eating (e.g. South America), here it may be difficult to uphold your dietary choices.

Dining at friends – if you’re not vocal about your diet when invited to friends’ houses for lunch/dinner, you may be served something you would not deliberately eat.

Moving back home – I’ve had to move back home to do my masters. My parents cook meals for the family and we have typically eaten meat. Not wanting to force them to cook separately for me, and unable to afford buying myself food, I felt pressure to conform to whatever they were cooking.

Gender Pressure – there is a bizarre notion that men should eat meat to be a real man (especially within sporting situations). This is false for two reasons: firstly, what you eat should not define your gender and; secondly, there is no such thing as a real man. It is also visible that vegetarianism/veganism is mostly associated to femininity – another falsity – as I said diet has no gender.

(This list is not extensive, if you’ve experienced other times when you’ve felt pressured to eat things you normally wouldn’t, please comment below! I’d love to hear your stories)

I experience some of these things on a weekly basis. Although my parents have now mainly adopted a vegetarian diet around me, they do sometimes cook a fish or meat dish. I stay at my sister’s house regularly, her family’s diet is omnivorous, and I eat with them at least once a week. Also, travelling regularly it’s not always possible to eat a veggie diet abroad when you can’t understand the language.

I identify somewhere between vegetarian & vegan, but I acknowledge the fact that I’m not really following the diet I’d like to. This creates issues when talking about diet with people. Can I call myself a veggie?

Enter Flexitarianism

Enter stage-right: The Flexitarian. On the face of it, this could be the way I choose to identify. Flexitarians predominantly eat a vegetarian diet, with meat included – BINGO! Except, I don’t want to identify this way. I feel that would be cheating myself. My values lie within the veggie-vegan sphere. I choose not to buy meat, or contribute to the animal farming industry, whenever possible. I disagree with the exploitation of animals in mass meat production, the environmental damages of the meat market are huge and there are numerous health benefits from eating less (or no) meat. These are moral stand-points for me, not flexible ones I can switch in and out of.

Flexitarianism doesn’t seem to have any moral stand-points. It looks like a catch-all term that’s been created by statisticians in order to categorise people into market segments. So no, I don’t think this term is useful.

(Oh, there’s also Lessetarianism, which is reducing the amount of meat you eat – this has its pros & cons, but I see largely similar to Flexitarianism)

What are you then? A veggie that eats meat?

No. I’m a vegetarian. Period. I stand by my morals and choices to not consciously contribute to animal exploitation. And when I’m given something that has, I take it humbly, knowing that I am living in a world where the cruelty & indignity given to animals has been normalised.

One by one, we can change the status quo. Be respectful to those around you. If you’re a veggie, respect the fact that someone eats meat. If you’re a meat-eater, respect that others choose not to eat animals. Maybe if we question why we eat certain things with more honesty and listen to those who eat differently to us, we’ll be able to accept each other more.

Because someone’s going to say it:

Some meat-eaters might say I’m just finding excuses to indulging myself in meat. I can tell you its not. The last time I had sausages, I felt bloated for two days straight and had congested bowel movements. On top of this, the idea of eating something that was alive a few weeks ago, which has subsequently passed, sometimes alive, through a massive machine, that comes out the other end in some weird shape, makes me feel sick. Just thinking of a chicken nugget send shivers down my spine. When eating meat, I have to disconnect myself from what I am eating.

‘Just don’t eat it then’ some might say, and yes I have thought about this. Most of the time I don’t, even if it means going hungry for a bit more. The thing is, ‘not eating’ does not solve the problem when I’m at someone’s house and they’ve spent time cooking a meal for me. I’m at risk of offending them, and more than this, the animal has already seen the harm on my behalf – in my opinion throwing it in the bin is the ultimate indignity. Stuck in this dichotomy, I feel obliged to eat.

Life as a high-functioning alcoholic | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/young-functioning-alcoholic/

Life as a high-functioning young alcoholic

Happiness is often seen as a place you arrive. Many of us search for it, without really knowing where to look. At a young age, I found that alcohol allowed me to feel the friendships I was dearly missing. I spent nearly every night of my undergraduate degree (plus the 1.5 years before) drunk. Every morning, a loud alarm, shower and a coffee were the only way I could feel awake. Despite this, I graduated with a 1st Class degree and produced and toured a documentary film around London during this time.

My drinking, however, was not evidence of a thriving social life or bouts of success. It was a confirmation of the loneliness I suffered from and the longing I had for intimate relationships with others. I know I’m not the only young person to suffer from loneliness. It makes me wonder how many of us turn to the bottle?

The first drink…

Do you remember the first party you went to where there was alcohol? I was 15, going to school friend’s party. She had moved to a different school – an all girls school – there were loads of new people to meet, especially of a different sex. The sexual curiosity of that age meant that we quickly moved to play ‘spin the bottle’. This night I experienced my first kiss, that same girl became my first girlfriend (which didn’t last once we sobered up). And the more I think about it now, this very night may have structured my whole basis for sexual relations & relationship building.

Most parties I went to afterwards increasingly evolved around alcohol & sexual encounters. My friend’s 16th, where someone proudly received their first blowjob. A 17th where someone threw up and blew their chance of getting with that guy they wanted. 18th parties where sex was apparently everywhere – along with drugs and cigarettes – including one where there was someone walking around with a tray of condoms. Every year there seemed to be a new addition to the toolbox of ‘fun’.

Apart from that fateful first kiss, I never ‘got with’ anyone at parties. I was that kid who wondered around trying to figure out what on earth was going on. Asking myself, “Why do I seem to just float?”; “Why am I even here?” As the evenings went on, I would grab another beer and then wonder around to find someone to talk to. Some conversations would last for a while, keeping me away from the isolation that seemed to be looming. But some conversations would be cut short by my partner, and I would be cast back into a world of confusion and self-pity. It seemed people just didn’t want to talk to or be with me; and it was during these times that I began to diminish my self-worth.

Free hugs!

I think it was at this young age when I first found the soothing cuddle of alcohol. Having ‘one more’ allowed me to feel comfortable, like I belonged. I used a bottle, and not long later a cigarette, as a barrier between the world and me. It felt safe. I thought I fitted in. This narrative was something I reiterated as I grew older. Little did I know that 5 years down the line I would have a drinking problem and wake up most mornings with a fuzzy head.

Culture clash

I grew up in a first generation immigrant family, well my mother was half-English but she had grown up in Turkey. So neither of my parents really understood British culture. I had been taught the strict and respectful manner of Turkish culture, which was different to the mannerisms and attitudes of my contemporaries. The cultural capital – social knowledge one has: in style of speech, dress, intellect, education (in & out of school) – that I had was a mishmash of two cultures that didn’t really fit, and I experienced this incompatibility through the awkwardness I felt with my friends at school.

Despite this, I was able to move through all the groups (maybe apart from the football one – I didn’t really like football) but that still only gave me a skin-deep sense of friendship. I felt most at home with the misfits, those of us that didn’t quite call ourselves that name (or any name) but certainly weren’t the ‘cool kids’. We weren’t the geeks either, however, perhaps we didn’t have a name, we were just sort of there. Wherever we were, it was there I was able to be myself and relax, yet it was a yearning to not be there that made me ache to be ‘cool’. I was not satisfied by the amazing friends I had in this group and wanted to ‘upgrade’.

Looking into the black of my eye

Towards the end of my bachelor degree, I started panicking about what I was going to do once it finished. After being asked “what do you want to be when you’re older?” all my life and still not having an answer, I felt stuck. How have I got to this stage of my life and do not know what I want to do? Is there something wrong with me? Panic and anxiety set in. Slowly, but very surely, a void began to emerge from within, as a subtle but definite sadness grew.

I had begun to ask myself questions around this time. Not extrinsic questions about jobs or positions or directions, but intrinsic queries. I started asking what I valued: about myself, about the world, my moral values, my ethical values; if I was really enjoying what I was doing? What did I regret doing in the last few months? Could I have said “no” to some of those things? Once I was able to shift my answers from analytical to honest, I realised that I’d been focusing on the wrong things.

Take 5

Meditation had a massive impact on enhancing the ability to analyse my self and my thoughts. I used the app called Headspace to get me started – and still use it daily. The increased awareness of my thoughts, and to watch negative conceptions from a distance, is indispensable to self-discovery. Practising mindfulness allows us to see ourselves in the present, rather than looking into the future or reminiscing on the past.

As the Headspace co-founder, Andy Puddicombe says: the present is so underrated, and yet we spend so little time in it. Studies show having a distracted mind is a direct cause of unhappiness, and in his TED talk, Andy cites that we spend nearly half of our time distracted. That means we might be spending nearly half of our lives potentially unhappy. There’s something deeply worrying about that. Meditation really allowed me to focus on now; to understand what I enjoy; to realise what I don’t enjoy. It doesn’t happen quickly, but taking the time to train your mind is invaluable.

Where I was…

No-one knew I had a drinking problem; I was always on top of everything I needed to do, was always at university & I had spent two years successfully producing a film. There was no doctor or medical professional who told me about it. None of my friends thought it – or at least not that I know of – and I had no major health issues. High-functioning alcoholism is problematic because as it is incredibly hard to detect.

Alcohol has been such a big part of my identity for the last 6-8 years: I worked in craft beer, I had done courses in wine tasting & spent time grape picking to fund a trip, even the film I produced was about the independent brewing industry in London. My knowledge of self was intimately intertwined with drinking and its culture. My social network had been built on the people I met in the London Beer scene: bars & their regulars, breweries & their critics.

I worked in pubs; and if you’ve ever worked in a bar, you’ll surely know the compulsive drinking that comes with the job. Alongside this, the band I was in had a massive culture around drinking and smoking, and after an awesome rehearsal & visit to the pub, I would head over to my local that was open till 3 am and drunkenly sip & smoke. I was adamant that this was my life, that I couldn’t change it, and that if I did I would disappear into nothingness. But most of all, I loved it.

Admitting I’m a young alcoholic

It was after over a year of self-analysis and self-development that I could finally see that I was, in fact, alcohol dependent. This was a truly petrifying moment. All of a sudden my entire reality came crashing. I no longer belonged anywhere. I was looking at my self, naked in the middle of nowhere. Nothing to describe who I was. No past or future. Now there was only the present. A blank canvas. This was the chance I had to answer the questions I had been asking over the past year and (re-)build my self.

The morning I woke up to this thought, in a hostel, was January 1st, 2017. It was the best hangover I ever had – well, at least the most productive. Once the initial headache wore off, and I had my (cold) shower I could see. It was like those mornings (or afternoons) you wake up after a heavy night and say, “I’m never going to drink again” – except this time I meant it.

Dry-January was a perfect chance to test the water. I breezed through, only having one glass of prosecco at my sister’s wedding (which I consciously decided to have). February, I started with all the energy of the previous month, tripping over one night when out with 4 friends and an awkward 2-for-1 deal. I didn’t punish myself for it though, I could see my weakness and have worked on strengthening it. The next time I was out with friends I abstained; the time after only had a half; recognising the urges that were building inside me each sip at a time).

Movin’ on up

I am still working on it. It is incredibly difficult to be 24 and not drink. Our whole society dictates that we do. Everyone I know wants to ‘get drunk’. It is terrible being the person who is ‘no fun’ because they don’t drink. You feel ousted by groups and as if you don’t belong (again). The challenge of not drinking is not only a physical one but overwhelmingly a psychological one. The psychological challenge is two-fold. Both fighting the urges to have a drink and, whilst mentally weak, trying not to be affected by the stigma and ‘otherness’ it brings you.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, you don’t have to fight it alone. Reach out to your loved ones. But if, like me, you can’t do that, reach out to me (hello[at]youngminimalist.uk). I’d be happy to listen and offer my support.

Stay strong.

Warning! Opinions | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/warning-of-a-warning/

Warning of a warning

The below was written as a response to a post on lillepunkin.com (@LKnerl), about avoiding the ‘trappings of “intentional living”‘ – but I don’t think she approved my comment…read her post before reading my response below.

Her article is great, and, as I say below, I think she has raised some interesting points. I hope you will enjoy the discussion of the post and add your own thoughts in the comments below!

Great article Linsey, and congratulations on the arrival of your new child! I think you’ve highlighted some fantastic points, along with raising a deep philosophical contention (‘Are you capable as a human to do anything that isn’t “deliberate”?’). Without a lengthy debate whether these are indeed facts or not (imo: they’re not, they’re opinions), I would like to comment on a few of your points.

My main comment is on your title, 5 REASONS TO AVOID THE TRAPPINGS OF “INTENTIONAL LIVING”. Firstly, this is misleading. It seems your article’s main argument is in fact ‘not to change too much, too quickly’. Highlighted by your introduction & fourth point. As someone who embraces intentional living, I completely agree with you, one should not try to change everything all at once. Self-discovery takes time which should be allowed to naturally develop. This is exactly what intention is: an aim or plan. Something to work towards.

It is also deeply personal, your opening point, thus one should be careful to try other people’s methods of intentional living. If, for example, you don’t have “40 bags of anything to get rid of”, then don’t do it! If you have a house full of stuff that you can’t figure out what to do with, then maybe it is something to try. Most blogs I’ve come across are stories of personal journeys. The bloggers are sharing what has worked for them, and in many cases what has not! One must assess what is right for oneself and only then try them out.

Finally, I do not quite understand your (slightly judgemental) second point. Many people living intentionally choose to do so in order to stop comparing and contrasting with others. A massively liberating process. There is much research into how Social Media can adversely affect you (Sherry Turkle’s work comes to mind). What people are not saying is to ditch all digital life; but to re-assess how much of it you really need. I, for example, just deleted my Facebook account. Why? I realised that I hadn’t really used it in 2 years – never posting anything or messaging people. Twitter & Instagram on the other hand add loads of value to my life. Twitter keeping me up-to-date with trends and Instagram keeps me in touch with friends, photographers & other climbers. I don’t really post much on these sites either, but I still use them daily.

Your first ‘fact’ is the most interesting as it accounts for both sides of the debate. Indeed (intentional) living it is personal. Only we can best decide what is right and wrong for us. And bloggers, like myself, should not be here to tell people how to live. We can only share what we have found in our experiences. Through exploration, reading and trying things, we can decide what our version of ‘intentional living’ is. This point is in fact the definition of ‘intentional living’: don’t follow others’ values, but discover what you value. Then create your life according to them.

“Sometimes we do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions not answers” – John le Carré. In this context, I read that as: ‘Try new things and discover whether it fits your life or not.’

Kevin – YoungMinimalist.uk

Becoming a minimalist | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/becoming-a-minimalist/

Becoming a Minimalist

Minimalism is a way of life, it is a philosophy based around value. Minimalist living is mostly concerned with decluttering our lives of tangible objects. Inherently in becoming a minimalist, we relieve ourselves of many of the possessions we own and create a simpler framework for our lives. This will happen naturally when we start to question what we truly value. If you haven’t read my brief exploration of the philosophy of minimalism read it here; an understanding of this will be useful.

Minimalism isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. No one person has the right method or framework, and don’t let anyone tell you they have. But there are many common themes that arise from those that have adopted a simpler way of life. I will go through them here and hopefully you’ll be able to see that the transition to simplicity is a possibility for everyone.

How we consume

We tend not to question what it is we are consuming. In fact, we don’t even realise we are consuming things half the time. Most of our day is spent absorbing some thing or another. We wake up and put the kettle on waiting for that burst of caffeine to wake us up, ignoring the fact that we’ve already started consuming electricity: turning on the lights, the kettle and the heating that automatically comes on. Throughout the day we ignore so many of the little components that make up what we consume: the packaging on our lunch, the tea leaves in our tea bags, the chair we sit on at work. All of these things are material objects that we unconsciously ignore. Yet all of these have an impact, on our lives and the planet.

A fulfilled life is something many people strive for, and happiness is something, I believe, everyone wants to experience. Being truly happy and fulfilled can only happen when we satisfy all our needs. Yet I am convinced that many of us do not actually know what our needs are. For many years I thought I knew my needs. I urged my parents to give me more pocket money so I could buy more things: first it was sweets, then the latest sportswear, after getting a job and my first guitar I constantly bought gadgets to make me a ‘better’ player, then purchasing tech. The constant want for bigger, better, faster was dragging me through my life. The acquisition of one item leads to the desire for another. This framing of my needs developed at a very early age, and habitual satisfaction is a difficult addiction to break.

Developing self-awareness

I order to break our habits we have to be aware of them. This is a really difficult task if you do not know where to begin. Mindfulness is a great tool. It was a phase of anxiety during university that turned me on to mindfulness. I downloaded (the awesome) Headspace app and for 2 months used the free initial 10 days, ‘Take 10’, to guide me through meditation. Planting the seed of mindfulness, and nurturing it carefully, is a crucial element in becoming more aware of your self and improving your life (O’Brien, T. 2015). Over time mindfulness shifts your focus away from external factors and towards internal. It is this intrinsic internal forces that bring us our greatest joy (Lee, M. & Ahn, C. 2016).

Self-growth is a massive area of concern these days, with bookstore shelves filled with self-help books. As a society, we are becoming aware of the importance of inner growth. Mindfulness cultivates the perfect safe space for this inner growth to be cultivated. In one of the earliest surveys on voluntary simplicity, Duane Elgin (2010 [1981]) found that mindfulness and inner growth were highly common themes for those who had chosen a simpler way of life.

Becoming more mindful of what you value will build the foundations for designing a simpler way of life.Click To Tweet
Find your values

Once you are aware of your self. Spend some time to find what it is you value. Write them down. This could be playing sport every week, working towards high grades, calling a friend once a week, going out, reading the news, playing music, drawing, watching films. Alternatively, your values may be focused slightly differently: stop wasting money, eat healthier, read more, exercise more, develop myself, build great relationships…

What ever they are, once you define them you can work towards them.

Manage your space

The spaces we live in affect us massively, and our minds and our home have a very close link. The messier our mind, generally the messier our homes. Alternatively, the messier our home is, the harder it is to be calm and focussed when at home. This intimate connection is down to the fact that the material objects affect us. If you’ve read other minimalism blogs (create a blog list), you will have come across this idea: the objects we own take up our time. We have to clean them, tidy them, think about them, use them, fix them and think about them. That is a lot of ‘doing’ for one item. Take a moment to think about all the items you have. How much time could you save?

Keeping your space clear and clean is fundamental to creating a space where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of tidying, has written extensively on the subject of tidying and space management, highlighting the benefits for us. The KonMari method is not for everyone, but her ideas carry a lot of value.

Turn down from 11

Most of us run on 11 – especially if you live in a city. Our phones are ringing, emails coming through, Twitter, Facebook, advertising, coffee, lunch, shopping, drinks, dinner, TV, gym. We cram in as much as we can. Generally from a misconception of necessity. We need to do all these things, otherwise we won’t be happy! Turning down from 11 involves a few steps, some of these take effort and time, but, in the long run, they save us heaps of it.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists!

If you’re like me, you’re probably signed up to loads of mailing lists: my phone company, university, student union, all the stuff I signed up to in freshers week, discount websites, charitable causes, social media notifications… take some time to figure out which ones you want to keep and unsubscribe from the rest! The easiest way I found of doing this was to do it as I got emails coming through. There are other ways, and take some time to plan how you are going to get through this. Once you’re done, create a system to ensure you get your inbox clear every day, this way it’ll never accumulate again.

Turn off notifications

This is a crucial one. Do you really need your Twitter notifications on? Or Facebook notifications? Instagram? LinkedIn? Snapchat, Pinterest, your News apps, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Uni apps, email, Evernote, WhatsApp? Or would it just be simpler to check when you want to check? (Maybe keep your phone & texts on for emergencies, but otherwise… what do you really need?)

Don’t overcommit

I’m a people pleaser. Well, I was a people pleaser. Saying yes to everything and cramming my schedule full of things to do. Unsurprisingly, you can see how that took up a lot of my time. Shàà Wasmund (2015) discusses at length that saying ‘No’ to those things you don’t really want to do will create heaps of time. Here you can come back to the idea of value. When confronted with whether to do something or not, ask yourself, “Will this add value to my life?”. Then listen to your answer.

Stop multi-tasking

It’s not more efficient. You do not get more things done in the day. Having the TV on doesn’t help you concentrate.

Multi-tasking does distract you. It is proven to decrease your ability to focus. You produce lower quality work.


This is where Marie Kondo’s ideas really come in handy. The essence of de-cluttering – in effect the essence of minimalism – is to remove excess. Which method you chose is entirely up to you. The Minimalists came up with the Packing Party: placing everything into boxes – that means everything – and over the next 21-days only unpacking that which you need to use. Then everything else goes, Donate, Sell, Throw.The

The KonMari Method is gentler, with it asking you to look at every item and ask if you value it. Moving through your stuff by category, rather than location: first clothes, then tech, then uni stuff, miscellaneous… If you’re at uni, you’ve probably only got one room, but the idea still holds: organise by category. Then decide what to do with the stuff that no longer has value.

Buy Less

De-cluttering is not a reason to buy more to fill in the space you’ve created. By deciding what it is we value and cutting the excess, we should find that we already have everything that we need. There is no need to them fill the space we’ve cleared with more stuff. With mindful practices, you should start becoming aware of when you feel the urges to buy something, take a step back and ask that same question, “will this add value to my life?” Then listen to the answer.


Minimalism is about looking inwards

To start to live a simpler, minimalist lifestyle we must first start by looking in. Only once we have discovered who we are and what we value can we begin to act on the external factors around us. For the younger ones of us, this is particularly hard as we are still cultivating an image of ourselves. This, however, is not a hindrance, as you do not have to struggle to change habits that have had many years to settle in. The younger we can start critically observing ourselves, the deeper we can go with it. The best part is that learning more about your self will push you to work towards your own goals, not those of others; creating a life full of wealth.


Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich – Duane Elgin


Elgin, D. (2010 [1981]) Voluntary Simplicity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

Lee, M. & Ahn, C. (2016) ‘Anti-Consumption, Materialism, and Consumer Well-Being’. The Journal of Consumer Affairs. Spring. pp. 18-47

O’Brien, T. (2015) Inner Story: Understand Your Mind. Change Your World. Ideational

Wasmund, S. (2015) Do Less Get More. London: Penguin RandomHouse UK

What is minimalism? | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/what-is-minimalism/

What is minimalism?

Minimalism (n):
- a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterised by extreme spareness and simplicity
- design using the bare essentials

What minimalism isn’t

Before we have a look at minimalism, let’s start with what minimalism is certainly not. It is not: getting rid of everything, living in a tiny house, eating 1 grain of rice for every meal, selling your car, middle-class, being an extreme environmentalist, boring, no fun, lonely or (self-) idolatry. For a more in-depth analysis of the misconceptions about minimalism look here.

Right now that’s out the way.

A philosophy of minimalism

Minimalism is intrinsically materialistic. “What?” You might say. “I thought minimalism was about getting rid of things, living with the essentials, not living in excess?” And you’re right. That is exactly why it is materialistic.

Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton (the guy who started the School of Life, made popular on YouTube), would say that we don’t really “live in very materialistic times”. We don’t, in fact, desire material objects, but the rewards from acquiring those items: e.g. recognition of wealth or status, or, acknowledgement of taste in fashion. Yet, de Botton would argue that material items actually have another, purer purpose. A purpose to aid in self-development and knowledge, as well as to “play a positive psychological (or spiritual) role in our lives when higher more positive ideals are ‘materialised’ in them”.

Thus it comes to mean, good choices in our material possessions can change the way we live our lives, for the better. I believe this is the underlying purpose of minimalism: to make conscious decisions about what we own and dedicate time to in order to live a fuller, more purposeful life.

So what does this mean?

The first thing to understand about minimalism is that it is not a simple, thing you do. It’s much more than that. A way of life, built upon the aforementioned philosophy. In order to live a minimalist lifestyle, there is a lot of soul-searching that you must go through. Minimalism allows you to focus on what you love, and remove all the extra noise from your life. It is a way of living your life with intention and focus. By doing & having less, you create room for more (Makes sense right?).

The thing is, most of us don’t do this. Many of us are busy doing jobs we don’t like to buy things we don’t want. I spent most of my university life working part-time jobs in pursuit of a way to define myself as successful. Getting the newest phone, buying new shirts for work, travelling around London in taxis and paying for round after round of drinks. And it worked, others recognised me for it: I heard a ‘friend’ say once, “I love going out for drinks with Kevin, after a couple he just keeps buying rounds for everyone.” I was living a life focused on money & things because money & things make you happy. At least, that’s what I thought.

So when I found minimalism I wasn’t really sure I would get on with it. It didn’t really fit with my lifestyle. But when I gave it a chance and answered the questions posed to me honestly, I very quickly found that minimalist living was exactly what I was looking for all along. Minimalism has allowed me to: stop saying “yes” to everything, stop working in an industry that I didn’t enjoy and spend more time doing things I love, be closer to my family, have more money, get healthier, live moment to moment and travel.

“The more you know, the less you need” – Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia

Learn more … about yourself

The ultimate benefit of minimalism is discovering things about yourself that you don’t know. Self-discovery not only gives you a great buzz, but it allows us to make decisions more intelligently. By figuring out what you love doing, what your values are and where your life is failing you, you are able to take back control of your life and direct yourself onto the path you truly want to be on. So where do we start?

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are my values in life?
  • What do I currently do, that I would rather not?
  • Which areas of life do I want to improve?
    • Split them up (e.g. Health / Relationships / Money / Work / etc.) and break these down further
  • What does my version of success look like?

Re-visit these a week later and then proceed to step 2 – Becoming a minimalist (link to follow).

Fighting those temptations | Young Minimalist http://www.youngminimalist.uk/fighting-temptations-student-loan/

Fighting temptations – Student Loan

Fight off those spending temptations

It’s that time of year. Student Loans are coming in and suddenly there’s a lot of money in your account. Mine came through this week. It’s a little buzz when it appears. Money is one of those things which is both so abstract and weird yet so intimate and real. So with the new term starting and many of us trying to quiet those urges to buy stuff, how do we keep our spending to a minimum?

Be aware of what you spend

My first bit of advice would be to start a savings account. If you don’t already have one, they’re great. You can do it online through most banks and it takes seconds. You can put all the loan in here and pull money out to your current account as and when you need. There’s two benefits of this: firstly, it’s not on your card so you can’t just spend it. Secondly, when you are going to spend it you have to transfer it to your current account. This makes the process more conscious and can alert you when spending unnecessarily.

Make a budget! I’m sure you’ve been told this many times. That’s because if you make one and stick to it, they really work. I use the budgeting app Pennies (sadly only available on iPhone). But there are many out there. Get a free one that works for you. Put your budget in there, and log every bit of spending you do.

A good friend of mine recommended this to me years ago. Whenever you feel like you want something, write down the item in a journal (I note it on my phone) and then a week later ask yourself if you still want to buy it. If the answer is yes, think about it, see if you can afford it and find the cheapest option. If the answer is no – or if you forget to look – you don’t actually want it. Don’t buy it.

Or, if you want a simple method, just ask this question every time your about to purchase something.

Does this add value to my life?

The answer will tell you what to do.