Minimalist Fail

rd-minimalist-fail

Reflections

For those of you wondering about my absence, I’ve taken inspiration from Frank at London Minimalists and have actually started a Masters degree. I’ve been meaning to start one for 8 years but something was always in the way (my stuff!). Although my free time is next to nothing and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of my amazing dryad wife, I’m thoroughly enjoying the learning.

It has been challenging to not be able to embrace minimalism with quite as much fervour as I used to: The Minimalist Movie is still on my to watch list on Netflix, I still need to sort out the attic etc. However I have continued to try and be a “good enough” minimalist and feel like most of the time I’m getting a good balance.

Today has felt like an epic fail! I was off to a good start with digital decluttering. On the way to the library, I removed Facebook and Ebay from my phone in the hope they will stop sucking my time, or perhaps I will be more responsible and go to sleep instead. I also culled my Facebook friends.

On the walk home from the library, I stopped at the local charity shop to see if they had any Duplo. Before Christmas a friend made the statement “all the plastic ever made is still in existence.” She’d heard it on a podcast and it has completely changed how I think about plastic, particularly toys. Hence my search for Duplo in a charity shop. I’m looking specifically for 4×2 bricks or bigger and large base boards. So why did I leave with:

  • a huge bag of Playdoh and related paraphenalia (all plastic),
  • a large box of Mechano (plastic again),
  • a dinosaur (you guessed it – plastic!)
  • 7 books (thankfully paper).

If anyone can enlighten me, I’d be awfully grateful! Perhaps I need to take a leaf out of Michelle MacGagh’s (the other half of the London Minimalists) book instead!


Discoveries

There is a new UK minimalist blog! Although I’ve not had chance to fully explore it Catherine is writing over at Midlands Minimalist. She’s got some great tips for getting started with #Unclutter2017.

Taking a purchase pause

R&D Purchase Pause

There are numerous advantages to pursuing a mindfully minimalist lifestyle. Since beginning to whittle down my possessions, I have already reaped the benefits of more time to spend how I want to: writing, learning to crochet, time with friends and family, & sleeping to name but a few. In my experience,The financial impact of minimalism however is a bit more complex. Through selling some of my possessions I have saved nearly sufficient to pay for a Master’s degree. While I have yearned to study at post graduate level for years, I’ve never had the financial means to do so without sinking deeper into debt.

Selling unwanted possessions has a downside. Attaching financial value to possessions you are removing is risky. It reattaches meaning and value to them, despite already deciding they have no place in your life. It can be harder to let them go as they are then deemed to be “worth” something. This was a significant barrier that held me back until recently.

I’m not sure entirely what clicked – perhaps it was the ever growing mountains of unsorted children’s clothes in the attic which made trying to retrieve anything a monumental expedition. I realised while eBay is a useful servant, it is an unhelpful master. After concerted effort and a very nice lady at the post office who allowed me to come back (after she had processed the 36 parcels) I have now changed my mind set. Not only do I have time limit on the items I am selling, I have become more generous. Items I would historically tried to make a little money from now move on immediately to charity. I’ve recently received my gift aid updates from two local charities and the items I’ve donated have netted them £400 + 25%. A helpful positive reinforcer for continuing this way.

Minimalism automatically drives towards mindful consumption. If you’ve put the effort into reducing your physical possessions mindfully, you are (hopefully) less likely to mindlessly accumulate more. However being mindful of your purchasing habits takes just that: mindfulness.

I disposed of all of my debt (except the mortgage), prior to the birth of my daughter, and a long time before I discovered minimalism. Since then I’ve been able to live within my means and avoid any further accumulation of debt. This includes while on reduced income during maternity leave, and while paying childcare despite both my wife and I reducing our paid work to 0.8 WTE. However I’ve had this nagging feeling for a while that I’m not spending my money how I want to.

Michelle McGagh at London Minimalists is currently a little over halfway through her year long no spend challenge, while Cait Flanders has just completed her 2 year shopping ban.

Personally I’m not one for extremes, however over the last three weeks I have been inspired to undertake a Purchase Pause. I got the idea from an article by Courtney Carver about the power of a purchase pause. She suggested 5 strategies:

  1. Fake it
  2. Buy it on paper
  3. Identify needs vs. wants
  4. Know what matters
  5. Make rules

I decided to opt for a variation of buying it on paper. I have been writing in my bullet journal what I have purchased, and what I have wanted to purchase, including the cost. Personally paper helps me to be more thoughtful about what I have been buying. I have also jotted down any thought processes I have been aware of. It turns out that the following have contributed to my spending:

  • Desire – wool
  • It’s easier just to get it – a near miss with Zero Waste Home
  • Necessity – a lightbulb & groceries
  • ‘It’s available’ – a near miss with a coffee grinder
  • Lack of planning – food usually
  • It’s for a good cause – donations at a Refugee week event
  • ‘It’s not real money’ – a credit note used to buy shoes
  • Entitlement – ‘It’s our holiday’ – Snacks after trampolining

It was certainly helpful to be aware of of my mental attitudes. Some of the items were purchased through need, but some were definitely wants. The most significant change however was by noting what I would have spent mindlessly (averaging £25 per week) I have been able to redirect this to where I would like it to go.

I have become more generous and seriously begun to think about what I am ‘voting’ for when I spend my money. Initially the money I ‘saved’, or more accurately didn’t spend, has been redirected to help others including pants for refugees, sponsoring a friend who completed Pretty Muddy for cancer charity, a fete in aid of Alder Hey Children’s Charity, supporting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and a food bank donation. I’ve since discovered it is possible to make regular monetary donations to the food bank so that is on my list of things to do this week.

Perhaps mindful minimalism is a key to generosity.


Discoveries

This week I’ve been dipping into the ocean of Leo Babauta‘s Zen habits and particularly enjoyed A Simple Declutter Habit: Leave No Trace. The premise is fairly simple and focuses on tidying up after yourself, however he highlights the role of mindfulness within this. You have to notice as you move through life and from one task to another.When you finish a task pause and take stock before moving on to the next. His gentle guidance does not expect perfectionism, rather encouraging you to remember as often as you can.

 

Reflections and Discoveries: Feeling more or less

R&D Feeling more or less

While I have published regular posts recently I haven’t actually written anything related to minimalism and mindfulness in over three weeks. I efficiently planned ahead to allow myself space for writing a chapter for a up coming book. I endeavoured to use my efficient planning ahead to manage my life load (and work load) but as invariably happens Life often has other plans for us. As yet, the chapter is only partly written and a variety of challenges have arisen, both at work and at home. What I’ve realised is I have ended up in a spiral of feeling more of the things I don’t want to feel and less of the things I do want to feel.

I’m feeling more stressed, more tired and more overwhelmed. I’ve walked less, done less yoga and eaten more chocolate. I’m more angry and irritable and less patient.  The house feels more chaotic (and a lot less minimal) as I’ve felt too tired to even engage in the day to day maintenance that keeps our environment calm. I’ve also noticed a few of the old habits have snuck back in related to mobile phone use. I also appear to have stopped noticing the positive things I am doing as the mountain of what is not done feels so big.

Enough is enough. On Sunday my wife and I had a very pleasant walk back from the local shop with our 18 month old daughter. The 15 minute walk took about 90 minutes. We walked over a bridge which required much investigation and several attempts to climb various bits of it, conversations about the birds she could see, walking down a huge flight of steps (very carefully!). We took a detour into the park to kick through the autumn leaves, visited the ducks, geese and coots and ensured we said goodbye to the squirrels when we were leaving. Rather than feeling the urge “to do” we went with the urge “to be”.

Often I use the phrase “this too shall pass” to help me tolerate difficulties and challenges, however that day I realised it can also be used to focus appreciation on the positives in my life. The munchkin will only be young for such a short space of time, if my focus is else where on less important things then I will miss it.

I’ve recently been reading around Appreciative Inquiry. This model of inquiry advocates inquiry into the “best of what is”, in order to “imagine what could be”, followed by design and implementation of the desired future. So I decided this week to use these ideas to focus on what ‘sparks joy’ in my life and specifically around what enables me to feel calmer. I’ll let you know how I get on.

What helps you to remain calm in a sea of chaos?


Discoveries

It will be no surprise, given the above, that Leo Babuta’s recent post The Underrated, Essential Art of Coping has resonated this week. The idea of using curiosity and openness to explore uncomfortable feelings and self compassion as a way of coping are not novel, but were useful reminders.

No apology needed

R&D no apology needed

Reflections

Apologising is a very British past-time. Someone bumps into you on the street and you apologies. It’s like a reflex. The Sorry reflex.

I remember the best apology I ever received. It was from a client at work. I had stepped in to facilitate the group in the absence of the regular facilitators and she, being angry (about what I can’t remember) had proceeded to lie down on a sofa with her back to the group. No way was she going to participate!

After the group she approached the staff office to apologise. She wasn’t being made to apologise but my goodness did she mean it. She started with ‘I’m sorry’ but then followed up with ‘for my behaviour in the group’. Being specific about what you are apologising for is a great way to reduce overly apologetic behaviour. If you don’t know what you’re apologising for do you actually need to be apologising?

The client then explained her reflection on what impact her behaviour might have had on me and the potential consequences for the future e.g. I might be less inclined to step in and facilitate such a group again. It was an amazing apology as she had clearly articulated what she was sorry for and considered the impact of this both in the long and short term. I felt like she had really empathised with my position.

What might you ask has this got to do with Mindful Minimalism?

I’ve been thinking about my recent foray into discarding yet more DVDs and realised that much of my movement came from my combined use of mindfulness skills of non-judgemental stance and acceptance.

Historically, albeit unintentionally, I had been holding on to films for other people. To support my fantasy self who had eclectic taste in films AND needed to communicate this to others. By being able to accept my go-to films are specific fantasy/superhero, romantic comedy and teen musical dramas I’ve been able to let many more go. I really enjoy watching an eclectic range of films but I no longer need to let other people “see” that. No apology is needed for my go-to movies or for being current reality me!

Minimalism is about accepting who you are. Too often our possessions provide us with a wanted distraction. We might be too uncomfortable to sit with ourselves so the distraction is welcome. As we begin to remove the clutter and distraction we are left with the space to explore and perhaps accept those aspects of ourselves that we have spent years running from; too caught up in impressing others to realise how impressive we are.


Discoveries

I came across 5 Productivity rules you should know in your 20s by Michael Gregory. While usually I’m quite cynical about these types of posts, actually I enjoyed this one. Perhaps it was because both mindfulness and decluttering make an appearance, but lets face it we all have biases.

  1. Know your sleep
  2. Know how to declutter.
  3. Know how to read at least once a day.
  4. Know how to uni-task instead of multitasking.
  5. Know how to eat that frog!

I’m not in my 20s but I’m sure you’ll agree his advice is ageless.

Reflections and Discoveries: The sadness of ‘No’

R&D Sadness of No

Reflections

My daughter’s favourite word at the moment is no, or more accurately vigorously shaking her head from side to side and saying “Doe”. Sometimes I think her head shaking is simply that she enjoys the sensation, however I also think we could all learn a lot from the liberal manner with which toddlers use this word.

It can be frustrating when someone says no to us (particularly when the person is knee high to a grasshopper and you are apparently entering serious negotiations over whether it is the end of bath time). But I’m not sure it is because we can empathise with the other person that so many of us struggle to say the word.

The idea we can’t do everything is not novel, yet many of us cling to our fantasy future self who is often Superman; Superwoman; Super-parent; Super-spouse; Super-friend; Super-everything. Saying no can be a uncomfortable as it acknowledges our limits, our fallibility and our agency in letting people down.

This week I’ve said no twice. Well actually I’ve said it numerous times to ‘small’ things but twice to ‘big’ things. Francine Jay notes “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do” and it was in this spirit I said no.

I’ve been a member of a Lesbian Reading Group for 7 years and have coordinated it since 2011. I met the woman I am lucky enough to call my wife within the hallowed halls of the library (when we still met there) and it inspired, in part, the literary theme of our wedding. Over the years I have gathered many fond memories of discussions (usually heated) and the group offered a haven to meet like minded women that was not the ‘scene’. But life moves on and I have other priorities in my life right now. I am unable to give the book group what it needs in terms of energy or commitment AND I feel immense sadness about saying no, even though I know it is ok to.

The second no was to an exciting work opportunity. That no was even harder.
I haven’t worked out what my mission is. I have an idea of my general direction, wanting to diversify my skills and keep my options open, but definitely not a clear mission. Joshua Becker suggests “Staying on mission is about learning to say ‘no’ to the urgent requests, the popular requests, and the countless opportunities in front of you to make an extra dollar.” My work opportunity didn’t fit into any of these categories. It was something I am passionate about, love doing and in a part of the organisation I don’t currently work with but would like to. And I said No.
It was hard as it is the first time I’ve been conscious of saying no when my fantasy future self is being activated. For years I had a fridge magnet (before it was decluttered) that said “Stress is when your tummy says no and your mouth says yes”. I was a yes-person. Of course. No problem. Yes, yes, yes.
And I really did want to say yes. It took me thee days to accept I do not have capacity to do the piece of work as it required an ongoing commitment, a different type of thinking and would decrease the quality of, and time for, all my other work. I feel very sad about it, and I’m holding on to the buzz of having been recommended by two different people, and being able to say no in a way that did not end future possibilities of collaboration. But still it was no.
The ‘power’ of no can hide it’s sadness, but if we don’t let others down we ultimately let ourselves down. Is there anything you need to say no to? What gets in the way?

Discoveries

Zen Habits is one of my favourite blogs as it incorporates mindfulness and simplicity. While Leo Babauta doesn’t set out “How to…” guides, his reflections and personal action plan in his most recent post, I’m Returning to Single-Tasking, really struck a chord.

I’m particularly guilty of getting distracted while at work, especially when I’m on a computer. I often have a ridiculously long do to list, or perhaps more accurately ‘don’t forget to do’ list and rather than focusing on one task I end up switching between tasks or getting distracted part way through. Today I used some of his strategies, and took it one step further by writing down my task of focus as a physical reminder. The difference was immense.

I was focusing on Appreciative Inquiry. I’ve never used this technique before so needed to understand how to develop the questions initially and then begin the process of answering them. Usually opening my internet browser triggers opening a number of irrelevant tabs, each calling me to pay attention to them. Today I only had tabs open related to the task at hand and I even caught myself a couple of times becoming distracted, opening another and said “No” – literally out loud. The result – I understood the task more easily, developed more powerful questions and answered the questions more fully than if I had been multi-tasking, or more accurately switching my attention rapidly between several tasks. Plus it took less time than I had allocated so I had more time for everything else!

Stepping into the unknown: Reflections & Discoveries

Steps descending into mist

Blogging can, at times, feel like stepping into the unknown. You put words on paper (or technically a screen) and then send them off into the unknown. Some blogs evolve over time whereas others seem polished and ‘corporate’ from the start.

Since beginning my mindful minimalism journey, I’ve read dozens and receive encouragement and inspiration from both types. I like the sharing of current de-cluttering efforts AND the essays on particular aspects of minimalism. However I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the structure of the posts at Mindful Minimalism.  Enter stage left Katie M Anderson. Her recent post about How to come up with ideas for your blog provided the hammer to hit the nail on the head.

While I’m not short on ideas, the structure of my recent posts have included three aspects (usually) – a reflection/essay on some aspect of minimalism, what I’ve got rid of and a blog post I’ve enjoyed reading. I like all these aspects but feel I never get chance to fully explain the insights and reflections I’ve gained from the possessions I’m currently decluttering. The blog post descriptions are also not what I would like them to be. Therefore Mindful Minimalism is about to evolve.

I have decided to separate the ‘essay’ type reflections and the second part of the posts (items removed & blogs I’ve enjoyed). I’ll now be posting a weekly “Reflections and Discoveries” post containing reflections (surprise, surprise) on the items I’ve removed and the blog I’ve enjoyed. Less frequently I’ll be posting a longer essay on some aspect of mindful minimalism. The reasons are two fold. It will hopefully allow me the space to reflect more fully without a blog post changing pace half way through on to a different topic. Secondly I have a looming deadline of a book chapter that I need to write and something has got to give! For now it will be the essays.

As for the new format, here it goes…

R&D1


Reflections

This week I’ve been having a staycation (with access to a car and nursery for my daughter). The result has been three glorious days with my wife as a couple (one of which was spent de-cluttering the attic store), visiting the Rob Ryan: Listen to the world exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (and getting a sneak preview of Bob and Roberta Smith’s exhibition – I can’t wait to see it) and exploring toddler friendly places nearby that are inaccessible without a car. My reflections…

  • It was difficult to decide which part to of the attic to sort out as we’ve broken it down into several areas and our natural inclination was to put off the store as it contained papers and items that have strong associations to the past. However ‘eating that frog’ has been fantastic and it was definitely in the camp of seeming impossible until it was done. It also lead to a number of other revelations.
    •  I was holding on to past relations by keeping mementos, despite having a continuing friendship with one ex and having been happily hitched for several years. My advice – let go of past relationships to leave room for the present ones!
    • It is easier to de-clutter Christmas decorations in August.
    • One thing can trigger a memory as much as 10 things can.
    • When you realise that the ‘thing’ doesn’t contain the experience or memory it is easier to let it go. This applied to three rocks (stored in a box, in a box), a single juggling ball, a piece of gnawed beaver wood and numerous bits of paper in French.
    • Old letters can say more about the person who wrote them and what was going on for them at the time, than they do about you. I’ve decided to return some of my letters to their authors as they describe the mundane, every day occurrences of their university years. I imagine they would be valued by them more, even if they decide to recycle them after reading them.
    • Items de-cluttered from the attic store: 2 archive boxes of ‘trinkets’, 4 archive boxes of paper, 1 bin liner of rubbish, 2 bin liners textiles/shoes (that weren’t even being stored in our wardrobes), 1 box of toys & 1 tent to go back to my parents, 1 small box of broken wooden dolls furniture, 1 small box of jewellery & 1 bin liner of Christmas decorations.
  • The M1 roadworks need a serious de-cluttering of the signs. Many appear smaller than usual as they are further away and when they are mixed in with signs that are related to site traffic, and reminders to be vigilant to safety (how ironic) the result is a confusing mess that, in my opinion, creates more of risk.
  • Sometimes we have clutter occupying real estate simply because it is hard to get rid of. As I don’t own a car it can be more challenging, but it also means that when I do have the opportunity to do a ‘tip run’ I cease it with both hands. This week we’ve de-owned (to the local household waste and recycling centre & charity):
    • Everything we removed from the attic store (de-cluttered this week!)
    • The bathroom door we replaced when we moved in (occupying real estate since 2012).
    • Light bulbs & keys (de-cluttered July 2015)
    • Door and kick board from replacing the inbuilt dishwasher (de-cluttered November 2014).
    • Garden waste (lots of it – de-cluttered March 2015).
    • Random electrics (de-cluttered August 2015)
    • Washing line prop (de-cluttered 2012)

Discoveries

This week I’ve really enjoyed the exercise of writing a someday list and a today list as suggested by The Minimalists in their Someday essay. I’ve written about de-cluttering my future ‘fantasy’ self who has grand plans to fill the 60 hours in each day with crafting and who knows what else. This exercise takes the next step and while I’ve taken steps to become a present dweller, not paying attention to what I’m doing in the present is never going to get me the future I desire. Tomorrow is made in our actions of today. I recommend you try out the exercise in The Minimalists’ post to reflect on where your today is leading.

Mindfulness and the art of de-cluttering or Why did the chicken cross the road?

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My current experience of minimalism has an awful lot of focus on stuff. While I realise this is a short term cost for a long term gain, never the less I’m still very much in the land of “stuff”. What stuff stays, what stuff goes and where the stuff that is staying goes. My time is spent dwelling in the past (“Why on earth do I still have this?”) or the future (“Do I really need to hang on to this just in case?”). Having been away from the vast majority of our “stuff” for a week in Bonny Scotland I’ve realised what is missing (at times) from my journey towards a more mindfully minimal life – the mindfulness.

Mindfulness is paying attention to our moment by moment experience, intentionally and non-judgementally. When approaching life, or minimalism, mindfully, you do not discriminate ‘good’ from ‘bad’. It is as it is. Through our quiet, focused scrutiny the object of our attention (be it external or internal) may appear more nuanced, more detailed, even more present yet it has always been so. What has been lacking was our mindful attention.

My mother in law, in Bonny Scotland, doesn’t have a dishwasher so I have washed dishes several times in the last week. I was not washing dishes thinking, “It must be someone else’s turn to do the dishes!” (judgement) or “I’m looking forward to having my cup of tea” (future thinking)”, or “I wish people would wash there own mugs when they’re finished” (expecting things to be different) or “I really enjoyed building sandcastles with my daughter this morning” (dwelling on the past). Or at least when these thoughts did pop into my head, I noticed them and returned to washing the dishes.

As I washed the dishes, I noticed the crumbs of food and dried sauce. I felt the cloth going over the smooth surface of the plate. I noticed the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap suds and the light coming through the window. I felt the tension in my shoulders and moved them. I became aware of my breath as it rose and fell. I rinsed the sink out carefully, watching the dirty water run down the drain.

Having fewer possessions is less distracting – physically, psychologically and temporally. Our attention is liberated to focus mindfully on what we have chosen to keep in our lives. However the journey needs our attention too. At times I find myself making quick decisions and tossing things out – literally tossing them across the room towards the relevant box. While this is great in terms of speed, especially when I’m feeling time poor, I can’t help but be left with the feeling I’m missing something.

My wife and I love reading and books. We met in a book group, had a book themed wedding and we own lots of books. Yet in the process of removing a guestimated 50% of our books (so far), we got faster and faster. The last book case was sorted in 5 minutes with most of that time being spent removing the books from the shelves to begin with. The decision process was quick and only 20% of those books stayed so they were quick to put back. I have no idea which books left that day (rather telling in itself) and an idea of what remain but I wonder what I missed in the process.

I’m a firm believer in learning from our mistakes, not judging the but definitely learning from them. Behavioural change is hard and yet my reflections (and revelations) of why it was so hard to get rid of my little black dress have helped to cement a new approach to clothes shopping: when I need to replace something, I buy the best quality I can afford and ensure it is fit for purpose (in style, colour and function).

Who knows what lesson my books would have taught me if I’d paid mindful attention to that part of the process. Perhaps they were simply the vehicle to encourage me and reaffirm my commitment to being a present-dweller and to practice mindfulness in the art of de-cluttering.

And in answer to the original question, posed in the title…

Why did the chicken cross the road


Items de-cluttered this week – We came home to a freezer which had been off for a week (thanks Mr Tripped Switch!) Therefore there was an unplanned bin liner of food, four books, a DVDs, two CDs, a wrap (baby sling) and a car seat.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Being away from home has scuppered my efforts to reduce my internet phone use and I’ve read numerous fantastic blogs. It has been tough to pick one however, a friend asked me ages ago about how to declutter children’s possessions respectfully. Therefore, for her, I’ll share Janie Baran’s post over at Simple…not plain on Minimalist living with children. Janie is a mother of two and while her Simple…not plain blog has only been active for four months each post is packed full of inspiration and instruction on what to do. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of a capsule wardrobe for children! It’s a great read.


Photo: Funky Chicken/InAweofGod’sCreation/BY-ND

The Behavioural Chain Analysis of a phone zombie

chain

I’ve worked for nearly a decade helping women change unhelpful behaviours and either discover, or recover, the life they want to lead. One of the technique I use is called a behavioural chain analysis: you analyse an unhelpful (or self-defeating) behaviour, looking at what made you vulnerable, what prompted the behaviour, what are the links in the chain and what are the consequences. You then move on to looking at what you could do differently, what skilful solutions can you identify, prevention strategies and how you might repair any consequences, correct the harm caused and then over-correct it (make things just a little bit better than they were before).

This weeks post is a follow-up on my phone zombie tendencies and I’ve decided to complete a Behavioural Chain Analysis, partly to see what it uncovers…


What is the problem behaviour I am analysing?

I have been mindlessly and habitually using my phone internet and would like to eradicate this behaviour. It is getting in the way of how I want to live. I do not want to completely stop using my mobile internet, I simply want to be mindful about when, where and why I’m using it. Particular problematic times when I consider it to be unhelpful, mindless and habitual are:

  1. While walking to work.
  2. While waiting for someone/something.
  3. While feeding my daughter.
  4. Before I go to sleep.

Describe the prompting event that started the whole chain of behaviour.

It has been a gradual, slippery slope of phone internet use which has become habitual. However this week I have noticed that there are two particular triggers that increase my likelihood of using it mindlessly.

The first trigger is urgency. I hadn’t previously considered the link between urge and urgency but there is certainly a sense of “I need to do this now”. Making a note of what I wanted to use the internet for helped me identify what was important enough to wait until my allocated time in the evening, what was actually urgent (looking up an address) and what was neither urgent nor important (these ultimately remained on my urges list). I only kept the list for three days as after this point my urges were non-existent. It goes to show that while the first step to behavioural change is becoming aware of how much you use a behaviour, the second is riding the wave of urges.

The second trigger is overwhelming emotions. This only happened once during the week. Emotions are an important part of life, yet at times we are all guilty of using unhelpful strategies to avoid or escape from them when they feel “too much” (for example food, alcohol, cigarettes, other substances or psychological strategies). The occasion this happened, I was both aware of what I was doing AND wilfully continuing to do the behaviour. I was using my mobile internet both mindlessly and in bed. I was using it as a way to shut off from both my thoughts and feelings. This trigger is likely to be at play in my use (and probably other people’s use) of mobile phones while waiting. Who likes to be the odd one out, not on a phone?

Describe in general what things made me vulnerable (both in myself and in the environment).

I have a phone with internet capabilities which I have used for several years (environmental vulnerability). I have a, albeit misguided, sense of being able to fit things into less time, i.e. multi-tasking rather than engaging one-mindfully (personal vulnerability). I can value doing more than being (personal vulnerability). There is a cultural drive towards being ‘connected’, particularly via social media (environmental vulnerability). The transition to a new home internet provider did not go smoothly (environmental vulnerability).

Describe the links in the chain of events (these may be actions, body sensations, thoughts, events, or emotions & may include both helpful and unhelpful behaviours)

Although this is a general behavioural analysis rather than one focusing on a specific instance, there are certain common links I am aware formed part of many instances of the behaviour.

  • “I’ll just” (check/look up/find out/buy) thinking.
  • “I can’t deal with this ” (overwhelming feelings).
  • Sense of urgency.
  • Dealing with de-owning (particularly on Ebay and local parenting group).

What are the consequences of this behaviour?

Short term consequences

  • Wasted time (resulting in more stress as I have lots of things still to do).
  • Tired as I don’t go to sleep as early.
  • Fewer quality connections with actual people in my life.
  • I miss the world around me.
  • Less thinking space.
  • Fewer restorative experiences.
  • Superficial virtual relationships.

Long term consequences

  • Damage to relationships through neglect.
  • Exhaustion (physical and mental).
  • Ill-considered decisions.
  • Not living the life I want.

Describe in detail different, more skilful solutions to the problem.

Identifying a list at the start of what I could do instead was helpful, particularly as I had identified things I could do in both specific circumstances (e.g. read my book in bed as I can’t navigate away from it) and in general (e.g. using mindfulness). I didn’t do any yoga but my informal mindfulness practice has increased exponentially, particularly on my way to work. By being mindful of my walk to work, I have been mindful of:

  • The wake of a duck paddling across the river.
  • The army of purple thistles lining the path.
  • lots of bees buzzing around a plant with yellow flowers.
  • 2 types of thistle.
  • The hill at the end of my walk to work.
  • The warmth of the sun on my skin.
  • Plants scratching past my leg.
  • My daughter signing bird for the first time.
  • A dandelion seed blowing past my cheek.
  • Canine doo-doo.
  • Altocumulus and cirrus clouds
  • A discussion between my wife and daughter at bath time about Signor ‘Green Boy’ (a duck!) jumping out of the bath which one party found hilarious.

It is definitely easier to give up a behaviour when you have an idea of what to replace it with. I have also cleared more things of my to do list, including replacing the fridge which has been driving me bonkers for over three months and booking a dental appointment. I have even managed a couple of formal mindfulness practices which I feel very proud of.

Other skills that I could/need to use are:

  • Radical acceptance – I have had to rely on my phone internet to manage my de-owning efforts
  • Forgiving myself – it takes time to change behaviour and I’d like to aim for progress rather than perfection
  • Dialectical thinking – I can both be frustrated by my mindless use of the internet & want to change this AND have discovered this weeks blog I enjoyed while mindlessly using the internet.

Describe a prevention strategies (to reduce your vulnerability).

Mindfulness is a key prevention strategy to help me manage my vulnerabilities. The more I use mindfulness (both informal and formal), the more value I place on being a human being rather than a human doing. My interpretation of minimalism is just this; keep in your life the things that allow you to simply be.

I am used, in many ways, to living a life that is “different”, and resisting the desire to know everything, all the time, as it happens is another example of this. Trusting my intuitive knowledge of what is right for me (it doesn’t have to be right for anyone else) helps me to simply be. Therefore my mobile internet can be used to add value to my life rather than distract from what is important. For example, today it enabled me to arrange a play date that both I and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed!

Describe how you are going to repair, correct and over-correct the harm.

The repairs to relationships, particularly with my wife and daughter, have already begun. When I am with them I am mindfully present, enjoying their company and appreciating the subtle changes that occur daily. Completing this behavioural analysis has been part of the correction of the unhelpful behaviour as it contains reflections on the behavioural changes I have already made (i.e. the new skilful behaviour I am now using).

To over-correct the harm and make things a little better than before I have shared this behavioural analysis in the hope that others will become more mindful of when, where and why they use their phones. I’m also going to extend (or is it shrink?) my boundaries. For a month I’ll not use my phone at all on my walk to work, while feeding my daughter or before sleep.

Reflections on this behavioural analysis.

Given I ask my clients to think about thier unhelpful behaviours in this way, I really should not be surprised that this structured approach can be beneficial to identify what leads us into using a behaviour that interferes with minimalism and the life we want. Many of us have used the mindless pursuit of possessions as an attempt to assuage or completely avoid our feelings, impress others, or pursue a life that does not leave us fulfilled. I feel strongly that the removal of physical clutter achieves nothing if we do not understand our reasons and drives for the original accumulation. If we remove the excess we are left with ourselves and, if unable to tolerate what we find, the cycle begins again.

Mindfulness can lead to acceptance: it is as it is. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is. We are as we are.


Items de-cluttered this week – This week has been (unsurprisingly perhaps) all about removing the digital/electronic clutter.

  • I’ve removed all items from my email inbox (again!) and several email folders have been deleted without even looking in them.
  • I’ve removed all files from one computer so I can dispose of the computer. I realise I’ve merely postponed the hard drive declutter but I’m using Marie Kondo’s technique of getting everything in the same place first. Only two computers to go!
  • I’ve unsubscribed from a variety of email newsletters and have set up more rules for my emails coming in.
  • I’m trying to adopt a new approach to only checking my emails at certain times (work in progress!)
  • I’ve tackled the cables box (I’m sure everyone has one!) and removed 2 cable tidies for phone line (we don’t use a landline), a phone line extension (we don’t use a landline), two bases and one portable phone (did I say we don’t use a landline?), Adsl filters x3, 2 Wifi routers,  Adaptor plugs x3 and a 5m TV coax cable and female adaptor (I have no idea what this is!). What I kept were (in addition to the extension leads we currently use – a 3m coiled extension, a 10m coiled extension and 2 other adaptors. I know we use all of these (although not permanently).

A blog I’ve enjoyed – As I’ve been limiting my use of the internet this week (particularly in bed) I’ve not read as many blog posts and become more selective about the ones I have. Hilary Barnett’s article Tidying up, over at  No Sidebar was a useful reminder that minimalism is about what you are keeping rather than what you are removing. While I will continue to include a snippet at the end of each of my blogs about what I have de-cluttered each week (I prefer actual examples over vague hypotheticals) I will also bear in mind the balance of what I choose to keep in my life.

Photo: Chain/Pimthida/CC BY-NC-ND

One hundred words of now

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silence. time. place. tea. G&T. wine. care. stubborn. chorizo. water. fruits. nutty. light. warmth. keys. story. rock. back. bottle. shoes. trees. leaves. rain. sun. rainbow. vista. tenacity. feminine. restoration. wife. pleasure. productive. volition. serendipitous. minimal. simplicity. reading. writing. spaghetti. calm. sensory. brunch. survival. space. harmony. mindful attention. mother. priorities. boundaries. seeking. beauty. direction. challenge. heart. difference. stream. waterfall. passion. friends. celebrate. morning rituals. limit. peace. acceptance. daughter. commitment. knowing. stillness. brie. films. less. choice. soul. detail. refresh. sleep. achievement. darling. classical music. lasagne. Italy. breathe. inspiration. group. research. joy. sister. silliness. volcano. sunset. river. bridge. Hawai’i. flow. self. gift. experience.

Thanks to Susannah Conway for the inspiration

Photo Now/David Hilowitz/CC BY

Tommorrow is now – crafting the life you want.

craft room

Last week I wrote about the associations to the past that made it difficult for me to let go of the little black dress. This week I discovered when it comes to crafting, it’s the future that trips me up. Eleanor Roosevelt said “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.” Mindfulness is all about being in the moment by moment experience of right now, yet our behaviour when it comes to possessions (and clutter) is driven by feelings about the future or the past rather than our present day experience. If you’ve ever kept something you didn’t like because it was a gift and you’d feel guilty disposing of it you know what I’m on about. Feelings about the future can be equally problematic when removing possessions. I no longer get tripped up by the anxiety of ‘just in case’, but the sneaky twins Someday and One day are liable to get me every time.

I’ve always loved using my hands as much as my brain but I’ve only this week accepted that there is a limit to how much I can do and want to do in the future. Letting go of some of my crafting materials has been hard. VERY hard. I’ve had to face the harsh reality that I’ve been fantasising about a future which seems to consist of 30 day weeks, and 60 hour days. This idealised future does not exist. I live in the reality of now (together with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days).

Minimalism is not about being static, it’s about having the freedom to choose where and when to invest our energy. If something no longer matches my passions and values then it can be disposed of leaving room for other things (not necessarily material possessions) to enter my life. Deciding to leave medical school after 4 years allowed me to discover occupational therapy. OT matches both my passions and values, and it brings me immense joy to see clients crafting a ‘Life worth Living’ that they never imagined possible. Saying no to prestige allowed me to discover passion.

I’m not going to feel guilty about making choices, letting go or changing my mind. I want to be able to be in the flow of whatever crafty occupation I choose. Lets face it, it’s not as though there is going to be a crafting supply shortage even if I do limit what is available in my immediate environment.

So I’ve chosen to keep 20% of my wool and half my knitting needles, my paints (acrylics and watercolours), three embroidery kits, 2 papercraft books & all of my fabric. What I chose not to keep was 4 bags of wool, the other half of my knitting needles, 200 skeins of embroidery silks, tester pots of paints, 10 paint brushes, scrapbook paper, 4 packs of beads and jewellery wire (the rest of the jewellery making stuff went a while ago), vintage knitting magazines, 3 cross stitch books, a knitted dinosaur book & a box of charcoal. I’ve not yet tackled paper-based crafts yet so there will be more but that feels like a good start.

I realised while I was sorting my ‘I could use this in the future’ thoughts were simply another brand of ‘just in case’ thinking. Since coming across The Minimalists post on ‘just in case’ items I have been liberated. Their hypothesis is anything we truly need and have disposed of, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes. It is such a simple idea. It is ok to replace things we truly need. Not rocket science but it feels like permission to make mistakes. I have no doubt at some point I will dispose of something I truly need but it hasn’t happened yet and when it does it’s not the end of the world.

Rather than living in the idealised future I choose to craft the life I want now. After all tomorrow is now!

Items de-cluttered this week – Craft items (see above), 2 duvets, 60l rucksack, 4 holdalls, 3 candle sticks, 3 boxes of candles, red sand, metal bowl, 2 shoe boxes of glass beads, 3 bags of rose petals, bag of pine cones, box of autumn leaves, 2 records, 18 spare lightbulbs (83% of the ones I had!), 1 bin liner of scarves, hats & gloves, hen party decorations, baby shower quizzes.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Canadian Cait Flanders over at Blonde on a Budget has just completed a year long shopping ban after repaying $30,000 of debt in 2 years. The year I embraced Minimalism and completed a yearlong shopping ban offers her reflections and insights on the year and has made me feel that a shopping ban might actually be possible (I’ve always thought it would be useful). While I doubt I will go straight for a year (perhaps a month), I have begun to think about what my “rules” would be. If you were to have a month long shopping ban what would your rules be? What would be your potential downfalls?

Photo Craft Room/chrissy.farnan/CC BY