The road goes ever on…

Minimalism is a journey. Like a road or a river, it can sweep you off your feet and carry you away with the changes it makes in your life.

I became a minimalist four years ago. Since then, I’ve been blogging here at Simple Living…With Kids. I’ve learned so much. My life has completely transformed.

In those four years, I’ve sold a farm, ended a marriage, found a new partner, and sold approximately 90% of my belongings.

I dared to ask: What makes me truly happy?

The answers I found surprised me. Nothing that makes me happy comes from stuff, from owning, or from status.

All the answers that consumerism typically gives us didn’t – don’t – work for me.

For me, happiness comes from doing my own life well.
Using my own skills well.
Being a great mother, partner and friend.
Being a truthful, diligent writer.
Being responsible, honest and caring.
Having integrity.
Being accountable for my own actions and words.
Being the best person I can be.

These are old-fashioned concepts, and I believe there’s a resurgence happening all around us just beginning.

This gives me hope.

Minimalism is a doorway

We begin with minimalism, with simple living. What then?

Once we lose the clutter, clarity begins.

I’m beginning to understand that I am just a small part of this amazing world. Life is about so much more than buying stuff and blending in to the crowd with the right fashions and a big mortgage.

Minimalism is leading me to a powerful love for the world around me, particularly the oceans. It leads me to a strong desire to protect them.

I’m developing an interest in Zero Waste living, and I’m pushing myself to reduce my footprint live sustainably.

My family are right there with me, guiding me, sharing these concerns.

I pick up plastic rubbish with my partner’s twelve year old daughter.
I watch videos on sustainability with my thirteen year old son.
I assist my partner as he sells plastic-free products at local markets, and I watch my daughter as she learns about sea animals.
Together, as a family, we’re learning to shop at the bulk store and reduce our rubbish that we put out on the kerb each week.

We’re taking small steps, but together our journey continues.

Minimalism – simple living – are first steps.

Together we’re ready to take the next ones.

The road goes ever on...

Do minimalists homes have to be black and white?

Not all minimalists live in shades of black and white.

I love color. My bedroom definitely counts as minimalist, but color is everywhere – in the wood furniture, in walls the color of seaglass, in greenery and clear light bursting in through the open windows and in vases of fresh flowers.

minimalist blue bedroom

My bedroom at the farm. Choose the colors that make you happy and give you peace. And not everything has to be black and white!

Minimalism is all about finding the things that bring you joy…and eliminating those things that make you feel heavy, cluttered or depressed.

My room is an oasis of peace and calm, and being there brings me bliss. I feel at ease, relaxing or reading a book.

I genuinely believe that a calm, beautiful bedroom free of clutter helps us feel more rested and happy, as well as supporting our relationships with those we love.

Minimalists don’t have to wear black, grey and white, although many do find calm by eschewing color. Choose the colors and items that make you happy. Build your life around them.

minimalist flat surface

The top of my tallboy. I have an antique Chinese box I keep some items of jewellery in, and an antique Chinese brass horse I’ve had since I was a child. Plus a small china dish to keep jewellery when I take it off at night. Three items – any more, and things would feel cluttered. The walls are painted the color of seaglass, which makes me feel rested.

For me, I base my wardrobe around my favourite colors of blue and green, and everything I wear is purposeful and comfortable. Color abounds, but my wardrobe has less than 33 items, and I wear everything I own. Nothing is unkempt, or kept simply because I bought it and feel guilty, or because I might fit into it again someday.

summer_capsule_2016

Minimalism frees us to be ourselves, outside of the demands of society. Own things because they make you happy and support who you are, not because you feel you should own them. If you want a neon pink house and it fills you with joy, then own that neon pink house and rock it with joy! 🙂

Be who you truly are.

With none of the stuff others tell you to have. Don’t be what other people tell you to be – you’ll never find your bliss that way.

Be your genuine self. No more, no less.

Do caterpillars fear becoming butterflies?

Three years ago, I had everything I’m supposed to have: a great house, a husband and pigeon pair of kids, a Peugeot station wagon in the driveway, a huge wardrobe.

I cried myself to sleep every night.

I thought something was wrong with me, because none of it was making me happy.

In among the vast amounts of things that make up what we call a “successful life”, I never felt so completely lonely.

I wondered, Is this IT? Is this all my life is? Is this who and what I am? Shouldn’t it all mean more?

I know a lot of people go through the same processes I did. Some people might call it a mid-life crisis.

I call it my awakening.

Caterpillar

Fearing the chrysalis

Here I am, three years on. My huge house is sold – we’ll be leaving it all behind very soon. I’m taking my first steps into the void.

I’m separated from my husband, and I’ve found a new partner.

I’ve sold, given away, or thrown away about 90% of my possessions.

I have a capsule wardrobe of 33 items, or less.

I’m truly happy, for the first time since I don’t know when.

I feel calm, at peace, even while at the same time I’m scared at where this path of minimalism and simplicity is leading me.

I don’t know where I’ll be living even two months from now. I don’t have a job waiting for me. My life lacks security.

Despite the fear, I’m okay with that. I have faith in myself and I believe that I will work everything out.

Do caterpillars fear becoming butterflies?

Big changes – huge changes – are scary. But they’re necessary in order to grow and learn as human beings.

Becoming a minimalist, where I was a consumerist or maybe even a maximalist before, is a huge change. I’m flying away from everything I know, everything our society teaches: that more will make us happy, that material wealth is satisfying, and that what our neighbours think truly matters.

The truth is, there is no such thing as enough, if you base your joy in things. There never will be enough. Enough doesn’t exist. Never did.

But if we stop, listen, breathe, and take time to reflect on what truly makes us happy – if we face our fears head on – then we might find that our own personal enough is quite a small amount after all.

Monarch butterfly Peter Miller

Monarch butterfly by Peter Miller.

If I had a million dollars…

When I was a kid, I used to sit with my best friend Bernadette, and we’d play the game “If I had a million dollars”. We’d imagine all the amazing things we’d buy, all the stuff we’d own – palaces and slaves (that was me!) and yachts and jewellery. So much stuff.

We had no idea how much a million dollars actually was, only that it was a lot.

As we got older, we remained friends, and the game morphed into “When I win the lottery”. We’d imagine buying nice houses and fancy cars and going on holidays all around the world staying in plush hotels with hunky pool boys serving us cocktails (that was me again!) and all the chocolate we could ever eat (me too!).

We’re still friends after all these years. Neither of us is a millionaire, and we’ve neither of us ever won the lottery.

But I know quite a few millionaires. Including my parents, and several of my old school friends. I even know a billionaire or two. And my uncle won the lottery before he died as well – enough that he never needed to work again.

Funny thing is, winning the lottery never made him happy. And all those millionaires and billionaires, they’re not any happier than me either.

In fact, I’d say I’m probably among the happiest of all my friends.

I’m no millionaire. I own about 30 items of clothing. A five year old car. Half a house. An old box-style TV and a beat-up DVD player. Some books, not even a bookcase full. A few dollars in the bank, enough to keep me going a few months should the zombies come 😉

But I’m happy. I have a partner who adores me. I have awesome kids, and solid friends who are good people. I have everything I need. No albatrosses around my neck. Nothing to hold me down.

They say, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. My treasure is here, with the people I love, and within me, in the memories I hold. It’s in the blue sky above me, in the earth below me, in the wind on my cheeks and the fire in my soul.

I could have a million dollars one day, but so what? It’s just paper.

I’d rather have my treasure.

theorchard_treasure

What is minimalism? Not just weird art…

Minimalism is…

  • A growing movement in response to the crazy consumerist lifestyle that is killing our communities and destroying our planet.

  • A way out of the madness…a breath of fresh air…a way to find peace and solitude.

  • An understanding that less is more, and that too much stuff makes life stressed and difficult.

  • A recognition that there is such a thing as enough.
  • A philosophy that teaches calm, common-sense and practicality.
  • An idea that can work with any religion… or no religion at all.
  • A way to reflect on who we are and what we truly need to be happy.
  • A desire to place people and communities above things and profits.
  • An understanding that stuff will never truly fulfil us and make us happy.
  • Knowledge that the best things in life aren’t things.

happy_bigtrees

What two years of minimalism has taught me

I’ve been minimalist for two years, so I wanted to talk about how everything is going and where I’m at.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Where I was

I used to have a garage stuffed with belongings and broken things.
I had a wardrobe stuffed with clothing I never wore, yet nothing seemed to fit me.
I had huge amounts of jewelry I never wore.
I had heaps of kid toys I needed to get rid of, and outgrown kid clothing that was still hanging around. I couldn’t seem to get rid of baby items either!
My kitchen drawers could barely open and I couldn’t find anything.

I didn’t realise how much the mess was making me depressed. Everywhere I looked, I saw clutter instead of calm, and it got me down.

I started avoiding dealing with any sort of cleaning, simply because it was too much. Which made everything worse of course.

The mess was a vicious cycle that was bad for my mental health and physical well-being. They do say that people who live in cluttered homes have more illness. Upon reflection, I can understand why.

Where I’m at

The garage

The garage is no longer stuffed.

The amount of stuff in it is still dropping. I’m still clearing belongings out, still selling stuff, but the progress is slow now, as we’re down to the dregs of it.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days, we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

Once we sell the farm, we’ll also sell the farm equipment we’ll no longer need, keeping only a few standard gardening and house maintenance items.

My wardrobe

I only have clothing I wear. I clear items out regularly if I find I’m not wearing them. I still make shopping mistakes, but I’d say I’m a recovering shopaholic now, on her way to healing. I’ve been doing the Project 333 for three years now, and I’m where I want to be.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

Jewellery

I gave away most of my jewellery. Cheap pieces went to charity, and valuable pieces went to friends who I thought would enjoy them. It’s nice to see a friend wear an item that I never wore.

Jewellery should be passed on, shared and enjoyed – not hidden away. And I found jewellery is rarely worth much to sell secondhand.

My bedroom

My bedroom is tidy. I have some rules that help me to do that, such as three belongings only per surface and if it ain’t a “display item”, don’t display it! These rules help me keep life in control, and keep my room as an oasis of calm and peace.

I’ll talk about my rules to help me stay organised and keep the clutter away in a separate, upcoming post.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

Baby items…and sentimental items

All the large baby items and general baby stuff is all gone.

I created a “treasures box” to keep precious children’s stuff in – their first baby outfits, and their first baby rugs. The box also holds other small sentimental items I want to keep safe. It’s about twice the size of a shoebox, and I find that’s all the space I need.

Then I sold big items at a low price to a friend whose baby was coming soon, and gave the rest to charity. It made me feel good to know I was helping other parents at this special time in life, when everything is so expensive.

Having a “treasures box” helps me take care of these extra-special keepsakes. I sometimes open it up, and hold these soft, beautiful things for a while…and have a bit of a cry 🙂

Kids rooms

I go through the kids’ rooms regularly too.

They have nothing but clothes that fit and items they use, plus a few keepsakes. Their rooms are tidy all the time now (mostly!) because their rooms aren’t crammed with stuff.

My 9 year old daughter's room. No, I didn't tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My 9 year old daughter’s room. No, I didn’t tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My kitchen is easy to navigate these days, and the drawers are all uncluttered. Life is easier as a result, and cooking is less of a chore. Keeping food stocks to fewer items helps.

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

I’ve accepted that I’m not a gourmet chef and will never have my place on Master Chef New Zealand! You know what? I’m okay with that 🙂

Instead, I cook healthy, simple food for my family, and that’s good enough. The media dumps a lot of expectations of us, and realising that many of these are unrealistic is a key part of learning minimalism and being happy with who we are.

I’m not saying things are perfect…

Far from it! Life is still a work in progress. But every month feels better and better, and I feel more on top of my life with every step, not less.

I didn’t realise how much my problems had to do with simply owning too much stuff. I couldn’t ever clean the house because picking up the junk was a mission before I could even begin to clean!

Looking at the mess made me feel so tired, and I didn’t really know how or where to start. I didn’t know how to cope. I felt lost at sea within my own home, and a place that should have been a safe space of rest and contentment was a disaster area of chaos and noise and clutter.

I thought that maybe buying better stuff would help, or maybe buying the right stuff. But what I have learned is the key to sanity is having less stuff altogether.

Through minimalism, I’m learning that…

I’m not a fashion model, but I can look great.

I’m not a home decorating expert, but my home can be a friendly, welcoming oasis for my family and friends.

I’m not a crafty person who knits and sews and…well, I’m just NOT! But I have other skills 😉

I’m not a Supermum, but I can encourage and support my kids in getting organised and keeping their rooms, bodies and lives neat, clean and planned.

I’m not a Master Chef, but I can prepare great, healthy food for my loved ones 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and that’s pretty special!

Minimalism is teaching me that it’s okay to just be Me. With all my imperfections, and all my not-quite-rights.

You know, the mass media teaches us to believe that every aspect of our lives much be exceptional in a way that requires lots and lots of stuff, and then it tries to sell us all kinds of products to create that exceptional, stuff-filled life.

But that’s wrong. Being pretty much okay in a whole stack of areas can add up to being pretty exceptional overall.

Minimalism teaches me that it’s time to stop looking at what we’re supposed to be, and instead take a good look in the mirror at who we actually are.

Usually that’s pretty good. And if we’re loving partners, caring parents, and thoughtful citizens, then we’re probably doing all right.

So that’s where I’m at.
I’m doing all right.
With less stuff, and more calm.

Minimalist makeup: Five products. All done.

I don’t wear a lot of makeup. Not quite ready to go “full hippie” 🙂 and avoid makeup altogether, I’ve still managed to get my makeup products down, over time, to five easy products that do the job well and help me look great with minimal fuss.

I’d like to share them with you. And no, I’m not getting a kick back – these are just great products that work and make life easy.

1. Sunblock. A necessity. Most sunblocks double as moisturizers, did you know? Mine is a cheap supermarket brand suitable for both face and body – Olay’s Complete defence daily UV moisturising lotion SPF 30+. Whatever else you might consider a necessity, sunblock is absolutely on the list. Choose one that is broad-spectrum and affordable enough that you won’t skimp.

2. BB cream. I’m currently using Garnier’s BB cream miracle skin perfector for sensitive skin in “Light”. I’m very happy with this product, it’s affordable (can you tell I like good value products?), excellent quality, and another great supermarket find.

I use BB cream instead of foundation or powder and here’s why: as you age (I’m heading towards 50), heavier formulations will sink into tiny lines and creases and make them more noticeable, while lighter products such as BB (beauty balm) creams have light reflecting ingredients that really do make your skin look better. And if you have dry skin (like mine), powder will emphasize every little dry patch. Ugh!

3. Eyeliner. Mine is friendly to contact lenses, and the soft grey color is suitable all year round. I use Clinique Kohl Shaper for Eyes in “202 Blackened Pewter”. It has a sharpener in the lid section, and goes on nice and soft. Most brands of contact lens-friendly eyeliners are quite good – I just like this one. Grey eyeliner is a softer alternative than black if you have blue eyes (I do) or your eyes are on the small side (yep, that too).

4. All over color. I use Clinique’s Chubby Stick Cheek Color Balm in “01 Amp’d Up Apple” for cheeks and eyes. It’s lovely and soft, and an excellent way to give all over color in one easy step. I find I don’t need anything more, and have even used this as a lip balm on occasion when I don’t want a full lipstick, such as in high summer at the beach. The BodyShop and ELF make similar products if you prefer to avoid the cosmetics counters.

5. Permanent lipstick. I’ve been a fan of L’Oreal’s Infallible 2-step in “312 Incessant Russet” for a couple of years now. It lasts all day, and feels fantastic on. Maybelline and Max Factor also both do permanent lipsticks in identical formulations to this one, so have a look and find a color that works for you. Strongly recommended.

Minimalist makeup. Five products. All done. Too easy!

Minimalist makeup. Five products. All done. Too easy!

No, I don’t wear mascara…

In case you noticed, there’s no mascara on the list.

I don’t wear it because I’m an allergy sufferer with sensitive skin, and I’m also not fond of the “panda eyes” look that mascara invariably gives me after a few hours of wear. I don’t think it’s healthy putting anything that close to my eyes, so I’ve been avoiding it for a while now.

Frankly, nobody has noticed 🙂