Less is not always better, even for a minimalist. In this article I’ll explore when more is better, and how you can get more of the good stuff.
Peace of Mind
When this emotion is real, it’s a gift to experience in all its forms, whether it’s romantic love, love between friends, or the unconditional emotions involved when you perform an altruistic act.
Love can’t be forced, but it can and should be acknowledged, cultivated, and appreciated whenever it is present. Giving love can feel just as good as receiving it. Here are some simple ways to bring more feelings of love into your life:
Make it a habit of telling your loved ones how much you care about them.
Visit with an older family member and ask them to tell you about their favorite memories.
Hug your cat or dog.
Practice active listening, where you focus your attention completely on your loved one and what they’re saying (and not on figuring out what you want to say next).
I used to be a strict rule-follower, but a few years ago I realized that following everyone else’s rules was hurting me rather than making my life better. I’m not saying I’m all for going out and breaking laws that put others or myself in danger. But I think it’s important that everyone have the freedom to decide for themselves what works best in their own lives.
Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley and the author of the book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (Amazon affiliate link) calls the rules that we follow because of cultural norms “brules” or “bull$h!t rules.” Doing things a certain way because society tells us that’s how they should be done, or that’s how things were always done, can be limiting on our freedom of choice and removes our option of thinking for ourselves.
To give yourself more freedom, stop yourself when you are doing something because you “should” do it. Ask yourself why you should do it. Says who? What are your alternatives to doing what you should do, and even the way you should do it?
This is sort of a freedom-related thing, where it’s important to be able to choose how you spend your time. Would you rather spend an hour commuting each day, or spend that time with your family? Would you rather get eight hours of sleep, or sleep for six hours and use two hours writing and meditating in the morning?
Because there are limited hours in each day, getting more time to do the things you prefer is a matter of taking time from other things. Here are some suggestions on how to do that:
Build routines. If you do a task in the same way each time, you can do it faster and more efficiently. This is a matter of both creating habits and muscle memory.
Try a block schedule. You can see more about block scheduling in this post.
Do the most important things first, which is usually not checking social media. As a blogger, I recently read how little traffic social media sites like Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) actually bring to blogs. Their algorithms make it more difficult all the time, especially if you’re not willing to pay for advertising. This should tell you how little social media is interested in presenting you with useful content that you might actually care about, versus sending you ads from the highest bidder. Think about that the next time you pick up your device to scroll through social media the second you wake up. Instead, do something that is actually important to you and will make a meaningful difference in your life. Alright, stepping off my soapbox now. =)
Say “no” more often to things that don’t really interest you or make your life better. If you struggle with this, here’s a thought to ponder: if this were your last day on earth, would you want to spend it doing this thing?
Physical space, space in your head…more space is good. I think you can still be minimalist living in a large house, or on acreage. Remember, minimalism is about letting go of things that don’t serve you to create space for what does. Don’t let someone else’s rules about minimalism tell you that you have to live in a tiny home or a studio apartment in order to be a “real” minimalist.
To create more physical space, you don’t have to move. You can declutter.
For headspace, see my post about decluttering your mind.
Wealth comes in many forms, which I’m leaving to the other sections. In this section let’s focus on financial wealth.
Everyone wants to have enough money to pay the bills and live comfortably. I will be quite honest—in some ways, my life was much easier when I made a lot of money. I had more than I needed, so I could just throw money at a problem to fix it instead of having to do the work myself. This sometimes saved me a lot of stress, like when our RV needed repairs. We could get them fixed right away instead of needing to save up first, during which time the problem might get worse and more expensive, or we might get stuck somewhere we didn’t want to be.
But there are consequences to using money that way, such as working at a stressful job to earn that money. It’s important to have balance between the two extremes of being broke and spending too much. Here are some tips.
Make a budget. I’ve used mint.com for years, but pick whatever works best for you. Then once you create that budget, evaluate it on a regular basis to make sure you are following it, and make adjustments as needed.
Pay yourself first. A savings plan should be part of your budget, as well as a plan to pay off any debts. Most employers who offer direct deposit allow you to select more than one account to send your paycheck to, or you can get your bank to do an automatic transfer to savings.
I have this as a category separate from love because the two are not mutually exclusive. I dare say it’s easier to find resources for help and support than to find love.
Although it sometimes feels like this country is trying to wipe out all available social services, help does still exist. There are also private organizations that provide support, as well as companies you can pay to help you.
Sometimes support is as simple as going through a website like TaskRabbit and hiring someone to pick up your dry cleaning, or accepting the offer from the grocery store to carry your bags to your car. Or going to a support group and listening to other people talk about their journey, even if you’re not ready to talk yet yourself.
It’s easy to feel embarrassed to ask for help. When I first injured my back, I couldn’t lift more than five pounds. I had to ask for help all the time (a tough thing for an independent 25 year-old).
All I can say is, find a way to get past it. Swallow your pride and just vow to pay it forward if and when you can.
If you’re spending lots of time searching for things, cleaning up, or moving things around just so you can get started on a project, then you need more organization in your life.
Make sure there is a place for everything you own, and keep it there. Instead of dumping your stuff in a pile when you get home, take a few extra seconds to put things away in a location where you can easily find them next time.
Establish workflows. Create solid habits and structure to your life.
Put protocols in place for unexpected events. I recently listened to an interview from a writer and public speaker who explained how he did his best work by following routines (for example, going for a run before a public speaking engagement). When his routines got messed with, he had backup protocols. For example, if his flight got delayed and there was no time for a run, then he would do meditation and deep breathing for X minutes instead. It’s impossible to plan for every alternate situation, but you can certainly plan for some of the most common. It will help you stay calmer and more focused when things don’t go as expected.
Learn from others who are more organized than you. If you have a friend or co-worker who seems to have it all together, ask them for tips. Try out different systems and see what works for you.
peace of mind
In the past couple of years, my family has had lots of discussions about “what to do after I’m gone.” There have been some deaths, near-deaths, and my husband has had four surgical procedures in two years. So to ensure clarity, I’ve had to ask to the painful questions about wishes to carry out.
It’s an uncomfortable and sad subject, but so necessary. There are no guarantees in this life, and the last thing I’d want to do to my loved ones is leave them with problems. Here are steps you can take to provide peace of mind for yourself and those who remain.
Create a will. Check state laws for guidelines; there are also templates you can find online. Make certain to include information about pets, minors, businesses, etc.
Set up a life insurance policy that at least covers funeral expenses, or a small savings account that covers the costs to carry out your wishes.
Decide what you want to happen if you become unable to communicate your desires regarding your care. Fill out a form (often available from your doctor or online), called an Advance Healthcare Directive. Give a copy to your next of kin and also file it with your medical provider(s).
Appoint a trusted person as your Power of Attorney in case you become incapacitated and need someone to handle your finances.
Create a reference sheet. This should include account numbers, usernames and passwords, phone numbers, etc. for all your pertinent accounts.
Consider writing letters to loved ones. This is your chance to let them know how special they are to you, even if you can’t say it in person.
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m not a huge fan of social media. I think that even though many people spend a lot of time sharing their lives on it, I don’t feel a lot of this sharing is authentic.
So I have a challenge for you. The next time you take a picture because you want to share it on Instagram, want to update your Facebook page, or feel like you have to tweet on Twitter, ask yourself why. Do you feel this is valuable information that you’re sharing? Is it just funny? Do you think creating this post will make you feel good? Are you doing it because you saw someone else do something similar? Are you lonely? Bored? Then ask yourself how often you tweak what you post or write before you do, because you’re worried about how it will look to the people who see it.
I’m not going to pass judgement on other people’s reasons for using social media, or any other action they take. But I think it’s important for each individual to know what’s in their own head and their motivations for actions they take.
And that’s true for all of life. To be truly authentic, words and actions should come from an internal place of truth, as unhindered as possible from outside influences.
I don’t think I can say much on the subject of health that you haven’t heard before. The keys to good health are getting enough rest, eating nutrient-dense foods that fuel you, doing exercise that suits your capabilities and lifestyle, and taking good care of your mind and emotions.
Being healthy and looking good are not synonymous. Some shortcuts include losing weight with unhealthy diets or using makeup, lotions, and potions to create the appearance of health.
Without good health, everything else falls apart, so it should be a top priority.
In order to create neuroplasticity (new and reorganized synaptic connections), the brain has to be exposed to new experiences and learning (or injury, which is obviously not preferable).
I like to maintain a good balance of what my brain is exposed to. Sometimes, I just need to rest and not think too much, so I’ll veg out in front of the TV or read some easy fiction. But I always make sure to mix in plenty of new information, too.
I do this by looking for information on subjects I’m interested in and researching them in-depth through the web using reliable sources. I also read books, take courses, or watch instructional videos. I mix in hands-on practice with these techniques, as well as visits to exhibits or museums when possible.
To challenge myself even further, I also spend time learning about things I don’t necessarily care about. Sometimes this is as simple as listening closely to someone talk about something they’re passionate about, or reading a random article on a topic I don’t know.
Many teaching hospitals and universities will offer low-cost or free seminars on various subjects. They’re usually anywhere from an hour to a few days long at the most, so it’s a great way to get bite-sized pieces of new info without much effort.
Simple and easy are not the same thing. I talk a lot about simplifying, but here let’s just talk about creating ease (which may not be simple, but will be helpful over the long term).
Digital and paper
To make checking my emails easier, I periodically declutter by taking 30-60 minutes to unsubscribe from and delete emails that I never read. You can sign up for a newsletter with good intentions, and then after a while you realize you haven’t opened up a single one. Just remember that you can always re-subscribe later. If you’re set up with a bunch of sales emails, unsubscribing can also provide ease from the temptation of buying things you don’t really need.
I also have all my bills set on autopay except for two. Those two I pay manually are loans that I am working on paying down, so I like to customize my payments. Paying my bills takes a total of about 5 minutes or less per week. Everything comes electronically, so I also don’t have to deal with sorting through the paper mail.
Speaking of mail, I use a mail service called Traveling Mailbox (affiliate link) to receive and scan all of my paper mail. This definitely makes my life easier as a nomad. I prefer this service over others because they use an actual street address, not a P.O. Box (some businesses will not accept a P.O. Box as your mailing address). I can download mail as PDFs and print it out if need be, or have items shipped to me if I need the original documents (which I rarely do). They even have a free fax number included in the service, and you can upload documents and have them faxed for you. Having all these available to me as a traveling small business owner has created a LOT of ease in my life.
I’m also a big fan of meal planning and meal prep. Lately, I’ve made a point to include at least one smoothie in my day to boost my nutrient intake. It takes the minimum amount of work for any healthy meal I can make from scratch.
I add in exercise by walking as much as possible. We have a big truck, so I usually have to park at the back of any parking lot anyway, and this helps me get more exercise.
For my mental health, I create ease in three different ways. First of all, I have ruthlessly cut out or distanced myself from people who attract or create drama, including family members. I’m not living in a soap opera, so I really don’t want to get caught in the middle of the latest petty problem.
Second, I don’t watch or read the news on a regular basis. Those who like to keep up to date would probably find me woefully uninformed. However, it’s rarely ever positive or uplifting. So I steer clear of the news.
Third, I do my best to accept people as they are, rather than get angry or try to change them. I try to look for their good parts instead of focusing on the negatives.
Happiness can be improved with all the things I just talked about. But as I mentioned in my other article, happiness that comes from within is the best kind.
In the next set of posts, I’m going to go through the different types of minimalism so you can determine which types might make your life easier.