How many of us have clothes we never wear, books we’ve never read and spend time doing things that we don’t find meaningful?
Minimalism – the practice of ridding yourself of excess stuff, both mental and physical, so you can life a more fulfilled life – is a tool that more people are using to act as a tonic to their always-on days.
This can manifest in lots of ways. With the ‘tiny house’ – dinky abodes between 100 and 400 square feet, that can often be bought outright, thus eliminating the spectre of mortgage debt – movement capturing imaginations in the US, a fresh focus on decluttering via Japanese lifestyle guru Marie Kondo’s success and the growing popularity of alternative lifestyles, (hello, #VanLife) a collective shift in mindset towards the more streamlined is happening.
We’re all going to define things like ‘de-cluttering’ and ‘minimalist’ differently. So HuffPost UK spoke to three experts, who explained how various ways of streamlining might work for you.
The unifying factors? Less mess, less hassle, less stress.
Meditation and yoga teacher, author, and women’s wellness expert Deborah Crowe says that focusing on decluttering your mind first may be the key to streamlining your life.
“If I had to prioritise one thing to do it would be learning to meditate,” she says. “Everything stems from our brains, everything. You simply have to start with calming the mind.”
Why? Essentially, stressed minds pay more attention to the reactive part of the brain and not the ‘clever’ part.
“That can mean poor knee-jerk decisions and general grumpiness and feeling reactive all the time,” Crowe adds. Streamlining the mind could be a good first step, before you try physical de-cluttering.
“We have a tendency in our culture to acquire physical things to salve emotional needs,” explains life coach Felicity Morse. “We buy things to distract ourselves from thoughts, but those thoughts are still there bothering us, only now we are surrounded by a whole ton of stuff that doesn’t really feel like ‘us’.”
Morse suggests approaching de-cluttering as a mindfulness practice. “If you want to have a big chuck-out, go for it. But there’s actually a lot of self-knowledge that can be gained from going through objects one by one. You realise how much you have, whether or not you care for it and why, and it shows you what you really value in life,” she says.
Try taking a room in your house at a time, picking up the trinkets you’ve acquired, and deciding if you really need them. Doing this, you can trim down the excess, leaving only the things you truly love.
But how viable is this minimalist lifestyle when it comes to contemporary working patterns?
Laura Faint, of AJ&Smart, an innovation studio which helps companies to streamline, has adopted minimalism, both at work and at home.
“To me, minimalism means consciously and boldly deciding on what’s important, and focusing your energy on that, while allowing less important things to fall away,” she explains.
Faint says implementing minimalist practices are not always practical, and advises trying out a few different techniques to see what works best: minimising meetings, focusing on what’s important and time-boxing.
“I started cutting out meetings. Okay, it’s not always feasible, but my life got a lot more focused, productive, and ‘minimalistic’ when I started having fewer meetings. Meetings can very often be unproductive and can cause more confusion than they solve.”
“It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut of doing things that seem to be important and make sense, but when you really stop and think about it – do these things make a real impact? Often when you really think about it, around 20% of your work actually creates the results so I always prioritise figuring out what that 20% is and I focus my energy there.”
Faint also says she’s a huge fan of ‘time-boxing.’ This is when you set aside chunks of time during the day to focus on one thing.
“Say it’s an article I need to write. I’ll set the timer, turn off my emails and notifications, stick on Brain.fm and do nothing but that one task for that time. Doing this stops me getting distracted, and it gives me a hard ‘deadline’ to finish what I’m working on. It also stops me spending a day drifting between different tasks and getting nothing finished or achieved.”
So whether you’re clearing out your mind, calendar or wardrobe or work life, work some of this advice in, to free up the space for what really matters.