My journey towards minimalism
Today's post will be about something that really matters to me and that I would like to share with you as I truly believe that could be highly beneficial to all, which is minimalism.
I believe everybody know more or less what it is. It is intentionally owning less items in order to be free from the modern passion to possess.
It has become very popular lately thanks to several celebrities/writers (such as the famous Marie Kondo) who are speaking about it and promoting a more frugal way of living. The majority of people tough, is still scared by this countercurrent lifestyle, thinking it is very difficult to achieve as it requires big sacrifices and basically it doesn't allow to fully enjoy life.
Far from the truth!
I was imparted my first minimalism's lessons by my father. He must have some sort of Etruscan zen ancestors for sure. Since I was a child he taught me how little materialistic things nourish the soul and that the most important things in life cannot be bought by money. He is advocate of not buying multiple cheap trendy items, to only invest in modest and timeless quality pieces and to avoid accumulating stuff just to show off our wealth. My family has humble origins, my grandparents were farmers and my dad worked for 30 years in the Italian railway system in a local station whilst taking care of his parents' land (only 3 hectares) farming it during his spare time. Being a hard working honest man, his superiors often propose him to grow the carrier ladder to make more money but he has always refused because he preferred to spend more time with us. In 30 years he could have bought new cars, luxury items and whatever he fancied but he always invested his money, time and efforts in his family. Me and my mum always had the necessary to live decently and enjoy life but nothing more.
My mum is the exact opposite: she has the same background as my father but because she suffered a bit more growing up she had always felt the need to buy stuff in order to prove herself and the others that she is worth.
I am kind of in the middle: sometimes I act like my father, sometimes I like to accumulate like my mother, especially when I am sad or when I don't know what I want.
Now that I live in London the temptation of buying is triple compared to when I was in Italy. I work in retail, so I always have heavy discounts available and therefore I am constantly induced to buy stuff.
Thank god my boyfriend is like my father! He thinks 3000 times before buying anything, even the cheapest item and his attitude towards money affects me too.
For those who don't know it well it might seem he's stingy but he is actually very generous with me and the family. He just doesn't like to spend money in useless stuff. On the other hand, he has some problems letting go old things, even if they are broken while I am the one who like throwing away as I find it liberating.
I got more into minimalism because of the lack of space we experienced in the first flat when we first moved together two years ago. I was so overwhelmed with our stuff that I was not enjoying staying in the flat at all.
After a couple of feeble attempts of improving the situation reorganising what we owned we decided that it wasn't enough and we then moved to a bigger flat with an extra room. Now we are renting a decent size flat in East London, close enough to our jobs to spend as less time as possible commuting, which we both hate and we consider a great waste of time. As we don't know how long we are going to stay here because of Brexit and other personal issues, we decided not to invest in new furniture and expensive stuff for the house. We also wanted an environment that could inspire creativity and productivity. So instead of having the classic living room with sofa and telly, we divided it into two parts for our creative hobbies. He chose to place in his side a home gym that he use everyday and a artistic spot for sculpture/painting while in my part I just have a simple desk, a chair, a computer and my photography equipment for the blog.
The majority of our furniture (apart from my office chair and the wardrobe) is pre-owned and we only have what's strictly necessary for our lifestyle. The few decorations we have got are his paintings and sculptures and some house plants while the rest is pre-owned or gifts from friends and relatives.
My side of the bathroom cabinet and my side of the wardrobe
We like to spend our money to visit our respective countries twice a year and to eat good food. His soft spot for splurging is technology and mine is skincare. But in general we like to save as much money per month as possible. We would like to buy a nice house in the future, when we decided exactly where we want to settle down (if that's going to happen at all as we both have a rather gipsy nature).
I have to admit it is not always easy to live like so and for the people around us to understand why: the pressure from society to conform to what is the so called "normal" style of life is powerful. Not having each step of our personal and professional life exactly planned, a "proper" house, not being married, not having children is what we chose for the time being but for the others is just pointless.
The truth is that we just want to be free from all of that and happy right now. Not tomorrow when this will happen or we can afford X or Y. I won't allow material things to determine if I am happy, worth or content.
Minimalism is a journey and as every kind of journey it has ups and downs and it doesn't solve all my problems like magic. My flat is not perfect and my life isn't either but for sure minimalism has contributed to makes it easier and more meaningful.
I still own items that I don't necessarily need but I like or have a sentimental value but I kept only what bring me joy. Embracing this lifestyle helped me to declutter my space, take back my precious time and to got rid of not only all those shallow shiny things that would give me temporary excitement but it also helped to get rid of shitty relationships as well. Because minimalism deals with all the aspects of life. Out of the way to all things, people and also expectations that are draining our life. It is so liberating!
Here I have got some lists about it that I hope you will find useful if you are intrigued by this way of living too or if you simple curious to see what it means to me on a practical level.
Pro of being a minimalist:
-There is no real minimalism rulebook, only guidelines as it varies from person to person
-More time for me to rest or just do what I truly enjoy
-Less cleaning/tidying up
-Less stress and pressure
-Clean environment=clear mind because no physical clutter = no mental clutter
-Better for the environment
-Freedom for the society's comparison game and from the past
Things I got rid of lately:
-Old charity shop books that I am not going to read again
-Old and worn out towels, loungewear and underwear
-Chipped mugs and plates and a battered pan
-All the boxes that came with products I use and I didn't have the place to store out of the way
-Duplicates such as technology cables, spare toothbrushes and so on...
-The "just in case" items such as an old spare pillow, extra screwdrivers etc...
-Old make up
-Old paperwork and notebooks
-Old uniform clothes still in good condition: some sold on Ebay or gave to charity
-Broken items that couldn't be repaired
Things I no longer buy:
It is not sustainable for the environment. I bought a couple of glass bottles and I just drink filtered tap water. To help with the taste, I flavour it with fruits and mint.
It tarnishes after days and it looks tacky.
-Beauty services such as manicure, pedicure, eyelashes, brows, wax and so on:
I use my hands a lot at work and at home and even gel doesn't last long enough for the price to pay to maintain it frequently. But the main reason is that it damages my nails badly. For my face I prefer a natural look so all I do is to use a tweezer when I need to and that's it really. I only have an haircut at the saloon twice a year but then I dye my hair on my own. I use an epilator for my legs and for armpits and bikini area a good quality razor. I used to go to the tanning saloon but I stopped this year as it is not healthy for my skin and now I am simply sun bathing when I can or using a tanning lotion instead.
I downloaded a free app (Fiton) which is great and offers a huge variety of workouts. I do have got a few equipment items to work out from home such as elastic bands, weights and a yoga mat (all hidden in the old brown wardrobe we kept in the living room). But honestly, I wouldn't even need them as my bodyweight is more than enough to train, I am basically only using what my boyfriend had already when we decide to live together. There are so many printable workout circuits on Pinterest and videos on Youtube that it is very easy to find what you need for free and whenever you feel like it.
I don't buy any kind of game as I don't like them and it feels like I am wasting my time.
-Uber or cars:
London transport system is usually reliable so I'd rather take the tube or the bus.
-Boost scents for laundry, scented candles, room sprays:
They are toxic for us and for the environment so I replaced them with essential oils and a nice diffuser. The few candles I have got are gifts.
-Decorations in general, (either seasonal or not) and trinkets:
Aside from a small Christmas tree, a few glass balls and a couple of decorative pieces that have an actual function (such as jewellery holder) I have been gifted by friends, I don't buy any as they take space and time to clean/maintain.
For weddings or a special events I would simply wear something appropriate that I own already. I just can't stand the idea of spending money for a dress that I would use only once or twice a year.
I own 3 pair of heels and I am pretty sure they will be the last ones I am buying as I just won't wear shoes I can't walk in for more than 15 minutes.
-Too trend orientated items:
Anything that won't last a season doesn't have any sense to me.
Pictures and postcards are much more appreciated than objects (unless is food!!!!) that after 2 days will only take space and get the dust.
To be fair I never bought one as I just don't like them.
-Paper books and magazines:
I adore them, (especially the smell) but I don't have much space and they tend to be super easy to accumulate. I prefer to read on Kindle so I can stock them all without problems. In this category fall cookbooks as well. I know, they are super cool to display. I bought one once and I have never followed its recipes because I like to experiment on my own. If I don't know how to cook something I'd just check online.
-Fancy kitchen appliances:
I cook meals from scratch every single day but I'd rather slice and grate vegetables and fruit on my own. Kitchen appliances are expensive, they usually take a lot of space and they consume a lot of energy. I only need my espresso machine, a toaster, a hand blender and a kettle. Things that I really use everyday. For the rest I just use a very good knife and it also improves my cutting skills. What you won't find in my kitchen: a microwave as I don't eat pre made food, a food processor, and 3000 types of useless tools. I only really use my bamboo chopsticks, a ladle, a wooden spoon, a pair of scissors, a good sharp knife, a peeler, a masher and a manual grate.
- Iron curls and straighter:
I actually still have got both of them and unfortunately I never use them as the heat will ruin my hair no matter how much heat protector I put as they are naturally straight and rather thin. When I fancy having waves I'd just tie my damp hair in a braid before going to bed. It takes less time, the result last longer and it is healthier for my hair. I think I am going to sell them on Gumtree or Ebay to be honest.
-"Just in case items":
If it is under 20 pounds and it can be purchased within 20 minutes from where I live then I don't need to stock it. If I am not going to use regularly I just borrow it from a friend.
-Expensive make up and make up tools:
If the base underneath (the skin) is not healthy, it is going to show anyway. The only thing I think should be of decent quality is foundation. For the rest (mascara, pencils, lipsticks and so on), high street is just fine.
-I don't upgrade my technology devices just because there is the newest version available on the market. If it still works, I'll keep it.
- Pre cooked or pre made food
First, I don't like the taste and second when I look at the ingredients' label I shiver: a long list of unhealthy stuff that's not going to nourish my body. Better spend 15 minutes cooking, thank you very much.
Good investments pieces and what I think it's worth spending money on:
-A bigger wardrobe:
It's the only piece of new furniture we own and it was worth it. The one we had before it was single and we couldn't divide our items and everything was a mess. We would have preferred a pre owned one but we had always problems arranging a delivery for such a big item and also it was hard to make it enter in the flat. We kept the old one which is now very useful to hide our crap (cleaning items, gym stuff and so on...) in the living room.
-My Apple devices (phone and computer):
They last forever, I never had any problem with them and they are just the right choice for computer/technology dummies like me.
-Gold pleated and silver jewellery:
I don't have a massive collection but I am very happy with the quality as they always look new even if I wear them no stop.
It is still the best gift my boyfriend has ever gave me. As a true coffee addict, I use it every day, it looks pretty in the kitchen, it is easy to use, to take care of and it brings so much joy in my life.
-Paying a bit more of rent but living closer to our workplace:
Instead of living in the outskirts of London where the rent is cheaper for a bigger house, we prefer to have less space but we would hate commuting for longer.
-A good quality, targeted mattress:
Sleep is crucial for an healthy life overall so I believe it should be the best quality we can afford.
I never regret any reasonably priced, quality cream as I only got one face.
I don't spend much for my body as I use natural oils such as coconut or almond oil and they work just fine.
-Good quality shoes and outwear for winter:
When it's cold and wet I just want the best quality I can afford. I have never regretted a warm puffer jacket or a pair of comfy boots.
It is not a big investment but it makes a huge difference in your oral hygiene.
It is a life saver for the winter months. The electricity bill will rise a bit but it really make my life easier. No more rough towels and clothing in the living room/bathroom left to dry for days. In the summer I don't use it at all as clothes will usually dry completely in a day but considering that the hot weather in London only lasts a couple of months if we got lucky, I think it is money well spent.
-A hand steamer:
I hate to iron, it takes a lot of time and effort plus the ironing board takes a lot of space. A hand steamer is the perfect solution. Only a minute to steam a shirt! Bonus: it doesn't damage the fabrics, even the most delicate. Winner!
What I am considering to buy next:
-Silk pillow cover
-More sustainable beauty tools such as menstrual cup and reusable make up pads.
Goals I am still working on:
-Put out of sight all the everyday items to have my surfaces almost free of items. This is most difficult part for me as I am a super practical person, I just want to have everything I need at hand reach but at the same time I visually don't like seeing stuff out.
-Be more organised with my computer files, my Iphone memory and emails.
-Gift experiences instead of actual items to make nice memories with my loved ones.
Minimalists quotes that inspire me from The minimalists website and their book "16 Rules for Living with Less" (that, by the way, you can download for free from their blog):
"Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life. "
"Meditation presents a radical notion: that our happiness doesn’t have to depend on external factors. Happiness, it turns out, is a skill—one that you can train, just like you train your body in the gym. This is the next big public health revolution."
“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” Not material stuff, a career, nor a relationship.
"Minimalist living is the opposite of boring. It removes mundane activities that take away from spending time with our loved ones. Once we rid ourselves of the unnecessary, we’re able to decide what will define our lives."
"The Seasonality Rule, aka the 90/90 Rule. Look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, it’s okay to let go."
"The Wait for It Rule, aka the 30/30 Rule. If something I want costs more than 30 quids, I ask myself whether I can get by without it for the next 30 hours. (If it’s 100 or more, I tend to wait 30 days.)"
"Whenever I attempt to sell an item, I give myself 30 days to do whatever I can (...) Throughout the month, I’ll gradually lower the price if the item hasn’t sold. But if I’m unsuccessful after 30 days, on day 31, I donate the item to a friend or a responsible donation charity."
"Take a moment to write down your ten most expensive material possessions from the last decade. Things like your car, your house, your jewelry, your furniture, and any other material possessions you own or have owned in the last ten years. The big ticket items. Next to that list, make another top-ten list: the ten things that add the most value to your life. This list might include experiences like catching a sunset with a loved one, watching your kids play baseball, eating dinner with your parents, etc. Be honest with yourself when you’re making these lists: it’s likely that both lists share zero things in common.."
"You can't change the people around you, but you can change the people around you."
Thank you for reading my rather long article today, I hope you liked it and found it inspiring. If so, please feel free to share it on your social media account to help me grow and don't forget to subscribe to m newsletter!