The minimalism movement is on the rise and I could not be more thrilled about it. However, there is a huge misconception when it comes to minimalism; even I’m guilty of it. There is this unspoken (or maybe frequently spoken) idea that being a minimalist means living in a shack and renouncing all your possessions so that you may live a fulfilled life as a Buddhist monk. Hard pass. Hard pass. Minimalism to me has come to mean clearing out the clutter to make room for only things that bring you maximum joy. Downsize in most areas to make huge room for better things in other areas. Now, here’s the catch: downsizing doesn’t only occur in your home or with your stuff. Downsizing can happen in multiple areas of your life and it should if you plan on living your life to the fullest. Minimalism is about freedom, clarity and living a life without being tied down by the things in life that hold you back.
Before we even dive in, I want you to pause for a minute. Make a list of the top 5 things you want to see happen for yourself this year. I won’t even give you examples, because I don’t want to sway you at all. Just think…5 things you want to have happen. Now, keep those 5 things in mind as you read on. If you need help getting clear about your goals check out my post for the absolute best goal setting planner: Organize Your Life for the New Year.
The following three steps I have laid out for you require a “hard pass” mindset. To fully understand the “hard pass,” you need to know Bumper from the movie, Pitch Perfect. In one scene Bumper (who in all honesty is kind of a turd) shakes his head back and forth and firmly states “No. Hard pass.” This is the kind of attitude you have got to start to adapt in order to get some peace and perspective back into your life. For realsies. –Even if that means people think you’re acting like a “turd.” I was born and raised in Minnesota, where we are known as “Minnesota friendly” –this basically means we can’t say no to anyone, constructive criticism is painful to give and being walked all over has become as common as breathing. I might be exaggerating slightly…but not a ton. The point I’m trying to make is that if I can learn to “hard pass” so can you.
Drowning in clutter and stuff can make us feel panicky, hopeless and stressed. Drowning in debt offers up those exact same feelings. No one wants to live their lives feeling like they are shelling out their hard earned cash to debt collectors, credit cards or car payments. If any of your goals require you to have financial freedom, now is the time to buckle down and get serious about demolishing your debt. Check out one way we did it: How We Paid of $6,000 in 6 Months with the Snowball Method.
Talking about and acknowledging debt can be scary. Just like it can be scary when you decide to get rid of that blanket you’ve had since you were born because it no longer serves a purpose in your life. But, now that it’s gone you feel lighter and more free. There are some things we may want in life and we obviously need money for them. Things like: a new car, season tickets or a vacation. Other things might be less obvious. Say you want more time with your family. That requires good time management and secure financing if you plan on taking time off work. Getting back in shape may require a gym membership. Giving more to others…well, ya gotta have something to give. There is so much freedom that comes with less financial obligation and the great news is, there are so many programs to help you get started. Check out my post: How to Talk to Your Spouse About Living on a Budget for some of the best options available.
Take a look at your weekly schedules. Are they aligned with your goals? Are there any places you can take a step back? I personally know I super over-loaded myself last year. I was teaching preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as homeschooling my two youngest kids. Frequently one of the Monday, Wednesday, Friday teachers would need a substitute. I felt obligated to volunteer. After all, they needed help, homeschool could be flexible and the extra cash couldn’t hurt. Yet week after week I found myself crabby, stressed and constantly moving. Even if I only worked 1 extra day a week, it through off my entire schedule. My intentions were good but I needed to seriously take a hard look at what was wrong with this situation.
It felt silly admitting that 15 hours of work a week was just too much, but it was. So no matter how insignificant it may seem, no matter how little time it takes up, where do you see cutbacks that need to happen in your schedule? Sometimes this might mean saying goodbye to things you really enjoy doing. You might enjoy bowling league; but it’s cutting into family time and you are missing one more night of tucking your kids in. If you’re a stay at home mom, maybe it’s making that time to get away from your little ones so that you can keep your sanity. —Not like I’m speaking from experience or anything.
No matter what it is, get intentional about your time and your schedule. Take back where you need to and do it without guilt. It’s your life, you do get some say in the matter.
Now this one is a toughy…at least it was for me. What expectations are you putting on yourself that are just plain unrealistic? I can’t tell you how many times I have had moms tell me that they feel like worse mothers because they see all that I do with my kids. On Facebook I share the crafts we do, I share the meals I make and all our smiley fun adventures. Part of this is because I grew up with my mom constantly taking photos. Photos speak to me, I love them so I take advantage in every special moment I spend with my little ones. Call me crazy but when I’m screaming bloody murder, slamming doors and locking myself in the bathroom just to get some peace and quiet; I don’t often think of snapping a photograph. (Sometimes I do. That’s just how much I like pictures.)
The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of times we add stress where stress is not needed by expectations that we put on ourselves. Let’s be honest though, a lot of times we get expectations from others as well. One huge way to avoid the stress of this is to just totally own up to you limits. No one can do everything and that is absolutely, 100% OK. Admitting that you can’t juggle it all is the first step toward putting the efforts into what you can do. Applying focus in fewer areas will allow you to accomplish far more than you ever could than if you were trying to be great at it all.
Taking the time to give the hard pass to all these things can do such amazing things in your brain. Decluttering the un-necessary stress and the unnecessary obligations to your life will start to clear away your brain’s clutter and help your get serious perspective in all the other areas of your life. The best way to make sure all these things start to happen is to find 20 minutes in your day to just sit quietly and reflect. Maybe a quiet walk. No jamming to music. Maybe 5 minutes with your morning coffee, 10 minutes in a hot shower and 5 minutes in a quiet meditation before bed. Get creative with how you spend your time alone.
It’s funny how so many people can’t sleep at night because they find their minds racing. Usually this is probably because laying down at night is the first time they have allowed their brains some peace and quiet. Don’t let that happen to you. Make that quiet time throughout your day so you can get a good night’s sleep and start each day with fresh intentions. Minimize brain clutter and maximize your potential for awesomeness. It’s just how it goes.