Life After De-Cluttering: What Comes Next?
As nomadic minimalists, we talk about minimalism in a lot of detail; from why you should embrace minimalism, to minimalism for beginners and the basics of de-cluttering:
- Minimalism Will Make You A Calmer Person.
- 12 Struggles of Minimalist Beginners: How To Overcome Them.
- The Minimalist Life Cleanse: Stage 1, De-Cluttering Your Home.
I even wrote an eBook, Minimalism: Cleanse Your Life, Become A Calmer Person, a practical guide to simplifying your home, your wallet and your online space.
We all have different reasons for de-cluttering, and not everybody will want to become fully-fledged minimalists. For some, de-cluttering might have just been a short-term process designed to simplify on a basic level, creating a tidier and more organized home space.
But some newly established minimalists may want to continue to build solid minimalist foundations from which to follow their life goals, and that’s how it was for me.
So it's all good and well, knowing the Why and the How-To for adopting minimalism...
But what about the When? When you are supposedly 'finished'; you’ve de-cluttered, you’ve implemented new routines to make life simpler, and created an environment which will help you work towards your goals.
For me, when I was done with dealing with much of my clutter, I kept on going...I kept on reducing my material footprint and I kept with my mantra of not bringing in more low-quality stuff. I kept clearing my debts, adding to my savings and began to see my dreams take shape; I maintained a lifestyle that was aligned with my long-term goal of travel.
I didn’t enact minimalist principles on a whim; I fully embraced the minimalist mindset and resolved to never let it slide.
Okay, that’s also, all good and well, but what can you practically do to maintain a minimalist and simpler life?
Below are some key ideas relating to maintaining minimalism, for not merely keeping clutter at bay, but to ensure we can better reach our personal, professional and financial goals.
The 4 area's of importance for life after de-cluttering relate to being accountable for our daily choices to remain clutter-free, creating more fruitful and balanced schedules, building healthier passions and interests, and developing routines which help change our bad habits.
List your goals in a mindfulness diary.
Through my minimalism journey, I went from being financially fraught and lost, to taking back control and devising a solid repayment plan to clear my debts. To remain mindful during this process and to know exactly what I was spending, acquiring and saving, I began keeping note of all my spending.
You might already do this, and you might already live on a specific budget, but having a mindful diary isn't just about keeping note of the numbers...
I began my blog, which became the place I could stay motivated by sharing my minimalist transition. But you might not wanna do that... which is cool.
Instead, begin writing in a journal.
In the front of your journal, write your 3 key goals, the ideas that are on your mind right now, which could range from the small and daily, to the long-term and life-changing.
Consider these ideas:
- Which hope, aspiration or dream is motivating the decisions you make each day? Do you make choices that work toward these goals positively?
- Do you feel as if you are on the cusp of some major life changes? Do you want to feel more ready and able to cope with the up's and down's of daily living?
- Are you trying to accomplish a financial goal, or move up in your career? Do you have some time limits by which you want to achieve these goals?
- Are you hoping to confront some things about your life that you have been avoiding? Do you want to continue on a therapeutic journey where you can focus on the now and the future, letting go of negative moments from your past?
Without an outlet to explore my own thoughts and establish some focus, I was out-of-touch with what I was doing, why I was doing it and what I actually needed to do to be more fulfilled.
I was the most prone to impulse spending and over indulging myself, financially or otherwise, when I lacked a broader focus, or the means to hold myself accountable for my daily choices. I could walk into a shop and leave with 5 t-shirts and it wouldn't negatively impact my goals, because I didn’t have any!
Stumbling through my life, ignoring my stressors and relying on materialist escapism was certainly harming my health, but I didn’t yet know better.
Minimalism (and a lot of other positive changes) happened because I let new positive influences come into my life, entertaining new ideas and goals for what I could do to change things. I kept a solid note of my goals and these began to shape the way I lived my life each day instead of resorting to habitual and detrimental behaviours which worked against my quest for fulfilment.
Commit to spending a few quiet moments a day with your journal to keep in touch with your goals and quieten the thoughts that threaten to undo your new minimalist lifestyle; each passing day or week, note the various ways your simpler lifestyle and minimalist habits are helping you reach your goals.
Create days based on balance.
I read plenty of blog posts about organization, simplifying and goal-setting, which talk about designing the perfect daily schedule. These posts outline how you should best use each and every hour of your day.
But often a lot of these posts suggest practises that I feel actually complicate your day a further...
Some of the ideas put forward can be a little unrealistic; setting rigid rules for how to plan and use each day doesn't account for those times where we feel tired, distracted, de-motivated, or uninspired, or those days where we just can't shake our mood.
We then feel bad for not actually wanting to be a productive boss right that moment...
Maybe some people find it helpful to plan out each day and believe it staves off these negative, albeit totally normal, peaks and troughs in energy.
But I believe it can be detrimental to our ability to succeed in whatever our goals are, without burning out, if we ignore the natural ebb and flow of our moods. This mindset can put us into a damaging cycle of perceiving natural dips in enthusiasm as proof that we are doomed to fail in our goals, or that we don't actually deserve the success we are pursuing.
To counter this, I personally aim to create balanced days; I do write 'To Do' lists, but only short ones. I aim to achieve something small professionally each day whilst also tending to my own self-care needs. If I wake up feeling tired and like I want to avoid all my responsibilities, I either take a brief walk round the block, watch my favourite Youtuber's, or listen to a podcast. I might do my laundry, clean the house or read a book on my kindle. I try to take my mind off feeling like I should be doing something else and just do whatever the hell I want.
I try to re-direct my energy to myself, providing the space for my enthusiasm and focus to return naturally; that familiar stirring of ideas and a need to create eventually comes back and I run with it. I might sit down and spend hours on a blog post, or look at my professional goals and set specific targets for that week. I might connect with people on social media or read some inspirational blog posts. I do whatever feels right, whilst also chipping away at my blogging responsibilities and goals.
The important thing to remember is that most of the time, the dreams we are chasing aren't trains leaving a station; they will still be there, in a few hours or in a couple of days. When we believe that we should be maxing out our 24 hours in the pursuit of our goals we forget that probably only a quarter of what we do in that time will yield actual results, especially if we are neglecting our self-care, our relationships or our health.
A balanced day is one where we don't force ourselves to do the tasks that we would usually willingly choose to do, because we falsely believe that our dreams will desert us; we don't turn our passions into burdens by valuing them above our own basic physical and psychological needs.
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Embrace healthy escapism and joyful passions.
If you are trying to make minimalism stick, by avoiding temptation to consume or do things which are detrimental to your goals, the biggest issue can be boredom. One of the many reasons that we come to have homes full of stuff, unfinished projects and numerous distractions is because we haven't yet found our true passion.
When we do find a passion, hobby or vocation, we tend to give a lot of our time and energy to it. If we have a sense of purpose each day, one revolving around something other than consumerism, then the inference is that we are more likely to retain minimalist ideas and enjoy the positive side-effects.
But what happens when your hobby involves oodles of things?
There's nothing wrong with having a cupboard full of art supplies or a shelf full of books, unless we don't actually give time to exploring and enjoying these things. Minimalism isn't about having as little as possible, it's about having as little of the pointless and extraneous, so that you can appreciate what you love at your core.
What if you don't have a hobby or a passion?
This was me a few years back before this blog began. I always loved writing and I often wrote poems and songs, but because of the creative energy needed for it versus the energy I was expending elsewhere on crappy exploits, I didn't write as much as my inner creative would have liked.
The fact I was also surrounded by clutter and visual distraction didn't help.
Ideas to consider to help you get back in touch with what you love:
- What did you always love to do as a child, something that might not have left as you moved into your teenage years? I always used to try and command the attention of a room, spend hours writing poems, and I was known to tidy up a lot... in my adulthood these principles have translated nicely into my blog and my eBook!
- Did people ever remark on a particular talent or ability of yours? People often told me I should consider journalism or teaching, but I always felt afraid of these two particular routes. Thankfully with time and research I found the best outlet for my natural skills and hobbies.
- Do you enjoy experiencing the creations of others? I have always loved film, music and reading, but it was only this year that I discovered the awesomeness of podcasts and audiobooks. There are always more ways to explore the entertainment that appeals to your particular personality.
- Do you seek out escapist and simplistic entertainment when you could be seeking out interesting or useful knowledge? For years I visited the same websites peddling gossipy information that I could do zero with. I began to seek out things which expanded my mind instead of filled it up with random useless information.
For many years I felt like there was no wider purpose for exploring and indulging my passion for writing. What is the purpose of doing something that doesn't elicit interest or appreciation from others?
Surely being a part of the consumerist dynamic, partaking in the same expensive and outward pursuits as my peers was a better use of my time?
I clearly lacked a lot of self-confidence and was always trying to fit in with the world around me, pursuing the same paths as my peers instead of nurturing my inner truth.
But I realized later on that when we let ourselves explore our own mind freely, we learn that we have the tools for fulfilment right here within us.
Eventually my love for creating did become a bigger than just a hobby, and now I blog (and all the side stuff that comes with it) more than I shop or watch television. This blog isn't making me rich, but I find it no less satisfying to do; I enjoy doing it, and if I ever did make a profit, but no longer enjoyed it, I would probably stop.
All the little ways that we like to spend our time, from reading, to writing poetry, to taking photographs; we should accept that there doesn't have to be a grander purpose for why we do them. It's grand purpose enough to fill each day with the things that we love, and which love us back; activities which incur no painful financial or personal cost.
Countering the behaviours which bring in clutter and stress.
This is probably the more difficult and yet most important part of retaining a simpler life; changing the habits which brought in our clutter and problems in the first place.
This article defines a shopaholic in multiple terms, from spending over your budget, to hiding buys from family, to buying more than what is needed, to shopping to eliminate negative emotions. You don't need to have a full-on shopping addiction to exhibit these traits, but even in lesser amounts, these behaviours can be pretty damaging to the simpler living ethos.
You can be mindful, tend to your self-care needs and develop healthier passions, but much of this involves changing your psychology and dominant habits. Habits are very much things we naturally gravitate towards doing without much thought being required.
Alex Lickerman describes the different stages of changing habits and behaviour; if you are reading this post you are most likely hovering between the stages of Contemplation and Maintenance, meaning you are either radically wanting change or you are wanting maintain your newly formed habits.
Hopefully by this stage you have already felt inspired to start some new daily behaviours which might help dissuade your old bad habits.
But our habits are formed and then reinforced, often for years, meaning it's incredibly difficult to unlearn them.
There's plenty of psychological work we can do to change these habits, but it's also important to reinforce new behaviours to form new habits, such as the behaviour of thinking through every purchase we want to make and weighing up our consumer decisions at the point of buying to help us evaluate a need versus a want. This increases our general mindfulness and steers us away from the impulsive habits which take no consideration for the negative results of excess spending.
You could also try to develop better habits around how you use and organize the things in your home to help prevent clutter amassing and items going forgotten and wasted.
We need to create some new go-to thought processes which stifle the negative habits that we want to let go of.
Here are some ideas for overcoming excessive or impulsive consumption that work alongside accountability, productivity and fun:
- Consider carrying your mindful journal with you whenever you are going to the places that usually incur random consumption. Having the physical weight of your goals acts as a reminder will make you think twice before you buy something you do not need or truly want. If we pour our hearts into honest expression and then we literally leave the product of that in a drawer at home, where its message becomes passive, we do a disservice to our inner truth and favour the impulse habits of our pasts and thus hurt our future.
- Anything you do buy each week (excluding food), consider putting in one place, e.g. a basket or box. Make it a habit of putting everything you bring into the home, that isn't a necessity or a perishable, into this box. Place this box in the center of your living space, somewhere that you will walk past it each day. This is a process designed to make you acutely aware of how much you bring into your home. This can be a short-term experiment to gauge the types of things you are prone to over-buy but it will help you confront the reasoning's for why you purchase certain things plus make you accountable for the expenditures you are making. This is an exercise in undoing the irrationality of impulse and over-purchasing; if we are wholly aware of the nature of what tempts us and able to see that we don't need certain things to be truly happy, we can simply stop wanting them, stop seeking them out and stop our bad spending habits.
- Write a list of all the random material desires which pop into your mind day-to-day. If you have been wanting new clothing or some particular gadget, don't sit and look at it online or mull it over, just write it down on a wish-list. This isn't a task that will take a lot of time but it will unload this portion of mind-clutter, allowing you to analyse your relationship to material things. This list might end up representing genuine needs for things that you can't stop thinking about after weeks have passed, your daily life lacking in some way for the absence of it. But it might also make you realize how fleeting your desires for material goods can be, compared to how quickly you usually act on these impulse wants.
By unpacking your thoughts and diverting from the habits your mind will automatically put into action, thus making consumerism wholly mindful, you can change the way you acquire; from buying when you are in a bad mood to wrongly defining a want as a need, you can transform your negative behaviours and leave bad habits behind.
What comes after de-cluttering is a push to create something new in the physical and mental space that you have given yourself.
De-cluttering can be more than just a one-off act and can be enacted as an ongoing process where the way you live each day is fundamentally altered.
It's not merely about having less and spending less, its about finding something rewarding, real and important, more important than resorting to habits which have proven themselves as damaging to your health and happiness.
What do you do to keep clutter at bay and place your goals at the forefront of how you live?
Thanks for reading!
Hannah here, one half of NomaderHowFar. I love reading, the beach, proper fish and chips, and a good cup of tea. But I mostly like to chat about minimalism, simplifying your life, the beauty of travel and sometimes I get a bit deep. Get to know us here!
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