Author Archives: minimalismrules

Dealing with Difficult People

When I first came to university, I strove really hard to be a positive and friendly person. Everyone does, because that’s how to make friends, which is especially important since you are going to be spending a lot of time with some of the people you meet, at least a year, perhaps even more.

My immediate social response to almost everyone was automatically positive, because I wanted to be friends with everyone I met. But after a while, I began to discover new things about people that weren’t so positive. I found certain people to complain too much, or to be unreliable, arrogant or untrustworthy.

So what do you do when the honeymoon is over and you’re stuck with people that irk you?

You realise you can’t change them. I know, it’s not a fix, but it’s the truth. People aren’t going to change just because you disapprove.

If you really can’t take it, just drift away. You may find that people are much more tolerable in small doses. If you continue to have negative feelings, they may get a bad vibe off of you, which means that they come to think of you as you do of them. In that case, move away completely, it may not be the easiest task, but it’s better than allowing conflict to bottle up.

Another approach is to lead by example. Not that people will necessarily begin to copy you, but if you act like the kind of people you would love to be surrounded by, eventually you will attract those kind of people.

I heard once that you are the sum of your five closest friends. It’s up to you to decide what you add up to.

Minimalist Student Holiday Challenge

The other night, I finished watching Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. It’s become one of my favourite films of all time. Here is a brilliant extract of it:

The film is about a man that travels. A lot. In fact, he travels so much that he has become a pro at airport checking and at carrying as little as possible. The overall message of the film is that constant moving means that it was difficult for him to build lasting relationships. However, I am much more interested in the part about ‘fitting everything you own into a backpack’. If I had to move everything in my life at a moment’s notice, would I be able to do it? If I simply had to go home for the holidays, can I do it without breaking my back? Hell yes.

For this holiday, I will be going home for just over a month. I have quite a long way to travel to get home, and I will be using public transport, so I have decided to set myself the challenge of taking just a single suitcase and a shoulder bag, in which I will pack:

  • Laptop and charger
  • Two books
  • Mobile phone, purse.
  • A pair of jeans
  • A skirt
  • 4 tops
  • A pair of shoes
  • Make-up

I will already be wearing a pair of jeans and shoes, a shirt, a coat (and of course underwear ;)).

The books that I am taking home are for my course. They are very specialised and expensive, and aren’t available in my local library.

Because of my minimalist mindset, I didn’t take everything I owned with me when I came to university.  I left a few things that I can use when I go home, such as a pair of pyjamas and spare underwear. As for various toiletries, obviously they will be available when I go home.

The challenge is about thinking about what you really need. It’s about planning ahead; what will you be doing? What will you wear? Decide and commit, so you don’t have to take anything ‘just in case’. I’ve done all of my washing in advance, because there’s no way I’m going to drag it across the country.

A few months ago, I wrote a post ‘Can Minimalism be Measured?‘ in which I said that, in my opinion, minimalism is subjective. So, what if you need to take two suitcases? Well, I say that’s fine, there’s nothing stopping you, as long as you’ve decided that you are really likely to use almost everything in those suitcases. I still stick by what I said, it’s up to you how ‘minimalist’ you want to be. For me, in this case, the magic number is one suitcase.

It’s not until you make a temporary move like this you realise that you if you can survive a whole month without X, you probably don’t need it.

How much does your life weigh? Here’s the full trailer to Up in the Air:

5 inspiring ways to feed your soul

After working on the same boring thing all day, no one can blame you for taking a well deserved break. Distractions can be valuable because they give your brain a chance to recharge and concentrate even better when you continue.

With the amount of content and information now accessible to the average person, choosing what to have has become like trying to have a snack at a buffet table. There’s so much out there that, unless you’re very picky, you’ll be missing out on some great stuff.

When you consume content, you are feeding you soul. And feeding your soul good and wholesome food is as important as doing so for your body. So what’s good and what’s not so good for you?

Junk food for the soul

  1. TV dramas/sitcoms. Think back to the shows you were watching last year. Has it contributed to you as a person today? Did you learn anything valuable? TV shows are entertaining whilst we’re watching them but it’s not until it finishes or gets cancelled that we realise what kind of things we could have accomplished if we spent all those hours differently.

Studies have shown that filling your life with trashy TV about people arguing, cheating and lying, can lessen your sensitivity to the consequences of doing so. Watching shows about crime, murders and blackmailing can make you more paranoid and afraid than the reality.

I’m not saying all TV is bad, or that we should cut it out altogether. I am a big fan of a few series (ahem, Grey’s Anatomy), and of course a lot of documentaries are very informative, but TV is supposed to be ‘entertainment’ – meaning something to occupy you for a few hours a week. It’s not supposed to be a part time occupation or a way to numb your brain.

  1. Evening News. The news obviously cannot report everything that happens in the world, so it has to be selective. Unfortunately, more people are interested about robberies and murders than charity runs. The news has become a medium that dramatises negative events to increase audience ratings. Just check out the front page of any news site and count how many times the word ‘death’, ‘dies’, ‘killed’, ‘stabbed’ and so on appear.

Again, of course we should be aware of what’s happening in the world around us, but in my opinion there’s no need to know about every single thing. Sometimes, it feels beautiful to be disconnected. If another Michael Jackson dies, you’ll hear about it, don’t worry, you don’t need to keep looking out for it.

  1. Facebook. It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, but how much do you need to know about them on a daily basis? Most people have hundreds of friends on facebook, so it’s simply not possible to keep track of what they do anyway. A lot of the time, people live in fear of missing out, so they think their lives would be better if they know what’s going on all the time, but deep down they know that this is simply not true. Letting go of the need to always know what’s going on at this very minute is the key to freedom. Ignorance is bliss.
  2. Repeats. This year, I’ve made a quiet promise to myself that I will try not to watch any repeats – especially films. One of my friends is a media student and they’ve opened my eyes to just how much there is out there that it seems silly to watch another rerun. There are literally thousands of fantastic independent films, classic films, controversial films, historical films and breakthrough films that I’ve yet to see, why should I ever re-watch something I’ve seen before?
  3. Other internet black holes. Mindless surfing on fail blogs, lolcats sites, youtube and so on is just another way to take our minds off things that really do matter. Life is short, and there are better ways places we can go to take a break…

5 Ways to feed your soul the right stuff:

So what should you do when you want to sit back and relax? Prepare for the link fest.

  1. Read brilliant blogs. When I first accidentally stumbled on personal development blogs, I didn’t know that they would change my life. They opened up a whole new (better) world for me that connected with my real world over time. Since then, I’ve become a greener, healthier, more productive and happier minimalist. Over time I’ve read dozens and dozens of different blogs, but I there are a few I always go back to:

Balance in Me – well written tips about how to find balance in a busy world.

Change your Thoughts – redesign how you think about life.

Daily Mind – Eastern wisdom brought to the west.

Marc and Angel Hack Life – how to be more productive and happy, one of the best blogs I’ve ever found.

Stepcase Lifehack – a collaborative blog full of great tips from successful bloggers.

Zen Habits – who has never included Leo’s blog in a ‘best of blogs’ list?

For the minimalist in me:

Becoming Minimalist – contains some pure gems.

miss minimalist – We would definitely be best friends if we ever met.

mnmlist – another great creation of Leo Babatua’s.

stonesoup – combining my two loves: minimalism and food.

Other great blogs:

Lifehacker – …needs no explanation.

The Peak Condition Project – my favourite fitness blog in the world. Patrick knows what he’s talking about.

Zen to Fitness – simple and quick health tips.

Scott H Young – hundreds of articles on life and productivity  for students.

  1. Follow daily reminders. These get a category of their own because they are so inspiring.

The Mindfulist and The Mindfulist’s twitter – reminding you to be aware of the little things that matter.

Makes Me Think –  thought provoking life stories in one sentence.

Thought Questions – asking the right kind of questions.

  1. …and so does TED. Talks that simply blow your mind. Just some of my favourites:

Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian

  1. Listen to Podcasts. I’ve mentioned podcasts before because I can’t recommend them enough. (iTunes links)

Buzz Out Loud –  a technology podcast I’ve been following for years.

Nutrition Diva – dispelling common myths about what is good for you and what isn’t.

YOGAmazing – Great yoga instruction videos

Yoga Today – more yoga videos

Zencast – A comprehensive collection of Buddhist talks.

Zen is Stupid – Gwen Bell and Patrick Reynolds (also creators of the Mindfulist) are my heroes

  1. Read great books.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens – the book that started it all.

Young Guns – by Robert Tuchman, a guide for fearless young entrepreneurs.

The Art of Happiness – one of HH Dalai Lama’s most widely read books.

The Power of Now – by Eckhart Tolle, changed the way I thought about thinking forever.

The Way of Zen – by Alan Watts, who was one of the first people to demystify Zen and bring it to the west.

The Definitive Book of Body Language – by Allan and Barbara Pease, a down to earth and humorous guide.

What Every BODY is Saying – by John Navarro, an ex FBI’s tips on reading body language and detecting deception.

How To Win Friends and Influence People – by Dale Carnegie, simply classic, which is why it has stood the test of time.

Despite what a lot of people are saying these days, consumption of media and information isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What really matters is doing it right and mindfully choosing the best kind of things to feed our soul with can make all the difference.

5 high school myths you should debunk today

Ahh, high school. Thinking back to those years brings both a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Even though it hasn’t exactly been years since I left, it certainly feels like it. I learnt a lot of things in high school that I thought were ‘the law’ at the time, and I don’t mean physics laws in the classroom. Little did I know, I would be debunking those laws myths pretty soon.

1. Popularity is vital. At school, popularity was like currency, there were the rich, and there were the poor. For some reason, the rich deserved more respect (or fear) than the poor. As a kid, I didn’t even realise that popularity wasn’t even real! It was just a self perpetuating thing that people made up in their minds, projected onto others, who lived up to expectations. It blew up people’s egos and made others feel inadequate. Luckily, I wasn’t on either end of the scale and I lived those years manoeuvring myself around the middle of it. If only I could go back now and tell everyone to stop being so silly and just be themselves.

2. You will only have ‘made it’ when you have a house/car/pool etc. The process goes like this. Go to school, get a degree, get a good job, earn good money, buy a big house, buy a big car, then buy as much as you can = live a good life. Well, that’s what we’re taught. I don’t want to criticise the school system (too much) here, but that’s exactly what it is, a system. Like a factory, we go through one end and come out the other. They tell us all the same thing and hope we get on with it. Then they measure their success by how much we can buy fifteen years later. I guess that’s how there are many more (over-)consumers in the world than there are minimalists. Luckily, we’re here to change all that.

3. Grades are everything. Yes, grades do matter, but they’re not the be all end all of everything. You need good grades if you’re planning to go to university and get a degree, which, even in this internet centered, entrepreneurial world, I still think is relevant. However, you don’t need to burn yourself out and sacrifice everything to get top grades (I was guilty of this) and you don’t need to bring your self confidence down if you don’t get what you want either. Just doing your best and keeping a balance is enough.

4. The lone star shines bright. We used to be told that it was important to stand out whenever we can. That’s when you see head cheerleaders, class reps, student body leaders, sports captains and the lot. A lot of this is a good thing, we learn to be independent and we build up our individuality.

However, in western society (compared to societal perceptions in eastern cultures I’ve studied) the idea of individual merit is pushed so hard that teamwork, humility and fairness is often forgotten. Even when we have to work in teams, a lot of us still strive to either take over, lead the team, or take as much credit as possible. When we’re older, we toot our own horns as loud as we can to show others what we’ve accomplished. It’s not our fault completely, but sometimes we care more about ourselves than the project at hand or the bigger picture. I think there’s something we can learn from eastern cultures here in that sometimes, the product of a team is much more than the sum of all the individuals, no matter how great they think they are.

5. This is how life is going to be. I remember coming out of several boring years of high school thinking, “oh my goodness, my life is going to suck”. But, I quickly realised that high school has basically nothing to do with real life. Yes you learn a couple of things, but most of the academic stuff you learnt you’ll never use again. Plus, high school doesn’t foreshadow how you’ll perform for the rest of your life. Once you leave for university, you’ll have a chance to start again, to be whoever you want to be. You can debunk all these myths and change the way you live and think.

Okay okay, high school wasn’t all that bad. Yes, it seemed to drag on but most importantly, I made some great friends, some of whom I have a feeling I will still be having occasional catch-up chats with twenty years from now.

High school, and university for that matter, is what you make of it, and after debunking these negative myths from high school, I wish you have the best university years to come.

Do you have myths to debunk? Or anything you wish you told your high school self? Please share in the comments!

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The Recipe for Student Success – Ingredient Three : Great Health

Whenever I fill in a form that asks for my occupation, the answer I always put is ‘student’. That’s because being a student is a full time job. Unlike a ‘real job’ where you do what you’re paid for within set hours, as a student from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed almost everything I do is somehow related somehow to university.

My job as a student comes with a job description. Part of my job as a student is to socialize, to make friends and connections with dorm-mates, course-mates and professors. Another requirement is being frugal, (depending on your financial circumstances) since most students don’t have piles of money under their beds. Finally, it is also my job as a student to do all of the assignments and reading and attend of lectures and so on. These requirements can create pitfalls that keep me from being as healthy as possible.

obstacles to great health

1. Drinking too much. For some reason, it has become a cultural rule that the best way to make friends is to have a drink with them. Personally, I am not opposed to this, and actually I think it’s a great way to bond with people. However, I do think there is a line between just a social ‘drink’ and a social ‘binge’. Of course, there are some special nights where it’s sometimes nice to drink ourselves silly, but most of the time is that really necessary? There was once a time when I would have gone past the line far enough that I would barely remember the entire night. Looking back at it now, not only was that extremely dangerous, as well as expensive, I probably would have had way more fun if I knew what I was doing and perhaps didn’t make such a moron of myself.

2. Giving into peer-pressure. Now, this may sound like something we were told not to do in high school, but unfortunately I still see it happening at college level. It may be disguised as a ‘suggestion’ or whatnot, but it is what it is. Sometimes when we’re trying to impress people, we do what they say against our better judgement. I’m all for the ‘try-everything-once’ mantra, but for me there are just a few things that are a little too risky, and I don’t think I’ll gain much ‘experience’ from trying them anyway.

3. Buying cheap food. I can’t speak for everyone here but I would say I fit into the usual ‘student’ financial bracket if there is such a thing. I’m not exactly loaded, but I’m not struggling either. There shouldn’t be much reason for me to skimp on food, even though it is tempting. The cheapest food, especially cheap meals, most of the time aren’t good for you. They are filled with additives and flavourings to make up for their lack of real taste and nutrition.

4. Not cooking at home. Every now and again there comes a time when you are absolutely swamped with work and you just don’t have time. Occasionally ordering a take-out is fine, but having three or four a week is bordering on lazy. Not cooking at home is a pitfall to good health because unless you’re ordering salads etc. it’s unlikely that what you get in a polystyrene box is good for you.

Most of these pitfalls can be helped. Almost all of these aren’t forced on you, you can choose the better alternative if you want to. All you need is a little willpower plus the want to be a healthier, more productive and happier person.

3 ways to great health

1. Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial to your success as a student. Even a 20 minute nap will boost your concentration and therefore your understanding and retention levels. At night, try to calm your mind down before going to bed by doing some meditation or light stretches. Alternatively, drink a cup of camomile tea or listen to some soothing music. Make sure you’ve packed everything you needed for the next day so that you’re not tossing an turning at night in the vain hope you’ll remember to grab something in the morning. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even if you only have an afternoon lecture the next day. By maintaining a routine, your body will be able to relax easier when it comes to bedtime and you’ll be able to sleep deeper and wake up feeling more refreshed.

2. Eat a minimalist diet. A minimalist diet doesn’t mean you don’t eat much. It means that instead of choosing processed ready meals or fatty takeaways, replace them with fresh and simple ingredients in a home-made dish. A lot of minimalist recipes only require a few minutes to prepare. Even the cooking process is quick and minimal, such as just steaming or quickly boiling, which means that it shouldn’t take you a lot of time to prepare even the most satisfying meals. A minimalist diet can also save you money, especially if you spend a few bucks each week on junk food. On top of that, it can help you boost your concentration and energy levels throughout the day.

3.  Plan exercise time and do it. Eating healthily is only half of the battle. The other half is exercising, and there’s no getting away from it. Student life means that your body can spend hours at a time sitting at a desk. If you don’t really do any exercise, don’t start out with something extreme like jogging everyday. Instead, just take a walk or do some stretches. Schedule time out to do exercise and actually do it. If you can’t find the time to fit it in, don’t give up. There are many exercises you can do even whilst at your desk. You don’t have to aim to have a model’s body or to be able to run a marathon. Just getting your heart pumped a little releases happy hormones which will lift your mood and make you more willing and able to learn.

Depending on your academic course, you could have it easy. You could have a few days off a week, long weekends and generous deadlines. Or you could be on the other end of the spectrum, the one with library marathons and late-night cramming. Either way (or if you’re somewhere in between) it’s easy for your mind to be full about your job as a student, instead of thinking about what you are apart from that.

Above the outer label, you are a human being, with a real body that hopes and dreams. But without your body, can you accomplish those dreams? You may not want to be a pro-star athlete, but essentially in order for you to achieve your best, your body needs to be at it’s best. Without it being at optimum levels, it becomes something that can hinder your potential. Think about any time when you didn’t get enough sleep, your body probably felt tired and you might have found it difficult to concentrate. Because you didn’t take care of it, your body stopped you from doing your best. Take good care of your body, and it will take care of you.

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My Minimalist Kitchen

When I first began my minimalist journey, one of the first places I began ‘decluttering’ in my life was my diet. It wasn’t until I moved away to university and was able to take full control of what I bought and ate that I really got things started. I’ve always been interested in food, cooking, and nutrition and since I’ve studied Food technology for just over five years, it’s been a big part of my life for a long time.

I’ve talked about minimalist diets in a previous post in detail, but here I want to talk about what I do specifically to stick to it:

1. Eat simply. Despite my dedication to food, when it comes to actual cooking, sometimes there’s not enough time or I just get a little bit lazy. This doesn’t mean I should pick up the phone and call in a takeaway straight away, instead, I’ll just throw together some simple fresh ingredients and make a meal out of that. I think one of the advantages I have is that I am not in the least bit fussy about what I eat, and I am perfectly happy eating the same thing three nights in a row. For example, if I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll just make a salad out of some spinach and rocket, and flavour it with a spicy dressing and some butter beans. Total time 2 minutes.

2. Cook simply. On the same note, I don’t enjoy excessive cooking as I can be a little bit impatient sometimes. I prefer to only eat things that can be cooked either in less than 10 minutes or by steaming or boiling (or microwaving). This is one of the reasons why I became pescetarian as meat took too long to cook (except when making burger patties). It’s not all to do with laziness however, because by cooking simply and quickly you preserve more of the goodness in the food as heat destroys a lot of the vitamins and washes out the minerals in it.

3. Drink simply. I almost never drink fizzy drinks, mostly because I don’t feel they quench my thirst! Also, they are completely full of empty calories and processed stuff, I just don’t feel comfortable fuelling my body with dirty oil so to speak. However, I do have the occasional alcoholic drink every now and again (I am a student after all) but only occasionally. Normally, I drink water, but I also have a collection of teas that I like to make everyday, including green tea, jasmine tea, orange tea, pomegranate tea, white tea, lotus leaf tea(!), and camomile tea for night time. Tea has almost no calories, is refreshing and is full of anti-oxidants.

4. Eating less. About three times a week, I try intermittent fasting. I found out about it through my research about diets about a year ago. I read some of the studies and to me, the results sound credible. Now, I don’t intend to give anyone dietary advice here, this is post is about what I feel works for me. Intermittent fasting, in short, is going through short periods of not eating. At first, I was skeptical, but then I realised that by doing so, one can reduce the amount of calories they eat in a day, and basically it’s another way of saying eat less.

5. Simplify the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the places where mess and clutter can build up quickly if you’re not careful. I share a kitchen with my flatmates, so there is limited space which fits me all the better. I don’t buy equipment I don’t need, I have just enough plates and cups that I use all of them and I only buy ingredients I know I will use before the expiry date. The last point is really important because that where a bunch of money can be saved. I don’t write it out or anything, but I tend to have a plan in my head about what I will eat during the following week and I shop accordingly so I use up everything before it goes off.

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How to revive the lost art of sitting still

During this academic year, I noticed that more and more I felt like I had to be doing something productive at every waking moment, otherwise I would be ‘wasting time’. I became impatient, and gained bad habits like looking at flashcards whilst walking and murmuring lists to myself whilst cycling (kinda like a crazy person, huh?).

As people, we have been trained to believe that doing something is always better than doing nothing, like mindlessly flipping through a hundred channels is better than doing nothing…better than sitting still.

When did it become a bad thing to sit down and do nothing every now and again? When it became ‘lazy’ to do so? But the thing is, sitting down only looks lazy, because you’re not physically moving. But if you stop moving on the outside, you will be able to see that inside your mind there’s a storm going on.

how to reclaim your mind

After a few weeks out of practice, I forgot just how fascinating the process can be. This is usually how I go about it.

Find a quiet place, sit down in a comfortable position for you and close your eyes. Notice how your mind instantly turns on and flips through thought after thought in an attempt to occupy itself. Memories, regrets, expectations, stories, worries… the mind will make anything up in order to not be still.

Why is that? Why is the mind afraid of being empty?

Just observe it without doing anything, no judging, no telling yourself off. After a while, your mind will calm down a little. If you’re finding it difficult, Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now) recommends watching your mind for the next thought to pop up like a cat watching a mouse hole. Or, take a few deep breaths and concentrate on inhaling and exhaling slowly. This will help you focus on being present in the moment.

A lot of people that try meditation for the first time get very frustrated at not being able to clear their mind. They get angry at themselves or say things like ‘mediation doesn’t work’. I think a lot of the time this is because they realise just how little control they have over their own minds, which scares them. But that’s ok, because it scared me too, I mean, if you can’t control your own thoughts, what else can’t you control? But the point of meditation is not necessarily to devoid your mind of any thought, but to simply be aware of the thoughts that do come. When you see yourself drifting off, just breathe deeply and gently steer your mind back to centre.

If you actually try it, you’ll see why I like to call sitting still and art. It looks easy, (it’s just sitting down after all, right?) but it requires learning, skill and practice. It can be a bit difficult if you’ve never done it before, but it can also be a very enlightening experience. You’ll learn a lot about the way your mind works and about yourself – the kind of things you think about all the time, the things make you worried and anxious, and the things that make you smile.

It’s the most minimal of activities, you don’t need any money or equipment, just a little time, patience and a place to sit.

Go on, try it today.

5 ways to create a minimalist’s world

If you have recently discovered minimalism, or you’re naturally quite minimalistic, it can get a little frustrating to watch your family and friends spend large amounts of time and money acquiring material things like more clothes, a new gadget or even a new and bigger car or house. It can get be upsetting to see the people you care about base their happiness on whether or not they will obtain these material things. What happens when they don’t get what they want?

You want them to be happy, despite having, or not having this stuff. You want to shake their shoulders and shout ‘YOU DON’T NEED ALL THIS STUFF, YOU CAN BE HAPPY RIGHT NOW!”. But we all know that people won’t change simply because you tell them to. The only way they will change for the better is if they want to change.

Think about it. If you’re reading this it’s probably happened to you. You’ve seen how people following a minimalist lifestyle have changed their lives for the better. So you began to change too.

…And when people see how much better off you’ve become, they’ll follow suit. As the saying goes, “We must fix ourselves before we can fix others”.

Why not start a movement around you, starting with yourself?

how to change the world

1. Lead by example. Go out and do things with your the time and money you’ve saved through minimalism. Show people all the good things you’ve gained because you gave up falling for marketing ploys. What have you always wanted to do? What do you love? Why not travel, gain experience, write a book or blog, go for a walk, run in the park, get on a rollercoaster, learn to play an instrument, draw something, see a play …be free! When I started doing these kind of things, I got a few comments like “how do you find the time?” to which I smiled and said “I just don’t go to work as much!” (silently thinking “…because my life overhead is so low!”).

2. Show before telling. It might seem irresistible to make a comment here or there about how people live. It’s not necessarily bad, you might just want to let them know that they really don’t need another x but they probably won’t listen. For some reason, people don’t really appreciate you telling them how they would feel if only they would do y. Lecturing too much can create a distance between you and that person, and can make it even more difficult for them to change for the better. From experience, I’ve found my with-held comments more useful as motivation for myself to keep living minimally. For example, instead of simply telling others they shouldn’t don’t really drive in a car so much/at all, I just keep reminding myself not to!

3. Be helpful. Donate the things you don’t need to charities. Give money to causes you care about. You can make a positive impact on other people’s lives at the same time as you are downsizing. There’s bound to be someone who will appreciate Aunt Hester’s Christmas sweater more than you will! You change the world through the people you touch, but it doesn’t have to only be friends and family. You can change the world for the better – even if only just a little – by helping strangers out too.

4. Be content. Whether you own nothing or everything, you won’t be happy until you’re satisfied with what you already have. Not only that, but it’s also important that you are content of where and who you are. In the words of Eckhart Tolle “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it“. Only by being content with where you are can you show others that they should be content with where they are too. It may sound a little idealistic, but I believe that the more people there are that are happy with what they have, the less consumerism, materialism and greed there will be in world. I think it’s really true – it’s already happened to a handful of minimalists and aspiring minimalists… it’s already happened to you!

5. Smile. Finally, just be positive! Smile whenever you can because you’re no longer a slave to stuff. Because you’re not running in the rat race. Because you have time to do the things you enjoy. Even if you’re not all the way there yet, at least you’ve made progress. Even if it’s just one step (like reading Minimal Student) you’ve taken bounds that many haven’t even contemplated yet! Smile and show others that life is for actually living, not for just making a living.

Over the last few years that I’ve become a minimalist, I’ve definitely seen changes in the pack rats around me, especially in my family, who have bagged piles of clothes for charity. It may not be much, but if all of us can just influence one or two other people just a little, we’d be much closer to the minimalist utopia we all love to dream about 😀

To finish off, here is one of my favourite poems:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser I realised the world would not change. And I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.

As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but alas they would have none of it.

And now here I lie on my death bed and realise (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I may have influenced my family and with their encouragement and support I may have bettered my country, and who knows I may have changed the world.

~ Anonymous

Have you had any experience (or better yet, success) with encouraging your friends and family to live more minimalistically? How did it go? Do you have any more ideas? Please let me know in the comments!

10 steps to a minimalist summer

Ahh, summer time. There’s so much you can do without having to spend a ton of money, here are some ideas to give your summer a minimalist twist.

how to create a minimalist summer

1. Spring Summer Cleaning. Start the summer off with a massive clear out of all of the things you’ve accumulated this year. Give it away, or check your local parks/schools for boot sale opportunities. Price low, don’t worry about making profits or getting you money back, just think of it as donating your things to people who actually want your stuff.

2. Take up a new hobby. Almost everybody has said this sentence before: “I’ve always wanted to try…”. Have you? What goes at the end? You decide, and make it happen. What better time to do it than now?

3. Picnic. Instead of eating out, why not call some friends and have a picnic? Or an old fashioned tea party? For cutlery and food, you can all contribute a little and put together everything you need. You can spend an afternoon chatting and catching up, and if you try hard enough, you won’t need to buy anything!

4. Don’t go shopping. Here’s a challenge, try not to buy new clothes this summer. Unless you really have to, why not dig out last year’s summer clothes, or cutting unwanted winter clothes, like old jeans? Summer clothes are the most simple and versatile, I bet you can find something to wear without having to buy it. Also, vintage clothes are in.

5. Clear your timetable. Without classes, lot’s of students take the summer as an opportunity to work. Of course it’s great to earn and save up money, but be careful not to work too much. Remember, the summer is for taking a break from work, not taking on more hours of stress to make up for not having any classes!

6. Walk or cycle. Take advantage of the nice weather and get out of those stuffy cars. Walk or cycle to places instead. It’s free, good exercise and you can feel the cool summer breeze run through your hair, isn’t this what summer is for?

7. Take a road trip. In many places, you can have a perfectly fun time without having to fly abroad. Get on a coach, bike or car-share and take a ride to the  beach/theme park/museum/aquarium/tourist city/countryside/lake. It’ll be greener than flying, plus it probably be cheaper, so you don’t have to work as hard to save up for it.

8. Find a summer course. Many universities, schools and adult education centers run summer courses every year. Most of the time, they’re established language courses, so if you’re interested in learning another language, give it a go! Otherwise, there are art classes, teaching-English courses, writing classes, drama groups, business workshops and I’ve even seen sign language and lip-reading lessons!

9. Review notes. Wait! I haven’t gone crazy 🙂 It might be a good idea to flick through your notes or books every now and again, otherwise you might forget most of it and you don’t want to have completely wasted this year. Plus, chances are that you’ll need to know the basics for the next year, and you probably don’t want to be trumped by a pop quiz when you return.

10. Get fit. Summer is a fantastic time to take up jogging. I love to run, but having heard a lot of good things about barefoot running, so I tried that too. Summer is also a fab time to start playing tennis, go outdoor swimming, or even to throw a frisbee in the park.

Summer only comes around once a year, so make it worthwhile!

What are you up to this summer? Have you got any more minimalist ideas? Please share them with everyone in the comments!

Related Posts

10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today

This year, I discovered the wonders of cycling. I saw a poster that advertised a cheap bike hire scheme and I spontaneously decided to take the plunge. Before that, I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a year, let alone on the road. At first, I was slow and a bit wobbly, but by the end of the year I was faster and fitter. Now I wonder how I ever got anywhere without my trusty bike. Here are 10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today:

1. Quit the gym. I used to go the gym for two reasons. For the treadmill and for the exercise bikes. When I started running outside I halved the usefulness of the gym. And when I took up cycling at the beginning of the academic year, I found myself unable to take out that expensive membership. It just wasn’t worth it any more. Cycling burns an enormous amount of calories, and takes you places whilst you’re doing it.

2. No need for cars. Cars are expensive. There are multiple taxes, insurance, maintenance fees, not to mention gas, parking tickets, and the initial cost of the car itself. In fact, the cost for me to hire a bike for a whole year was less than the cost of a tank of gas. I realise that there are a few times when cars come in handy, such as twice a year when move my stuff from home to dorm (I’m lucky enough to have parents that would drive me), but for the rest of the year, a bike is more than enough to get me from A to B, even with all my shopping and books in tow.

3. Green. Speaking of cars, apart from the CO2 from your breathing, bikes don’t release toxic gases. And they don’t take that much energy to make and transport. They run on good old clean human energy – extra calories and a bit of elbow grease.

4. Takes up less space. An average bike takes less than 15% of the space an average car takes. Bikes can fit in doorways, in the front garden, in alleyways, and in sheds. They can be parked on lamp posts, fences and railings. They’re great for city dwellers, studio flats, apartments, not to mention minimalists!

5. Easier to maintain. Cars are needy. When you fix one thing, sooner or later another thing will break. And when you fix that, soon enough another part needs to be replaced. When you’ve done almost everything, the cycle starts again. Yes bikes do need to be maintained too, but not to that extent. Plus, the pieces are cheaper and a lot of bike shops will help you out for free if you buy the parts from them.

6. Faster. Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam and watched the cyclists weave between the cars? Things go even faster when there’s a cycling lane. In the early mornings and evenings, it’s quite normal for me to zip past all of the stuck traffic and get to uni/home before the cars do. Sure, it’s not faster all of the time, but it’s always faster than walking, so it’s a great compromise.

7. Versatile. There are places you can’t drive, and there are places you can’t walk. But a lot of these places allow cycling. So if you want to get close into a busy town centre, take a bike. If you want to go for a leisurely ride through the park, take a bike. Unlike cars, which are restricted to roads and parking lots, bikes can get through pedestrian short cuts but can also be parked almost anywhere, for free.

8. Portable. If you have a longer distance to cover, you can cycle to the station and take bikes on buses and trains, and when you arrive, cycle the rest of the way. I’ve found this to be a really efficient way to travel, not to mention cheap! And if you know how to take them apart, they’re surprisingly compact-able, making them great to take in the backs of cars for road trips.

9. Quieter. What can be more Zen than a bit of silence? Imagine the morning rush with no horns or beeps, engine hums and roars or people venting their road rage. Just a few cyclist’s bell tings and the quiet clicks of the pedals running. I bet people will arrive at work or school much less stressed! (see video below)

10. More mindful. Some people spend too much time boxed up from the outside world. They go from their houses, to the inside of a car, to the inside of an office. A grand total of a few minutes spent in the outside world, even when the weather is good. And so what if it’s raining? It’s just water. It’s natural, embrace it!

I’m just going to go all out and say it. Cycling is awesome. Sure there’s walking (which is great too!), but cycling is much faster, and contrary to popular belief, very safe. I’ve mostly compared bikes to cars here, but whilst I’m not exactly a tree-hugger, I would love to live in a city where people cycled more than they drove. Can you imagine how great that would be? Check out this video for inspiration (notice how peaceful it is):