Determine the useful, helpful, beneficial, beautiful. Eliminate the rest.
Our day-to-day lives are slammed with a multitude of things vying for our attention. It happens over time as we slowly integrate and adapt to trends, new forms of media, new relationships, more homework, etc.
Take a step back and analyze your mental and physical health. Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Over-stimulated? Do you feel like you are constantly searching for more things to bring you happiness? Do you feel like you never have enough time in the day to get all your tasks done? If you identified with any of these questions, consider taking the time to read through and apply some of these simple tools to your life to guide you into living a more intentional life!
Minimalism is based on the concept that we must get rid of the things that do not add value to our lives. What do you spend most of your time doing? Make a list of 3-6 things you love. If you aren’t doing those things every day, re-evaluate where you place your time.
Where you spend your time impacts the quality of your day. Do you rummage through piles of items to find a pair of shoes or that notebook for class? Have you noticed that your closet is stuffed, but you reach for only a handful of items each week? Give your space a detox as often as you notice things aren’t being used for any benefit, or if they do not spark joy.
Notifications on your phone for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, text, and the list goes on and on, leave you with a false sense of urgency. Those things can wait. Turn them off.
In order to truly disconnect, we must first connect with ourselves. Taking the time to breathe and examine the state of your mental health is of utmost importance. Consciously breathe and take things slow when you start to feel overwhelmed. Nothing is more important than your well-being.
When we write, we are connected even more to the inner workings of our mind. Free-writing is simple yet helpful in clearing out the cobwebs and making space for only fruitful thoughts. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and let yourself loose.
We should all aspire to be life-long learners, but too much information at our fingertips dilutes what is actually meaningful to our lives. Pick a few favorite sources to subscribe to and say goodbye to the rest. You don’t need to know or have it all.
They weren’t kidding when they said Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that truly can apply to the standards you hold yourself to. Relax. You are a beautiful creation capable of so many incredible things. Be mindful of yourself, your space, your possessions, the value of your time and your well-being. But most of all, relax. You are one human in the world of billions. Let go of what isn’t making you a better person and strive every day to do your best.
One of my favorite topics to discuss, as I have said before in past blog posts, is minimalism. I think minimalism is such a powerful concept for millennials to grasp at this stage in life. When we feel like we need more to be more, there is a problem. But minimalism offers a solution that works.
Today’s Friday Fav is The Minimalists. These guys have changed the way I view my finances, relationships, closet, and life in general. Read some of their “essays” here. I promise they will change your mindset on the things that normally stress you out. Let me know what you think!
I wanted to transition into my next phase of topics that I look forward to covering on this blog, and I thought, what better way to transition out of minimalism and living simply than to cover some thoughts and ideas on how to survive college by first starting with the basics–taking care of yourself.
As I type this, my room isn’t so much in shambles (as it can sometimes get) but there were definitely too many things on my bed which would, in turn, require too much energy of me to make space for myself on it. Bypassing that altogether I picked a nice, cozy spot on my floor (note: sarcasm).
I look around me and within a 1-foot radius, there is a pile of mugs, a gift bag, clothes, papers and a few miscellaneous items surrounding where I sit. None of these items belong where they reside on my floor at the present time. But I have too many things on my to-do list that sit above cleaning my space.
I have come to realize that my room reflects my brain. If my room is unorganized, I am unorganized. If my brain is going in a million different directions, my stuff is in a million different (wrong) places all over my tiny room.
I have always been a pretty neat and tidy person. I enjoy being able to have a place for all my things. But if there is one thing I have learned is that throughout my transitions in college, is that I am now the main person of contact in looking after myself. Sounds silly, but for a while there, we depend on our parents to keep us in line as we live under their roof, but there comes a time where we break away from the nest and venture off on our own–and we need to be there for ourselves.
I have discovered the life-changing magic of tidying up.
Like I said, I am a pretty organized person with her moments of minimal destruction, but here’s a little boost to those who may not be so neat. I present the magical formula to staying tidy! (The outcome really is magical!!!)
Here are some of the lessons I take away from being tidy (and others have taken notice of this magical feeling too!)
- I own my things, my things don’t own me, but I should respect the things that I own because I (or someone I love) worked hard to provide them for me!
- There is a right way and a wrong way to store my things–Marie Kondo believes that if you put things in a way you can easily access and view them, you will come to notice what you value and what you don’t. (There is even a specific way she instructs how to fold your clothes–you can even just simply Google it).
- I have come to really love the things that I have. Marie Kondo teaches you to only display things in your space that “spark joy.” Everything else goes.
Trust me. In college, there is a lot going on in your life already. Let your room (however small it may be) be a place of rest and peace and a place that reflects you.
Make your bed. Fold your clothes. Display what you love. Light a candle. Breathe.
Back in January of this year, I ran across this blog post by one of my favorite bloggers. And it changed my life. Here’s how:
Prior to running across said blog post that changed my life, I was becoming really interested in minimalism and ready to take whatever kind of leap that catapulted me into the minimalist community.
I was reading Do Less by Rachel Jonat and pumping myself up about simplifying my life in every area.
But I kept hitting a wall. I wanted the “look” of a minimalist, but that required me to go after this idea of a perfect wardrobe, sleek electronics, and decorative clean lines. I was unsatisfied with what I had, but I wanted less, but I also didn’t want to give anything up.
When I read Hannah Brencher’s post, something clicked.
For 3 months, I took on the challenge of being completely content with what I own and not buying a single thing (outside of personal necessities) for 3 months. No leisurely strolls around Target, no going out to eat (instead, eating the food provided in my meal plan at my university), and no Internet browsing for needless things.
I bought my necessities that week (make-up, hygiene products, etc.) that would last me a few months, and I faced the challenge head-on. For the few weeks following my original decision to stop buying unnecessary things, I had to explain my reasoning to so many people I felt like I was doing something weird. The main question most people asked was, “how in the world are you going to last 3 months?”
But I lasted 3 months. In fact, I lasted a lot longer. It became a mindset. I learned that to be content in such an unsatisfied world is a brave and sometimes lonely thing to do. Sure, I didn’t order a drink when I went out to coffee shops with friends, but it really didn’t matter to me. My mind had gone from being so needy of new things, nicer clothes, a newer phone, to realizing what I had to the fullest extent.
I became more thoughtful with my spending.
I was less stressed about what to wear.
I noticed I had a lot more free time to put towards experiences.
I gave up discontentment and spent my time seeking out new places to put my energy into. I learned that a lot of fulfilling things are free, like just being outside and taking into account how beautiful creation is. It competes for nothing. Contentment looks real simple, actually. I was given control over how things were going to affect me instead of the other way around. It was a reboot to what I learned about possessions slowly and over time. It was necessary and life-changing.
I would encourage everyone to try this challenge at least once in their life. Let yourself experience 3 months without the pressures of consumerism. It sounds dramatic, but until you experience it for yourself, you won’t realize how much freedom you’re missing out on. It is incredibly freeing, and you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself and how amazing your life actually is.
Once you need less, you will have more.
Previously, I blogged on Minimalism vs Consumerism and your mental health. I wrote about how our culture today defines us by our things, along with different ways to combat materialism to improve mental health. But today, I thought I would delve into the root to my own discontentment and explain the history of consumerism, as well as the problems that have emerged throughout the decades since the Great Depression.
Before I begin, here are some key terms you should become familiar with: Fast fashion. Throw-away society. Consumerism.
Here’s the Run Down
Consumerism is at an all-time high today and, frankly, you have something to do with it. Consumerism is not inherently bad. It’s what keeps our economy alive. Without it, our life as we know it would flatline. It is the excessive amounts of goods that our culture consumes that is causing a negative impact on your life, your health, and your environment–possibly without you even realizing it.
Consumerism is not capitalism nor is it consumption. It is, by definition, “a modern movement.” The word literally did not exist until the 1940s.
Here’s a short history lesson for ya: The Industrial Revolution overtook manpower and began clogging up the assembly line and overproduced more goods than people were buying. The economy crashed in 1929, aka The Great Depression. World War II began and gave rise to supply and demand beyond its capacity (but in a good way) and America began to recover from the economic downturn in 1940. Production lines were back at it and overproducing goods and undermining quality. Reason being: the lesser the quality and the cheaper the price, the more buyers will come back for more. Throw in some good advertising and a need for survival and there you have it. Enter: American consumerism.
And by the 1950s, it was thoroughly interwoven in the fabric of American society. (Read more here!)
Consumerism is basically the lifecycle of continual and unnecessary purchasing and tossing of over-produced goods. Think: the $5 shirts at Forever 21 that can be worn twice, fall apart, thrown out and re-purchased because they are so cheap. Think: the new iPhone that comes out every 2 years causing your previously purchased phone to become “outdated” and eventually unable to keep up with iOS updates.
What happens to that $5 Forever 21 shirt and iPhone when they get tossed?
They add to the second most polluting industry on earth. The retail manufacturing industry. To give you an idea of the impact, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.
Buying into fashion is buying into big business. The global fashion industry is at $1.2 trillion with more than $250 billion spent in the U.S. alone. The fashion industry is not as glamorous as you think. More trends mean more purchases and, in turn, means more waste build up.
“We buy things we think will improve our quality of life, and often even be better for the environment,” but really, we’re doing nothing to improve the quality of our lives and absolutely nothing to improve the environment. We’re buying into a rat race. An endless cycle of spending and tossing and searching to fill a void of sorts.
What Comes Next
I’m not here to picket outside your workplace or send hate mail to retailers. As Millenials, it’s our responsibility to know why we do what we do; it’s our responsibility to make effective and positive growth and change in the world.
Ask questions. Research where your clothes are made. Utilize second-hand shops. Repurpose things. Practice contentment.
As long as consumption is focused on satisfying basic human needs — safety, shelter, food, clothing, health care, education — it is not consumerism. But when, on attempts to satisfy these higher needs through the simple acquisition of goods and services, consumption turns into consumerism — and consumerism becomes a social disease.
-Amitai Etzioni (The Huffington Post – The Crisis of American Consumerism)
Setting the Scene
When I was 21 years old I got on a plane with 11 other people and flew thousands of miles across the world and 24 hours later, landed in Kolkata, India with the mission of simply loving on people.
It was scary. It was unknown territory. It was my first time leaving the comforts of the United States.
I can remember gathering my bags from baggage claim and clinging to them, stepping outside and struggling to catch my breath in the thick, warm Kolkata air.
I slept all of 45 minutes in the past 24 hours, but I was wide awake. Amazed at what I saw. Our driver was fearless while navigating the city filled with chaos: bamboo scaffolding covering the sides of concrete buildings, the stray dogs dodging cars, the men and women walking barefoot on the pavement, the lack of stop lights or road laws whatsoever. The city seemed unfinished. Not glamorous at all.
We drove past all kinds of people working, socializing, napping and walking through the city and into the slums, seemingly enjoying a typical evening despite the dirt, humidity, annoying traffic noises and the unpleasant smell that seemed to follow us everywhere.
We worked tirelessly for the next 20 days in this beautiful, stressful, loud, insane, incredible “City of Joy.”
I didn’t have to travel across the world to love people and have a change of heart, but this experience stretched my viewpoint of the way I held so tightly to my things; mere possessions. I became grateful. More grateful than I had ever been in my life. Not because I realized how fortunate I was, but because they showed me that my life possessed so much more.
We spent a week at a school in the slums with the happiest little children you’d ever meet in your life. The building had no air conditioning, few windows, a concrete floor and about the size of a typical classroom but filled with tons of kids. We danced, sang, learned our ABC’s and played games together. It was like seeing extended family for the holidays (only a lot more sweaty and a huge language barrier.)
These kids really came from nothing. The roofs of their houses were made out of tarps or scrap metal. They bathed in buckets with water pumped from the street. Their clothes were torn and some didn’t own shoes. But man, what a valuable lesson we could learn from these children in the slums of India.
In no way could I even feel pity–they were so happy. It was infectious.
I had a change of clothes but they had more.
They had contentment. They had fun together. They had community.
America is a very individualized nation. We focus on our wants, needs, desires. We post on our social media platforms about ourselves and do what we can to make our lives seem desirable. We are naturally focused on ourselves most of the time. Shouldn’t we be experiencing this type of happiness?
Over the summer I watched this documentary called “Happy” and it is about a man named Roko and his journey around the world asking one simple question: “What makes people happy?”
He traveled to the slums of India and what he found was inspiring.
A dirt poor rickshaw puller in a slum in India once told me that he was the luckiest person alive. His hut was made out of bamboo sticks and plastic tarps, with raw sewage trickling out front, but still, Manoj Singh said he was happy, very happy, in fact. Though sometimes he only had only a few bowls of rice to feed his family, he said “I feel that I am not poor, but I am the richest person in the world.”
He learned that a person’s values are among the best predictors of their happiness.
By focusing on gratitude, compassion, and relationships with loved ones, people can instantly improve their happiness levels.
“The greatest lesson I learned while making this film is that my pursuit of happiness is not about me. It’s about our relationships and how we help each other. It’s about us.”
Get out of your bubble. Focus on people. Love them. Give of your time and, if it calls for it, give of your money or even the things you hold a high value. Get uncomfortable to make others a priority. That is when happiness happens.