I have been actively pursuing a simple life for a few years now. What began as a decluttering of possessions in order to sell our home has transformed into a gradual overhaul of our entire life, changing how we spend our time and money, how we eat, how we parent and has taken us on the journey to starting our own business. But, one of the most powerful changes has been the changes in the way we think, not only about what is going on around us, but how we think about ourselves.
It’s on nights like these, where everywhere I look I see mess, and every time I sit down I start thinking about my undone tasks that I begin to hear a familiar, mean voice in my head. “Who are you to call yourself a minimalist?” it demands. “Look at the toys and clothes strewn across your children’s bedrooms, look at these unwrapped Christmas gifts and the list of things left to buy, with only 6 days left to go? Why didn’t you buy all your presents before December 1st like you planned to? Why did you end up overspending again this year? The kids have had way too many sweets, and have you noticed that your own pants are getting a bit tight?"
The holidays almost always bring about a feeling of overwhelm for me. No matter how well we plan, it’s always a bit much. Too many sweets, too many late nights for the kids, and a lack of routine leaves our house and ourselves in a bit of chaos. I find myself feeling a bit of a shame spiral often, about our eating habits, our home and our parenting during the month of December.
Mindfulness has been a huge theme in my life over the past two years. As I have read and practiced and learned, I have been able to recognize when I am in a shame spiral and begin to observe my thoughts with kindness and curiosity. It’s has been one of the most powerful parts of my minimalism journey in creating a more meaningful and peaceful life. Without mindfulness, our pursuit of minimalism could easily become another thing to feel shame about.
I watched The Minimalists documentary last night, and was again inspired by the reasons we decided to live with less, to live differently than we had before. I heard from some of my favourite authors and bloggers and was newly inspired by some of the people introduced in the documentary. While I loved the film, I have to admit, it awakened some comparison, perfectionism and shame in me. There was only one family shown in the documentary, and it was Joshua Becker’s family. As they panned through his minimalist and pristine home, I felt a sense of “not minimalist enough” about our lives. Why can’t my house look like that? Do they ever have messy days? What am I doing wrong here?
Minimalism and mindfulness are not magical cure-alls to the messiness of real life. They are tools that help us navigate the mess, and bring our focus back to what matters. Just like the outer messes, my inner mean girl and her messages of shame still turn up in this new life. But the tools of mindfulness have totally changed my response.
When the outfit doesn’t fit like it used to, when my kids are especially frustrating, when my house is a mess - I used to turn to pursuing perfection, feeling like I would have no self-worth until I looked different, or my house did, or my kids were perfectly behaved.
Over the past few years, I have learned to live more in the present moment and be with what is, offering kindness and non-judgement to my observations of my environment, myself, my kids or my own thoughts. Tonight, I can look around at my messy house and speak to kindly to myself, as I would a good friend. “You have been away for a night, and spent this morning resting and reading and letting the kids play after a full and social weekend” I can be with what is (the mess) without sinking into shame. And when those “who do you think you are” or “how can you call yourself a minimalist” thoughts show up, I can observe that they are there, label them (oh hi, judgement and shame) and let them go. This is not to say that I can’t be with what is (the mess) and still strive to be better (make plans to put things back in their places tomorrow, maybe talk to the kids about donating some older toys). It’s not a passive, apathetic awareness of what is, but it is non judgemental and curious, allowing me to gently observe what is there, check in with my values, and decide my next action, and letting go of that inner mean girl that wants to lecture and berate me.
Minimalism and mindfulness are not always easy, but they have made my head (and my house) much happier places to live in. Minimalism has taught me that I have enough, and mindfulness has taught me that I am enough - right where I am. I am much less judgemental of myself, speaking to myself like I would someone I deeply love, while still able to make plans to change the situation if needed. It is a softer, slower and more gentle way to live, being kinder to myself while still pursuing growth.
I have enough, I am enough and I am continually growing, and day by day (even on the messiest ones) and mindfully creating a more meaningful life for myself and my family.