Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Paddle your own canoe!
Take yourself in your own direction and be responsible for everything in your life. Now imagine yourself paddling off in your own canoe. Now add onboard all your possessions, your clothes, toiletries, houseful of furniture, car, boxes in the garage, etc. etc. How soon would your canoe sink with the weight of all your belongings? Belongings can weigh us down. We can crave for possessions to fill a void, an emotional need to keep ‘getting’. We often equate our material possessions to our self-worth and success. Unfortunately, however, we are limited by them and slaves to them. We can’t just pick up and move somewhere or do something without first seeing to all our possessions. What about if you were free of this burden and tried minimalism?
Backpack of Belongings
Were you ever able to backpack in your youth? Travelling around the world you soon realise you must haul all your belongings with you, and it can physically weigh you down. As you travel you soon learn what is necessary for survival. Change of clothes, jeans with zip off legs to turn them into shorts, two t-shirts, sun cap and beanie, raincoat, 2 long-sleeved t-shirts, a fleece vest and jacket, a dress that will roll up, shawl and slip-on light weight shoes for going out – should the opportunity arrive, a toiletry bag, plus mobile phone, tablet, passport, and money in the body belt. A mobile phone can be your book library, your music, computer, television, and you could even write your travel diary! Your life can be very compact. You’ve probably left your dog with your parents and childhood belongings and head off largely unencumbered on the trip of a lifetime! You are about to paddle your own canoe, independent, not weighed down by anything and free to travel the world.
How Much do we Need?
A popular minimalist is Colin Wright who set up Exile Lifestyle at 24 years of age and he mindfully selected 72 items of things to support his life while he travelled the world, where he was then able to focus on the important stuff in his life, shedding the excess junk that had gotten in his way. I certainly could not get my belonging down to 72 items but knowing it can be done is an inspiration for me to reduce.
Minimalism in the Western world started in the 1950s and 1960s in the areas of art, design, and music. It was a mixed artistic movement and evolved. However, it started far earlier in the East where minimalism dates back thousands of years and is all about creating a holistic clutter-free environment in which to live simply. For example, Zen Gardens show structure, sparseness, and order. Buddhist monks have lived with sparseness all their lives as part of the search for enlightenment.
Less is More
The mantra ‘less is more’ I learned from a friend. I was getting dressed to go out on a date and asked him if he thought my earring and necklace were a bit much together. My friend just answered, ‘less is more’ and it was a light-bulb moment for me as I quickly removed the gaudy earring that were in fashion at the time but were so over the top! I now use this mantra often to fine tune what is important. The trivial fades away as I keep things simple, and I have learned that beauty comes from less. Go on google and view some Zen gardens to see the true beauty of only having just enough.
Start with your home and make it the greatest support system for you. Move on then to your workplace. How can you make your home and workplace like a beautiful Zen Garden where there is only what you need with a plant or two to soften and create a harmonious environment?
We can become conscious consumer limiting our purchases to essentials, and reducing, reusing and recycle so we can help our planet too. This is what minimalists do! Find other ways to enjoy your life than shopping. Maybe giving a morning to charity to help the homeless might be a start awakening what is important in life. And when you buy the next birthday present for your friend, think about it consciously and maybe purchase an experience instead of adding to their stuff. A voucher for local movies or lunch, or massage, or facial and local services are less likely to use fossil fuel and diminish the planets resources to just make more stuff that we don’t really need.
Here follows an exercise you can try if you would like to start minimizing.
Exercise – Cleansing your Clothing Cleaning out your wardrobe can be a mindful exercise. You need to focus and stay with the task at hand. If you have difficulties with the whole task of the wardrobe, break it up into separate sessions, for example, today I am going to sort my underwear drawer, tomorrow my shirts, etc. The ability to develop mindfulness can be carried out every day incorporated into your daily chores. Undertaking these tasks in a mindful fashion will help develop a clear mind, giving rise to wisdom. The trained mind is far superior to the monkey mind and will be a tool to use to enhance your whole life experience. I started by standing in front of my wardrobe and was equipped with two huge different coloured plastic bags. One I decided was going to be for the things I was about to throw out (black) and the other a bag for charity (white). I then took out one item at a time, as I felt holding each item was an important way to engage all my senses and stay focused. It avoided my being distracted and only giving a cursory glance across the clothing. I took a pair of long pants, examined them, and asked myself if I had worn them in the past year? No, well then, it would be kinder to let the trouser go. So, the trousers went into the white bag. Examining others clothing items one by one, if something was in disrepair and no one could benefit for it, then I placed it in the black bag. If the item was in good condition, then it is kinder for me to pass the item on to charity, so I popped it in the white bag. I said to myself, ‘What I do not need will help someone else in need!’ So, I calmed myself to be willing to let it go and reminded myself it creates good Karma. It is not good Karma to place all items that you don’t want into the white bag and take it to charity. If it is junk, then it is your responsibility to dispose of it by placing it in your own rubbish bin. When I finished the cleansing towards minimalization, I felt a sense of freedom, uncluttered, a release from the things weighing me down. At the end of sorting my wardrobe, I revelled in the space I created. Just like one’s mind, from less clutter, more clarity arises from an order backdrop to living. Once I reduced the number of things in my wardrobe, I put the clothing into groups: trousers, then tops, jackets, etc. From order comes a sense of control over your life.
© Extract from Robinanne Lavelle’s ‘Life Sorted in 8 Sessions’ due to be released March 12, 2022.